SeaWorld whetted the appetite of thrill-seekers this week with the unveiling of a custom-built Mako lead car that will whisk guests through Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster.
Mako, a 200-foot-tall coaster, is expected to open in time for the summer tourist rush. Its features include a top speed of 73 mph and 4,760 feet of track -- nearly a mile long. The coaster and surrounding area will be themed to a shark environment, providing a learning experience along with extreme thrills.
The sleek design of the car was inspired by the real Mako, one of the fastest species of shark. The new ride will be considered a "hypercoaster," meaning riders will experience a weightless feeling as the Mako zooms through hills and tight turns.
Features of the coaster train announced Tuesday include:
• The custom car, which was designed as a collaborative effort between SeaWorld's animal experts and ride engineers. Its authentic features include five gills on each side, correct eye placement and a hydro-dynamic look.
• Speedy wheels made of a special compound that reduces friction, providing a smooth ride from start to finish.
• Upper-body mobility for guests, who will be held down by only a lap guard on their lower body, allowing for plenty of "airtime."
• A total of 21 cars -- three trains of seven cars each.
A 2-acre area of the park will be themed around sharks, including Mako, Shark Encounter, Sharks Underwater Grill, themed gift shops, shark and shipwreck decor, and educational experiences, according to WFTV. Guests in the Shark Realm will feel like they’re underwater among a school of sharks that have taken over a shipwrecked reef.
SeaWorld is pushing thrill rides in an attempt to recover from a decline in attendance in the wake of the documentary film Blackfish, which caused controversy over the treatment of the park's whales. The park also faces stiff competition for tourist dollars from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
With the addition of Mako, the theme park says it will have five thrill rides: three distinctly different intense coasters, plus two family coasters, WFTV reported.
But an educational element will remain: In the plaza of the shark-themed land, guests will learn about the impact of humans and why the animals are critical to the environment.