Busch Gardens Tampa 6-21-22

I recently relocated from Los Angeles to Miami, and have been mourning the loss of easy access to world class coasters I had in California. Sea World’s memorial day sale seemed like the best opportunity for me to get my first Florida credits, and I planned a quick two day trip to visit Busch Gardens Tampa, and Sea World Orlando to satisfy my coaster cravings.

I drove up to Tampa on Monday afternoon and stayed at the La Quinta Inn, which was a short twenty minute walk from the front entrance. I have always detested parking fees at parks and revel in the small victory that comes from evading them.

I arrived just after 9 AM on Tuesday morning and was able to get through security and grab a spot towards the front of the line for Iron Gwazi. I was on the back row of the first train out of the station that morning. The temptation to compare it to Steel Vengance is unavoidable, but the reality is that they seem to have been designed to give very different rides (probably wise of seaworld not to try and top that masterpiece). I enjoyed the first drop more than SteVe’s due to the head choppers, and that first outward bank has a nice snap to it that I prefer over SteVe’s longer, more graceful outward bank. The death roll is really fun in the back, but nothing special up front. I love the fact that the ride ends with one of the strongest airtime hills. I still miss that extra third lap that SteVe has, and the chaos traveling through the support structure. Overall Gwazi is an incredible ride, but falls just short of topping SteVe in my book.
After that I went over to Cheetah Hunt which advertised a 15 minute wait that was more like thirty because of slow dispatches. This is an enjoyable ride, and I can see why it's so popular. It's almost as if someone took the volume on Maverick and turned it down from 11 to a more respectable 6 or 7.
Continuing down the front half of the park, Cobra’s Curse was up next. Really enjoyed the A/C in the line, and just how complex the ride system is (that elevator lift!). The ride itself was good fun, but doesn’t top Sierra Sidewinder at Knotts, which remains my favorite spinning coaster.
The last ride I had to tackle at the front of the park was Montu. This should have been a walk on given the light morning crowds, but with one train operations it was a 15 minute wait. I Waited an additional 15 minutes for the front row, and all I can say is *WOW* this is the invert I’ve been looking for. The whip & smoothness of Flight Deck at CGA with the height/size/ and speed of Raptor at CP. I have a new #1 invert. Everyone talks about the batwing, but for me the loop and corkscrew towards the end of the ride where my favorite elements. That corkscrew especially has a nice snap to it that you only get on some B&Ms. I was keen to get back on for a back row ride, but the line had ballooned to 45 minutes by the time I got back around to the entrance. One train ops!
By then it was almost noon and I was beginning to hunger. I took the train around the park to the Stanleyville area for lunch at Zambia Smokehouse. Delicsious food, and good portions. I left stuffed. From there I decided to tackle Shiekra and Tigris. Shiekra surprised me, with good airtime on both drops, and decent forces during the helix that leads up into the mid-course. I rank it ahead of Valravn at CP. Tigris is only my second sky rocket II clone, having ridden Superman at SFDK many times while in California. I am not a fan of the “comfort” collars, but did enjoy the extra whip from sitting in the third train.
With only three credits to go, I headed towards the back of the park for rides on Scorpion, and Sand Serpent. Scorpion was an okay Schwarzkopf, with decent forces, but far from the smoothest Schwarzkopf I’ve ridden. The first half of Sand Serpent featured enjoyable laterals, but trims killed any hope of airtime along the second half of the ride with those large drops.
My last credit for the day was Kumba. Frustratingly, one train ops on this ride had left it with an unusually long 40 minute line. I waited anyways, as I didn’t foresee it getting any shorter until the very end of the day. Although there are numerous B&M loopers with this layout it was fun to ride the original, and see the way the park has landscaped and built around it. I read about it as a young coaster enthusiast in the nineties, and it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream to ride it. I was in the second to last row, and while I enjoyed the intensity of the ride, the rattle back there did detract from the experience somewhat. Still, I hope the coaster stays, as I consider it a historic ride. I wish more parks adorned their big B&M loopers so well (looking at you Sea World Orlando!).
With four hours left until park close I got several re-rides on Iron Gwazi, Montu, and Sheikra. I consider these my top three favorite rides at the park. Overall, really pleased with my visit. The park is gorgeous, and the way rides have been landscaped and designed to interact with the foot paths adds a lot to both the on-ride and off-ride experience. I wish more parks were able to do this sort of planning. My only frustration during the day was the one train operations on Montu & Kumba. Otherwise a really solid park that I look forward to visiting again.

Coming up soon, reviews of Sea World Orlando and the Fun Spot parks.

kpjb's avatar

If you want to avoid the parking fees AND the 20 minute walk back to your hotel at the end of the night, the Embassy Suites has free shuttles to & from the park. (Plus free cooked breakfast and free booze at night.)


A great tip for the next visit. Thanks!

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