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May 21, 2009

SeaWorld – Manta

I'm okay with roller coasters, but I have my limits. I like Rock 'N' Roller Coaster and Expedition: Everest, but they're at the edge of my comfort zone. And after riding, I need to let my tummy rest for at least an hour before going on anything raucous again. So when I was invited by SeaWorld to preview their new coaster Manta, I wasn't sure I wanted to take the assignment. But of course, being the good Allears reporter that I am, I accepted the challenge.

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I arrived at SeaWorld around 8am and was met by Jayce, a Marketing representative who would be my guide for the morning. After introductions she told me that SeaWorld has actually built two new attractions, an aquarium and a coaster. We decided to start with the tamer of the two.


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Replacing the original aquarium that opened in 1973 and closed in 2000, this new exhibit houses over 100 species of fish including eight types of rays. The marine life is housed in ten different tanks beautifully designed along an indoor pathway. Interestingly, no Mantas can be found here as they are usually considered to be too large for most aquariums.


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One of the more unique creatures you'll find here is the leafy sea dragon. This fish is closely related to seahorses and pipefish and use their unusual appearance to hide among undersea foliage.


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A truly unusual chamber in the aquarium is the Overhead Room. Here, you walk underneath a plate of glass and watch the rays swim above you.


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Another aquarium allows kids, and crazy adults, to crawl inside a tank.


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The aquarium is self-paced so you can spend as little or as much time as you like here.


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After strolling through the undersea world it was now time for me to pull my nerves together and ride Manta. Our first stop was at the lockers located next to the entrance. Before you can ride you must empty your pockets of keys, cell phones, and anything else that you cherish. In addition, there are NO storage compartments on the coaster so you cannot bring your camera, purse, or anything other than yourself. The lockers cost 75¢ for a small unit and $1 for a larger model.


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Also located outside of the attraction are warning signs and a duplicate of one of the actual chairs you'll be sitting in. This allows you to check it for size before waiting in line.


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Much of the queue for Manta travels along the backside of the aquariums we saw earlier. This will help pass the time while waiting in line. But since I was attending a press event, Jayce and I walked straight to the loading platform.

The idea behind the Manta Coaster is that you're secured to the belly of one of these magnificent rays. After you're seated, your chair retracts and you're now in a facedown position - and it's too late to chicken out now.


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Manta speeds riders through four showcase inversions, including two in-line spins, one flat spin, and one pretzel loop. Specially crafted rails make Manta one of the world's smoothest coasters as it reaches speeds of 56 miles per hour.

I was hooked up for sound, video, and stills so my first ride could be captured for posterity.

Here are some pictures of Manta in motion.

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I have to admit, when I got off, my stomach was a little upset. But there was a coaster fan club also present and some of these enthusiasts had already ridden ten times and were queuing up for more. They loved it!

I think Manta is an excellent attraction for coaster lovers. And it's definitely more intense than Rock 'N' Roller Coaster. If you're okay with RNRC, then I think you should give Manta a try. However, if RNRC is too intense for you, then stick to the aquarium.

Of course, just like at Disney, there is a Manta shop nearby selling T-shirts and other logo merchandise.

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SeaWorld Orlando is a beautiful park. If you haven't already experienced it, you should. Take a day off from Disney and treat yourself to a new adventure.

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