Kraken Unleashed: A dazzling dose of virtual reality at SeaWorld in Florida

With multiple inversions and breakneck speeds, the original ride – which has been an imposing part of SeaWorld’s line-up for 17 years – was already a big draw among thrill seekers. 

 But now it’s half-reality, half virtual reality… and the results are out of this world. One moment I’m seeing the Florida skyline in front of me. Then I strap on the headset and I’m deep under the ocean.

This brand new personal and immersive adrenaline fix is the best in the business. That’s some accolade, too, given that SeaWorld has Mako – the tallest, fastest and longest rollercoaster in Orlando – along with Manta, a high-thrills, head-first ride. When you’re not upside down at SeaWorld, there’s the One Ocean killer whale show and the brilliant Dolphin Days to enjoy. Or you can board Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, where you’ll take in the majestic grandeur of the South Pole through the eyes of a penguin named Puck before seeing all the real-life penguins in action.  

 At night, SeaWorld offers the new Electric Ocean show, where guests are transported to an exotic world of light and sound complete with fantastical dancers, glowing sea creatures and high-energy DJ entertainment. 

SeaWorld is one of the company’s four Florida theme parks. While SeaWorld may give you a Kraken time, there are more thrill rides at sister park Busch Gardens, an hour away in Tampa. Busch Gardens is an African themed mix of fast and furious coasters, coupled with a safari park. The 60-acre site is home to more than 2,500 animals, including giraffes which you can hand feed and take pictures with – perfect to get easy likes on Instagram. While giraffes take you to new heights, the rides go that little bit further in the sky. Spin-coaster Cobra’s Curse, which opened last summer, is one of them. If hurtling around at 40mph down 2,100 feet of snaking track, while travelling backwards, forwards and then spinning freely is your thing, this is the ride for you..

Add the high-octane SheiKra, Cheetah Hunter, Montu and Falcon’s Fury – North America’s tallest free-standing drop tower – into the mix and you’ll have a truly unforgettable day. When Florida’s summer temperatures rise, cool off at SeaWorld’s sister water park Aquatica. Here you can take on Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, the steepest drop slide of its kind in Orlando, where you plummet from a standing start when the floor gives way in a launch capsule. Aquatica has 42 flumes and slides, but if it’s all too much, drifting around the lazy river is a more relaxing alternative. There’s also Discovery Cove, a day resort where you get the chance to feed tropical birds, snorkel through a saltwater reef and play inches away from a family of otters. 

But the highlight of any trip here is the dolphins, and visitors can swim with them, stroke and feed them. Our dolphin, Kayleigh, even gave us a kiss. At Discovery Cove, where all food and drink is included in the entrance price, the other big attraction is the Sea Venture experience – a 20-minute guided underwater walk through the park’s Grand Reef. With a 75lb dive helmet on my shoulders, I took a tour of the busy reef, peering at several species of shark while taking in the kaleidoscopic colors of the coral and thousands of fish.

The Sun UK