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Matt N’s Frolic in Florida 10th-24th June 2023 (22nd June 2023: Busch Gardens Tampa)


Matt N

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22nd June 2023 (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Today was a hotly anticipated day for me; today was our trip to Busch Gardens Tampa! I was really excited to get on Iron Gwazi, my first ever RMC, as well as to get on a couple of other new rides and get back on some of the other rides at the park!

 

Me, my mum and my dad set off for the park today (my grandparents and sister did not accompany us today, as my grandparents don’t like intense rides and my sister wasn’t fancying Busch) at just gone 8:30am, and the drive took just over an hour (despite Busch being quite a bit further than Universal, the drive time was broadly similar, which speaks volumes about the amount of traffic on the I-4 going east!), so we arrived at Busch Gardens at around 9:45am and took the tram to the entrance ready for opening time. After the tram ride, we went through the turnstiles just in time for park opening:

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The day got off to a slightly disappointing start, as we’d looked at the weather forecast and it was showing as a 50% chance of thunder pretty much all day. We also ascertained that Montu, Tigris and Falcon’s Fury were all going to be closed for the day. Ride downtime and weather can’t be helped, but I’ll admit that I did grow slightly nervous based on the base we were starting from.

 

Thankfully, however, things were much better than expected. Let me get back to our day at Busch Gardens.

 

When we got through the park entrance, there was a rather ominous-looking grey cloud lurking over the area, so even though my original plan had been to leave it for later so that I could hit a milestone on it, I decided to start on a big anticipated ride so that I didn’t miss it altogether…

Iron Gwazi

Iron Gwazi was on a 35 minute advertised queue time, so me and my dad decided to have a go on it. The queue ended up being slightly less than advertised, taking around 25-30 minutes. I won’t lie, I was slightly nervous to ride Iron Gwazi. I wasn’t nervous because I was in any way scared of it, but I was nervous because it, and RMCs in general, is/are so hyped up; I was expecting something absolutely top-class based on the reviews. But after all the hype, how was the ride? Did my first ever RMC coaster live up to expectations? Well, I was seated in row 9, and it was absolutely sensational… but similar to my first ride on VelociCoaster last week, I perhaps didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped. Make no mistake, though, it was brilliant, and definitely a great ride. In terms of positives, there are a great many. There was some absolutely ludicrous ejector airtime in places (possibly some of the strongest I’ve ever experienced), the thing was so incredibly fast throughout (it felt unstoppable), and overall, it was definitely an absolutely fantastic coaster! However, one thing that meant that it wasn’t my absolute, undeniable top coaster like it is for most is that while not rough by any stretch, it was certainly quite a fierce coaster in numerous places. I noticed that the ride transitioned very quickly and sharply in numerous areas, and it was sometimes a little bit… much in that regard for me. The ending in particular did a lot of this quick transitioning, and while the ejector air was undeniably ludicrous, it almost hurt a tad at times. With that being said, that was the most minor of niggles rather than a total deal breaker, and overall, Iron Gwazi was a truly fantastic coaster that I loved, albeit not quite as much as most seem to. My dad was a little bit underwhelmed with the ride, stating that while it was “really good”, he found it “overhyped” and said that it “definitely wasn’t as good as VelociCoaster” for him. With regard to the common Iron Gwazi vs VelociCoaster debate, I’d be inclined to agree with my dad and say that VelociCoaster reigns supreme out of the two for me:

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After Iron Gwazi, we met back up with my mum and headed onwards, taking a look in the kangaroo exhibit as we walked by.

 

With Tigris being closed, my initial roadmap for hitting 100 coasters at Busch Gardens had hit a considerable roadblock, but I did have a backup plan… in spite of me not normally riding children’s coasters, my mum had kindly offered to ride on the park’s kiddie coaster, Air Grover, with me, to ensure that I still hit 100 coasters at the park. So, to keep my race to triple figures on track while also ensuring that Air Grover itself was not my 100th coaster (I’m not sure I could quite bring myself to ride a kiddie coaster as my 100th…), we decided to continue along the path left past Iron Gwazi (well, sort of… as I would encounter a lot throughout the day, Busch Gardens is quite an unwieldy park to navigate, with a complicated layout) and ride Air Grover as we walked by.

 

Or so we thought… because when we got there, the ride appeared to be in a state of complete inactivity. It was closed and cordoned off, and even though the park app later stated that it was open and on a 5 minute queue, it still appeared to be out for the count just like Tigris when we returned there with this information (on a somewhat related note, I should point out that the queue times and operational statuses shown on the app were often quite misleading and did not parallel the situation at the ride itself). As such, my mission for 100 conclusively failed at that moment, and I left the park, and will ultimately be leaving Florida, on a tantalising 99 coasters… I guess my 100th will have to wait until September, when I go to Chessington and ride Mandrill Mayhem for the first time. Ah well; what can you do?:

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After the blow of realising that I would not be riding my 100th coaster today as I had hoped, we decided to continue onwards, and my dad and I decided to ride a big coaster that had been a previous favourite for him in particular…

SheiKra

SheiKra was on an advertised 5 minute queue time, so we decided to give it a go. The queue times board was true to its word, as me and my dad quickly waltzed onto the back row. But how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered SheiKra being a brilliant ride last time I did it, and I have to say that it was quite possibly even better than I’d remembered; perhaps controversially, I absolutely love a good B&M Dive Coaster, and SheiKra was an absolutely phenomenal one! Both vertical drops packed absolutely sublime sustained airtime, the sense of speed was amazing, and overall, me and my dad absolutely loved it! My dad, who had previously held up SheiKra as his favourite coaster, was particularly enamoured with the ride, turning to me and saying that he preferred it to Iron Gwazi. In that moment, I dare say that part of me was almost inclined to agree with him (although I later concluded that I did probably prefer Iron Gwazi). Overall, though, SheiKra was a phenomenal ride that firmly exceeded my previous memories of it:

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After SheiKra, we decided to head on around the park, stopping to look in the orangutan exhibit in the way:

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Our original plan of action was to head to Pantopia, as Falcon’s Fury (the main indicator of the area from afar) looked very close by and the two remaining coasters I was missing from this park (I just forgot to ride them on my first visit, for some bizarre reason!) were located in this area. However, Pantopia was a lot further away in path terms than we’d anticipated, and we ultimately ended up stumbling along a completely different major draw. With this in mind, we decided to ride…

Kumba

We’d come across Kumba on our travels and it was on only a 5 minute advertised queue time, so my dad and I thought that we may as well take a ride on it whilst it was nearby. Even though the ride was seemingly only running one train, we pretty much walked on to the ride, and we were seated in row 4 in no time! So, how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered it being a relatively decent B&M looper 7 years ago, and my previous impression was reaffirmed; it was a thoroughly decent ride, and quite possibly my favourite B&M sit down/floorless coaster of the 3 I’ve ridden during the trip (well, I liked it considerably more than Hulk and maybe a little more than Kraken, anyhow; it’s very close between Kumba and Kraken for me). There was brilliant pacing and speed, with the ride holding its speed throughout and having some brilliant inversions, and remarkably given it’s easily the oldest of the B&M loopers I’ve ridden this trip, it was also extremely smooth, with no notable rattle or vibration present and only some very mild head banging in one place. I have no idea how Hulk, whose current track is technically only 7 years old, has a noticeable vibration and quite a few moments of headbanging when Kumba, which is 30 years old and has never been retracked, is as smooth as it is. I’ll admit that I did find one or two sections of high g slightly unpleasant; one area between the loop and the dive loop packed a particularly sustained grey out. With that being said, the ride overall was decent, and even though B&M loopers aren’t exactly a favourite ride style of mine these days, it was a good, solid B&M coaster that I enjoyed my lap on:

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After Kumba, we made our way around to Pantopia, where my mum and I went to ride one of two non-kiddie coasters that I had missed on my previous visit…

Sand Serpent

Sand Serpent had a fairly short-looking queue, so as it was a coaster that we hadn’t done on our previous visit and is closing permanently on 9th July, my mum and I decided to give it a ride. The queue ultimately took around 10-15 minutes, and we were on relatively quickly. But how was the ride? Well, I’m not a fan of wild mouse coasters at the best of times, so I had pretty low expectations, but the ride was somehow even worse than I was expecting, and is quite possibly my least favourite of the wild mouse genre and one of my least favourite coasters ever. I hate to give a negative review, but this was absolutely dire. The hairpin turns were easily on the rougher end of the spectrum for a wild mouse coaster anyway, but the icing on the cake for me was the horrifically abrupt braking; all of the brake runs threw us forward pretty painfully like no other wild mouse I’ve ever done. Overall, I get that Sand Serpent does well and is popular in its niche of a family coaster, but it’s not a ride that I enjoyed at all and my mum seemed to agree; I’m sorry to say that I won’t miss it when it’s gone in a few weeks’ time, and I hope that its replacement is more enjoyable:

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After Sand Serpent, we decided to head to the other coaster that we’d previously missed in Pantopia…

Scorpion

Scorpion looked to have a short wait, and as with Sand Serpent, we’d missed it on our last visit, so we decided to give it a go. I was interested to try a Schwarzkopf looping coaster without the shoulder bars that Olympia Looping has, as I felt that those were a big detractor from the ride and were one of the most significant reasons why I didn’t overly enjoy it. So, how was the ride? Well, I’m afraid to say that I still didn’t particularly enjoy Scorpion, albeit for different reasons to why I didn’t enjoy Olympia Looping. I’ll admit that the restraints were a lot more comfortable, and the layout was a bit less uncomfortably intense than Olympia Looping, but I still felt a bit weird going through that circular Schwarzkopf loop, and the ride was pretty rough, which surprised me given Schwarzkopf’s general reputation for smoothness (and how smooth Olympia Looping admittedly was). It jolted horribly around every corner, and the slam into the final brake run was especially harsh. I apologise, as I know I’m probably being overly harsh given it’s a classic 43 year old Schwarzkopf looper, but I didn’t especially enjoy it and my mum didn’t either:

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After Scorpion, we headed on out of Pantopia in the direction we hadn’t travelled in yet, stopping to view the Asian elephant enclosure as we walked by:

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After viewing the elephants, I headed on to ride a new-for-2023 flat ride that I was keen to have a go on…

Serengeti Flyer

Serengeti Flyer was on only a 5 minute advertised queue time, so I decided to give it a try. This queue time was if anything overstated, as I walked straight onto the ride. So, how was it? Well, despite not normally being big on flat rides, I love Rush back at Thorpe Park, a similar S&S Screamin’ Swing, and my first ride on Serengeti Flyer was similarly awesome to that, with some absolutely brilliant speed and weightlessness! Overall, I loved Serengeti Flyer; it was a great flat ride! Upon getting off, I was informed by my parents that I had in fact ridden the “milder” version of the ride, with the “wilder” version commencing at 1:15pm according to a nearby sign; prior to riding, I’d honestly never have guessed that that was the mild version, as I liked it just as much as Rush:

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After Serengeti Flyer, we headed around to the cheetah section of the park, where I split off from my parents (who decided to look at the animals for a bit) and initially pondered a ride on Cheetah Hunt. However, I decided against this, as the queue was billed at 95 minutes on the entrance and looked massive when I briefly ventured into the queue. My parents later informed me that the ride broke down and shut for the day not long after I split off from them, so I think I made the right choice:

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After I vetoed Cheetah Hunt, I decided to scope out another previously ridden coaster…

Cobra’s Curse

In spite of the queue time for Cobra’s Curse being billed at 75 minutes on the app, the entrance advertised it at just 15 minutes, so I decided to take a ride. When I last visited Busch Gardens Tampa in 2016, Cobra’s Curse was the big new thing for the year, so we waited quite some time for it and there was a palpable buzz around it. I waited far less time for it this time around, with the queue starting all the way in the pre-show room (the pre-show was not on this time, I should add) and ultimately taking around 20-25 minutes. So, how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered it being a fun, albeit slightly underwhelming, coaster in 2016, and my impression was similar today, although I perhaps liked it somewhat less. The final spinning section was fun and just the right level of spin for my liking, and the controlled spinning at the start is certainly clever and novel, but if I’m being picky, I wasn’t huge on the first two sections, with the backwards section in particular feeling like it’s there for the sake of it rather than doing anything overly purposeful, in my view. I should also add that while the ride was by no means rough, it has picked up a noticeable degree of vibration that wasn’t there in 2016. Overall, though, Cobra’s Curse was a perfectly fine, albeit unremarkable, family spinning coaster, and I should add that it has excellent theming and a truly stunning queue:

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After Cobra’s Curse, I briefly met back up with my parents to reapply suncream and eat some ice cream before heading for a reride on Serengeti Flyer on a 20 minute queue, which had now transitioned to the “wilder” mode of operation. I have to say that I did notice a difference; the ride swung noticeably higher, and the airtime and speed were absolutely sublime:

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After Serengeti Flyer, I headed back over to Iron Gwazi for a reride, which was advertised at a 15 minute queue. I ride in row 6, and while I did perhaps appreciate it a little more than I had earlier, my opinion of it didn’t radically change unlike with my reride on VelociCoaster; my overall feeling towards it was much the same as it had been in the morning, and while it was an absolutely phenomenal ride, the minor flaws keeping it from being an absolute #1 for me were still very much there, and perhaps exacerbated with the ride having warmed up:

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After my reride on Iron Gwazi, I met back up with my parents before taking a 3rd ride on Iron Gwazi. The queue was advertised at 100 minutes by this point, but as I’d just gotten off and not waited very long for it at all, I was confused by this and decided to scope the situation out. My hunch that this was overstated was proven correct, as the queue wasn’t much longer and I waited only 30-35 minutes. For my 3rd ride, I was seated in row 9 and my opinion was very similar to before; a phenomenal ride, but almost a little much for me in areas, and definitely one that is quite fierce.

 

After my 3rd ride on Iron Gwazi, it was heading towards 4pm, so I met back up with my parents and we left the park:

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So, that just about concludes our day at Busch Gardens Tampa! Even though there were some bad omens at the beginning, and I ultimately didn’t ride my 100th coaster as I’d hoped to, I had a great day! Iron Gwazi, although I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped, was phenomenal, with some ludicrous ejector airtime, and I’m so glad to have finally ridden an RMC coaster! I was also really glad to get on other great attractions like SheiKra, Serengeti Flyer and Kumba, and overall, it was just nice to get back to the park after 7 years! It is a nicer park than I’d remembered, with generally short queues, nice theming and greenery, and some epic coaster hardware. I did find the park slightly difficult to navigate at times, and my parents were not pleased with the park app, but these are minor niggles, and overall, we had a really nice day at a great park!

 

 Thanks for reading; I hope you’ve enjoyed this report! The plan has changed a tad, as we’re no longer doing anything tomorrow, but there will be one final Universal Orlando trip report coming on Saturday before we fly home!

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