Europe contains lots of beautiful theme parks, but next to that it also has quite some nice and special zoos. There’s one in particular that we recently visited and that opened not one, but two coasters! Read all about the Dutch zoo: Wildlands Emmen!
So is this a zoo or a theme park? You’ll find out our conclusion at the end! When you arrive at the park, the first thing you encounter is a giant compass. This leads you to one of the three big climate zones where you have to follow a route within the zone. It forces you to switch between zones from this point. This concept is rarely seen, but we were curious on how that experience felt.
The smallest area is all about the arctic. You enter a nordic looking harbor with a wave pool habitat that has some seals and sea lions. I’m a personal fan of this type of theme and it’s design can be simple but effective.
After passing by the show stage, you enter a walkthrough penguin habitat with them possibly popping up around you. One of the key points of this park is that you can really experience the animals up close.
By the use of a container, you walk to the final dead end point where you have the major animals of Nortica: the polar bears. There are three different section for the three different bears. You can also slide down to a viewing area under water but unfortunately, they weren’t very active…
Inside the gift shop, we saw that the theming was pretty easily done. It even has “hidden” references, like this one below. Unfortunately, its original use was not of a coaster…
The first ride that you can do is the Arctic 1. It’s a simulator ride by Vekoma, Brogent and Joravision. The simulation itself is not that impressive, but the film itself is pretty ok. You become part of an experiment team aboard the Arctic 1 to go and explore but make sure you don’t bring along any rats from the queue habitat…
On the far right side is the Jungola area. Here you start your exploration through the butterfly garden, which is very green and bright. Large butterflies are always nice to look at, so this was pretty satisfying.
Next up, you end up back outside where in the middle you have the Asian elephant area. It is good to see they were provided with lots of space. We were lucky to see a baby elephant walking around too!
You’ll easily walk by them, but there are some smaller attractions too for the kids. For example a bamboo labyrinth, a headhunters path and small playgrounds. Perfect when it is very busy at the park.
The final big indoor area feels exotic. According to the story, it’s where an explorer crashed down and made his home in the jungle. After seeing the ring tailed lemurs and exotic birds, we saw the first glimpse of the boat ride.
This attraction by Mack is a fun tour through the jungle with onboard audio. The queue is pretty well done as you see how he used the crashed plane to build his home.
During the ride you don’t see that many animals however, with the main ones at the end: the elephants. It’s a connected area to the outside part of their enclosure.
The largest area is the savanna inspired part of the park: Serenga. Here you will venture in African atmospheres with two of the Big 5 animal species.
Once you walk through the main building, you end up in a small African village with goats.
This then transfers into an open prairie dog area with loads of little ones sniffing around.
The first big animal species are the hippos. They have both a swim and walking area with special viewing points. The hippos quite enjoy the water and making littles spins!
Before you reach the Savanna, you encounter quite a big indoor playground. The perfect resting point for a snack and for kids to play.
The details really stood out here with a replica of a ship and a maya temple!
There are also a bit of animals such as turtles, fish and naked mole rats.
The route takes you counterclockwise to the lions! They have quite a nice hill where they sleep all day long. At leasts, that’s how we saw them.
Here we saw one of the characters of the park! A fun and smart way of edutainment that gives extra dynamics to the zoo. More parks should invest in these kinds of things!
There is definitely a main attraction in the Savanna: The Serenga Safari. Unfortunately due to flooding, the ride remained closed in the morning. As alternative, they offered a guided walking safari around the Savanna. So we didn’t say no!
In the middle area, where the trucks normally drive through, there are quite some animals to spot: zebras, giraffes, rhinos, ostriches, waterbucks and more. Eventhough the ride reopened in the afternoon, we didn’t go on for two reasons: a long queue and we basically heard all the facts already during the walking tour.
The good aspect about the area is that it’s quite large and all the different types of animals in one enclosure. This brings in details that don’t correspond to a real savanna like the rocks for example. Some of them are installed to give animals some breathing space if they would be chased by a rhino. Same thing for the hills as it gives them the chance to get out of the view.
The name says it all, a big arena with hundreds of baboons. They really made room for these particular animals who can be quite dangerous.
When it’s feeding time, they get all excited, especially when they anticipate it by listening to the caretakers speech. There’s no stopping a baboon of getting his food!
Before I get to the novelty of this park, we return to the other side of the savanna for the camels.
As you can see, there’s a very cool way to see these mammals. The old trains give you the opportunity for a close encounter!
There was however a ride we skipped and kept for last: Tweestryd. Not one but two coasters for the whole family.
Indeed, these Vekoma Family Boomerang coasters interact with each other quite a bit.
The ride is a true race between the red and blue side, but there’s more to that. By winning, the park will donate to one of the two different goals by ActionAid.
If you choose for the red side and win, you support sustainable agriculture which will increase their income and harvest. If you choose for the blue side and win, you support honest agriculture which will keep the environment and people healthy. At the end of the year, the park will donate to the organization based on which side won the most.
The ride itself is not bad at all. Family friendly, quite some theming and good operations. The way the queue and walkways are made however could have been a bit better, as they didn’t make it easy to see the coasters from several sides. It’s also a bit further away of the midway. Still a nice addition for the park.
Overall, we have to conclude that the focus is on the animals and thus, Wildlands is more a zoo than a theme park. Yet, the rides they have are perfect fits for the park. We had a very positive experience and even with not that many people in the park, we could spend the whole day there.
However you might leave the park with a feeling that you didn’t see that many animals. Through their marketing, they set the bar quite high for themselves so they should keep investing in more animals. But of course, the zoo is quite new on this location so I’m pretty sure that’s the plan.
The big strength of the park is they way you interact with the animals and most of all the theming. It truly holds some beautiful buildings and animal habitats, even on a rainy day like ours. The novelty of it all, makes it lack a bit of soul but that’s something that will grow for sure. As for the routes, personally I’m not a fan. I prefer to decide on my own way between attractions and reserves.
Also good to know is that it’s right in the city center, so across you can go shopping! There’s furthermore a theatre where they hold events and shows. Seduced? Well, it’s a perfect park with a plus two for the counter to combine with Attractiepark Slagharen and maybe even Walibi Holland. Wildlands, keep up the good work!
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