Manta is a roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Designed by Bolliger and Mabillard, Manta allows guests to encounter numerous species of rays before boarding a manta-shaped train that takes them on a soaring, gliding journey above the park.
The attraction officially opened to the public on May 22, 2009.
The concept that was to become Manta was first revealed by SeaWorld Orlando to a gathering of travel and community leaders on April 2, 2008, although it had been in the planning stages for years before. The exact specifications and details were not immediately revealed, although it was noted that this would be the largest single investment in the history of any SeaWorld park, and that it would open sometime in 2009. It was further noted that the attraction would include a roller coaster, but that it would be much more than just a roller coaster. Regarding the design of the attraction, Joseph Couceiro, vice president of sales and marketing, said: “ What it’s going to be is the next generation SeaWorld attraction. What we do well is connect the world with the sea, presenting marine life in totally different perspectives. Also what we do well is put the guest in the midst of that. This is the next generation of that.”
Artists' concepts of the new attraction were leaked onto the Internet in April 2008; however, SeaWorld officials would not acknowledge if the images were accurate representations of the attraction's final design, although they suggested that the roller coaster would have a "gliding" sensation. At the same time, searches of trademark applications uncovered an entry for the use of the term "Manta" as an amusement ride, and construction on a large site within the park had already commenced. On May 29, 2008 park officials confirmed that the attraction would indeed be named Manta, and further revealed additional details about the attraction.
Construction of the roller coaster track and the attraction buildings began in September 2008, with the track completed in December 2008 and the rest continuing into early 2009. SeaWorld began previewing the attraction in early May 2009, leading up to its official opening, May 22.
Manta is intended to be much more than a roller coaster. The experience begins upon entering the attraction's queue, designed to resemble a seaside village. The village is decorated with mosaics and other artwork inspired by rays. Within the attraction's 4-acre (16,000 m2) site are ten aquariums containing 184,000 gallons of water. 3,000 different animals, representing over 60 species, are visible, including over 300 different rays, such as cownose rays and spotted eagle rays. Sea horses, sea dragons and various tropical fish share the aquarium space. Floor-to-ceiling Plexiglas windows, including a 220-square-foot (20 m2) overhead section, allow guests to observe the animals as if they were underwater themselves. Portions of the aquarium exhibit can also be viewed by guests who do not wish to ride the roller coaster. Non-riding guests can use a second entrance to the attraction area, one that will be separated from those waiting for the roller coaster. Guests in the line for the roller coaster have access to special exhibit components, such as a Plexiglas "pop-up" window into the aquarium.
Manta is a flying roller coaster, which simulates the sensation of flight. In this case, it is meant to resemble how rays—and mantas, in particular—appear to "fly" through the oceans and seas they inhabit. Guests are initially seated upright on the trains, in one of eight rows that each hold four passengers, for a total of 32 ride Prior to departure, mechanisms in the station raise the cars up to the track, such that the riders' spines are parallel to the track. Guests are secured in their seats using a locking lap bar and a vest-like harness, as well as flaps at the riders' ankles to hold their feet in place.
The cars are highly stylized, with a lead car shaped like a manta ray, complete with a wingspan of 12 feet (3.7 m).The roller coaster will pass extremely close to water, such that the wings will appear to skim the surface. Water jets in the attraction's main lagoon create a "splash effect" as the roller coaster train passes. SeaWorld will be able to adjust various features of the splash effect, such as how long it lasts or how fast the train is traveling when it enters. The roller coaster's color scheme includes "deep purple, ultramarine blue and cobalt."