Wonderla (Kochi, Kerala, India) is located 7KM from Collectrate Junction, Kakkanad toward Pallikara. It is an amusement park that offers both dry and wet-rides.The park was setup in 2000 as Veegaland and got rebranded in 2011 as Wonderla. The theme-park is best known for its environment friendliness: 2000+ trees planted throughout the park, a multi-faceted rain-harvesting system with a combined storage capacity of 20-million liters, and solar water heaters for the pools in the water theme park form the core of this initiative. For visitors, there are a couple of clear positives: a) Despite Kochi heat, the park can be a very pleasant experience as the trees provide plenty of shade, and b) The water throughout the park is lukewarm and so even during the monsoon rains, getting into the water is not a problem.
The location of Wonderla, Kochi can’t be beat as it captures the beauty of Kerala’s green landscape and rustic beauty: the park is atop a hillock that overlooks the surrounding farm-land with a tributary of Kadamrayar river running through. In overall acreage, Wonderla, Kochi is smallish at 32 acres compared to over 80 acres for their flagship themepark near Bangalore - the number of rides in both parks are however comparable at well over 50 each. The park is open all days (11AM to 6PM weekdays, 11AM to 7PM weekends and holidays). Regular ticket pricing is between Rs 720 and Rs 990 depending on whether it is a weekday, weekend, or peak season. There is a fastrack ticket for double the regular ticket prices that allows you to skip the queues at the attractions. A number of offers can significantly reduce the regular ticket pricing: a) college students up to 22 years of age are eligible for a 20% discount, b) student groups of 20 or more can avail a discount up to 35%, and c) there is a privilege card that allow purchase of tickets at 10-20% discount: buy 4 tickets at regular price to get a privilege card (5-year validity - the card becomes void if not used for more than 12 months at a stretch).
Below is a look at the main rides on offer at Wonderla, Kochi with a short description and our rating on the overall experience:
- Maverick, Twin Flip Monster, and Space Gun: These three are the top rides for thrill seekers. Maverick and the Twin Flip Monster both specialize in churning your insides pretty well by flipping you around in every possible way while tied up on seats that allow very limited movement. The Space Gun is an indigenous variation of the “slow-killing” aspect of thrill rides pioneered by “the boat”.
- Wonderla Bamba, Super Jumper, and Vintage Tornado: These are a notch below the top thrill rides. Wonderla Bamba is similar in design to the Maverick in that the whole seating area moves rather than individual capsules. But unlike the Maverick, the movement is one-dimensional. Super Jumper is a variation on the carousal whereby the carousal spins and the capsules at the end of spokes move up/down and also jerks as when an airplane falls in an air-pocket. The Vintage Tornado is like the old classic roller-coasters: rather than on wooden rails, the trains run on all-metal railing constructed inside a water-tank like enclosure.
- XD Max, Cinemagic Ride, and Musical Fountain and Laser Show: XD Max is a 4D experience (the fourth dimension includes water/steam, air pressure, hydraulic seat movements, and lighting effects). Cinemagic Ride is similar but instead of 3D effects, it uses an HD video with hydraulic seating for special effects. The Musical Fountain and Laser Show uses lighting, laser beams and smoke - it is an underwhelming show compared to the others - the sound system is below-par and the show itself is below par.
- Dashing Cars, Dancing Cars, Balarama Cave, Caterpillar Village, and Balloon Tower: These rides are fit for most everyone but the thrill factor is obviously not as much. Of these rides, Balarama Cave was a disappointment - in spite if the special effects, it was a fairly boring overall experience. In addition, there are many other regular rides including some that are for kids only.
- Snake Glides, Fun Glides, and Wavy and the Vertical Fall: For thrill seekers, these are the best rides among the water rides. The Snake Glides and Fun Glides are similar in that you go down water slides on a rubber mat while lying on your tummy. The former has curves and loops while the latter has bumps. Wavy Fall & Vertical Fall are similar in that you go down a water-slide while sitting as in a regular slide - the path is steeper with the Vertical Fall while it is wavy for the Wavy Fall.
- Rapid Pool, Family Slide, and Water Coasters: Rapid Pool is the best water ride and it is suitable for all ages - you wade through water on a raft (floater tube) and make your way down ten different pools by going down water-slides. Family Slide and Water Coaster are similar in that you slide down a raft through a water slide. The difference is that the raft used in the family slide can accommodate 4 people while the water coaster raft is for two people. Also, the Water Coaster ride is shorter and steeper while the family ride is longer and follows a more zig-zag pattern.
- Wave Pool: This is a pool designed like a seashore. It is open to everyone at all times. But, at certain set times lasting fifteen minutes (around 40 minutes apart - the first one starts at around 1PM), artificial waves are created that makes the experience mimic a beach scene.
- Boomerang and Water Pendulum: These two are similar rides in that you are on a two-person raft that goes down a water-slide. Boomerang first travels through a tunnel and then goes through a U-shaped structure. Gravity then takes over and moves your raft back-and-forth like a pendulum. With Water Pendulum there is no tunnel to go through first but instead you are going down a longer and steeper U-shaped structure from the start point. There are several other water rides including the Rain Disco and many smaller rides that are suitable for kids and older folks.
The popular rides can get very crowded, especially during weekends - waiting times upwards of 40 minutes is not uncommon on some of the rides. One strategy that really works and reduces time spent in queues significantly is to organize your visit so as to go for the water-rides first. Most do it the other way (dry rides first - parks personnel also encourage this) as there is a logistical problem with going for the water rides first: once wet, you are not allowed in the dry rides, as it is unsafe. Make sure you carry spare clothes and change after the water rides (changing rooms are aplenty and locker is Rs 80).
Last year (2014), TripAdvisor recognized Wonderla, Kochi as among the top twenty-five theme parks in Asia. It is yet to make an appearance among the top theme parks of the world. From our perspective, there are a few things that make the experience in Wonderla, Kochi even better than many top theme parks in the world:
- The stunningly beautiful location along with the environmental friendly initiatives makes Wonderla, Kochi a distinctly different experience compared to visiting any other theme park.
- The ticketing, locker, parking, etc. areas are organized extremely well and that helps minimize time wastage.
- Outside food is not permitted inside Wonderla. But unlike other top theme-parks, there is no park-premium on food purchased inside.There are many restaurants, food counters, etc. spread through-out the park and they are run very efficiently. This helps minimize time spent waiting in line for food.
- Parking is free and the tickets are good for all rides. This is unlike many top parks were it is quite common to fleece customers by charging exorbitant fees for such things.
Some things that are holding back Wonderla, Kochi include:
- Wonderla, Kochi is very much a locally focused theme park. Most visitors are from within or neighboring states. For it to be world-class, the promotors need to invest on attracting a more metropolitan crowd.
- Although there are seven restaurants and numerous other food outlets, variety is very limited. For lunch, rice meals, biriyani, and Chappathi were the only options - the restaurants all seemed to serve the same thing. Some outlets have burgers, fried chicken and other fast-food items. Although the restaurant spots are at great locations, the view at most spots are hidden by half-walls and such for some unknown reason.
- There is a dress-code but it is not enforced at all.
Overall, we feel extremely fortunate to have such a good theme-park near our house.