Photo Trip Report

Nov. 28, 2012

I arrived at Busch Gardens a little after 10:30. I got free parking with my pass, which I'd printed at home, and pulled in to a parking spot in the first row. The park had been open for half an hour, and no one was there. I got on a tram that drove to the entrance, I picked up my annual pass from an automatic kiosk, and I entered the park. Like Islands of Adventure the day before, I hadn't been to this park since the summer of 2001. I headed to Montu first but stopped to look at some alligators.

In 2001, I wasn't impressed with Montu. My brother and I rode in the front seat. The brakes before the batwing were on hard, and the block brakes nearly stopped us, so we hung over the drop as the rest of the train waited to drop out. The elements seemed too far spaced out, and I don't remember there being any forces. But I was willing to give it another chance, and I wanted to ride in the back seat.

The ride was a walk-on, I got in the back and sat in a middle seat. We departed shortly, only waiting for the ride operators to push down the restraints on several empty seats. Would Montu live up to the talk all my friends gave? Yes! It's amazing! It totally redeemed itself. The first drop is ferocious and really steep. The G-forces are high. The Immelmann is a blast, especially flying right next to a wall. The zero-G roll is fun, and the brakes before the batwing were off. The highlight of the ride is by far the batwing. This is where the real forces are. It dives to the left and enters another underground trench before swooping up and exiting the batwing. The block brake grabs hold with some force, but it doesn't detract from the ride. The dive into the second loop is steep, and the rest of the ride has great forces as it dives through trenches. I especially like the corkscrew that enters and exits below ground.

I got out of my seat after the ride, but the ride operator told me I could sit back in my seat since no one was there. Reride! They only allow you to do this twice, so I got out after my ride and got back in line to try the front seat. I like Montu more in the back seat, which has been the case on every B&M inverted I've ridden where I've done both seats. I just like being pulled more than being pushed.

I went to Cheetah Hunt next. I waited about two trains for the first row in the back car. This thing has those obnoxious Intamin restraints like Maverick has, so I was worried about head banging. It begins with a mild launch into a swooping left turn that dives under a path into a long second launch. At the end of the launch is a really steep incline into a twisted turn. Not being familiar with this ride, when I saw that hill, I was really hoping that incline was a drop because of how steep it is. Sadly, it's not, and the drop out of the turn isn't as steep. Cheetah Hunt's got some fun twists and turns, and it has a section of track like Maverick's beginning, but it isn't brutal. The heartlining's right, and I didn't hit my restraint at all. The inversion is a nice surprise, and there's some airtime in the hills. It's a fun ride but isn't anything spectacular. 6/10.

Right next to Cheetah Hunt is a cheetah pen. There were no cheetahs there, but a man (Yes, that's his scooter) told me they were going to have a cheetah show shortly. They show off how a cheetah runs. An employee came out and talked about how cheetahs run and their speed and the enrichment exercise they were going to perform today. They attach a bundle of feathers to a wire on a pulley system that runs through the enclosure, and a cheetah chases after it. They change the course of it so the cheetahs don't get bored. The cheetah came out, and they let it chase it. That was a really cool show, and I'm glad I was able to see it.

I walked over to Sheikra, which is on the opposite side of the park. I got in the front row after no wait at all. I sat in the far right seat so I'd actually be hanging off the track. WHOA. That first drop is incredible! I had never been on a diving coaster before, so this was totally new to me. Hanging over the edge and looking down 200 feet is a little nerve racking, and the drop actually gave me a little tickle in my stomach and made me yell. The Immelmann is gigantic and dives into a big turn into the block brakes. The train comes to a complete stop before inching its way down the second vertical drop. This dives into a tunnel and into a big turn before the water splash. The water splash is only exciting for spectators as you can't see, hear or feel anything on the train except a slight decrease in speed. The ride ends with a helix, which surprisingly has some high forces at the end. The circumference gets a lot smaller before the brakes, so there are much higher G's there.

I exited and got back in line. This time I went to the back row, where I sat in the far left seat. The train has tiered rows, so the view's really good in the back too. It's even better in the back! You're still slightly level as the train pauses before the drop. If you were to ask me what B&M had the best drop, I wouldn't have been able to say. Until now. Sheikra far and away has the best drop on a B&M I've been on. 8/10.

I was hungry, so I went to Zambia Smokehouse, which is right next to Sheikra's splashdown. I got brisket, macaroni and cheese, a cup of oranges and water for $19.55. The food was good, and a bird watched me eat.

After eating, I went to Kumba, which I loved during my last visit. I stopped for some entertainment along the way. I rode in the back seat of a train mysteriously labeled 4. I guess Kumba has four trains, though the ride operator told me there are only trains 1, 3 and 4. They were only running one train, but that was fine because the park was absolutely empty (and decorated for Christmas). I love this coaster. It was the first B&M to use the standard order of inversions (loop, dive loop, zero-G roll, cobra roll, two corkscrews), but it does it best. It's nearly 20 years old and still running just fine. It's also still living up to its name, which means "roar" in an African language. Also, there's a random support that's been recently repainted. Not sure if they were testing a new shade or what.

Then I rode Bench: The Ride. I wandered through that end of the park for a while and ended up at Scorpion. I walked straight to the back seat and had to wait for three or four more people who were meandering down the queue. This ride's great. The circular loop pulls heavy G's throughout, and the helix finale is forceful and fun. I love this classic coaster.

Next I went to Sand Serpent, which was moved from Busch Gardens Williamsburg as Wild Maus. I rode it there, so this wasn't a new credit. Again, I walked right on to the ride and sat in the front seat. This is a wild mouse run well. The entire series of hairpin turns isn't braked until a really sharp turn more than halfway through the ride. There are only two brakes that are on during the course of the ride, so it's lateral G's all over the place. It's running really well and is a fun breather from the extreme B&Ms.

I wandered around the park and stopped at the elephant area because a crowd was gathered there. It was feeding time, and the employees were putting food in barrels and hiding food all over the enclosure as an enrichment exercise. The elephants came out and dug around for the food while the employees told us about them. There are five female Asian elephants there, and they all have their personalities. That was really interesting to watch their behavior, and I watched for about 20 minutes. Just outside this area is a car from Rhino Rally. Not sure what's going to happen to that ride.

Then I went to Montu and rode in the back seat again. Just like last time, it was a walk-on. I love this ride, and I think it might be my second- or third-favorite inverted coaster. Raptor's No. 1, and I still have to get more rides to determine whether the Fire side of Dragon Challenge is better. But either way, it's completely made up for the dull ride I had 11 years ago. Montu is a classic B&M.

Now, notice in the Bench: The Ride photo that I'm wearing a B&M shirt. My friend made it and gave it to me when I moved from Ohio, but I digress. I had a little fun with it. When at the B&Ms, I'd ask a ride operator who made this coaster. Two of them caught on right away and laughed. One had no idea, and one said, "I know it begins with a 'B'." That was goofy. 

I rode another Bench: The Ride. I went to Sheikra and rode in the back right seat. That first drop; wow. I simply cannot get enough of it. It's so amazing. After riding, I went to a locker and grabbed my SLR. I was done riding, so I wanted to walk around and get some pictures. I got pictures of flamingos, a helmeted curassow, a nonsense support for Cheetah Hunt, a lion catching food thrown at it, the empty midway and Cheetah Hunt. The sun was setting, so I left and headed home.

It was great to get back to Busch Gardens after more than a decade. The park's only about three hours from where I live, and I have an annual pass, so I will be visiting several more times.