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Busch Gardens Tampa: Cheetah Hunt – Cheetah Hunt Coaster

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Launched roller coaster animal habitat
Time: About 3-1/2 minutes
Short Take: A sensational sensation of speed

Technically, Busch Gardens' newest roller coaster is not part of Egypt but its own tiny "land." But since the attraction forms the gateway to the Egypt section for guests coming from Nairobi or the front of the park, and the crumbling sandstone decor sports a distinctly Middle Eastern look, I'm incorporating it here.

 

Your adventure begins in the Skyride station, which now shares real-estate with the Cheetah Hunt loading station. As you wait in the slow-moving queue (at only 1,370 riders per hour, this popular ride attracts long lines), there are video monitors and signs featuring cheetah trivia to entertain you. Once aboard the 16-rider trains, you'll be shot out of the station at 30 mph by electromagnetic motors, skipping the standard slow climb up an initial lift hill. A brief swoop around the neighboring cheetah habitat brings you to the second launch segment, accelerating you at 60 mph to the top of a 102-foot "windcatcher" tower that looks like a precariously balanced pile of pick-up sticks. Diving 130 feet off the tower into a trench, your train leaps over the passing Skyride gondolas, then navigates a gracefully engineered "heartline" roll (the only upside-down element in the ride). That's followed by a series of ground-hugging banked turns along the river rapids once part of the Rhino Rally ride. A final 40-mph launch leads to a series of airtime-inducing hills and speed-sapping curves, ending up back in the station. With a modest 48-inch height requirement and a minimum of scary loops, Cheetah Hunt makes a perfect stepping stone for tweens braving their first big-boy ride. Perfect for coaster-cravers and more moderate thrill-seekers alike, the ride is refreshingly smooth and comfortable, especially compared to its more intimidating siblings like Kumba and Montu.

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