Whirlpool and Drops: Part 7 of our River Rapids History

Whirlpool and Drops: Part 7 of our River Rapids History

Hafema is a German ride company that originally served as one of the supplier for Intamin.  In 1990, they branched out and founded Hafema Water Rides GmbH ,a standalone mechanical engineering company.  In 1992, they started delivering rapids rides using large segmented boats and a revolutionary conveyor belt loading system.  Basically, the boats run on a conveyor belt on the lift hill and in the station.  Guests can enter and exit the rafts easily and there is no need to install an Indexer or other such systems to give easy access.

The first ride was Planet AQA at Space World (Fukuoka, Japan) in 1992.  In an interesting departure from nearly every other installation around the world, the theme here is a water planet and various alien characters are located on the river banks.  Two waterfalls in the wide river and the ride is a compact layout to fit the tight land requirements at the park.   Basically, the river is an out and back and both sections are next to each other for most of the ride.


Planet AQA at Space World.  Notice the unique theming around the river banks.


The water reservoir of the attraction.

1993 saw Everland near Seoul, South Korea instead Amazon Express, a Hafema Wild Raft Ride (the product name).  Located near the Safari and zoo area of the park, the rafts each have 5 segments and oddly, they each have a large tarp cover.  Guests in Asia tend to dress nicely when going to parks and soaking riders is not ideal, especially with today’s expensive electronics that everyone carries.  The tarp cover basically means that the waves will get guest upper torso a little sprinkle and since no large waterfalls were installed, that is enough.


Here is a close-up of the original Hafema rafts.  As you can see, each segment is completely independant.


On Amazon Express, riders exit the rafts on the lift hil back to the station and operators mop up excess water from the seats.  You can see the green tarps as well.

In 1996, the Wild Raft Ride saw a new style of boat introduced.  Instead of 5 individual 2 person rafts linked together, the raft now has a round floatation collar and on top, 3 segments are mounted.  Each 3 seat mount can move and this gives a lot of flexibility to the designers.  The first such installation was at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Germany.  Themed to a washhouse from 1808, the rafts of Waschzuber-Rafting are wash tubs and we are taken down a wild river to get washed.


Flex provided us with this picture of Waschzuber-Rafting.

Waterfalls and a new “Whirlpool” feature were included.  The whirlpool in this case refers to a large pool where water spins around in a circle while the raft travels around the outside.  This was an interesting visual element, but as we will see later, Hafema grew this idea and took it further than we ever imagined.

Next, Magic Land in Egypt introduced a very unique element: a Ferris Wheel on a raft ride.  At one point in the ride, a Ferris Wheel with 4 platforms was installed and rafts lined up in front of it to be taken up.   Once at the top, they were pushed down a chute and splashed in the water.  A standard layout followed and it was quite a visual feature for the park.  Bobbejaanland (Lichtaart, Belgium) was the next park in 2001 to include the Ferris Wheel on their “El Rio” Wild Raft Ride, but lower capacity and mechanical issues lead the park to deactivate it on their ride.


Flex provided us with this picture of El Rio at Bobbejaanland.

In 2000, on the Tasmanian River Rapids (Wild Adventures near Valdosta, GA), Hafema finally perfected the Whirlpool.  Instead of just going around the sides, rafts now make a full revolution inside before going down the center in a curved chute.  It is a good space saving element and it is quite thrilling.


Flex provided us with this great picture of the Whirlpool on El Rio at Bobbejaanland.

Also in 2001, Bagatelle introduced their most expensive and ambitious attraction ever: a Hafema Wild Raft Ride with Whirlpool.  Carved rockwork and elevated troughs make this installation stand out and it was quite a great success for them.


Flex provided us with this picture of the rockwork on “Le Raft” at Bagatelle.


Le Raft lift hill.

Also in 2001, there was a terrible fire at Phantasialand (Bruhl, Germany) that consumed a mountain.  That mountain housed two roller coasters and the May 1st 2001 fire burned it down to the ground basically, but the great work of park staff and the local fire department helped prevent more injuries and damage to the park.  So now, the park had a huge hole in its park and what to do to replace it?  At the time, Hafema had financial issues and Phantasialand decided to hire them and give their new management a chance.  It worked out perfectly as Hafema managed the impossible:  they managed to design and install a River Rapids on the smallest plot of land possible.  They also did on a very tight timeline with design, fabrication and installation taking less than a year.


The rafts are quite beautiful on River Quest.

It was made possible using one innovation:  Two elevators that take rafts up to the top of the attraction, 72 feet in the air.  Those are housed in a stone tower and once the cabin has reached the top, they go down a record breaking 36 feet drop.  Those cabins are quite unique as the raft first engages on steel rollers.  Once the cabin is at the bottom, it then transitions to five small conveyor belts that move the raft in and then secure it in place.  At the top, the raft is pushed out by the conveyor belts.


The elevators are housed in this stone tower.

After the first Chute, the boat then makes its way out to the Whirlpool element on the top level of the building.  At the end of the Whirlpool, it immediately transitions out into the second Chute, at a respectable 23 feet tall for the total height difference of the element.  On the second level, the raft goes around a curve on the raft and then goes down what was meant to be a Freefall element.  This would have required the installation of seatbelts on the rafts and the park did not want to go down that road.  Instead, it was transformed into a short and very steep drop.  The ride concludes with a float back to the station.


Maria provided us with this great picture of the raft going down the third drop.


In 2007, Fuji-Q Highland removed their classic Arrow Log Flume.  The Fujiyoshida amusement park tore down the Flume and its surrounding mountain scenery for a prototype attraction from Hafema.  Nagashimasuka opened in 2008 and it is quite unique as it features an elevated trough for the ride and small 4 seat boats.  The ride was painted yellow and the name means “Do you flush?” in Japanese.  Two giant Maneki-Neko cat statues were also installed near the attraction.


Flex provided us with this picture of Nagashimasuka.

The ride starts with a tall lift hill and then immediately transitions into the first drop.  A long spiral down follows and this again get the small raft wet.  A slow float up in the air follows and this lead to a first on a River Rapid ride: double down drop.  The classic Whirlpool element follows and the ride concludes with some good rapids past the cat statues and other scenery elements.

The ride is a great hybrid of a log flume and rapids attraction and serves the park quite well.  During the colder season, Hafema even designed clear plastic covers that go over the sides of the raft and with doors so that the ride can still operate in winter.  As long as it is above freezing, it’s good to go as riders won’t get wet.  We will be visiting the park in February 2017 and will add pictures of Nagashimasuka to this article.


The entrance sign of the attraction.


The loading area with the conveyor belt.


Complimentary lockers are provided to store items.


A look at the lift hill and scenery around the ride.


The first half of the ride take place in elevated troughs.


The yellow cement portion is the Whirlpool.  You can see the double down drop in the background.


As it was winter, the waterfalls and other elements soaking elements were turned off.  Also, notice the impressive rapids.


It is quite insane to think that you can operate and have guests ride a River Raft ride while there is snow on the ground!


A look at one of the raft in winter configuration.


The door you can see above the red portion opens to give access to the raft.


A second Mini Raft Ride (the model name) was delivered in 2009 to Parque Bicentenario in Queretaro, Mexico.

As part of the brand new Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Creative selected a Hafema Wild Raft Ride as the ride system for the Jurassic Park Rapids Adventure attraction.  For the climax, the elevator first seen on River Quest makes a return and is used to take rafts up in the air.


One of the raft used on the attraction.


The loading theming features a lot of theming.

The ride starts with the flat conveyor belt loading that is the Hafema’s signature.  After that, we start exploring Jurassic Park and see various dinosaurs such as Stegosaurs and Parasaurolophus are seen.  When we reach Outpost B, the Flash Flooding mentioned in the waiting line as greatly damaged the facility and has even flipped a raft upside.  We are taken against park will through a damaged fence and down exciting rapids.  We arethen stalked by Velociraptors and go by breathtaking waterfalls before seeing other signs that something has gone wrong.  A park ranger Jeep has been flipped around and crushed by a giant tree; as we enter a dark facility, the T-Rex appears and roars at us.  In the main Hydroelectric Plant room, more carnivores are announced as having breached the building and we then enter an Hydrovator.

At the top, the T-Rex burst through the ceiling and starts snapping at us.  We narrowly escape her as we go down the large 40 feet tall Chute.


You can see the Plant in the background and where the rafts come out of the drop.


Beautiful landscaping around the ride.

The ride was immediately the most popular at the park when it opened and it lead the park to close it in 2011 for a 5 month period for upgrades.  The ride capacity was greatly increased when the second Elevator was installed and various other improvements were also done.