Busch Gardens Tampa has been on my bucket list for such a long time. I had planned to go on Friday, August 4, but because @BuschPhotographer (Jayden) had to change his plans, I changed mine as well. (I had no idea that Adam Kaplan would be there or I would have hooked up with him for some rides too).
We arrived basically right at opening, got through security quickly and then headed for SheiKra, which I have been really looking forward to riding. The line was only about a ten minute wait and that's only because Busch Gardens operations are not that great. We got back row (because I asked) and boarded. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally left the station. Now, I love Griffon and I hate Valravn. I thought SheiKra would top them both. I can say now that I was disappointed. The drop on SheiKra is fantastic. I got some great floater air. I also loved the splashdown portion. The rest of the ride was very lame though in my opinion. The theming and area around the ride are great, as Busch Gardens attractions usually are, but the ride failed to live up to the hype I had for it.
After SheiKra, we walked over to Kumba, but not before getting lost a few times on the way over. Kumba had slightly better operations than SheiKra and was basically walk on. We again got back row. I am not a fan of the old school OTSRs (who is?) but Storm Chaser Peter told me to just stiffen my neck or stick it out like a turtle and I won't headbang and I'm glad he gave me that advice. I actually really enjoyed the ride and the only place I hit my head was the little bit of a jerk after the MCBR. I didn't find it to be rough at all, as some people think. I also like how there are a lot of photo ops around the station to get great pictures.
After leaving Kumba, we headed down to Sand Serpent. I've ridden a lot of Wild Mouse coasters this summer, some much better than others. I did not like SS. I thought it was pretty rough and the elements were annoying. The back-and-forth at the top is typical of that type of coaster, but having two sets of them, one up top and one on the second level down is overkill in my opinion. Neither my mother nor I enjoyed it. I'm not sure enclosing it in a building will make it any better of a ride.
After Sand Serpent, I thought about going on Falcons Fury since we were right there, but the line was a bit long and I wanted to ride it with Jayden later on, so we went over to Scorpion. Scorpion is cool in that its an original Schwarzkopf model. However, that's just about the only interesting thing about it. The layout is boring, but even more annoying was that the ride ops were beyond slow. We're talking 4-5 minute dispatches. Couple that with only having one train and that makes for quite a wait. We only had about 3-4 trains worth of people in front of us and we still ended up waiting about 25 minutes in a poorly-ventilated line. Now that I have that credit, that will not be a coaster I ever ride again if I make it back to BGT.
After Scorpion, my mom and I got in line for Cheetah Hunt, which I was looking forward to probably more than anything besides SheiKra. The line said 25 minutes, but about halfway through, the ride shut down with technical issues. We stayed in line and after about 20 minutes, the ride reopened. I got a text from Jayden with a picture of me, so I knew he was close by, but I thought he was behind us in line. Turns out they had Quick Queue because when I got into the line for the back row, his brother was directly in front of me in line and he was in his restraints ready to ride. Well, when we got to the front, the ride broke down YET AGAIN. His brother was even stuck on it temporarily. After we waited another 15 minutes or so, we left the line with the intention of coming back later.
At this point, my mom and I decided to get out of the heat for a bit (this was one of the hottest and most-humid days I've ever been at a park in my entire life). We had lunch at the Serengeti Overlook, which had some great food. We relaxed in the air conditioning for a bit while I waited for Jayden to get free from his family to meet up to take some pictures.
Shortly afterwards, Jayden texted me to meet him at SheiKra, so I tried to head over there, but the mother and I got lost, even using the map... We eventually made it to SheiKra and by that point, he was at Kumba. I told him we were still at SheiKra so he came back over and we finally got to meet up, albeit for a short time at SheiKra and Kumba.
After this, I wanted to get my rides in on Montu, Cobra's Curse and Cheetah Hunt. Montu was walk-on and I actually rode in the back row by myself. Now, I'm a huge Banshee fan and I always say that Banshee is my favorite invert. That is no longer true. Montu was absolutely incredible. The layout was extremely unique and the intensity was phenomenal. It was extremely smooth and I really enjoyed the parts close to the ground. Only a few coasters out of the roughly 200 I've ridden have made me get off going "WOW!" but this was one of them.
Cobra's Curse actually went down for about 30 minutes while we were taking pics of Montu and during my ride, but when I got off the ride, it had reopened. The wait was posted at 25 minutes. It probably ended up being about 15. I'll say this however - the queue for CC is AWESOME. Not only is the small pre-show thing that goes off every few minutes extremely cool, the attention to detail they put into it is fantastic. Coming from someone who spends 75% of his time in CF and SF parks, where theming is secondary to everything else, Busch Gardens does amazing with it.
The ride itself was great. I thought the elevator lift was a cool element, and to have you go right at the cobra at the top was a cool touch. I'm not usually a fan of going backwards, but it didn't bother me at all. Neither did the spinning. I think it was really well done and the ride experience and theming make this a real winner.
After CC, I wanted to get my ride in on Cheetah Hunt finally, so I got back in line. After about 15 minutes, I was probably about 4 trains away from getting on and we went into a lightning shutdown. Looking at the sky, I was really convinced we were going to get rained on bad. I waited in the station for another 25 minutes or so and the ride finally reopened. I waited a few minutes and finally boarded in the back row. Now, I love Maverick and I was hoping to not be disappointed by a similar-but-less-intense coaster. I was not. I really enjoyed it. I found it to have a good mix of intensity, smoothness and thrills that could appeal to all ages of riders. The launches were all very cool and my favorite part was the one airtime hill near the end, which launched me out of my seat.
After Cheetah Hunt, I had planned to ride Falcons Fury with Jayden, but his family left when the storms were rolling in and by this point, I was worried about it too, so I skipped it altogether. I'll definitely ride it when I eventually make it back to Tampa. I stopped in the gift shop and picked up a lanyard and a SheiKra shirt and we hit the road back to Orlando.
BGT is a great park from top to bottom. My only complaint is the operations in general. Many of the ride ops seem like they honestly hate their jobs and there is no sense of urgency whatsoever when it comes to dispatching trains. The ops on Montu and Cobra's Curse were good, but the rest, notsomuch.
We did stop to take wildlife pics throughout the park, but we did not go on the safari itself. It was entirely too hot and we basically ran out of time.
I truly enjoyed the park though, despite the heat. A special thanks to Jayden for meeting up with us and showing us some great picture spots.