The long-awaited triple-launch Cheetah Hunt roller coaster opens on Friday, May 27, at Busch Gardens (and I will have a sneak peek and full report on Thursday the 26th), but can it stand up to the park’s existing scream machines? Early reports peg it as fun but relatively tame, which is a good thing for families and the faint of heart. People who shy away from major thrill rides already have the Scorpion (a short coaster with one loop; relatively tame but somewhat rough, and it only has a lap bar even though it inverts), and the Sand Serpent wild mouse-style coaster, which had its former name (Cheetah Chase) changed so as not to cause confusion. There is also a pair of wooden coasters (Tiger and Lion), collectively known as Gwazi, which run much more smoothly since this years’ addition of new trains.
The park also has a trio of thrillers (SheiKra, Montu and Kumba) that still excite coaster enthusiasts even though they’re many years old. Can Cheetah Hunt surpass them for hard-core thrill ride fans? Here’s what it has to beat:
Kumba: I don’t ride this one much because I’m just the right height to get my ears boxed by the restraints, but my coaster-loving husband adores the seven inversions of this 1993 classic that stands 143 tall as compared to Cheetah Hunt’s 102 foot highest point.
Montu (pictured at left): This is an inverted coaster, meaning that you ride below the track with your feet dangling. I happen to love this coaster style ever since riding the prototype, Batman, at Six Flags Great America in the early 1990s. Montu dates back to 1996, stands 150 feet high at its tallest and zips you through seven inversions. It will take a lot to win me away from this suspended coaster gem.
SheiKra: I am a major air time fanatic, so SheiKra is one of my all-time favorite coasters. This steel behemouth stands 200 feet tall and plunges you into a nearly straight-down dive. My favorite roller coaster-induced sensations are air time and float time, and SheiKra comes through on both fronts. Best of all, it’s floorless, so you get a great view when you hit the top of the two hills and plunge downwards. While SheiKra opened in 2005, it didn’t lose its floor until 2007. I ride it with my legs stretched out to get maximum lift, and I don’t consider it a successful day of SheiKra riding unless my shoulders are bruised from slamming repeatedly into the harness as butt lifts off the seat.
Can Cheetah Hunt beat that amazing trio? Tune in on May 26 to read my opinion and see interviews with Busch Gardens park officials and cheetah keepers (I’ll be checking out the big cats in the Cheetah Run exhibit too).
Click here to check out my review of the Busch Gardens Roller Coaster Insider Tour, which gives you a very personal look at Montu. Click here to read more of my articles, and click here to follow me on Twitter.