Thunder River (1987 – 2001) Ribena Rumba Rapids (2002 – 2006) Rumba Rapids (2007 – Now)

This river rapids ride was the park’s first thrill ride added in 1987.


Then: Central Park                

Now: Calypso Quay

Official Thorpe Park Description:

Thunder River – from the 2000 Thorpe Park website “White water river rafting in giant circular tyres where the whole family can enjoy the experience together. Watch out as the fast moving river spins the 'boats' round and round and round...!”

Ribena Rumba Rapids – from the 2005 Thorpe Park website “20mm or grip and neoprene come between rider and rapids. 2000 horsepower pumps flush flimsy tubs with 12,000 litres per minute of cold turbulent water.”

“Sunken boulders and rapids jolt and jostle beleaguered victims. This white water experience lasts for 7 wet, wild, lurching minutes. It seems much, much longer.”

The Ride:

Thunder River

The Intamin AG built Thunder River was opened to the public by Dennis Thatcher in 1987. The ride was clearly inspired by the world’s first rapids ride, also called ‘Thunder River’ that opened at Astroworld in the USA in 1980.

From the queue line you would board your boat by crossing the large, circular, rotating wooden loading area. The boats were all yellow and black in colour. They each sat six people and had a black circular hand rail in the middle.

As the water seemed to be more ‘wild’ than it is now, therefore you would typically get more wet from the water itself, there was no need for any added water sprays/ sprinklers in the early years.

However during the years the ride was Thunder River the water seemed to be calmed a few times, this may have been due to injuries from rumoured accidents on the ride.

To help counter this calming of the water, water jets/sprinklers were added at the end of the ride to make sure “There’s no doubt about it, you will get wet!”.

Also at some point during the Thunder River years an On-Ride photo system was added to the ride.

Ribena Rumba Rapids

In 2002 Thunder River was re-themed to become Ribena Rumba Rapids. The sponsorship by Ribena was part of a deal Tussauds arranged with the drinks brand. The other ride they would sponsor was ‘Berry Bouncers’ at Chessington World of Andventures.

Although the ride’s track and layout remained unchanged the whole area received a face lift and paint job. The ride area now attacked your eyes with a lot of bright and bold colours including purple and green.

One big change to the ride was made to the ‘boats’. These now came in a variety of bright colours (red, purple and green), sat up to eight people and no longer had safety hand rails in the centre.

Another big change to the ride was the addition of new ride elements and lots of Ribena berry inspired theming. Some of these new ride elements included sprinklers/ water jets around the track and a shower section at the end of the ride.

Examples of some of the Ribena theming included a new brightly lit berry themed section inside the tunnel, opposite the waterfall.

They also added a few new elements to the ride entrance including a Ribena vending machine and a purple lizard with yellow spots that squirted water at people entering the ride.

Rumba Rapids

Ribena’s sponsorship of the ride finished at the end of the 2006 season. So in 2007 the ride was back as Rumba Rapids and a few quick changes had to be made.

A couple of changes were made to the entrance of the ride. The Ribena vending machine that stood at the front was replaced with a Heatwave Dryer and the brand logo had to be removed from the ride sign.

Also all references to the Ribena berries had to be ‘removed’ including the scene in the tunnel. However this scene in particular was not fully removed, they just chose to not light this area and to cover parts of it over.

The Queue Line Changes

Over the years since this ride opened as Thunder River there have been several changes made to it’s queue line and ride exit area.

The list below features some of these changes and we hope to add to this as more changes are remembered:

During the Thunder River era there used to be remote control boast on the water next to the queue line.
When the On-Ride photo system was added a photo booth was built on the elevated ride exit path.
And I think that originally both the entrance and exit lines were at ground level as you approached/ left the ride’s loading area.

Memories of Thunder River and (Ribena) Rumba Rapids:

Phill: I remember my family and I were queuing for Thunder River on a hot day when I was younger and we saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Crystal Maze’s Richard O’Brien and his family walk past after riding.”.



Related Videos:

Facts & Trivia:

Even though the 2005 official Thorpe Park website description of the ride says it lasts for 7 minutes, the 2010 Press Pack lists the ride duration at 4 minutes 20 seconds.
The length of the track is 460m.
Each of the boats are 2.9m wide.
Rumba Rapids can run with a maximum of 23 boats.
A replica of one of the Thunder River boats can be seen on Chief Ranger’s Carousel in Rangers County.

Related Links:

Ÿ - Electric Bill’s photo of some of the old Ribena theming in the tunnel.
Ÿ - A 1989 photo of the entrance to Thunder River.
Thunder River/ (Ribena) Rumba Rapids (1987 - Now)

< Back to Past Rides Section

On-Ride photo cover from 1998 supplied by Lenny Howard.

On-Ride photo cover from 2001 supplied by Lenny Howard.

An old postcard,

Supplied by Philip Hutchinson.

An old Thunder River pin badge.

A package containing a 1980’s bright yellow

Thunder River mac/ poncho.

A close up of the logo on the back of a 1980’s Thunder River mac/ poncho.

(What does not show in this photo is how yellow the poncho is.)

Thunder River, taken from the 1991 park map, supplied by Alec Dunn.

Thunder River, taken from the 1992 park map, supplied by Alec Dunn.

Thunder River taken in the

very early 90’s.

Supplied by Ben Wegner, Basingstoke.

Thunder River taken in the

very early 90’s.

Supplied by Ben Wegner, Basingstoke.

Ribena Rumba Rapids entrance, taken in 2005

supplied by James Salter.

The lizard at the entrance, taken in 2005

supplied by James Salter.

A Ribena Rumba Rapids boat, taken in 2003

supplied by James Salter.

Ribena Rumba Rapids boats, taken in 2003

supplied by James Salter.

A Rumba Rapids boat, taken in 2008

supplied by Richard Jones.

Rumba Rapids boats, taken in 2009

supplied by Richard Jones.

Some Ribena theming entering the tunnel, taken in 2009

supplied by Richard Jones.

The lift hill at the end of the ride, taken in 2009

supplied by Richard Jones.

The Rumba Rapids sign, taken in 2009

supplied by Richard Jones.

The Rumba Rapids entrance, taken in 2010.

Special Fright Nights theming, taken in 2009 supplied by Richard Jones.


Uploaded to YouTube by CartoonsandKidsTV.

Description: A 1993 clip from Sooty & co. where Little cousin Scampi wants to go to Thorpe Park and go on Thunder River. Which leads to a conversation about Soo’s soggy bottom @2m03s.


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