Chessington World of Adventures Resort opened for the 2020 Passholder Preview Day on Sunday 15th March, and SouthParks was in attendance to take a look at the changes and improvements at the Resort for the upcoming season.

Ahead of its intended official opening day on Thursday, the finishing touches were being made to the new for 2020 area, the Rainforest. Although we understand the area’s attractions have been testing over the last few weeks, we didn’t see any activity during the preview day. The buildings for Jungle Rangers and River Rafts were looking suitably colourful, with rainforest-themed murals painted on some of their exterior walls, and vines starting to be added. Theming features such as static animal figures and crates, have been added along the rides’ routes, and we are curious to see what will be located in the final enclosed section of Jungle Rangers. As expected, Treetop Hoppers have been rotated to face into the Rainforest, with the queueline reworked so that guests enter from the new area. The two entrance portals that are situated on either side of the area are the most obvious features that were yet to be finished.

The capybara and sulcata tortoise are already getting familiar with their new home before the arrival of guests. Their enclosure includes a crossing which can be opened when Jungle Rangers isn’t in operation to allow the animals into the central area.

Also new for 2020 is Elmer’s Flying Jumbos, the relocation and retheme of an attraction which has been at the park since 1987! Although open, it seems that the Elmer figure shown on the concept art is yet to be added to the centre of the ride, however a couple of brightly-patterned theming features have been installed around the ride area. We’re sure that the combination of the attraction’s new location in Adventure Point and eye-catching colour-scheme will make it popular during the upcoming season.

With 2020 marking the 30th anniversary of Vampire, the ride has received multiple enhancements for this season. Throughout the ride area, new theming has been added, drapes across the queue line tunnel fitted, as well as the station organist receiving some much needed attention that sees its full movement restored and an improved lighting package. A new soundtrack has also been introduced, although it still shares similarities with its predecessor. The Resort are planning to hold celebrations of Vampire’s big 3-0 over Easter, although specific details are yet to be announced.

Another ride to receive a refresh over the closed season is Tomb Blaster, which has seen some substantial changes to the queue line and overall ride experience. With an updated storyline based around the rising of an ancient Egyptian priest, new audio across the ride and additional theming to be seen throughout, a new, somewhat darker and scarier lease of life has been given to this dark ride shooter.

Rameses Revenge has been completely removed over the closed season, leaving only the sign which stood behind the ride, and remains of the control booth and fountain pond. The 2020 park map suggests ‘something new is being unearthed’, which follows the approval of the Resort’s plans to install a drop tower which will see guests fall into the open-mouth of a giant crocodile theming feature. This addition is sure to transform Forbidden Kingdom, and the updates to Tomb Blaster this season could perhaps be in preparation for the new attraction. With the site already surrounded by construction walls, we expect that we may see development begin over the course of the season.

Work continues at the location formerly home to Black Buccaneer, in preparation for a new swinging ship, which the Resort recently announced would be called The Blue Barnacle. The ride is due to open later in the season, however the new foundations now appear complete on the side nearest Captain’s Fish and Chips and the ride cabin has been gutted in preparation for the new control panel. With the footers seemingly positioned at varying levels, it does appear as though the attraction is being custom built for the Resort.

It is also pleasing to see that the Resort has also given some attention to refresh other areas of the theme park, most notably Land of the Dragons and Mexicana. The former area’s entrance arch has received some vibrant new paint, along with the egg-topped columns which stand nearby on either side, and Original Sandwich Co. has been renamed to Dragon’s Lair Cafe, with sponsorship from NOW TV. In Mexicana, Rattlesnake’s entrance structures have received fresh paintwork, along with other buildings nearby, and Vegan Street Dogs has opened in the area’s food outlet space.

With Treetop Hoppers being subsumed into the Rainforest, the area of Africa is no more, so it appears the stage formerly known as The Gruffalo Arena is now considered to also be located in the Rainforest and has been renamed The MANE Stage. Despite this name change, The Gruffalo Arena logo was still yet to be removed from the top of the structure. The stage is once again the location for a new version of the The Gruffalo Groove (now The Gruffalo’s New Groove), which features a different set of songs and dance routines and a special appearance from The Gruffalo himself at the end of the show.

Although only opening last season, the additional charge, motorised vehicle attraction Safari Riders has been relocated to what was a grassed area between Rattlesnake and Tiny Truckers, and appropriately renamed Adventure Point Riders, due to its former location becoming home to Elmer’s Flying Jumbos.

Other changes around the theme park include updated audio on ZUFARI: Ride Into Africa! with the ‘Driver Family’ now leading the expeditions, as well as the addition of an abandoned truck alongside the fallen tree which blocks the intended path. Over in Wild Asia, guests are now able to see in to the lorikeets’ home as windows have been added to their indoor enclosure in Lorikeet Lagoon.

To reduce risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading, Dragon’s Playhouse is remaining closed for the foreseeable future. Other measures taken by the Resort to reduce this risk include the introduction of hand sanitiser dispensers throughout the park, daily sanitisation of areas guests can come into contact with, and more regular sanitisation of attractions like Room on the Broom – A Magical Journey periodically during the day. However, with the escalation of the government response in recent days, it remains to be seen whether the theme park and the Rainforest can open as planned on Thursday.

Aside from the new additions still being worked on, all of the theme park’s attractions were otherwise open, with no periods of significant downtime from what we were aware over the course of the day. We look forward to returning to the Resort soon, once the Rainforest opens.

Did you visit the Resort for the Passholder Preview? Make sure you share your thoughts over on the TowersTimes and SouthParks Forum.

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