Hotel prices in the resort areas of Tunisia are extremely cheap at the moment as the country works to rebuild its tourist industry following terror attacks in 2015. I was able to book a night in the five star El Mouradi Palace Hotel at four days notice for just €25.19 including breakfast and secure parking, and while the rating was perhaps a little generous by international standards the room was nevertheless exceptional value for money. Readers planning their own adventures could do far worse.
Parc Aladin Bizerte
16th February 2020
My morning began with a two hour drive to Bizerte, a city of 150,000 that has the distinction of being the most northerly settlement in Africa. The journey was for the most part straightforward; the only moderately difficult portion was in the vicinity of Tunis where the Sunday driving brigade was out in force. That said, the other motorists were remarkably chilled; nobody beeped or even gesticulated at a clapped-out old Mercedes that was being driven erratically at low speed across two lanes of the motorway.
Parc Aladin Bizerte is located beside to the beach on the eastern side of town, roughly two hundred and fifty metres away from the Mediterranean Sea. It is a tiny facility, occupying just six thousand square metres, yet it includes a dozen separate attractions covering all age brackets as well as a restaurant and a room full of arcade games. Many of the rides have been installed under canopies to allow operation in all weather conditions, including the star attraction: an unexpectedly thrilling family-sized spinning coaster with a unique design I've not previously encountered.
Turbo (#2858) has been given a theme based on the Dreamworks movie of the same name. The five car train has been sculpted to resemble a group of hyperactive garden snails, and the track area has been filled out with other props familiar to fans of the franchise. The layout has a maximum height differential of just under two metres, yet it picks up far more speed than it deserves to thanks to a series of tyre drive boosters. The five lap cycle was intense even in the front seat, and a friend who rode in the back a few weeks before my visit said that he had trouble keeping his body inside the car, stating that he'd never been as scared on a roller coaster. (The ride has no official height limit, though I had to cross my legs to get the restraint to close; taller readers may want to plan accordingly.)
16th February 2020
Soukra Parc is a three hectare family park in the northern suburbs of Tunis. The ride selection is geared primarily at younger visitors, though there are a few respectably large attractions in the mix, including a four hundred metre long rapids ride, a custom flume, and a slow moving boat ride. There are also two tiny family coasters for coaster counters to embarrass themselves on.
My visit began with Pepeto (#2859), one of three remaining installations of the Mini Coaster 20x10 from L&T Systems and a design best known to European enthusiasts as the Crazy Mouse from Gulliver's Milton Keynes. If the experience today was anything to go by the extant number may shortly be reduced to two; despite being the only person on board the tyre drive motors struggled to lift the train to the apex of the figure eight layout, and the tracking was haphazard at best. On a happier note, the ride was at least eye catching thanks to a multicoloured paint scheme; this is apparently a recent addition as it does not appear in the existing photographs on RCDB.
I'd expected Take Off (#2860) to be a powered coaster akin to the one I'd ridden in Jordan back in 2012, and as such was pleasantly surprised at the discovery of a gravity machine. Motors in the station coupled with a booster at the highest point of the layout gave the four car plane train all the potential energy it needed to cover the oval track under momentum alone. The layout included some deliberate sideways motion as well as a slight dip, though it would be dishonest of me to describe the experience as anything other than another tick for the collection. I was given a five lap cycle.
My third and final hit was Geisterburg, a classic ghost train that was a staple of the German fair circuit from 1961-2000 under the ownership of Dom-Jollberg. The ride today looks much the same as it would have done in its heyday, with a typically elaborate facade belying a somewhat more understated interior. That said, the nearly sixty year old hardware was not behaving itself today; my car got about fifty feet in before coming to an unceremonious halt. After a minute or so I took out my mobile phone torch to see if there was anything obviously amiss, only to discover an operator doing something under the car; I hadn't heard him approach. After about fifteen seconds there was a mechanical clunk and he got up to return to his controls, though not before adding his own improvised scare effect.
The system was power cycled a number of times, but my car remained in place. After a few minutes a second was dispatched, and I was asked to switch while the first was pushed into a maintenance bay. Sadly this didn't help either, indicating that the problem was with a section of hot rail. In the end the operator decided to push the car with me in it around the balance of the course, allowing me to see the interior after a fashion. He insisted on returning my tickets despite my protestations; as there was nothing else on my shopping list I passed them to a young family as I made my way to the exit.
Happy Land Dah Dah
16th February 2020
Happy Land Dah Dah can be found beside the waterfront in Les Berges du Lac, an upmarket suburb of Tunis. It is quite a large facility covering eight hectares and change, though not all of the land has been developed and the hardware on site is widely spaced out. In times past the star attraction was a Zyklon coaster, though this machine was retired in late 2014 after reaching the end of its service life. At one stage there were plans to acquire the Schwarzkopf Looping Star from Zoomarine Italy, but they never came to fruition; the plinth remains empty six years later.
There is a small dedicated parking lot at the southern end of the park (36.8309, 10.2269) though my GPS was unable to navigate me there. Instead I improvised an unofficial spot parallel to the main road, and as this was a little precarious I decided it was best not to leave the car unattended for any longer than absolutely necessary. That was how I found myself doing a hit-and-run for Speedy (#2861), a standard model Super Nessi operating a three lap cycle for 3 TND (~€0.97).
16th February 2020
I'd planned to finish my day at Happy Land Dah Dah, but I was two hours ahead of schedule due to the combination of an early start and shorter than expected stays at my three planned parks. Rather than go to the airport early I decided to change plans on the fly and head to Zahroor Park where I knew there to be a number of amusement rides. I had no information whatsoever about opening hours, but I figured that a bright Sunday afternoon was a reasonably safe bet.
The park entrance opens onto a tree-lined avenue, and I was around two hundred metres down it before I spotted the yellow track of a powered coaster buried in the foliage to my left. A quick reverse of direction led me to a small gate and a guichet with ten listed attractions, all of which were geared at those under the age of eight. The Taxi operator didn't even bat an eyelid when I stepped up to the platform; soon after I'd completed an exceptionally silly twenty lap cycle and returned to my car.
16th February 2020
Katkout is a small amusement park located directly behind the world famous Bardo museum in central Tunis. Online information had suggested a 4:00pm opening, but I decided to drive past it on my way to the airport on the off-chance that (perish the thought) the internet could be wrong. I'm glad that I did as the place was both open and actively busy. The Pomme (#2862) was still walk on, though full; I claimed the last available seat in the middle of the train for a three lap cycle.
16th February 2020
I'd intended to arrive at Tunis Airport two hours before take off, and while I'd likely still have caught my flight it would have been cutting things fine; the extra half hour of slack time I ended up with made things much less stressful than they would otherwise have been. I parked my car in P13 and dropped off the keys, then went to check in while the Avis people completed a damage assessment. I'd encourage those retracing my steps to interleave these activities too, as I made it back to the rental desk with boarding passes in hand a good ten minutes before the paperwork was ready.
Exit formalities took just shy of an hour to negotiate, and as a result I ended up in the departures area with just long enough to grab a late lunch in the AVS Lounge. It is possible to buy admission to this facility at the door, but I'd advise those not eligible through other means to spend the 80 TND (~€25.97) fee at one of the airport restaurants instead; the food on offer today could politely be described as "school dinner", and there were children running around unchecked. After a few minutes in place I decided to relocate into the relative calm of the gate area, where I passed my remaining time in country jotting down trip report notes.