[Long read below, and huge amount of photos further down]
On Thursday, August 21st, I flew into Tampa Bay, Florida, to do Busch Gardens Africa with my dad as a last vacation trip before my classes started back up again. This would be my first time back since 2010, before Falcon's Fury, or Cheetah Hunt, or GWAZI's new trains, so I had plenty of things to catch up on and become familiar with! It was on the car ride to the park that I had also learned it was my dad's first time to the park. Considering Busch Gardens Tampa was my favorite theme park, and still is, I assured him he was in for a treat. But of course, not being a big coaster geek like I am, he would have to be the judge of that in the end!
We arrived about an hour after the park had opened to find that only one of the lots were filling up, which didn't come as much of a surprise to us considering it was a weekday when most kids were back in school already!
We entered the park and headed toward Egypt for both of our first rides on Cheetah Hunt
. I rented a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo ($0.50 per use) for my camera bag, then we waited about 15-25 minutes before we were on the front row of the second train in the station. The coaster had a surprisingly powerful first launch (as with all of the other launches) that sort of threw me back into the seat a bit (that's what happens when you're on the train that's waiting for the other to clear the tracks before suddenly launching. :-p). The track was super smooth, and the majority of the coaster had very nice swooping motions. The hills and entrance into the figure-8 also provided some very sweet airtime! Nothing compared to ejector airtime like on Maverick, or even Lightning Run. Both of us really enjoyed the coaster, and appreciated the fact it wasn't anything out of control or brutal.
We made our way over to Montu
for a quick ride (again, had to get a fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo). This was my top pick for favorite roller coaster until I rode Banshee at KI earlier this year. This ride still flips you through the inversions a lot quicker than Banshee, and even provides some very strong forces (some could argue that the forces on this are stronger than Banshee's). But, there's something about Banshee's speed and layout that Montu doesn't have that still somehow knocks it one level above. I love both coasters to death, but I'll still have to give Banshee the upper-hand! Still, Montu was still able to provide a kick-a$$ ride which my dad also enjoyed because of its smoothness, comparing it to his last experience on T2 at Kentucky Kingdom and how it always rattled us to near-death.
We wandered our way through some of the close-by animal exhibits (and observed Falcon's Fury begin testing from far away) before hopping on the Serengeti Express train to see some more animals. Because of the sweltering 100 degree summer heat, a lot of the animals were relaxing in shady areas (this was seen basically throughout the entire park). We hopped off at the Congo station and walked towards Pantopia to have a closer peek at the new Falcon's Fury
The entire time from when I first mentioned testing to when we arrived, the ride had been testing non-stop with no riders or dummies on board. It was very interesting observing the ride raise, roll back, drop, decelerate/swing-out, then return to the bottom only to have the restraints checked for a repeat run. Seeing videos of the ride in action doesn't really do the drop justice. It almost looks as if the ride drops at the same rate as, say, KI's or KD's drop towers, only the entire freefall vehicle is much larger than those so it gives the illusion that it's slower. Speaking of which, the ride was also MUCH more massive/taller than I had thought it would look in real life! I guess I underestimated it being a standalone 350+ft tall tower. It's sure to be a very thrilling hit once it opens to the public! It's just too bad it wasn't soft opened...
Anywho, I gave the park's classic Schwarzkoph, Scorpion
, a lap while I was in the area, before heading over to Kumba
for a lap on it as well; my dad sitting-out on both. For both rides, I was able to hop on the next available train! Kumba didn't seem to be giving as loud of a roar as I remember it used to. Either my hearing tolerates louder noises as I get older, or they did something to slightly muffle it. I'm not sure, but at least it isn't totally gone. It's still a fun and absolutely wild ride, a gem not to be missed!
We wandered around more exhibits in the Congo area, viewing tigers and orangutans, before making our way over to Stanleyville to give the park's original belly-down-vertical-plunge-ride-themed-to-a-bird (Sheikra
) a front-row lap together. Still one of the smoothest coasters in the park and yet provides an absolutely awesome experience, which makes it hard for me to understand why any enthusiast would be disappointed by it. Sheikra might be shorter and it might do less than the other coasters, but it's still awesome for the height, drops, and speeds alone!
We took a small break back in Pantopia again, half to prepare for any sudden soft openings, and half for me to get Phoenix
and Sand Serpent
over with. Ugh and ouch!
We threw darts on the park map for what to do next, and decided upon walking back near Sheikra to do the Skyrail
out of Stanleyville and into Cheetah Hunt's area, to which I gave my dad my bag and camera before giving Cheetah Hunt another lap on my own. This time around, the coaster was a near walk-on! I only had to wait three train cycles before I got on for a back row ride. Still an awesome coaster!
From there, we walked past the entrance of the park to give GWAZI
a lap. Mind you, I had not been on it since the ride's previous trains, and was okay with the ride's particular roughness at the time. The layout and design for the coaster is still one of the best I've ever seen on a wooden coaster, coupled with its massive footprint! Unfortunately, the ride gave an almost-unbearable vibrating rattle along the entire ride, and proved to be far from enjoyable. I'm thankful for the amount of cushion on the seats that reduced it from any serious jackhammering, but I think it needs to see some serious
love and attention or just be scrapped for something better.
The last thing we both did before we left the park was the kangaroo walkabout. Still a quaint and very friendly-looking corner of the park with the amount of landscaping work done to the area, and how it felt very peaceful and secluded at the time. Many of the kangaroos were resting in the shade (much like every other outdoor animal in the park) and sleeping, so there wasn't a whole lot going on in there other than the many birds playing in the water. Still, it's a nice break from roller coasters for any who would like one.
Overall, I had a very, very good day at the park, even without getting the chance to try out Falcon's Fury. You can't beat being able to do walk-ons for most of your favorite roller coasters, especially in your favorite theme park! My dad also ended up liking the park very much. He mentions that he especially enjoyed how every coaster he rode was super-smooth, and how you could stop and look at animals in between riding rides. The roughly 5 hours we spent at the park was well worth it, and it's mostly thanks to the absence of a frighteningly large crowd!
Cheetah Hunt: 2
Sand Serpent: 1
The day after, I learned the ride had soft opened.
Of all the luck. Anyways, jedimaster1227 got to ride it
I totally buzzed over ALL my photos and DID NOT realize they were all watermarked when I batch-exported them...
I normally don't do that when I write trip reports here, but now I really don't want to go through the trouble of uploading and retagging each one. Sorry 'bout that folks.[And now, pics!]