Thrill-seekers tend to gravitate to the northern theme parks in the Southern California area, like Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood, while those with younger kids head south. But this doesn't mean all the thrills have to be left behind.
Manta opened up in May 2012, bringing thrill-seekers a new sealife-based experience to go along with Shipwreck Rapids and Journey to Atlantis. The coaster, designed by German company MACK rides, opened up next to (appropriately) the manta ray exhibit, known as “Forbidden Reef.” And for a coaster without a loop, Manta does a lot that will keep riders guessing.
As riders climb into the manta ray-themed coaster car, lined in ten rows of two, and pull the safety bar down, cars are taken into a tunnel where the ocean world opens up around them, thanks to a multimedia projection created by the Orlando-based Falcon's Treehouse, LLC. Visions of a world aquatic sparkle around riders while the mysterious manta ray swoops by, causing the coaster car to rock back and forth in its wake. Riders who fall spellbound by the ocean scene around them may forget they are on a coaster, and as the manta ray is prone to launching itself through the waters at high speeds, so too will riders find themselves launched outside their watery paradise onto the blue rails of the track, reaching speeds of up to 43 miles per hour.
Manta doesn't feature any loops or fancy tricks – in fact the coaster is regulated in height due to restrictions put into place by the California Coastal Commission -- but it does do a lot with what it has available. The cars put riders in a seated position above the track, so the sudden twists and dips surprise riders, spiraling them into a sort of incomplete barrel roll. The twists, meant to remind riders of the movement patterns of the mysterious manta ray, continue until the ride begins to slow about halfway through.
Manta rays need to swim constantly in order to prevent from sinking, so it should come as no surprise that there would be a second launch portion of the track. But it will, as the launch sends riders into high speeds again, sending the riders twisting and turning until reaching the landing once again.
The nearly-two minute ride may not be as intense as Magic Mountain's X2 or Scream! but most riders will find it exciting. The San Diego coaster brings unsuspecting riders a bit of thrill not found in Journey to Atlantis, the other major attraction at SeaWorld San Diego, without being too intense for younger riders.
Located nearby the attraction is Manny Ray's, a food outlet specializing in sandwiches, wraps, and delicious flatbread pizzas, and Forbidden Reef, which houses SeaWorld San Diego's ray touch tank, featuring bay rays for guests to touch and feed.
Manta is open during normal park operating hours. Riders must be 48 inches to ride.