“Cowboy-themed amusement park for the whole family”
Belgium has been one of Europe’s least interesting theme park destinations for quite some time. Belgian parks didn’t offer world-class rides and in general, they didn’t invest much in theming either. Things have changed dramatically during the past few years, though. Bellewaerde has opened a cool new family coaster in 2020, Plopsaland is building the continent’s first Xtreme Spinning Coaster and Walibi’s Kondaa will probably attract big crowds in 2021. May I describe it as the renaissance of our Belgian theme park business? This rebirth was actually initiated by Bobbejaanland. In 2019, this large amusement park near Antwerp became the proud owner of an impressive new roller coaster called Fury.
Land of Legends is the new centre of sensations at Bobbejaanland. The area opened in late June 2019 and it contains three attractions. Two of those rides aren’t new, though. Sledgehammer and Typhoon have been at the park for 15 years now. Sledge Hammer is a Huss Giant Frisbee, Typhoon was one of Gerstlauer’s first Euro-Fighters. Honestly, I don’t like Euro-Fighters… at all. The restraints are uncomfortable, the vertical lift hill feels horrible, the ride contains weird g-forces and it’s not exactly smooth either. Besides, a recent paint job can’t hide the fact that Typhoon doesn’t have any theming at all. No, this definitely isn’t my favourite attraction.
Bobbejaanland’s newest roller coaster is Fury. This is a triple launch coaster and it was also built by Gerstlauer. That’s indeed the constructor that tortured us with Typhoon, so I was rather sceptical. Fortunately, Gerstlauer appears to have made significant progress over the past 15 years: all of Typhoon’s main issues were solved here. The vertical lift hill was replaced by a powerful acceleration and Fury has some great inversions as well. In addition, I’d like to mention Fury’s smoothness and the train design. These trains feature comfortable lap bars and a unique gimmick: an onboard voting system. Yes, that’s right: vote buttons are integrated in the lap bars. These are giving passengers the choice between a forward and a backward ride. The majority of votes determines which direction the train will travel. Fortunately, there’s need to worry if you aren’t keen on backward inversions. There’s a separate line that guarantees a forward ride.
One of the park’s most iconic attractions is Revolution, an indoor coaster that opened back in 1989. Revolution is a well-known ride for Belgian amusement park fans. Still, Bobbejaanland has regularly changed its decoration and name in the past. The most recent transition took place in 2016, when the park implemented a virtual reality version with the name Mount Mara. Don’t panic if you prefer not to use VR glasses, as Revolution can still be ridden in its original form. I definitely have a preference for the original experience, but please don’t expect a huge thrill. The coaster has a rather monotonous layout (it’s literally an eternal turn to the left) and it’s everything but sensational. However, Revolution evokes such a nostalgic feeling that I actually find it a quite pleasant experience. A unique one as well: it’s uncommon to see a coaster train with 30 cars, isn’t it?
Bobbejaanland currently offers 8 coaster credits, but most of them aren’t that spectacular. Naga Bay, for example, is just an average spinning coaster by Maurer Rides. It’s smooth and it’s got a great layout, but it’s literally braked to death. Other unexceptional rides are Speedy Bob (a classic wild mouse), Oki Doki (a custom family coaster) and a powered coaster called Bob Express. Vekoma’s suspended coaster Dream Catcher is also quite ordinary, but a recent overhaul of the station has had a positive influence on the ride’s appearance. Besides, Dream Catcher seems to be very popular among park guests.
If you’re searching for water-based fun, Indiana River should be your first choice. This is an indoor log flume and that concept is quite unique. Besides, the ride’s theming is better than you’d expect at Bobbejaanland. The loading area, for example, is located in the middle of a jungle-like environment and the track travels past a number of mysterious scenes. It’s definitely not on Disney level and you may notice that Indiana River is getting older, but all in all I consider this as an excellent attraction. The park’s outdoor log flume (called Wild Water Slide) performs significantly weaker in terms of decoration and ride experience.
Another large water ride can be found in the Far West village. El Rio is Bobbejaanland’s rapid river and the original plans for this ride were impressive. This ride should’ve started with a Ferris wheel transporting the boats upwards, followed by a 10-metre drop. Unfortunately, the Ferris wheel has never functioned properly, which lead to its removal in 2017. What remains is a very tame rapid river with a low excitement rate and limited theming. Only worth a ride if there’s no queue.
The highlights at Bobbejaanland are obviously the thrill rides, but families aren’t forgotten. The park is filled with carousels in all shapes and family-friendly (boat) rides. Be sure to pay a visit to Kinderland if you’re visiting with young children. This is a huge indoor area consisting of platgrounds, slides and a few small-sized attractions. Kinderland may look a bit dated, but I’m sure that it can keep your toddlers entertained for a while.
It’s always special to read American trip reports about our local amusement parks. I still remember what Americans had to say about El Paso Special: they called it the most politically incorrect dark ride of all time. And indeed, this ride enables you to shoot innocent Mexicans. Señor Trump would probably define it as the Most Tremendous Ride Ever Built and Bobbejaanland seems to agree: they aren’t planning any anti-racist adjustments for the time being. Still, this interactive dark ride could use an update. The lighting is very simple, the scenes look dated and the audio-animatronics seem to belong in an antique haunted house.
WORTH A VISIT?
Bobbejaanland, Het Plezantste Land (Bobbejaanland, The Funniest Land). I’m sure that Kim Jong-un is jealous about this slogan, but is it correct? Well… I have to admit that Bobbejaanland made a good impression. I once knew this as an amusement park with rude staff members, old rides and a lack of theming. However, my most recent experiences were different. Nowadays, staff are considerably nicer and the park is in a good shape (some buildings could use a coat of paint, though). If I try to think as an occasional amusement park visitor, Bobbejaanland is actually a great place. There are a lot of roller coasters, lots of water rides, plenty of children’s attractions and the atmosphere in the park is okay. Bobbejaanland doesn’t perform on the same level as Europa-Park or Efteling, but that’s not necessary at all.
What’s your opinion on Fury? Does Bobbejaanland deserve another great coaster? Isn’t it weird to place a splash battle indoors? Share your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this page.