Ride Review: Tumbili at Kings Dominion

March 14, 2022, 10:43 PM · Despite dire predictions from Punxsutawney Phil and a “bomb cyclone” that coated the mid-Atlantic in an inch or more of snow Saturday, Kings Dominion surprised guests during opening weekend by debuting the park’s newest coaster, Tumbili. The 4-D Free Spin roller coaster from S&S Sansei had been sitting unassembled in the parking lot since mid-2020, and did not start going vertical until the beginning of 2022, so to have this coaster debut on the first official operating day of the season is quite an accomplishment. I was lucky enough to have an early season visit planned to Kings Dominion this Sunday and happened to stumble upon the new coaster fully operational (the previous day, the coaster reportedly only ran for a few cycles due to heavy wind and cold temperatures).

While the coaster was running pretty consistently after a delayed opening, it was clear that there is still some work to do. The queue area is not complete, and even on a day when there probably weren’t more than 2,000 guests in the park, the line for Tumbili snaked all the way to The Outpost Café (former Outer Hanks restaurant). Also, there weren’t any large signs to identify the new attraction, though new signs and thematic elements were installed throughout the land. However, there was quite a bit of theming already present on the coaster. The coaster supports are painted to look like a giant bamboo structure, and the surrounding area has plants, lighting, and other features to reinforce the jungle theme. Also, a percussive soundtrack with primate noises is synchronized with the train’s assent up the vertical lift.

As with other S&S 4-D Free Spin coasters, the load/unload station has two sides, which requires an employee to control guests going to each side of the station to keep the lines even. Because this is a smaller version of this coaster, there is only one load/unload platform, and only two trains operate on the track at any given time with eight riders per train (four on each side of the track), so even when the coaster is running efficiently, guests can expect the line to move pretty slowly.

Once seated, guests are secured by over-the-shoulder restraints with ratcheting vests and redundant seat belts similar to current generation B&M OTSRs and what you will find on other S&S 4-D Free Spin coasters. The seats are comfortable, and the restraints are not too restrictive while still accommodating larger guests (guests must be between 48” and 77” tall to ride). When the train is cleared for dispatch, riders ascend the 112-foot vertical lift hill. Because of the train design each pair of seats can spin/flip freely based on speed, momentum, and weight distribution, as riders can go head over heels while the train progresses down the course. A series of magnetic brakes helps to manage the speed and encourage spins at different spots along the course.

The brakes are most noticeable as the track doubles under itself on each of the four layers of track. Because of the free spinning nature of the coaster, the ride experience can be highly variable. However, based on my observations, the back row appeared flipped more frequently than the front. On our one ride of the day, Zach and I completed two full flips in the back row (both on the top layer), while my wife never fully flipped seated in the front row. After less than a minute, the blur of an experience is over.

The coaster itself is pretty fun, mostly because of the unpredictability of the flips, but there’s a pretty big difference between Tumbili and larger versions of this coaster like Joker at Six Flags Great Adventure, where it’s common to get three or four flips per ride. However, the theming here is far better than the other 4-D Free Spin coasters I’ve seen and fits extremely well in the new Jungle Expedition land. The smaller size also dramatically affects the throughput of this ride, which means this operates much closer to a small flat ride than a typical roller coaster. Perhaps that’s why Kings Dominion didn’t put a lot of fanfare behind the debut of this new attraction.

Tumbili is the first new addition to the park’s rethemed Jungle Expedition land, which used to be called The Congo.

While the Jungle Expedition name is new for 2022, the transformation from The Congo began in 2018 when Volcano, The Blast Coaster closed. The removal of the unique Intamin launching inverted coaster necessitated the removal of the surrounding iconic mountain, which triggered the thematic change for the land. As part of the change to Jungle Expedition in 2022, Avalanche (Intamin bobsled coaster) has been repainted bright orange and renamed Reptilian, while the Scrambler flat ride has been renamed Arachnidia.

Tumbili takes the place of The Crypt (formerly Tomb Raider Firefall), which was a highly themed Huss Top Spin flat ride removed after the 2020 season. The size and throughput of Tumbili is probably on par with The Crypt, and guests should approach this new coaster more like a flat ride than a typical roller coaster that can carry over 1,000 riders per hour. The expectation is that whatever is eventually installed to replace Volcano will ultimately anchor Jungle Expedition and have a much higher capacity, but for now guests may be frustrated with the slow-moving lines for Tumbili. Kings Dominion has yet to announce what will take the place of Volcano, but construction equipment in the area would suggest that prep work for a future anchor attraction is on the way. Let the speculation begin.

But until then, let’s take a look at Tumbili in action....

Robert's note: For a review of that bigger Joker ride, check out Bobbie Butterfield's The Joker wreaks havoc at Six Flags Great Adventure. And for my take on the somewhat similar Intamin ZacSpin model, here is my review of the now-defunct Green Lantern: First Flight at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

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Replies (12)

March 15, 2022 at 12:23 AM

Looks like CF did a good job prettying this area up but sadly the attraction itself is awful. I know its supposed to be a filler "NBD" ride, but its literally 14 seconds from the time you clear the lift to the time you hit the brakes, and there is a trim in the middle.

March 15, 2022 at 3:07 AM

According to what I was told by someone in a supervisor role at the park, Jungle Expedition was originally not expected to open until the beginning of April for the spring break period. However, about a week ago the park decided to open the area on opening day even though it wasn't complete as that is tradition at the park. The crews pulled long hours for the whole week and managed to have the area safe for guests by Friday. Expect the remaining elements to go in place over the next few weeks. As for Volcano's replacement, don't expect anything for at least a couple seasons.

As for the ride itself, it looks like a solid filler attraction and the reduced intensity compared to the bigger models might enable it to appeal to a wider audience. The downside of this is likely to be the capacity. The larger installations typically do around 400 riders per hour, but with only one platform and a need to wait for the other car to fully complete the circuit before dispatching I'm guessing Tumbili is probably only going to achieve about half of that.

March 15, 2022 at 7:55 AM

@the_man - The area was already prettied up, and I'd say it was one of the most highly themed areas of the entire park when Tomb Raider Firefall was running. The former flat ride had fire and water effects as well as an impressive soundtrack that made it as much fun to sit and watch as it was to ride (though it used one of my least favorite Top Spin ride programs). When Paramount sold the park to Cedar Fair, the movie theming was removed (including a statue that was used in one of the films), and operation of the effects became more intermittent.

@AJ - It's quite possible that the Volcano replacement won't be ready until 2024, but I'd say that's the longest we'll need to wait. They are actively working the site, and left part of the old queue building (the portion that used to be the entrance to the Haunted River), so it will be easy to track the progress of the site prep. When footers start going in, it will be a good indicator that the new ride is @6-8 months away from debuting.

March 15, 2022 at 9:33 AM

I went to KD for the first time like 15 years ago (and rode Volcano) and thought the park was a dump, that was right after CF bought it. It improved quite a bit in subsequent visits and will definitely be going back as Twisted Timbers is one of my favorite coasters, but I can say with confidence I will never be riding Tumbili.

March 15, 2022 at 11:19 AM

These smaller versions, like the Batman ride at Discovery Kingdom here in the Bay, don't really seem to qualify as coasters, imo. There's no "ride" to it, it's just spin spin spin you're done.

The kids enjoy it, all it does for me is make me mildly queasy.

March 15, 2022 at 12:51 PM

@thecolonel - Tumbili is a smaller version of Batman The Ride at SFDK, so if you think there's no "ride" to that one, there's even less of a "ride" here.

I think there's a place for smaller coasters like this, but parks have to be really careful when marketing them. Since they are by every definition roller coasters (unlike Larson Loops), you're going to naturally get comparisons to larger, more traditional coasters, but they should be instead advertised as flat rides. If you went by the merchandise in the various gift shops around Kings Dominion, you would have thought Tumbili was a world-class record breaking roller coaster - there were a half-dozen different t-shirts and other merch for the new ride.

Much like Tempesto at nearby BGW, there is a niche for a ride like this at KD, but fans need to approach this like they would Drop Tower, Delirium, or Berserker, and not like I:305 or Twisted Timbers. In other words, this is a replacement for The Crypt, NOT Volcano. In a perfect world, KD would have announced Volcano's replacement by now (or at least drop some hints at what's coming), so excitement for Tumbili can be properly contextualized.

March 15, 2022 at 2:20 PM

Well said Russell.

March 15, 2022 at 2:38 PM

Considering this park is about 48 mins from me, I'm in no rush to ride it. I understand what Russell is saying about not approaching the ride as a rollercoaster, but tell that to the general public who has witnessed the local news stations reporting on "Kings Dominion's newest coaster".

March 15, 2022 at 4:25 PM

i've only ridden the one at six flags over texas. hated every second of it.

March 15, 2022 at 5:50 PM

Interesting review. Weight distribution does indeed make a difference on these S&S free spin models. As to the larger ones such as Joker, the one I rode with the most flips and highest intensity is Batman at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. Although no two rides are the same, that one is consistently wild and I haven't been able to figure out why.

March 15, 2022 at 7:41 PM

We were just at KD last Summer and the images of the new Jungle X-Pedition area looks like a big improvement. I especially like the paint jobs on Tumbili and Reptilian.

March 16, 2022 at 9:28 AM

@NCPete - The bright orange paint job on Reptilian (formerly Avalanche) is pretty striking. We didn't get a chance to ride because the coaster was still testing when we finished riding Tumbili and didn't want to wait around, but you'd have to believe that the new paint and refurbished trains probably provide a faster/smoother ride experience.

The paint job on Tumbili to resemble giant bamboo beams is pretty clever.

I'll also note that there are some fun Easter Eggs throughout the new land. They put up some travel posters by the restrooms near the entrance to the land that harken back to old attractions including Diamond Falls, the Haunted River, Smurf Mountain (called "doozer mountain" to avoid the trademark), and Volcano. It's always nice when park operators are self-aware and give these nice little winks and nods to long time fans. That's something that guests have come to expect from Disney and Universal, so it's cool when smaller regional parks are willing to spend just a bit more for these extra special touches that long-time fans notice and appreciate.

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