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Review: Cheetah Hunt rollercoaster at Busch Gardens Tampa

Cheetah Hunt parabola
Our rating:
2.5
User rating:
Your rating: None Average: 4.4 (61 votes)
(1 user review)

Busch Gardens Tampa has finally opened Cheetah Hunt, it's long-awaited multi-launch rollercoaster. Theme Park Tourist placed the ride at the top of its list of the 10 most exciting new theme park attractions for 2011. Does it live up to those lofty expectations? TPT correspondent Charissa Arsaoui headed to the park to find out.

Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to open a new ride at a theme park. Not only does it draw a crowd, it also allows workers to resolve issues that they may not experience with the attraction during times of low park attendance. With that being said, I packed a bag and made the short drive from Orlando to Tampa to check out Busch Gardens' new attraction Cheetah Hunt. From what I had heard, it was going to be the ride of all rides so I was very excited.

As with any opening and holiday weekend, the parking lot was packed. Lot attendants directed visitors to park in designated spaces in a very organized and methodical way. I was happy to see how smoothly the parking situation was being handled but I was less than enthused to see that the line waiting for the tram was enormous. And, to make matters worse, despite the park's efforts to keep things moving, there was a twenty minute wait between trams.

Hunting out the coaster

The sun was relentless as temperatures crept to 100 degrees. I waited until the next tram came and listened to the announcement being made over the loud speaker. Once we took off, I felt more comfortable. I began to shift my eyes toward the park in hopes of seeing a glimpse of Cheetah Hunt before entering the gate. To my surprise, I couldn't see much of anything.

Cheetah Hunt from a distance

Cheetah Hunt's parabola is the most visible part of the ride.
Image © Busch Gardens Tampa

After scanning my Fun Pass at the front gate, I pulled out my park map and started looking for Cheetah Hunt. I made my way to Morocco and then became very lost. I didn't see one sign announcing the attraction. I stopped and asked a park worker to be my guide. He pointed me in the right direction and within minutes I had arrived at the ride.

Cheetah landscaping

Nice landscaping - but is it a great coaster?

Unlike Walt Disney World, there is no sort of FASTPASS system in place for the general public. Busch Gardens has something called the Quick Queue which costs money and has yet to be extended to the new attraction. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled to learn that I would be waiting 180 minutes to get on the ride. Nonetheless, I still wanted to experience it for myself so I stashed my items in a locker and took my place in line. A passerby told me that he only waited an hour and a half despite being told that it was a three hour wait. I felt mildly optimistic.

Melting in the sun

The line was a winding maze of twists and turns sprinkled with an occasional fan or two. Park workers sold bottles of water but because I was told to place "all loose items" in a locker, I had no money on me to buy one. At the midway point, an announcement was made over the loud speaker that the ride was experiencing some difficulties and would be shut down momentarily. The reaction from the people waiting in line was to be expected. The groans from the crowd overshadowed the announcer as he repeated his message two more times.

Cheetah Hunt queue

Cheetah Hunt's queue offers little protection from the elements.

A girl standing two people behind me passed out because of the heat. She had been in line for over an hour and a half at this point. She was put in a wheelchair and wheeled out by medics. I could hear the people around her saying that it was “just too hot” but their cries fell on deaf ears. Several of the overhead fans were not turned on and there were no longer workers selling water once you reached a certain place in line.

Most of the people around me looked really uncomfortable and unhappy. This is one area where I feel like the park really dropped the ball. Knowing what type of crowd to expect on Memorial Day weekend, every fan in the waiting area should have been running. This small gesture would have added great comfort to those wanting to ride Cheetah Hunt for the very first time.

Cheetah Hunt queue 2

More fans and umbrellas would improve the wait for the new ride.

In addition to this, I felt like park workers should have been better informed about the dangers of heat exhaustion. Rather than militantly demand that people place their belongings in lockers, they should have let people know before entering the ride to bring money to buy water. This was very disappointing to me because there was no way to exit the line once you entered it. You were at the mercy of Busch Gardens at that point.

Preparing to launch

Once I reached the ride platform, I was directed by a worker as to which line to stand in. Within seconds, I was climbing into my seat. Like usual, I had trouble fastening my safety belt. I don't know what it is about theme parks but I dropped it. Several attempts to flag down a ride attendant later, I was buckled in and ready to go.

Cheetah Hunt entrance

Cheetah Hunt's ride building features impressive theming.

I was a little concerned with how distracted the workers seemed. What if I wasn't able to get her attention in time before taking off? I know that the line was long and it was hot but what else could I do? I waved my hand around wildly three or four times before she even approached me to ask what was wrong. Again, I feel like this is an area that Busch Gardens Tampa needs to improve upon. It's not enough to be efficient, employees need to be cautious too.

Screeching out of the blocks

I wasn't sure what to expect and was unable to see others on the ride from where I was at. I can say the one thing that Cheetah Hunt has going for it is that it takes off without warning. It also makes this primal screeching sound which adds a bit of excitement to the attraction.

Cheetah Hunt launch

The launch sections are a highlight of Cheetah Hunt.

The track itself is shaped like a figure eight and the ride is very smooth. There are also three distinct launch points. There is no lift hill and the ride tops out at a speed of 60 mph which is still enough to get your heart pumping. You can see a full point-of-view ride on the coaster in the video below:

The 4,000-foot-plus track winds around various animal areas. It also twists around the park’s Skyride, steam train, and many walkways. Cheetah Run, the ride’s companion attraction, is said to have a dozen or so cheetahs at it. I didn’t see a single one while on the ride.

Highlights

Here are some of the highlights of Busch Gardens' new Cheetah Hunt ride:

  • It's a great ride for young people measuring 48” and taller.
  • It allows you to get up close and personal with cheetahs.
  • The ride was very smooth.
  • There are three distinct launch points.

Downsides

Here are some of the downsides of Busch Gardens' new Cheetah Hunt ride:

  • You have to put your belongings in a locker before entering the ride.
  • The waiting area is designed like an endless maze, with nowhere near enough shade cover.
  • It's only 3 1/2 minutes long.
  • The seat belts are hard to fasten.
  • The light from the flash of the ride camera is blinding.
  • It's hard to find your ride photo once in the gift shop.

Our thoughts

Busch Gardens Tampa's Cheetah Hunt fell short of my expectations. As a rollercoaster enthusiast, I have experienced better rides. I thought it was rather tame despite all the hype surrounding it. There were no signs to direct you to the attraction, the lines were three hours long, and the ride itself left little to be desired. Despite the multiple launches, there wasn't much to remember about the highly anticipated attraction. Even the cheetahs failed to make an appearance in the neighboring Cheetah Run. I thought I was mistaken that they were part of the attraction. Now I know differently. It was even too hot for them to be outdoors all day.

Cheetah Hunt drop

Cheetah Hunt is tamer than Busch Gardens Tampa's other major coasters.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have head to another ride in place of Cheetah Hunt. Because I had spent a good portion of my day waiting in line, I was only able to take in a few shows before heading back to Orlando and that in and of itself was very disappointing. Lucky for me, I have a Fun Pass so I have until the end of the year before it expires. The next trip I take to Busch Gardens Tampa will not include Cheetah Hunt as one of its highlights.

Things to Take Note Of:

If you're planning on riding Cheetah Hunt, you might want to know that:

  • Because it is a new attraction, you may experience longer than usual wait times.
  • There is no Quick Queue program for this attraction as of yet.
  • All loose items must be stored in a locker. They can be found by the gift shop and cost 50 cents to use. There is a change machine on the premises that takes $1 and $5 bills.
  • Park Guests can view the Accessibility Guide online for a full list of requirements for ride admission.

Share your thoughts

Have you experienced Cheetah Hunt? Did it live up to your expectations? Let us know by adding your own review and rating.

You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter.

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There are 6 comments.

Cheetah Hunt Review

Whilst I found your review interesting there are a few points. Firstly there is only One Inversion, not the two you state there are. Cheetah Run is a seperate attraction along the same theming where you can get close to the Cheetahs, it isn't a design that you interact with the animals whilst on the ride. At 3 1/2 minutes long this is a good long ride for a rollercoaster and at 4000ft isn't short by any means. Whilst I agree that shade/ fans for the comfort of waiting guests is ideal bear inmind that its was Memorial day, anyone travelling to a theme park yet alone to visit and ride one of the biggest new attractions anywhere in the world for 2011 your going to have to wait. It does quite clearly show in the photos that the wait time is 180 minutes, why wouldn't you be prepared for this? I would have some sort of drink with me knowing I was going to have to wait this long, you wouldn't go and wait anywhere for three hours without abit of foresight surely? Finally, magnetic track, don't think there is such a thing? Surely it is standard track but uses a magnetic launch system? The smoothness is down to precision Intamin engineering.

Come to think of it the best part of this review is the embedded video which shows the ride of beautifully. You didn't even mention the fact that it utilises some of the scenery from Rhino Rally!!!

User profile pic

Thanks

Thanks for pointing out the errors, which are now fixed.

I don't think Charissa was implying that the cheetahs are part of the coaster (how could they be?), just citing their non-appearance as one of the things that didn't go as well as it could have during her visit.

Have you been on the coaster? Would love to hear your review if so.

Nick (Editor)

Cheetah Hunt

Hi. My brother and I just rode Cheetah Hunt this past weekend. We liked it so much, we rode it four times in one day.

As far as the article goes...first off, I think the clock that says how long the wait is is off. We got there first thing in the morning and it was 0 minute wait. This really turned out to be about 20-25 minutes. As for the other three times we rode it, it seemed to be about the same even though the clock was changing throughout the day. It even read 90 minutes as one point around lunch time, and it was still about a 20-25 minute wait.

The writer of the article also mentioned that the line is "a winding maze with an occasional fan or two." And in the "Downsides" section she mentions that there "is nowhere near enough shade cover." Yes, the line is a little twisty, but its not at all confusing, or even that long. As far as the shade issue, the line is inside a building. What more cover from the sun do you need? I will admit, however, that they may need to add a few more fans, or at least change the angle that some of them are blowing. It does get hot inside the building, but you are not subject to direct sunlight.

The line itself moves relatively quickly and I think one reason for this is because they always have two trains in the station, with two more on standby waiting to pull in. The fifth one is usually going around the track somewhere during all this.

As for the ride...this is a cool roller coaster. Even though I was expecting to be launched at certain parts of the track, I was not expecting the first one right there at the exit of the station, or the next one about 5 seconds later. Very good designing, and an overall great ride. Like I said, my brother and I rode it four times in one day. It's definitely a ride I'll keep getting on.

this ride was a HUGE

this ride was a HUGE dissapointment. PERIOD.

Ive heard mostly that the

Ive heard mostly that the ride is a let down. Also i hear the line is quite short now which is probably a result of the the ride being such a let down. If you really want a ride thats thrilling and exciting and wont let you down head on down to the new texas giant at six flags over texas its ABSOLUTELY AMAZING <3

Cheetah Hunt is a fun ride!

No, it's not the biggest, fastest, or scariest ride out there. It is just a really fun ride. Yes the seats are difficult to fasten, yes there should be a single rider line, and yes more fans or angle of fans should be changed in the line. Aside from all that, Cheetah Hunt is a really good ride. You get at least four bouts of good air time, and the launches are completely unexpected. I love the old Rhino Rally part of the ride where it zips through the s curves over water in the canyon. The 60 mph blast up the wind catcher tower followed by the air time that follows is an adrenaline rush. Not quite as thrilling as SheiKra, but a great rush. The ride is beautifly themed. The wait times are only really long in the afternoon and on holidays. The line fizzles out toward closing. NO that does not mean this ride in any way is bad. The front row (and the extra wait) is WORTH WAITING for! Especially the right side.

I haven't ridden Texas Giant, and will probably love it, but do know it was re-furbished and not really a NEW ride. It's just a gimmick like floor less SheiKra was a few years back (which is great btw). If you haven't experienced a ride, DON'T ASSUME it's lame.

As for this review, It's HOT in FL in the summer. Being from Orlando you should know this already! Cheetah run is now fully functioning and the animals are beautiful. The cheetah's can't always tolerate the heat and are put inside. Its hard to see them from the coaster anyway because it goes so fast by their exhibit. The wait time is clearly posted outside. If its too long for you, ride something else and come back later. Try the front row if you decide to give it another chance.

For people reading, no the ride isn't really intense, but if you want a pure fun ride and a good rush, Cheetah Hunt is well worth the wait. It is a ride I keep coming back to for more! I rate it an 8 out of 10.

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