Sean: One of my all-time favorite parks on this planet turns out to be Busch Gardens Tampa. Located only about an hour away from the major Orlando theme parks, Busch Gardens does a spectacular job offering an experience that is unique, and does so in a classic, clean, well-maintained setting. In addition to which the park also features some of the continent’s best coasters. Join us as we take a look at this massive Busch Gardens park!
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The entrance of Busch Gardens Tampa is the least impressive part of the park, which is fantastic news, as the rest of the park only gets better. We started our visit off by visiting Gwazi, the infamous dueling GCI woodie that stands dormant in the middle of Busch Gardens Tampa.
The same area still features plenty of kiddie rides and games that are named after the giant wooden coaster that towers overhead: Gwazi. This area is most in need for a refresher, but is perfect for their special events. We’re interested in seeing what will happen to Gwazi, we’d love for the Central Florida region to see another racing coaster now Dueling Dragons is gone. RMC Gwazi perhaps?
On our way to SheiKra, which was a priority for me, I soon began to fall in love with this beautiful park. The park is quite large, and features a presence of animals everywhere.
What you see here is the perfect foreshadowing of the rest of the park. Clean, safari inspired, and lots of nature.
On the way to SheiKra you pass by Sesame Street Safari of Fun, which is great for families, but of course not the highlight of the park for us!
Good news is, they have a coaster <3 Air Grover!
Let’s move on to Stanleyville, home to the park’s log flume and B&M Dive Machine: SheiKra.
Unfortunately the log flume was closed during our visit, but Alex has ridden it several times before and is very fond of the flume. The bright red and blue beast in the background was what I looked forward to riding first.
SheiKra opened in 2005 as America’s first Dive Machine. SheiKra was also my first dive coaster and completely changed my view of dive coasters.
SheiKra opened in 2005 with regular sit down dive machine trains from B&M as seen on Oblivion at Alton Towers. Busch Gardens held off on adding the Floorless trains till after the opening of Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which featured the world’s first Floorless Dive Machine trains.
SheiKra is beautifully maintained, very smooth, and visually stunning from the ground, and on-ride.
The ride is so beautifully integrated with the surrounding themed area that one almost forgets that a mega 200 ft tall coaster hovers in the sky above.
The ride’s first drop features the infamous stall, with floorless trains this is spectacular. Hanging 200 feet of the ground and then diving straight down at speeds of 70 mph is a lot more impressive than I imagined.
The second drop does not have a holding brake and delivers some very good air before diving into a tunnel.
The ride’s signature move on the ground is its splashdown, which is almost unnoticeable on the ride, but looks spectacular from anywhere around the ride. Overall SheiKra is one heck of a ride, and we’re just getting started…
Jungala and Congo
The next area of the park may very well be my favorite area, and that’s the area of Jungala and Congo. Technically they were split into two areas years ago, but originally it’s all Congo.
The park features these truly classic plastic animal machines that make a plastic animal right in front of you, for Jungala and Congo the appropriate animal is the tiger of course.
Speaking of tigers, Jungala features a beautiful tiger exhibit!
Find the white Bengal tiger:
Let’s travel to Congo! Where Congo River Rapids and Kumba live intertwined with the park’s infrastructure to create my favorite area of the park.
We didn’t get the chance to ride the beautiful 80s rapids ride this time, but we did fall in love with B&M’s star looper, the infamous Kumba.
Not only is the logo amazing looking, so is the rest of the ride. If you’re not a frequent reader or not too knowledgeable of roller coasters, odds are you’ve seen pictures of Kumba. It is a legend.
But how does it ride? AMAZINGLY WELL! Very smooth, great layout, and wonderful integration with the infrastructure. Best of all? It manages to feel incredibly classic while maintaining a smooth ride experience throughout.
The layout features all of the infamous B&M looper elements, but we can’t forget that this 1993 beast was the first to offer such elements to thrill seekers!
We were very lucky to be visiting on a day that was relatively quiet, so we got to ride Kumba quite a bit!
My final verdict, this is this region’s Viper for me. For those who are familiar with the brand know how much I love Viper at Six Flags Magic Mountain! Kumba is a classic looper, and much smoother at that, making it this region’s classic looper that I just can’t love enough!
The next area we checked out was Pantopia, which was renamed from Timbuktu to Pantopia with the arrival of Falcon’s Fury!
The area’s best known coaster is Scorpion, the classic Schwarzkopf looper!
The park also features a standard production model Mack wild mouse, named Sand Serpent. To my surprise this is one of my favorite wild mice! Very minimal trimming and classic trains delivered such a great and intense ride experience!
Pantopia is the best rounded area in the park in my opinion, with a lot of classic rides like Scorpion and this inverting ship!
My verdict on Scorpion… I didn’t enjoy it. I love my classic Schwarzkopfs, but the padding on Scorpion made it impossible for my 6’6 foot self to enjoy this ride. It was very painful. Having said that, I can recognize a good coaster when I see or ride one, and the classic layout and banking, as well as the looping are just magnificent. Any classic-coaster lover will love Scorpion, if they’re not terribly tall. 😉
Pantopia’s staple is Falcon’s Fury, the park’s infamous 300 feet tall face-first Intamin drop tower.
The ride is very prominent from all around the park, and it looks and sounds more terrifying than it actually is. Facing down 90 degrees at such an elevation is awesome, but the actual drop slows down quite quickly.
Nonetheless the ride is spectacular and is rideable for quite a lot of types of people. Though the park is very coaster-centric, this is definitely a ride you can not miss!
Nairobi and the Edge of Africa
Another amazing area of the park would be Nairobi and the Edge of Africa, where the park’s fascinating collection of animals play the main role!
The park has an amazing railroad around the park and Serengeti plains, the park’s main safari plains. The train stops in Nairobi, Congo and Stanleyville!
The trains seemed quite popular and the park operates several at a time. This is another can’t-miss attraction at the park.
Let’s head over to the Edge of Africa! Where there are several animal exhibits on your way to rides like Cheetah Hunt.
Another prominent attraction here is the park’s Von Roll skyride!
Which very nicely interacts with the park’s triple launch coaster: Cheetah Hunt.
Cheetah Hunt is the park’s most stunning coaster, both off and on-ride. The ride takes you on chase with a cheetah, into the park’s signature tree for example:
Cheetah Hunt is perfect for families, as it’s scenic and not terribly intense!
Surprisingly enough, the tree section is the most intense part of the ride. There’s great air coming and out of the element!
The rest of the ride is quite terrain based with some pops of air, but really feels like it was created to be a family friendly scenic coaster.
The most beautiful ride vehicles in the park can certainly be found on Cheetah Hunt, the ride (much like Shanghai Disney’s Tron: Lightcycle Powe Run) is a feast for the eyes off ride as well.
At this point I have more shots than I know what to say, and that’s because this ride is very pretty.
The ride finishes off quite strong with a major airtime hill, that failed to deliver any real ejector airtime, but was sufficient in delivering some fun floater air. Again noting that this ride is not as thrilling as it seems, which really makes this a fun coaster where one can focus on the setting.
As this picture demonstrates, there’s people of all ages enjoying the 2011 Intamin Blitz Coaster.
After riding Cheetah Hunt, we highly advise you check out the park’s Sky Ride that takes you from the Cheetah Hunt station to the Congo/Stanleyville side of the park. This Sky Ride is quite long and very scenic, and passes over animal exhibits as well!
Last but not least is Egypt! The area most prominent from the parking lot, and with our clockwise circle around the park, the last area for us to explore.
Egypt is home to two fantastic rollercoasters. Cobra’s Curse, one of the nation’s best family coasters, and Montu, which is often considered the best inverted coaster in the country.
Cobra’s Curse was added in 2016 and features a forward section, with quite some speed, a backwards section (cars are controlled and rotate mid-course) and a free-spinning finale.
The ride is wonderfully integrated with the Egypt area and is wonderful to walk around. In addition to which, the park’s nicest and most impressive queue was built for the ride, reminding me a lot of a Halloween Haunt attraction.
The ride sits on the edge of the Serengeti plains, and offers an awesome view at some of the wildlife that call the park home!
The intensity is actually perfect on Cobra’s Curse, though intended for families, the ride is quite forceful and has quite a few impressive bells and whistles to it. We made sure to ride it a few times.
Montu on the other hand is less reridable. Montu is definitely my favorite inverted coaster in the US, and this thing hauls ass!
Montu has an elaborate layout with large forceful elements, and a very impressive post mid-course brake-run section. The ride is as intense as a Batman clone, but does so on a large scale for a significantly long track-length. Of all the coasters there, Montu is by far the most intense!
And with that we wrap up our Busch Gardens Tampa report! I absolutely fell in love with this park, and there isn’t a single reason to not visit the park. With all the Orlando resorts so close, this will likely remain my favorite Florida park.
Thank you for checking out this Busch Gardens Tampa report! We also visited some other Orlando parks, such as the amazing Fun Spot America parks! We’ll work on SeaWorld reports in the next few days, please make sure to check out these other recent updates:
- HangTime Backstage Report!
- Six Flags Magic Mountain Update – January 19th
- Six Flags Magic Mountain CraZanity Construction Tour
- Knott’s Berry Farm and HangTime Update
- Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags Magic Mountain to be Solar Powered
- SeaWorld San Diego – A look at Lunar New Year
- Electric Eel Construction Update – SeaWorld San Diego