Monday, July 21, 2014

Dropping In On Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Great Adventure

From the moment it was announced last August that Six Flags Great Adventure would be adding the world's tallest freefall, I was beyond excited to take a ride.  After being on a wide variety of rides, I've found that few still give me a sense of fear like freefalls do.  And, I find that fear to be fun, so it is only natural that the world's tallest freefall would be right up my alley!

Fast forward to now, and after a long winter Zumanjaro is now open and accepting those brave enough to withstand its terrors.  The wait was over and I've finally had my shot at the drop!

Those familiar with Six Flags Great Adventure will recognize the entrance to the Golden Kingdom, a massive themed area that was added to the park in 2005.  The focus of the expansion was on Kingda Ka, still the world's tallest roller coaster at 456 feet - which in a sense is also the focus of this year's new thrill.

As you pass deeper into the jungle-like setting of the Golden Kingdom, you arrive at Kingda Ka's entrance and immediately notice that things look different.  Above is the newly expanded plaza, with the entrance to Kingda Ka on the left and Zumanjaro on the right.  The retirement of Rolling Thunder, the park's former wooden roller coaster, allowed for the new space.  Previously it ran along side of and bisected the Golden Kingdom, and part of the coaster's tracks were where Zumanjaro's entrance now is.

Zumanjaro, created by Intamin, features an impressive entrance gate, fitting the theme of the area.  The park created the name, which features an "African influence" to fit in with its location - and also after last year's massive Safari Off Road Adventure addition.  Once riders are checked for height (they only need to be 48 inches to take the plunge) the journey through Zumanjaro's queue begins.

Why is it a journey?  Well, because Zumanjaro's queue is long - really long - but that's not to say I'm complaining!  It makes sense that it would be a great distance to get under Kingda Ka's main tower from the theme park, so this was expected.  The park has created a very peaceful path, with existing woods on the left, new plantings all around, and plenty to look at on the right.

Yes, I must make a quick diversion from Zumanjaro to point out the spectacular new vantage points of El Toro that are available from the queue.  You can get up close and personal with El Toro's intimidating first drop along with the finale of the coaster - which used to take place in Rolling Thunder's 'in-field' but is now exposed.

But back to Zumanjaro - the queue also gives some seriously pretty views of the tower as well.  Zumanjaro's three drop towers reach a height of 415 feet, besting the previous record holder Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom's 400 feet at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  You can hear the screams of riders on both Zumanjaro and Kingda Ka while in line, though trees do obscure them on parts of the path.  When you do get closer the area opens up and there's plenty to look at...

Like this.  You end up standing just to the right of Kingda Ka's tower, staring up at the rides and wondering if you're making a wise choice.  But onward you'll go, entering a large covered section of the line.  From here on out the view of the tower disappears, which makes things a bit easier on your nerves.  The park has created a single rider line as well, to help fill every possible seats when the ride dispatches.

The covered station for Zumanjaro features retractable roofs that come down and cover the gondolas while in the load position.  Kingda Ka launches two trains while the Zumanjaro cars are loaded and checked, and then the three gondolas are sent up the tower.

As far as the ride seats go, they are very comfortable and unobtrusive, with over the shoulder restraints that do not block the rider's views.  Oh, and they're snug, too, something that you want to feel as the ride slowly starts lifting you up!

After dispatch is called, the cars start the 30 section lift up to the top.  They rise slowly at first, but after a bit they speed up dramatically.  You keep climbing, watching the ground get smaller and smaller and assuming you're near the top.  But you just keep lifting, higher and higher until you're finally 415 feet above the ground.

The views are astounding, and while you only have a handful of seconds at the top it's a feast for your eyes.  On a clear day you can see the skyscrapers of Philadelphia - located 52 miles to the South of the park!

Before you know it you hear the catch cars release your gondola and the plummet begins.  How to put the feeling of the fall on Zumanjaro?  Exhilarating?  Intense?  A rush?  All those and then some!  The memory that stands out most to me is that mid-fall I realized we were still going, falling further and faster.   This is where Zumanjaro's height comes into play, it allows for such an extended period of freefall when compared to most drop rides.  The cars drop down in a matter of seconds (around 4 until the brakes start) at speeds of 90 miles per hour.  Once you get over the shock of falling it's an amazing feeling and one you'll want to repeat.

For fun I took a photo of this car before and after the drop, to see the change in riders' faces - you'll have to click for the larger version to see what I mean.  The top photo was taken as the gondola slowly was heading up the tower.  There's plenty of cool faces, just looking around taking it all in.  After the drop things are radically different - but in a good way!  The looks of excitement are everywhere - and even the serious looking man on the far right has a big grin on his face.

Here's a short video I took of Zumanjaro in action:

The sky wasn't trying to look very nice when I shot the video, so my apologies for that.  I think the screaming riders, falling cars, and immense height of Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom might make up for it!

Provided by Six Flags Great Adventure
Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom is the kind of ride that will stand the test of time.  There's something about falling toward the ground from 415 feet that never gets old - the drop will get you every time!  Make sure to drop by Six Flags Great Adventure and take the plunge!


Unknown said...

My stomach literary just hit to the floor while I was reading this. I was just there with friends two weeks ago but they were to chicken to ride. Didn't want to have everyone wait for me in the 30 minute wait line so I missed out.Will be back in two weeks and its a definite must. Thanx for the review.

NewsPlusNotes said...

Yes! I'm glad you're going back so you can take a drop. The line gets pretty long pretty fast, so I'd head there first. 30 mins is actually a rather short wait for Zumanjaro!