Gumbuya World

14th January 2018

Just over eight years ago my travels brought me to Gumbuya Park, a widely spaced out recreation facility where guests were expected to drive between the various attractions. The primary draw at the time was the Toboggan Run, a lengthy concrete trough slide with two independent tracks and sleds that could easily go over the side if operated incautiously. There was also a go kart track included in the admission price. The business hadn't changed in any significant way in years, and given that it was quite a surprise to learn in September 2016 that a group of private investors had bought the entire facility for $4.65 million. Soon after it closed for a fifty million dollar upgrade. The result is Gumbuya World, a modern theme park with four distinct lands:

  • Oasis Springs, a water area featuring a lazy river, a wave pool, a play area, and two full size tube slides.
  • Outback Explorers and Oz Adventure, two nominally separate ride areas that as of this writing at least area blended together.
  • Wildlife Trail, a large animal area anchored by an aviary and enclosures with local species, including dingos, kangaroos, koalas, and wallabies.

Portions of the old park appear to still be present behind walls, but they are no longer accessible and will presumably disappear in time as the new park expands. The owners have already announced a number of improvements that they hope to make over the next few years, though one presumes that these will be dependent on the success of the existing investment. Today it looked like there was a reasonable crowd, though we were visiting on a Sunday in peak season; the real test of longevity will presumably come once the local school holidays come to an end. It's worth noting that the park opened with an online-only ticketing policy that was rolled back very quickly indeed, and with good reason; the park's location on the main road east out of Melbourne presumably results in a significant number of unplanned visits.

All of the mechanical rides appear to have been sourced from Italian manufacturer SBF Rides. The selection is for the most part targeted at young children, though there are three attractions suitable for older visitors. The tallest of these is Tree Swing, a rotating set of swings with two passengers suspended from each mount and no wave motion; this was respectable enough, but hardly something worth travelling for. I didn't partake of the twenty-four passenger Traffic Jam spin ride nearby, though Megan told me that it looked better than it actually was. Last and by no means least is Mining Racer Coaster (#2415), a thoroughly bizarre family coaster that looks and feels very much like it was designed by committee using Roller Coaster Tycoon.

The experience begins with a curved tyre drive lift that has been lined on one side only with a series of painted wooden boards. The motors are not evenly spaced; there is one at every second track span at both the start and the bottom of the lift, but there are two points in the middle where motors are missing, almost as if they were deemed unnecessary part way through construction. At the apex the train rolls into a descending helix that drops almost to ground level, followed by a climbing right turn, and this portion of the ride is reasonably good. Unfortunately the fifteen foot drop that follows this is heavily braked to the point that the train needs two extra tyre drives in the following banked turn to get it back into the station. Each dispatch featured three laps, and we decided to ride three times on the basis that we wouldn't be returning any time soon.



14th January 2018

We hadn't planned to stop at Funfields on this trip, but we made good time on our journey towards Melbourne Airport and decided that there was enough time to squeeze in a one hour stop, with our prime target being the Alpine Toboggan. Sadly the ride has been completely hobbled in recent years by a retrofitted centrifugal braking system that prevents the sleds building up speed. It was quickly obvious that there was no reason to manually slow down even in the sharpest of corners, as "full speed" approaches even when leaning sideways barely moved me off the horizontal. Park management has added insult to non-injury by requiring all boarding guests to press a "I understand" button after being read the safety rules, and with that in mind, I understand that paranoia and nanny-state culture has destroyed what was once a star attraction.

Kraken Racer

We decided against riding anything else, though we spent a good hour exploring and taking photographs, in the process capturing our friends Gavin and Luke who happened to be there. The park has three world record holders as of this writing, all supplied by Canadian company ProSlide: Gravity Wave, Kraken Racer, and Typhoon. It was evident that water rides are the prime focus of management, though it's worth noting that the place has a few unique dry attractions too, not least virtual reality headsets on the Dragon's Fury pirate ship (currently offered during the morning hours only). In 2017, the park added Voodoo, a Zamperla Discovery Revolution and the first ride of its type in the southern hemisphere. It is presumably only a matter of time before a roller coaster is added to the mix; hopefully we'll make it back when that happens.