Manta Review (In depth)
I'll start out by saying I try to look mainly for the positive aspect in attractions, and am not as easily swayed by one or two flaws, especially on opening weekend.
Manta really was the perfect attraction for SeaWorld San Diego. Despite only rising around 30ft, the ride can be seen from many areas of the park. While the landscaping being obviously unfinished, it was already showing potential to look quite nice.
The best example of "don't judge the landscape" I can think of is Coastersaurus at Legoland California. Opening day, that ride was a desert. A year later however the plants had grown in and turned it into a jungle! The dirt plot everyone is mentioning won't be there for long, as it appeared the landscapers were working backwards from the front attraction towards the back. I have a feeling we will see it fully landscaped within a few weeks.
Onto the actual attraction. The entrance and queue was a really nice treat. The entrance to the ride is to the right of the "Manta Rock" and then the queue takes you down a path right next to the water splash effect the coaster passes as it dives underneath the bridge on its first drop. The theming was actually quite well done and featured pretty extensive rock work.
After passing the water splash, you enter the aquarium section of the queue. The theming here also held the Asian motif that the rest of the ride features as well. I can't judge the aquarium too well yet as the park is still in the process of adding more animals to the exhibit and the water quality was still being adjusted/tweaked. There is a criticism about this section that I will address further on.
After exiting the aquarium, you enter a small entryway with hanging tiles created by kids for the attraction. After passing this, you enter a "pit" of sorts. A section of Manta soars above and you pass through a set of nicely themed switchbacks that ascend the hillside towards the station. You can hear the event building from all around the attraction, it's extremely loud!
I must say the capacity for this attraction was absolutely unbelievable. With four trains running we managed to get four rides in by the end of the day, waiting no longer than 30 minutes each time. They mentioned to the guests in the station that they had hit their highest through-put ever, 1407 people! That's almost 40 second dispatches every time! The station had very nice theming. Continuing with the Asian theme, the pagoda station feature some very nice Manta murals in the curved roof.
I'd say wait for the front and back. The line for the front may appear long, but we only waited an extra 5 minutes with a full front row switchback. With the way they haul through people, it's worth the little extra wait. The staff were extremely motivated and hurried people through, without making them feel overly rushed.
The ride trains themselves are beautiful, as well as the overall ride. The Manta design on the front is very attractive, and the seats were very comfy. The on ride cameras weren't quite ready yet, but some cars seemed to have them mounted already. A weird thing I saw was the jury-rigged numbering they had. Each train had a laminated piece of paper with its number zip tied to the front grill.
The ride starts, and you move into a pitch black tunnel that leads you to the projection room. This part of the attraction was really fun. The train "sways" back and forth in the current as Mantas swim around you and high energy music swirls about. The projection can look a bit washed out, but if you don't focus on it, it's not that noticeable.
The doors open, and you launch. The launch itself isn't very intense, but fun none the less. After exiting the launch track, you rise into a 90° banked curve and dive down into the water below the entry bridge. Following the dive, you rise once again into another 90° curve around the Manta rock and curve into one of two great airtime pops on the ride.
In the back row, I'd say the airtime is almost ejector here. After another hill, and a few most meandering banks around towards Shipwreak, you are braked slightly, and then enter the second half of the layout.
After being launched again, you are quickly thrown into a vicious left turn. This section of the ride had a much more force than the first half. After exiting the turn you rise into another hill with slight airtime before being whipped downward to the right. Continuing the curve, you enter the best moment of the ride, a quick direction change hill. While looking at the ride makes it look meh, on ride it WHIPS you with a pretty decent amount of airtime into a left handed helix.
After the helix you do a right turn into a small overhang and then a small left overhang into the brake run. While the second half of the layout was over dirt, it really didn't have too much effect on the ride experience. The landscaping is definitely unfinished.
In terms of overall ride, I'd put it up next to its Orlando counterpart in terms of overall ride experience. The whole thing is a blast from start to finish.
There are a few criticisms I would like to address.
Line Jumping: While many people do have group members "waiting" in line for them, it still isn't fair to cut. After riding Manta fours times, we saw a grand total of 20 line jumpers. This is also where criticism two comes into play.
The Aquarium Width: I noticed this with SWO, however it was adjusted there. The path through the aquarium is so wide, people can very easily cut you and or line jump without any resistance whatsoever.
Tagging: Two days. The ride had been open two days, and every single asshole is San Diego seems to have scratched their name into the wooden railing path leading up to the station. It was scratched everywhere with people's names and I <3 U and other random junk. It's so insulting to the park. I was appalled. I know they can't do much about it, it's just so sad that it is occurring in the first place.
And that concluded my in-depth Manta review. I have around 20 minutes of footage I plan on editing together, so I'll have more content soon.
Also, Sea Lions Tonite, the Sea Lion show that parodies other Sea World attractions now has a segment for Manta, it's quite funny.
Conclusion: For all of those who just scrolled through the wall of text expecting one sentence to explain everything, too bad. :P
Go ride Manta, it rocks.