With the theme park season drawing to a close in many countries and people forced to stay home again, we thought we’d bring you a brand new article series. Expect regular updates from myself as we explore one of the most beautiful, cultural and historical regions of Europe: Scandinavia! We’ll be taking you from Norway across to Finland, through Sweden and then down to Denmark. We’ll be providing you with detailed insights and top tips into the theme parks each of these countries has to offer. We will also be diving into which rollercoasters and attractions you aren’t going to want to miss out on. So grab a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and enjoy!
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Today we’re heading to the main station in Stockholm and jumping on a train and a bus which takes us to Kolmården. Kolmården is a long, rocky and wide densely forested ridge that separates the Swedish provinces of Södermanland and Östergötland. The nearest city located to this region of Sweden is known as Norrköping and is the ideal place to stay if you are looking to visit Kolmården Wildlife Park or the archipelagos St Anna or Gryt, which are located not too far from the city itself.
Kolmården Wildlife Park is owned and operated by the company “Parks & Resorts Scandinavia”, who also own Gröna Lund, which we explored in the last episode if you haven’t checked it out yet. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Kolmården before I visited, but I was for sure excited. Kolmården isn’t a theme or an amusement park, or even a zoo for that matter. It’s a wildlife park, which opened in 1965 and is the largest wildlife park in Scandinavia. It boasts 85 different species of animal, the world’s first safari cable car, 370 acres (1.5km squared) of space and one of the most beautiful and scenic locations known to man. Oh… and of course Wildfire. The entrance to the park provides a feeling of undertaking an expedition, and once you’ve passed through it you can either walk or ascend an escalator which takes you to the wide and vast expanse of land and nature which is Kolmården Wildlife Park.
The wildlife park is really boundless and provides opportunities for taking a woodland walk, amazing views from lookout points and discovering an abundance of species of animals. If you’re an animal lover like me, Kolmården is definitely an animal sanctuary which needs to be explored. If you’re a coaster lover, they might also just have a certain rollercoaster called Wildfire which might excite you a little bit. But it’s worth being clear that Kolmården is a wildlife park with a few attractions, not the other way round, and it is evident that animal welfare is the highest priority at the park. So a stroll to the back of the park will take you to what I think is the main draw to the park for the public- it’s called Safari-take a look at the entrance archway below.
The entrance alone to safari creates a prehistoric atmosphere and a sense of expedition and adventure. The logo sits dramatically between two tusks and invites guests inside the ancient, African stylised rock walls which encompass the waiting area before guests embark into their own expedition cabins. Once you’ve walked through the entrance archway and past the lion and bear which guard the primitive-style walls, you enter the queue line which is dressed with various canopies and has various animal fossils and skeletons of prehistoric animals for guests to look at. Given how much queueing space they have available, I imagine on a very busy day Safari can get very long queues, however we got lucky and didn’t have to wait too long. Therefore, I advise heading there in the morning before the crowds build up too much.
Once you reach the front of the queue-line you board you board into your group’s own expedition cabin. Each cabin on the cable car is themed to a different animal, such as a tiger like you can see in the photo below. Each car is also individually numbered. It’s a continuous loader, so the queue-line moves up pretty quickly. Even if you’re not the biggest animal lover, it’s honestly worth doing Safari. It’s absolutely stunning. Being the world’s first cable car safari is pretty unique in itself, however the views over the region are absolutely breathtaking and you also get some pretty epic views of wildfire too. So get your camera ready for some awesome photo opportunities.
Your Safari expedition starts with an ascent over a rocky, hill covered landscape and through a dense forest of tall trees and bushes. The ascent is pretty peaceful and fills you with a sense of tranquility but also with emotions of excitement as you can’t wait explore the rest of Kolmården’s stunning landscape and get up close to the variety of species which call this wildlife park their home. Your expedition cabin ascends higher and higher as the cable car lifts you higher above sea level. Soon you are taller than the tops of the trees and actually ascend over the trees to be stunned with the most magnificent and breathtaking views…
I wasn’t over-exaggerating when I said that the views were breathtaking, was I? When you reach the highest point of Safari you are elevated way over the tops of the trees and are even gliding and soaring high above the infamous Wildfire, which if you don’t know it, was Europe’s first RMC Hybrid rollercoaster (Rocky Mountain Construction). This provides awe-inspiring views over the Kolmården region and magnificent views out to sea and of the archipelagos located amidst the waters. It also provides awesome views of Wildfire racing around the track for rollercoaster enthusiasts, which means those with high quality cameras can get some action packed shots!
Once you’ve reached the highpoint of your expedition, you start to descend again into the woodland landscape and your cabin starts to glide down towards the rocky mountain landscape. It’s time to start looking out for some animals. This is their home, and the amount of space that they have is so extensive that seeing all the different species isn’t a guarantee. If you take a ride in the morning, it is likely a lot of animals will be grouped around feeding areas which are situated normally relatively close to the cable car, so it’s your best chance to get an up close view of some of these amazing species like you’ve never seen before. Those eager-eyed will be able to spot the first species of our expedition in the photo below.
The first species we discovered on our expedition was the antelope. I can’t pin-point down to the exact type of species these antelope are, however you will see some more of them in another photo in a second. They are very agile, fast and light footed creatures so it’s hard to get a good picture of them sometimes when they are on the move. Antelopes live in large herds and the fastest of their kind can reach speeds of up to 43mph (69 km/h) which is as fast as some of the thrilling rollercoasters that we often ride!
As the cable car continues to take you through the forested and rocky landscape, the landscape starts to open up into more of an open plain featuring muddy, rocky and grassy areas, a pond and plenty of space for an abundance of species to roam around in. As I elaborated on slightly before in the article, we rode Safari in the morning as one of the first things we did during our day in the park. Therefore, when we rode the cable car it was the feeding time of the animals, meaning we were lucky enough to get great views of a variety of different species. Our expedition cabin gracefully glided past animals such as giraffes, zebras and more antelopes. It’s so peaceful to watch a variety of different species living in an abundance of space and interacting with each other.
The cable car continues to lower you gracefully towards the ground to give you more of a perspective and look into these animals habitat. I love how up close you get in the cable car to the animals, especially the giraffes which stand tall with their long necks. It was great to enjoy and watch the giraffes having their morning feed and it was so impressive and breathtaking to get so up close to the animals in the safari cable car.
Once you’ve floated gracefully past the giraffes and managed to take some awesome pictures of the giraffes and other animals in their home, you continue to descend towards the ground in the safari cable car before maneuvering round a corner. I’m not sure I’ve ever ridden a cable car which turns corners before, so it was certainly an interesting (however also bumpy) experience as the car turned the corner to head in a different direction!
If you’re eager-eyed you might have noticed in the photo above in the splash pool there was an animal taking a morning bath. This species is commonly known as a moose and it was really insightful to get such a cool perspective of the moose enjoying its habitat by gliding over it in the safari cable car, which also provided some awesome photo opportunities. Moose in Sweden often weigh between 200-550kg, which is comparative to in Alaska where they can weigh anywhere up to 700kg. Moose are often known as kings of the forest and are most commonly seen at dawn or at dusk.
As your safari expedition continues and you discover more of the realm of Kolmården Wildlife Park, if you are lucky you will meet even more species along your journey. After you have turned the corner in the previous open plain, your expedition cabin will start to rise up again towards the sky and up into the trees. providing you with perspectives of the rocky landscape below as well as the animals in their habitat. You should hopefully come across some brown bears during your expedition, which I have to say are really one of the cutest animals in their appearance and their behaviour. They normally prefer to live alone or in small groups and can weigh over 300kg.
As you continue your journey on Safari a rocky mountain landscape turns into a more forest like woodland full of grassy plains. Here if you are lucky you should come across lions, and perhaps their cubs too. Lions are often called king of the beasts and are the largest terrestrial predator in the world. You will often see them in herds, so are more likely to see a group of them in Kolmården together rather than one on its own. Listen out carefully to see if you can hear them roar!
I actually really like the addition of cable cars to theme park resorts and think that the Safari cable car in Kolmården works really well as a wildlife experience, whilst allowing for a high throughput of guests and no extra up-charge, like some safaris in wildlife parks across the world. However, what I find particularly interesting about the cable car itself at Kolmården is how long the Safari experience is, and how long the layout of the cable car is itself. It’s really interesting how you turn corners and cross over other sections of the cable car during your expedition, and the use of elevation for views across the region is really quite clever.
Once the close up meet and greet with various different species of animal starts to conclude, the cable car starts to descend once again from a highpoint and takes you back towards the loading area. On your return to the loading station of Safari you are once again greeted with stunning views across the Kolmården region and woodland landscape, as well as magnificent views out onto the sea and archipelagos as well as an awesome perspective of Wildfire.
Speaking of Wildfire, now our Safari expedition has come to an end, let’s head over the first Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) hybrid coaster to be constructed in Europe. I’ve got to say, Wildfire is a really interesting addition for a park which very heavily focusses on animal welfare and guests experiencing being in an animals home. This makes such a huge rollercoaster a very strange addition for Kolmården. Furthermore, it is really evident that the operations of the rollercoaster are not a priority in comparison to animal care and welfare. For example, you will most likely only see Wildfire ever running on one train and the operations are rather slow. Nonetheless, we didn’t ever have to wait more than 10-20 minutes due to low crowds interested in the rollercoaster. But boy oh boy, I’ve got to say that Wildfire is a perfect fit for Kolmården; the design and theme of the rollercoaster really fits perfectly with the rocky woodland landscape and makes for an awesome experience and one of the best rollercoaster experiences in Europe.
Once you arrive at the entrance to Wildfire it’s time to get ready for your adventure. The logo and entrance sign is simple but effective and entices guests into the queue-line to prepare to board one of the most infamous rollercoasters in the whole of Europe. The logo and the whole experience depicts exactly what the name describes- a wildfire. Your whole experience and journey on the rollercoaster is so fast paced and intense it’s as if you are the unplanned, unwanted and uncontrollable fire that is taking place in a rural woodland.
Whilst you are queueing up and waiting to board the train and undertake your fast paced, untamed and ferocious journey on Wildfire, in the queue-line there are posters with information about the ride and the experience such as the board of facts you can see in the photo below. So rather than me sitting here and boring you with figures, if you’re interested in all the stats you can see them in the photo below. However, a piece of interesting information that isn’t on the fact sheet.. Wildfire actually opened in June 2016, however this operation was stopped in October 2016 due to environmental concerns from the government. Luckily for Kolmården, a license for the rollercoaster to carry on operating was granted in June 2017 and the rollercoaster reopened, otherwise it could have been a lot of money and investment wasted by Kolmården.
I’m not sure if anyone really knows why Kolmården, being a wildlife park, chose to build such a thrilling rollercoaster like Wildfire. At the end of the day, the park has a family market, and has a couple of other family rollercoasters which we will discuss in a little bit. But such a huge and unexpected development was certainly not something that a lot of the public were expecting for Kolmården to have in the works. I guess with Parks & Resorts Scandinavia having a lot of other parks under their operation, there was a lot of rollercoaster knowledge and background, and a gamble on such a big investment like Wildfire was taken to try and draw in a new audience to the park who had never visited before. I think Wildfire is spectacular, it’s easily one of the best rollercoasters I’ve ever ridden and the way it is landscaped with the forest and rocky terrain is truly stunning. Your expedition on Wildfire starts with an ascent up the lift hill which provides amazing views over the Kolmården region.
Once you reach the top of the lift hill and reach the high-point of this magnificent rollercoaster, which stands at an impressive 183.8 ft (63.0m) tall, you then turn a corner which loops back under the lift hill itself and start to slowly but surely pick up speed as you admire the breath taking views around you. Before you know it, and certainly before you are ready, you are plunging down a 160.8 ft (49.0m) drop with a vertical angle of 83.0 degrees and you are picking up speeds of 71.5 mph (115.0 km/h). It’s truly an exhilarating but also terrifying experience. I recommend sitting at the back to get the most ejector and thrill factor on the first drop as you are truly lifted out of your seat at breakneck speeds.
Once you’ve plunged down the first drop into the rocky mountain landscape you then rise up again above the forest and complete a Zero-G stall, which is probably my favourite element of the ride and my favourite rollercoaster element in general due to the upside-down hang time you get where you just feel like you are flying out of your seat. Once you race through the zero g stall, back down towards the ground, you then rise up again and maneuver through a high profile over banked curve which sends you flying sideways before diving back down through a wooden hut which is filled with smoke.
Next, the train flies over a series of airtime hills and through twists, turns and hills which send you flying out of your seat. The amount of ejector airtime, as well as hang-time on this rollercoaster is truly sensational, although the ejector isn’t perhaps quite as strong as on Untamed at Walibi Holland. After progressing through the series of airtime hills and banked curves, you pass through a Zero g roll which you actually pass through pretty gracefully- providing riders with feelings of floater airtime. You can see the zero g roll nestled in between the trees and over the rocky landscape in the photo below.
After the Zero-G roll, you pass through various more twists, turns, banked curves and over little hills which provide you with ejector or floater airtime or suddenly throw you sideways or down into the rocky terrain. The train then heads through a heartline roll which provides riders with floater airtime but a feeling of also being whipped sideways. After the heartline roll the train very much loses speed but still continues to glide through a series of s-bends and small hills which provide pops of airtime before heading back into the station where you disembark from the train and your adventure on Wildfire has come to its end.
After a few rides on Wildfire, it was time to head to the gift shop and pick up a few souvenirs of both Wildfire and from the park itself. It was then time to head to the neighbouring area to Wildfire which is known as the Marine World. The marine world is home to various marine wildlife, including a dolphin show which is called “Hope” and provides a strong message for guests about joy and Kolmården’s commitment to our planet’s wildlife. The marine area of the park also provides views of Wildfire incase you wanted to take any more photos or videos of the attraction, however also is home to a rollercoaster of its own. This rollercoaster debuted in 2009 and is a Vekoma Junior coaster which is known as Delfinexpressen, and is fittingly themed to dolphins with a dolphin themed train.
Time to explore the rest of the park and the wildlife and nature that Kolmården has an offer for guests to discover. One of the enclosures in the wildlife park is home to red pandas, which are one of my favourite animals. These are more closely related to racoons rather than pandas and they enjoy eating bamboo as one of their main snacks. Red pandas are considered a highly endangered species and therefore Kolmården supports the species with conservation and preservation work.
Kolmården is host to a whole variety of different species which we haven’t even elaborated on in this article, another of my favourites being the capybara. There are various animal demonstrations and displays which take place across the park where the keepers feed and train the animals so the audience can learn more about the care for the animals. There’s also a birds of prey show which features free-flying birds which swoop overhead. If you’re up for a little bit of exploring, there are some trails off from the main areas of the wildlife park where you can go for a stroll through the dense woodland forest. If you explore far enough you will be taken to this viewing platform which provides awe inspiring views over the sea and out to the archipelagos. There are truly breathtaking views from Kolmården and the location of the wildlife park and the setting around it are a perfect fit.
On the subject of animal talks and demonstrations, we managed to catch one at the elephant habitat where there was a feeding and training demonstration taking place, to ensure the animals welfare and to try and educate guests about the species. The talks provided by Kolmården are most likely going to take place in Swedish, but nonetheless it is easy to get an understanding of what is going on and enjoyable to watch. Elephants are a species which normally like to shade under the trees or take a cooling bath in the water when it gets very hot in the afternoon, and it was a very hot and sunny day when we visited Kolmården.
There’s one more area of the park which I want to talk about and which we headed to at the end of the day. This area of the park is called Bamses Värld and is home to Bamse, the world’s strongest bear and a beloved children’s character. In this area you can meet Bamse and his friends within the quirkily themed land as well as discovering restaurants, shops, play areas and various rides for the children to enjoy. There is also another family rollercoaster in this area, this time a Zierer Force 190 rollercoaster. It’s called Godiståget and is a fun family rollercoaster which passes over the rocky landscape and by tall standing trees and races next to a river which runs through the themed land. “Godiståget” translates to “Candy train” in English so that’s essentially the theme of the rollercoaster in a nutshell. After having a ride on Godiståget, it was time to head back to the main entrance of the park where there is an extensive gift shop for guests to browse, before heading back on the bus and the train back to Stockholm.
So, do I recommend that you take a trip out to Kolmården? Well the answer is most definitely yes. This is one of the most scenic, beautiful and peaceful wildlife sanctuaries that I have ever visited. The park really care about the welfare of its animals and guest experience and education. There’s so much nature and wildlife to explore as well as various demonstrations, talks and shows for guests to discover. The Safari cable car experience is truly breath taking and provides you with an up close perspective of the animal’s habitat and their home. It also provides truly stunning views over the landscape and the rest of the region. Of course, there’s Wildfire to talk about too. Not necessarily the best RMC out of the three currently in Europe, but it was the first and the views and the landscaping of the rollercoaster are certainly the best out of all the European RMCs. Wildfire is certainly one of the top rollercoasters in Europe and is like the icing on the cake so to speak when looking at Kolmården as an overall wildlife park experience. Kolmården was probably the most beautiful and scenic park we visited in Sweden, and potentially my favourite. It’s also easily accessible from the capital city, Stockholm, which is an added bonus as it can easily be done as a day trip.
Well that’s all from our day trip out of the capital of Sweden to Kolmården Wildlife Park. We hope you enjoyed coming along with us to this one, and we’re heading back to Stockholm now so we can catch a flight to Aarhus in the north of Denmark. We’re making trips to two different parks in Aarhus, so expect them in separate episodes. So look out for the next article where we will be discovering Tivoli Friheden!