Over the last three days in South Africa, I spent some time at the largest theme park in the country, Gold Reef City. With admission to the park included with my hotel stay, it certainly made for a more relaxed visit as I went ahead and spread it out over the length of my stay. As previously shared, the day I arrived to the hotel I did a ride before they began to close for the day and then spent the evening over at the casino hotel. The next day, I enjoyed a walk around the park before it was open since the hotel was inside of the park, and then did a few rides before heading over to the Apartheid Museum and Rand Show. The third day was when I spent the most time in the park after putting my luggage in storage as I would be heading back to the Airport to begin the long journey back home in the afternoon. So I certainly cannot complain that I didn’t have enough time for the park.
One of the features of the park is its origin as the site of a former gold mine. Throughout the park, there are pieces of old mining equipment, and buildings that would resemble those that were common in the gold mining era of Johannesburg.
On that arrival day, the first ride I took was on Jozi Express, a custom Zierer Force coaster. Most of the Force models from Zierer are smaller in size, often built as the junior or family coaster of the park to serve as a first for many kids to ride with their parents or older siblings. While this coaster could still be considered a family coaster, it certainly rode more like a bigger adult coaster. It had much more speed than what I had experienced on other Force models before, and the layout resembled that of the jetline style coasters like that of Anton Schwarzkopf, in part because of the large dropping turns, especially the second drop, located near the station and queue area. This ride was certainly a surprise, and definitely was a great compliment to the park.
After getting to try Jozi Express, I had a chance to walk around the part of the park near the hotel, and noticed there was a pretty large selection of rides in the park, including a Zamperla Air Race which I would take a ride on a later day in the visit. Some of the rides on their own had some pretty detailed theming, although they never really had a central theme to the area.
Before the park began to close the lines for the first day, I found out some bad news for my time at Gold Reef City. One of the coasters I was really looking forward to, The Golden Loop, was going to be closed for the duration of my visit. This is a classic Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop coaster that had previously operated at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina. When the park began closing for the day, I spotted a park manager, and asked them about the coaster and if it was just closed for the day or longer, to which the bad news was given that it was likely a few weeks away from reopening as they were awaiting a part to be shipped (which naturally takes longer because they are so far away where the parts are produced). While I completely understand that these kinds of things happen, it was still a bummer knowing I would not get the chance to ride it. But if nothing else, it gives me an excuse to come back.
The next morning, I had the chance to go for my morning walk around the park before it opened. It was really an odd experience as the only times I had been in a closed park like this was either with an enthusiast group going for exclusive ride time at one of the parks before or after the parks opening hours for the day, or when I worked at Cedar Point and Disney World in past jobs. So to be able to walk around the park randomly outside of those reasons was pretty different. There was a time or two where it had a sort of ghost town feel as most employees were in the buildings or at the rides preparing for opening, and would only see an occasional walking employee in the middle of the park, usually offering a friendly hello.
Upon opening, I decided to head to the park’s biggest coaster, Anaconda. This inverted coaster is a one-of-a-kind ride that was designed by the company Giovanola. This was the only inverted coaster they designed, and they only designed two other coasters before deciding to stick to other engineering projects. It’s a little bit of a shame because this was actually a good ride. It gets the feeling of being a larger coaster than it actually is because of the scenery, and because the layout of the coaster rides above the rapids ride that is lower than some of the parks main pathways. If anyone has ever ridden a Batman The Ride coaster at one of several Six Flags Parks, the layout of Anaconda feels inspired by them, and while not quite as intense, it does still has a decent amount of positive g’s to it.
Right next door to Anaconda is the Runaway Train. Of course some will debate whether or not this counts as a credit or not because it is powered, this particular ride does actually offer a pretty good ride as it has a couple surprising drops in a decently long layout. Regardless if you count them or not, it is still just a fun ride to check out.
Having three of the available five coasters knocked out so soon into day two, I decided it was time to go and take a ride on the other two operating coasters. One which was another shameless credit in the form of Shongololo. This was a bit of a harder credit to obtain because they do require that you have a child to ride with, and while I normally don’t go to the extent of asking random people, I decided to give it a try, and found a nice family who were inline with a couple extra kids, and told them about my riding roller coasters everywhere, and they were happy to take on another in their group as I rode with one of the younger sons. I think they were a bit surprised to meet a guy from the United States who was trying to ride every coaster in their country.
The last of the coasters in the park may be its most unique, the Tower of Terror. This is a custom built coaster that utilizes one of the former mine shafts of the old gold mines. It features an elevator style lift to the top, and one it reaches the top, it goes for a vertical drop underground. When it comes back up, it makes an elevated turn before rolling into the brakes and back to the station. Overall, I will say that while I love the uniqueness of the ride, but the ride experience of it wasn’t what I hoped for. As the ride is built with just one 8-passenger car, the wait can take a while if the line is on the longer side (which it luckily wasn’t any of the times I rode it), but it was made longer because it would crawl from the brake run into the station because of the design which made the track relatively flat, and the drive wheels of the station ran quite slow. The ride also runs a bit rough during the drop and at the bottom of it, which could be the result of the design. I will say though that it was worth the ride of the sheer uniqueness of the coaster.
After accomplishing the five open coasters of the park, I decided to take a ride on the Giant Wheel for the sake of getting some great views of the park, and even a shot of the skyline of Johannesburg in the distance.
When the third day came, it would be spent going for some re-rides around the park, especially on favorites like Anaconda and Jozi Express. It was also a great day for getting some rides on the park’s water rides. First with Raging Rapids. Certainly not the most intense rapids ride I have been on, nor the wettest, but it was still enjoyable with the great scenery that is a part of the area surrounding Anaconda.
There was also a slower boat ride called the Lazy Boats. The sign at the beginning of the ride should have made me realize this was going to take a while, but I figured that with a short line, it would be worth checking out. But if there ever was a ride with a truly fitting name, this may have been it. Lazy is definitely an appropriate name is this thing went about a quarter the speed of a sloth. There were times where the boat looked like it had come to a full stop. But at least they give you things to see along the way between the neighboring car ride, as well as some figures and caves.
The Log Ride would be the last water ride I experienced, and I have to say this was definitely the wettest I have ever been from a log flume. The first drop (which isn’t even the tallest) all but assures that water will cascade all around you, and there was no escape from it. The layout of it rides around the area of the Runaway Train, so there is some interaction between the two, but the level of wet experienced from the one drop was really surprising.
After a few more re-rides, it would be time to head on back to the hotel front desk to gather my belongings and begin the ride over to Johannesburg International Airport, so that I could make my way home. Gold Reef City was a great park with excellent landscaping. I feel that many would enjoy this park, and that it would be rated higher than several smaller parks in the United States as it was well maintained. It certainly will see me again when the opportunity arises to go back to the Johannesburg area.
See more of 2018 South Africa Trip:
1: Flight to Atlanta & Delta Flight Museum / 2: Arrival to South Africa / 3: First Day in Durban /
4: Second Day in Durban / 5: Last Day in Durban / 6: V&A Waterfront / 7: Cape Town City Sightseeing Tours /
8: Table Mountain / 9: Ratanga Junction / 10: Rugby at Newlands Rugby Stadium / 11: Cape Town Walking Tours /
12: Cape of Good Hope / 13: Boulders Beach Penguins / 14: The Last of Cape Town / 15: Cape Town Water Shortage /
16: Sightseeing Around Johannesburg / 17: More Johannesburg Sightseeing / 18: Botswana Day Trip /
19: Kruger National Park, Day 1 / 20: Kruger National Park, Day 2 / 21: Kruger National Park, Day 3 /
22: Gold Reef City Resort & Amenities / 23: Apartheid Museum & Rand Show / 24: Gold Reef City Theme Park /
25: The Return Home