The Edmondson Blog

Review of Busch Gardens

James on Montu

Like a first kiss, the anticipation was overwhelming. After an early start and fuel stop at Peach's, Claire and I made our way up to Tampa, arriving at Busch Gardens to be teased by Montu, peering over the perimeter fence. Handing over our empty Pepsi can, we got $10 off each ticket, leaving a whole day's entertainment for the unbelievably generous price of $51. Inside the park, we warmed up with a ride on Gwazi, a classic wooden coaster with two parallel tracks. The cobwebs were instantly removed, memories of the 2005 Coaster Tour came flooding back and I was ready to deal with the other three world class coasters in the park: Kumba, Montu and the brand new Sheikra.

Heading to the north of the park to experience Kumba, I saw first hand the obesity epidemic sweeping America and noted the shear number of "larger guests" gracing the park; with their decreased mobility, there was no chance of riding - I hope they received discounted entry. Kumba seemed one of the original standing coasters which were introduced worldwide in the early 1990s. It's a good example of the genre, though 21st century coaster developments have made Kumba slightly tired looking.

We traversed the park many times, taking in some of the impressive zoo exhibits, including an interactive aviary, "Rhino Rally" and alligator reserve. The main event was finally upon us: Montu, one of the most comprehensive coasters I have ever experienced. Most rides have one or two headlines - a loop or 90 degree drop for example - but Montu is action from start to finish. The number of turns, twists and loops exert various forces on your body, leaving even the most accomplished rider all shook up. Montu delivers.

Sheikra was closed most of the day, though we managed to get two rides later on in our visit. Sheikra is the first 8-person wide coaster I have experienced and is one of the most original. After a very steep climb, you are presented with a 90 degree drop, at the top of which you hang before being dropped suddenly towards the ground. A superb experience. Some unique features, including riding through a trough of water, make Sheikra a very impressive addition to the park.

We chose to spend the day at Busch Gardens on a Tuesday, which turned out to be a great idea: the park was pretty much empty, with only minimal queuing around lunchtime. I suggest an early start or arriving after 4pm then taking the offered chance to come back gratis the next day and avoid potential queues.

Overall, a superb day out, which induced an amount of nausea and reminded me why coasting should really be an Olympic sport.

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