“Beautiful park, but limited possibilities for thrill seekers”
Bellewaerde Park is a theme park near the Belgian city of Ieper. This place is especially known for its war memorials, which attract lots of English tourists. Some of them may also be interested in a theme park visit and then Bellewaerde is the place to go. Keep your expectations on a right level, though. Bellewaerde Park isn’t a thrill destination like Thorpe Park or Alton Towers. This park is almost entirely dedicated to families with young children and the park’s latest addition makes clear that this won’t change any time soon.
One thing is sure: you shouldn’t come here if you’re looking for coaster thrills. The park’s largest thrill coaster is… a Boomerang. Yes, I’m serious. The only looping coaster is a standard Vekoma Boomerang. Admittedly, the ride opened in 1984 and this was actually the very first Boomerang to open for public. It’s just sad that no other thrill coaster has been opened during the following 37 years. However, in 2013 Bellewaerde added a quite surprising family roller coaster called Huracan. This indoor Zierer replaced the Los Piratas dark ride, one of the few classic dark rides Belgium has ever had. And although I miss the atmosphere of Los Piratas, Huracan was the perfect addition for Bellewaerde. It features a nicely themed station and a beautiful dark ride section, followed by a smooth and pretty fast coaster ride.
The park’s newest roller coaster opened in July 2020 and it is called Wakala. This ride was placed in the Canadian themed land and it all looks very cute. It’s built by Gerstlauer and although I’m usually not the biggest fan of this German manufacturer, their family-oriented coasters are usually pretty good. That also applies to Wakala, which turns out to be one of the smoothest coasters I’ve ever experienced. Besides, the ride has a decent length, a cool backwards part and the capacity is incredibly high. This is a perfect family coaster, but please be warned that the thrill is limited.
Water rides are exactly what you need during a hot summer day. And Bellewaerde has a quite extensive selection: the park offers an old school (rather short) log flume, a boat slide, a beautiful spillwater and a rapid river at the Indian section. Bengal Rapid River is without a doubt the most popular water ride and it’s not difficult to see why… The ride looks simply stunning. Exotic vegetation and Indian temples create a good atmosphere and the actual rapid river is quite fun. Busier days may cause loooooong queues, though.
You could describe Bellewaerde as the Belgian version of Busch Gardens Tampa or Kolmården; this park combines amusement park rides with zoo sections. Bellewaerde invested a lot in its animal exhibits over the past decades, so they look quite nice. You won’t find an enormous number of animals here, but it’s a nice touch and it distinguishes Bellewaerde from other Belgian theme parks. The most unique animal exhibit can be found in the Indian themed area. Here, you can see tigers from up close while riding the Bengal Express. This train ride travels straight through the tiger plains. This can be fun if the tigers are active, but they seem to be sleeping most of the time.
Another unusual ride is Dawson Duel and it should be described as a mountain coaster without a mountain. Think of it as a dueling Alpine Coaster which was placed on normal coaster supports. That sounds special, but I actually didn’t like this ride that much. It’s a very short experience, you aren’t able to control the vehicle’s speed and the capacity is ridiculously low. That results in long wait times, but the actual ride is short and uninteresting. I really liked the Alpine Coasters I’ve ridden in Todtnau and Pigeon Forge, but Dawson Duel doesn’t even come close. And let’s be honest: mountain coasters should only be built on actual mountains, right?
WORTH A VISIT?
Bellewaerde Park is a nice place for families and I understand the park’s popularity. A combined zoo and attraction park is pretty unique to Belgian standards and the overall theming level is good. Especially the Mexican and the Canadian themed areas look beautiful and they offer a wide variety of family-friendly rides. But to me, that’s also the park’s weak point: Bellewaerde really lacks a good thrill ride. They have a Boomerang, a disappointing shot & drop ride and a Topple Tower, but that’s about it. Wakala is a decent addition, but it’s actually just another family ride. This park could use a spectacular Intamin Blitz Coaster or a big woodie. However, Bellewaerde’s current family-friendly course has proven to be successful, so I’m not sure whether my prayers will be answered soon.
Photo Gallery 2018, 2020 & 2022
BACK IN TIME
Have you ridden Wakala yet? What would be your favourite attraction at this park? Do you agree that an Alpine Coaster should be placed on top of a mountain? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.