The other park I had allocated to this trip intrigued me. While on the surface it didn’t appear to have a headline European coaster, the website sold it as a wondrous fairytale place full of a great number of fascinating attractions. A more successful train and bus combination soon led us to find that the website was right.
Aside from the breathtaking entrance, the first memorable moment of the day involved some French guests arguing with staff at the internal cut off point for those with Exclusive Ride Time – certain tickets allowed you to access select attractions half an hour before the general public and we happened to have these tickets, they did not.
After some faff we managed to bypass proceedings and headed to the top right corner of the park where I knew all the biggest thrill attractions were.
It was a beautiful but brisk walk through the well kept greenery and scenery as there seemed to be a fair amount of crowding already.
Without hesitation, it was straight into the queue for the Kumbak water coaster, except to call it that is a total injustice. Although it has status as a rollercoaster, it has one of the most intensely themed dark ride sections out there and this forms almost all of the appeal that surrounds the attraction.
To begin with, I didn’t know that queues could be this intricately detailed, stumbling through narrow corridors of pirates and pubs.
I have to mention now that a significant part of what makes Efteling so special is the ride soundtracks, each one lovingly composed to suit an attraction perfectly and become an instant classic for anyone who appreciates park music. The audio used around Vliegende Hollander is an excellent example of this.
Once on board, the boat leaves the station and heads off into the misty darkness, in which you can see nothing but the lamp hanging at the front. It’s a mesmerisingly magical start to proceedings that is backed up by impressive water projections and other surprises along the way.
Eventually it is time to ascend the lift hill and head out into the coaster portion of the layout which, with the large and lumbering vehicles, really leaves a lot to be desired. It goes through the motions to finish the experience with an outdoor splashdown, something that I find breaks the whole concept of the ride and it’s a shame, because at least half of it is world class.
With experience in wooden coasters limited to fossils found in the UK, this duelling GCI woodie was by far the most dynamic and exhilarating of it’s type and shed new light to me on the potential of modern installations. The relentless onslaught of twists, turns and hills combined with the continuous raw rumble of the material upon which the trains ride had me hooked.
And that’s without mentioning the theming. A huge dragon animatronic resides within the layout, breathing fire at every opportunity. Water effects punctuate the track sections out by the lake and the station contains active banners that furl and unfurl above riders heads depending on which train won the race, accompanied by cheers or jeers from the audio system. Again, Joris has a fantastic soundtrack that really inspires the theme of racing and/or battle and it’s great to sing it aloud mid ride while egging your train on for the win.
The last coaster in the section sadly doesn’t quite live up to the others. An old Vekoma looper with no theme or inspiration, it sticks out as a bit of a relic from a previous generation of rides. While not as rough as the Vekomas I suffered back at Walibi, the layout of two loops and two corkscrews provides very little to get enthusiastic about.
Heading back in the direction of the park entrance, we tried the rapids ride next. An amusing animation was playing on screens in the queue that was supposed to discourage guests from standing up during the ride, showing that they would obviously tumble headfirst into the water upon doing so.
This meant that the highlight of the ride was a stereotypical local guest, complete with smoking joint loudly declaring ‘ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE’ part way through the layout, standing up and then instantly almost falling out as the boat collided with a wall.
Fata Morgana is a mesmerisingly well themed boat ride, depicting scenes from 1001 Arabian Nights and, of course, complete with an amazing soundtrack. I loved everything about it.
Something I didn’t love however was the Intamin Bobsled. The pace of the ride was consistently interrupted by the car colliding with block brake sections at 45° angles with a jarring force and because of this it never did anything remotely interesting.
Hidden away in the forest nearby is Spookslot, an unusual attraction that involves a single scene of animatronics that slowly build in activity to the tune of Danse Macabre. It went on a bit and never got particularly impressive, but I like the tune and the attempt.
Further into the forest is Pandadroom, a wonderfully imaginative 4D cinema experience that both entertains and educates about the conservation of animal habitats. The soundtrack again is amazing and is often emotionally stirring to me.
After a spot of lunch using the dining vouchers that came with our entrance ticket package (a great concept), we let the food settle while riding the flying island. I had never seen one of these before and they look rather surreal with that hefty arm holding up all that weight by means of a single pivot.
I’m sure the B&M dive coaster being constructed here will only enhance the already incredible lineup Efteling has to offer.
But until that’s open, the final rollercoaster of the park resides within this building. There’s a fantastic effect in the station while queueing, through which shadows dance across the walls and the sounds of a giant eagle flapping it’s wings resonate throughout the area, building the tension very well.
The ride itself is a blast, adventurous theme music plays loudly through onboard speakers as it climbs through the darkness and then enters a series of disorientating drops and turns that all seem way faster than they probably are and the result is thrilling and fun. Best Vekoma of the trip.
Another Vekoma mad house ride lurks within the ominous Villa Volta. Again the preshows were lost in translation (and particularly lengthy in this case) and though the ride sequence music might just be able to rival Hex, they seem to have entirely missed the point of the hardware swinging action building to a climax, with nothing but a checkered floor to show for it.
But perhaps the best dark ride yet was still to come in the form of Droomvlucht. Suspended trains take you up and down through spirals packed with beautiful fairytale scenes and, as you might have guessed, the music suits it perfectly.
Time was actually running on at this point and I had slightly underestimated both the busyness of the park and the amount of attractions worth doing. There was still the massive fairytale forest walkthrough area of the park to see and the last timeslot of the show Raveleijn had already run past. We opted to save both of these for another time and instead take it easy, using our food voucher for hot drinks and cake (the concept just got even better) before taking in some rerides.
An already fantastic day was rounded off in spectacular fashion with the closing show set around the lake near the entrance. All the familiar and wonderful soundtracks from rides throughout the day are used here in conjunction with the water and fire effects and I’m a massive fan of this type of orchestrated culmination in a park experience. It gets me right in the feels.
Before a sad departure, the CD containing all the ride music was of course purchased from the gift shop. It will undoubtedly become a very treasured possession from this absolutely outstanding theme park.