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For the first time in four years - Busch Gardens Tampa. April 15, 2019.

Kw6sTheater

Member
While this is still fresh in my head, I’ve decided to write up a trip report about my visit here. As a matter of fact, it was my first visit to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since November 11, 2015 — nearly four long years! Formerly a Tampa native, I grew up surrounded by the animals, greenery and thrill rides of Busch Gardens Tampa, and as a result of that I am extremely sentimental (and defensive) towards this park. I had an amazing time here, for many reasons.

Walking back into Busch Gardens after so long felt like I was being embraced once more by old friends and childhood memories alike. Upon coming up to the park, I was alarmed at how many cars were already filling up the parking spaces! Knowing I only had 5 hours here before driving to Orlando, I was afraid I’d have to prioritize what I would and wouldn’t ride — something I was very much against. Luckily, the worst was behind me as I entered the Gardens. The lines were minimal (aside from the obvious; Cheetah Hunt, as always, garnered a 65 minute wait around park opening), to my great relief; the first ride of the day was Cobra’s Curse (Coaster credit #149), only advertised as a 5-minute line.

Cobra’s Curse (#149)

Back on my last visit in 2015, I saw this ride under construction. I remember going into King Tut’s Tomb (the walk-through attraction replaced by the queue for Cobra’s Curse) several times as a young child, so it was interesting to see the drastic changes from those times to now. I thought the queue was very detailed as I passed through it, evoking a strong feel of a buried tomb with its long, dark and narrow passageways and tightly packed rooms. Surely an authentically ancient tomb would be a bit more grimy than this one? (Wink) Anyways, the line started at around the end of the preshow area. I merely caught the ending bit, but it looked to be a pretty neat show of projection mapping, lights and frantic-sounding music. Around the corner was the station, a simple and rectangular outdoor space with a tarp covering the ceiling. I have to applaud the Cobra’s Curse ops, as the two of them loading/unloading passengers were doing it at an astonishing pace — so much so that while waiting in the station, there was never a dull moment. Whether it be the two trains being pushed along the conveyor belt, the eye-catching counterbalance elevator lift, or even a train whizzing overhead, the station has this vibe of constant movement to it. The ride itself has some quality theming and a decent story, but unfortunately the forward part (the turn into the cobra statue, drop, and helix) had a substantial rattle to it. However, it must be said that the final act of Cobra’s Curse is just so much fun! I loved the series of slalom-style overbanked turns flying over the pathways, station or even the train tracks and was a bit disappointed when they ended all-too-soon.

Next up, I headed to Montu — a literal walk-on, with no wait whatsoever.

Montu

Being my favorite B&M inverted coaster even after nearly four years of not riding it, I was worried that my expectations for it would outweigh the quality of the ride itself. Fortunately, Montu lived up to those expectations for sure! Nearly every element on Montu is intense, with the most forceful obviously being the insane batwing; some close contenders were the snappy dive off the mid-course into the G-loaded second loop, ending corkscrew or even the immelmann. I’m a sucker for intense coasters and Montu never fails to deliver hardcore G’s, just like any old-school B&M should. Currently, Montu sits just outside my top 10, inching ever so closer towards my much beloved Kumba. The “trench run” second half is pure awesomeness, and was a reminder of why Montu is my favorite B&M inverted coaster and one of my most loved creations of the Swiss company in general.

After Montu, I visited the nearby gorilla enclosure — yet another part of Busch Gardens Tampa that I remember from my childhood years — and made my way towards Pantopia. Then I made a quick stop at the elephant viewing area, and now was time to ride my 150th coaster— Scorpion! During my time in Pantopia, I couldn’t help but point out how similar it is to Oktoberfest at sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Lots of game stalls scattered around the place? Check! A humongous drop tower that I’m much too afraid to try? Check! At least one large theatre and supersized dining area? Check! Several carnival-style flat rides? Check!

All jokes aside, I have fond memories of Timbuktu — re-skinned as Pantopia in time for the opening of Falcon’s Fury — as a young one. I have memories of riding Sand Serpent back when it was called Cheetah Chase. Yet oddly enough, I had not experienced Scorpion even after passing it by on all of my other visits to Busch Gardens Tampa. Even though it is a smaller coaster, I decided to make it my 150th due to its model’s rareness and manufacturer; Schwarzkopf.


Scorpion (#150!)

Scorpion did somewhat deliver that hallmark Schwarzkopf intensity in the vertical loop and bizarre but awesome 900° helix; however, there was a very prevalent rattle throughout the entire ride. The train seemed to be frantically shuffling about as soon as it hit that loop, resulting in some awkward jolts and bounces from side to side. Scorpion is not nearly as intense as other Schwarzkopf masterpiece like Mind Bender in Georgia, and comes nowhere near the insanity that is Mindbender in Canada, but it’s certainly more intense than your average family coaster.


I proceeded towards the back of the park, where the legendary Kumba waited for me after nearly four long years. I’m pretty biased in this statement as Kumba was the “coaster that got me into coasters”, but Kumba is my top coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Regardless, I had goosebumps as I once again gazed upon that iconic view of Kumba’s interlocking corkscrews. I remembered the thump in my chest as I had felt it over four years before as I stepped up to the roar.

Kumba

This is a perfect example of old-school B&M goodness, just like Montu over on the other side of the park. Kumba is masterfully woven in and around dense greenery, through the gentle hillside and under the station. Kumba never wastes any of its precious time, and gets to the good stuff immediately after the train disengages from the lift. To say I enjoy this ride is an understatement. For a bit of context; in early 2015, Kumba was the coaster that got me over my fear of inversions - and into a (hopefully) lifelong addiction to roller coasters all around the world. My favorite moment on this coaster has to be the cobra roll, as it’s always been an intense moment - with a close second being the dive under the station and helix finale.

I proceeded to munch on a soft pretzel (unfortunately without cheese dip, which had been present in Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Oktoberfest area) as I made my way towards Tigris, in hopes that it would be soft-open. This was not the case, but I caught Tigris testing many times throughout the afternoon from around the rest of the park. My next target was lunch at the Bengal Bistro — a place I often ate at as a youngling — and proceeded to horse around in the Jungala play structure, another one of my childhood memories. Obviously I had outgrown this thing, as I struggled to climb up the spiraling spider-web like network of ropes and hit my head one too many times while climbing around. Regardless, I had a lot of fun. Next, it was time to take on SheiKra!



SheiKra
On my last visit to Busch Gardens Tampa, I assisted with a television show’s filming as an extra rider (If I remember straight, it was a British show documenting the thrill rides of Florida) on SheiKra. During that one day, I was able to ride it no less than eight times! That’s not the only interesting part of my experiences with this coaster; upon mentioning that “RMC Gwazi’s right over there” to my friend that I was riding SheiKra with, another coasterfan from perked up and we shared a discussion about RMC and Intamin during parts of SheiKra. Moving on from that, SheiKra’s two humongous drops never fail to give me a thrill by producing some great floater airtime. The rest of the ride, per typical SeaWorld Parks fashion, is located in a beautiful setting and has some great interaction with the surrounding area. I even got to see the purple track of RMC Gwazi for a split second on SheiKra’s final helix! Although I prefer Griffon a bit, I really like this ride for what it does best — vertical drops and sustained airtime.

Even though Tigris wasn’t open (and would soft open just the very next day), I passed by its work walls and attempted to get a glimpse into what appeared to be a pavillion in front of the coaster itself. Then, I got in line for the Skyride — one of the rides I remember experiencing as a very young child — and savored the views of the park from above. I passed over what was my favorite ride in the park as a young one — Rhino Rally, removed to make way for Cheetah Hunt’s canyon segment — and caught Cheetah Hunt on camera as it raced over and under the Skyride. After disembarking, I noticed that the Skyride had an incredibly long line! It was backed up all the way to the beginning of the uphill ramp, which is the longest I’ve ever seen for this ride. Now it was time to do Cheetah Hunt, which had shortened to a 35 minute wait.

Cheetah Hunt
I must mention that I was somewhat notorious for not liking this ride back in 2015 and 2016. I called Cheetah Hunt things such as “overrated”, “forceless” and “mediocre”. Therefore, I greatly looked forward to this ride, and hoped it would change my opinion for the better. After the longest wait during my visit (around 35 minutes), I boarded the back row in anticipation that this would perhaps be a great ride. My thoughts afterwards? Cheetah Hunt is a true family thrill ride, in good and bad ways. Some moments on this coaster flat out awesome (mainly the airtime hill after the 3rd launch, the S-curves in the rockwork, and the 2nd launch up the first hill) and what you’d expect from other Intamin masterpieces like Intimidator 305, Skyrush or Maverick — but others, unfortunately, are more reminiscent of a family ride. Cheetah Hunt was creatively woven around pathways as well as through the skyride and railroad at Busch Gardens Tampa, and I certainly believe it deserves credit for that. Notable elements include; the figure of eight at the top of Cheetah Hunt’s main hill provides a nice and relaxing panoramic view of the entire park, whereas the first drop gives some great airtime. The twisted hill that leaps over the skyride is a gentle but fun maneuver, as is the heartline roll immediately following — that inversion actually gives a second of hangtime! However, aside from the parts I’ve already mentioned, a lot of Cheetah Hunt’s course feels like pointless meandering — or “dead spots”, if you will — that don’t exactly do anything. There’s a section separating the first drop from the curved hill over the skyride — I understand this was necessary to clear the railroad tracks, but would even a slight bunny hop have been possible here? Another dead spot is the overbank separating the first launch from the second launch, and yet another is everything after the third launch into airtime hill segment that leads into the final brake run. All in all, one might ask if my ride on Cheetah Hunt changed my opinion… my response to that, is a yes. For sure Cheetah Hunt exceeded my minimalistic expectations, but it’s definitely not one of my favorite coasters — Kumba and Montu are two of them. It is still my fourth favorite at Busch Gardens Tampa behind Kumba, Montu and SheiKra (in that order).



After riding Cheetah Hunt, I figured that I’d done everything that I was set out to at Busch Gardens Tampa after a nearly four year absence. As much as I wanted to go back on the train (which I rode as an infant), it was a bit too far away from the front gate for comfort. I also never got around to stepping inside Lorikeet Landing, a childhood wonderland of mine that sparked many years’ fascination with birds onto my very young self back in the day. For those wondering, I already had the Air Grover credit from the time when I first rode it back around its opening. After a quick stop at the Emporium to search for a Kumba shirt in vain, I headed through the front gate and rode the tram (yet another one of my childhood memories, at that time it reminded me of Walt Disney World) back to the parking lot.



Overall, I had an amazing time here at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I revisited old memories, made some new ones and very much look forward to going here again. I probably won’t be back next year; although RMC Gwazi is going to be a spectacular ride for sure, I generally come down to Florida around only once per two years. Kumba still is probably going to remain as my favorite in Busch Gardens Tampa, though.

EDIT: The images have been fixed! Thanks for your patience.
 
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Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
The images don't work on Tapatalk for me, but had a look and they're stored on Google drive somewhere. I know we've had issues in the past with people trying to share images from their Google account and the privacy settings aren't right. I'd suggest using a proper image hosting site, rather than something set up for storage and backup. :)

Sounds like a good day, though.
 

Kw6sTheater

Member
Thanks Hixee! I’ll try uploading the images from Discord, that’s always how I have posted them. I’m sorry it didn’t work the first time.
 

Matt N

Well-Known Member
Great report @Kw6sTheater! Busch Gardens is a park I'd really love to go back to; I last went in 2016 and while the park itself disappointed me a little, the coaster lineup was top notch! I fell in love with Montu and SheiKra in particular as soon as I came off them!

I also remember you saying you went to SeaWorld Orlando; will there be a trip report from there, out of interest? I would be interested to hear how my personal favourite coaster Mako was riding!
 

Kw6sTheater

Member
Great report @Kw6sTheater! Busch Gardens is a park I'd really love to go back to; I last went in 2016 and while the park itself disappointed me a little, the coaster lineup was top notch! I fell in love with Montu and SheiKra in particular as soon as I came off them!

I also remember you saying you went to SeaWorld Orlando; will there be a trip report from there, out of interest? I would be interested to hear how my personal favourite coaster Mako was riding!
I may or may not write that trip report. Unfortunately I don't have any non-personal pictures from the park, so there wouldn't be any in the Report.
 

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Cool TR @Kw6sTheater! I find really interesting to have a then vs now comparison of your experiences, 4 year apart. It puts some of perspective about what makes us enjoy a ride, and how expectations can play around that, too.

BGT's ride collection looks stellar. Florida is quite expensive, but I'd be really excited to visit the park some day.
 

Kw6sTheater

Member
Thank you, Coaster Hipster! I've continually debated on doing ones for future trips (Calaway Park, Carowinds and Galaxyland, among others), but unfortunately I don't have enough - or sometimes any - pictures for reports on previous trips. I am very glad that you all have enjoyed this TR, as it makes me want to do more in the future.
 
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