Busch Gardens Tampa/Universal IOA/Universal 4/29/09-4/30/09 part 1

Associated parks:
None

Friday, May 1, 2009 10:00 PM

I left Philadelphia International Airport at around 9 a.m. Wednesday morning after having no sleep for almost 24 hours, so I thought for sure that I wouldn't want to do anything once I arrived in Tampa. However, I decided that since I was only going to have one day to do either Universal or BGT, I would drive the last few miles to BGT and check it out for a few hours. I had bought a Sea World/Busch Gardens pass that worked like a week-long Hopper pass for 90 bucks, which I really thought was a pretty good deal, considering each admission to each park is at least 50 dollars. Plus, I think it was cheaper online, and you can print out your passes at home to bypass lines. Not bad!

So, after a few wrong turns and likely illegal maneuvers, I found myself at the parking gate of Busch Gardens. I noticed that the parking lot seemed SUPER far away from the actual park gate, and I didn't see any trams running, so I bought the preferred parking for an extra few bucks. That was dumb. While the preferred parking lot is much closer to the gate, there ARE trams running that drop you off right at the gate. The walk is longer from preferred parking than if you park in the regular area and tram it. Don't waste the money!

Okay, this is a REALLY nice park. I remembered Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Europe now) being a beautiful, well-themed, scenic park, but I was amazed at how much detail went into the landscaping and theming. You could barely, if at all, see the roller coasters from different sections of the park because there were so many trees and flowers and wildlife areas. As I walked to the different rides, I saw (and smelled) huge gardenia plants (more like trees of gardenia, actually), nearly overgrown trellises and bridges of honeysuckle, and other equally attractive and fragrant plant life. I also admired the detail of the buildings in each region/country and how everything within the area seemed to match perfectly with the themes. Busch Gardens is actually a park that I could just walk around in and enjoy, not necessarily riding much. I loved the birds and lizards they had on display and in the preserves, and I loved that the "theme park" look was nowhere to be found. BGT has CHARM.

Most of you Buzzers already know all this, but I just had to go off for a minute. On to the rides:

1. Gwazi (1 ride, Tiger train, front seat, 1 train wait): I'm a sucker for a little flair at the start of a coaster. I liked the little tunnel and dip the train took before climbing the lift hill. I wish I could have ridden the Lion side as well to see what the differences in the two were, but Lion was down for maintenance. That said, Gwazi's not bad! I don't know if I'm spoiled because of Toro, but it seemed exceptionally rough in a vibrate-y kind of way. It didn't jerk me around, but I felt like I was still shaking with vibrations after I got off the ride. That part was pretty bad. The ride itself is pretty darn good though. It feels startlingly fast and out of control. At some parts of the ride, I was actually shocked and let out little shrieks of surprise. 7.5/10.

2. Kumba (2 rides, front seat two or three train wait; back seat walk on): This is a coaster that definitely benefits from a front seat ride. I had heard that before, so I took the advice and tried the front first. This is a great coaster. GREAT coaster. One part was exceedingly rough, especially for a B&M, but I would still ride this again and again. This thing feels totally out of control, the terrain is pretty sick, and I was absolutely enthralled by this. It's safe to say this is a favorite of mine. 9/10.

3. Montu (3 rides, all walk-ons, including front car): This replaced Raptor as my favorite invert. While it DID peter out towards the end, and while I thought the color scheme was pretty drab, this was (as of that time) the most forceful, interesting B&M invert I'd ridden. One inversion in particular got to me every time--I think it was an Immelman, but I honestly couldn't tell you for sure because it confused and astounded me every time we hit it. Most Immelmans don't thrill me, but THIS one (if that's what it was) was killer. This coaster also feels incredibly fast and forceful and also has some rough spots, but I loved it. 9/10 as well.

4. Sheikra (1 ride, 1 train wait, middle row, end seat): I was nervous about this coaster. Shouldn't have been. Boooorrrriiiinnnngggg!!! Exceptionally smooth and comfortable, but boring. I liked the drop into the tunnel though. That was cool. Very cool. Other than that, meh. 6/10.

All in all, Busch Gardens doesn't have a lot of variety in rides...you're either a coaster freak or a child to truly enjoy this as an AMUSEMENT park, but they do the rides they DO have very well. The park was amazingly clean, the staff was uberfriendly, and I would go again in a heartbeat (and I just might on Monday before I leave to go home).

Next up: Part two, IOA and Universal....locker trouble, decent pricing (except energy drinks), and some of the best times I've EVER had.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 1:06 AM

I really have fallen in love with Busch Gardens Africa on my last two visits there. My last time out there, last September, I actually did two days there, taking my time and seeing EVERYTHING in the park. I saw all of the animal exhibits, did all of the rides and took in the shows. It was well worth it.

I share your opinion on Sheikra. It was super boring. Even the initial drop did not excite me. My previous visit my step-daughter was with on her graduation trip and she was super-hyped to ride Sheikra and left really disappointed. Fortunately, Montu and Kumba made it up to her :)

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 1:22 AM

Sounds like you had a good visit especially since crowds were low. I really need to give this park another chance. My only visit was in 1996 and at the time every coaster they had at the park had inversions! Python, Scorpion, Kumba and Montu. I was only riding smaller coasters at that time so I didn't ride any coasters there and didn't have that good of a trip.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 1:27 AM

Yosh, definitely go again. I couldn't even FIND Python or Scorpion, so I missed them, so I'm going back before I leave for the airport. I didn't even know they were there! LOL

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 1:38 AM

Python has been gone since 2006 (where Jungala is now). Scorpion is in Timbuktu

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 2:16 PM

Ah, I see...well, it would make sense that I didn't see it on the map then. LOL

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 8:26 PM

You definitely lost some credibility points for not knowing there is a Schwarzkopf there!

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Saturday, May 2, 2009 9:00 PM

From the top of SheiKra's first drop, look straight ahead and down. You'll see the mouse off in the distance, with the 4-D theater and Phoenix (upside-down swinging ship), but closer to you are the Desert Grill (food and really good shows) and Scorpion (Laser's little brother, in orange). Enjoy, and thanks for the TR! Psssst.....couldn't agree more about SheiKra. ;)

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Sunday, May 3, 2009 1:40 PM

Man, what is wrong with you people!?!? I love SheiKra. :-P Definitely better than Kumba, probably about tied with Montu.

And Gwazi is pretty rough, as far as I'm concerned.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009 8:48 PM

bunky666 said:
Yosh, definitely go again. I couldn't even FIND Python ...(cut)

If you are looking to ride Python you will have to fly to BGE as the Trains are used on Lochness.

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Sunday, May 3, 2009 11:14 PM

Shades said:
You definitely lost some credibility points for not knowing there is a Schwarzkopf there!

I just started getting into coasters in a major way last year. I only KNEW about B&M, Intamin, Arrow, GCI, and Schwarzkopf, so I'm just learning where all the stuff by different designers are. By the time I learned where the last coaster in BGA was, I was so tired, I couldn't bring myself to walk back there. I'm kicking myself now because I know Schwarzkopf coasters are now somewhat rare, but whatcha gonna do, right? Besides sneak over to BGA before your flight and rectify the situation. Bwahahahahaha!!!

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Monday, May 4, 2009 7:44 PM

ApolloAndy said:
...I love SheiKra. :-P Definitely better than Kumba...

Okay, that is just outright slander ;)

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009 1:48 PM

KTS, I agree.

I since went back to BGA and rode Scorpion, the Lion side of Gwazi (even rougher, got migraine, was throwing up in the airport afterwards), and even the Cheetah Chase. Gonna be late for work now. Bye! LOL

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009 2:09 PM

Kumba and Sheikra are both awesome and completely different. Kumba is a holy crap ride and Sheikra is a weeeeeee ride.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009 4:16 PM

Bunky i definately agree with dive machine coasters, they are kinda meh. They have a bit of suspense but the ride itself leaves alot to be desired as far as a complete ride goes, it basically stays with the same elements throughout the course.

Although i have not rode sheikra i figure it to be the same as Griffon, with theming being the difference.

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