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Photo TR: Andy's 2017 Floridian Trip

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Part 1: Busch Gardens Tampa (this page)

Part 2: SeaWorld Orlando (Page 3)

Part 3: Universal Studios Florida (Page 5)

Part 4: Islands of Adventure (Page 6)

Part 5: Cruise to the Edge (Page 7)


I'm still working on a full 2015 trip report but I wanted to do a short four-part five-part report on a recent trip to Florida. Less detail, less writing, and a quicker jump to the pictures!


Part one is Busch Gardens Tampa. It's in my top 10 favorite parks, and it's located in one of my favorite areas to vacation -- the Tampa Bay region.




The scorecard for the day:

cheetah x2

cobra's x2

montu x3

sky ride (to stanleyville)

sky ride (to cheetah hunt)

lunch stop -- bacon pretzel fury

scorpion x2

falcon's fury x3

sky ride (to cheetah hunt)

sheikra x2

kumba x3

montu x3


I visited on Friday, February 3, 2017. My longest wait was about 10 minutes for the final trip on the sky ride (!) while the coasters/FF were all station waits or walk-ons for the entire day. The weather was perfect -- sunny and warm, not hot and humid.


Was my first time on the three newest big rides. Cheetah Hunt was just weeks from opening during my last visit in 2011, so I was really glad to get on this time. It's a perfect "big kid" ride. Just thrilling enough, and a ton of fun. Cobra's Curse was a little bit of a disappointment, though I can't say my expectations for it were sky-high. It's like Dizz at Bobbejaanland (sorry for the obscure reference) -- 10 seconds of ride, block brake, 10 seconds of ride, block brake, etc. It seems like they put a ton of effort into the three different ride styles, but never really give them time to develop. Love the theming though! Falcon's Fury is truly spectacular. Intamin is out of their minds. Easily my favorite drop tower. I didn't find it frightening (I love heights and drops) but rather the overall sensory experience was heightened by the tilting seats.


Also, bacon pretzel twist. Only thing I ate all day. Only thing I needed to.


OK, let's get to the pictures.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from BGT!


A good sign!


My first rides on Cheetah Hunt were great!


Several good photo spots if you're creative enough to find them.


Definitely a fun ride for the whole family.


Just intense enough, it's more "fun" than "melt your face off."


Fast enough for hairtime.


Montu continues to be a little tough to photograph, in my opinion. I should mention that it's probably still my favorite coaster at the park, and that's not a negligible statement given that I'm a big fan of Kumba, Sheikra, and Cheetah Hunt.


So, the big question, now that I've been on both within a year of each other -- Montu or Banshee? It's a question I've been struggling with since the day I first rode Banshee in 2014.


The verdict? They're both Grade-A coasters. Both top-notch. Probably the best B&M inverts. But I'm going to take Banshee by a hair!


Cobra goes nom nom ... wait, where are the people?


Ah, much better.


The eyes of the cobra are upon you.


From forwards to backwards.


It's fun, right? Just doesn't do enough with each of the three ride segments.




This part is fun if you can get some spinning.


A mess of twisted cobra track.


The coaster's a great fit for the park.


Hitting up the sky ride for some more coaster pictures, including this "no one else has ever gotten this shot before, really" picture of Cheetah Hunt.


Good timing passing this airtime hill.


One of the best parts of the ride!


Also good timing on the ride's sole inversion.


The train design is pretty awesome.


Headed for the brake run.


Brake run porn for those of you who are into that sort of thing.


Kumba from a distance!


More Kumba!


Thread the loop. This ride is still fantastic.


Montu from a distance.


This ... thing ...


burn it down.


Stanley Falls had just started a maintenance period, so here it is, all out-of-service.


Also spotted some construction behind Sand Serpent (which was also out of service, but for unscheduled maintenance).


This is probably nothing important.


So, how about some animals? Because even in a park with coasters this good, animals are half the fun.


Reflections of birds.


Don't want to get in a fight with this guy.


Lemurs are funny.


Especially when eating.


A wall of fish.


Lazy lion.


On the savanna.


Giraffes need to eat.


So, there they go, eating. Sorry, these captions aren't my best efforts.




What are you lookin' at?


Not getting anywhere near those teeth.


Watching you.


Gators and turtles.


That can't be comfortable for the turtles.


The BG employee near there was telling us that the gators don't /usually/ eat the turtles ... but it's happened.


African penguins!


BG staff member Susie brought out one of their resident eagles, Kamali.


Kamali was rather talkative.


Kamali looks angry, but really isn't.


The 'Merica is strong in this picture.


Don't get into a staring contest with an eagle. You'll lose.


Back to the rides, and about to try Falcon's Fury!


This is one of those "could just take pictures of peoples' reactions all day" types of rides. A true joy to spectate.


Going down?


Yes, down it is.


It's an adrenaline rush and most people never seem quite prepared for it.


Another group at the top...


...and making their plunge.


A fun mix of fear, excitement, and nervousness.


But this is why we all come over Falcon's Fury -- because we're hungry.


Sometimes TPR people hype up things so much that there's simply no way for them to be as good as advertised.


That was not the case with this one.


What a fantastic idea these were. The chips were quite good also!


Scorpion was my first-ever inverting roller coaster, probably 20-or-so years ago.


I got multiple rides on it on this visit, and it packs a punch for its small size.


Back to the animals, and my horrible attempt to take pictures of the Cheetah Run. Cheetahs are really fast. If you're not completely set up with the camera when they start, you're going to miss most of the action. At least I got this one near the end.


That's a big cat.


Also a big cat, and a hilarious reaction.


Turtle wishes he was a a parakoopa.


The kangaroos were feeling lazy.


The flamingos were plentiful.


The lorikeets were cute and colorful, as always.


If you've never seen one hop around on the ground, it's the funniest thing.


A spoonbill takes a drink.


A very red bird poses for a shot. Also, I'm not really all that great with species identification. I just take the pictures.


One coaster left to go -- Sheikra!


Another ride with a big, sudden drop.


Sheikra has plenty of good spots for photography.


The wide trains are interesting to shoot -- you can make them almost completely fill the frame...


...or, just let the whole thing tilt straight through the shot, 'cause it kinda works anyway.


At the bottom of the big drop.


Splashdown, part 1.


Splashdown, part 2.


One more shot of the ride's second drop. People are excited.


A zoomed view of the splash element. Kind of interesting to see the water shooting up through the scoops.


Photobombed by a gull.


A distant view of Falcon's Fury climbing the tower.


The ride gondolas are pretty open and exposed.


A distant view of the Cheetah Hunt tree thing.


One last shot of Kumba. I rode Kumba a few times before ending the night on Montu.


Interesting thing happened on Kumba. They shut the ride down to retrieve a lost article with all of 40 minutes left in the operating day. It was about a 15-minute delay while they searched for it and found it. Just seemed strange, to me, unless it was something super important.


One last cheetah picture on the way out, because cheetahs are pretty cool.

Edited by The Great Zo
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I mentioned the Tampa area is one of my favorite places to visit. I have several reasons why -- here are some pictures to help explain!


OK, first off, my favorite hockey team is in Tampa. Don't ask, it's a long story, but I've been a Lightning fan since 1999.


Downtown Tampa is improving, too -- the waterfront is great, and I've seen the development really accelerate over my past few visits (2011, 2015, 2017).


I'll close with some long-exposure stuff from across the water.


Because night photography is fun. I actually did these the day I was at BGT, right after the park closed.


That's it for Part 1 of this 4-part report. Coming up next will be BGT's sibling in Orlando!


The February 4 game against Anaheim had some tough stuff...


...and in the shootout, Anaheim got ahead early...


...but Tampa Bay came back and pinned down the victory.


Plus, though there are tons at Busch Gardens, it's a little more fun to find gators in the wild.


And behold, the majestic ... pigeon. Yep, my best picture of a bird from the entire trip is a stinkin' pigeon.


Also fun? Mini golf. I played several courses but found my favorites were from two chains. Here's the Smugglers Cove course in Madeira Beach.


The other chain is Congo River. This scene is from the Clearwater course.


I also love the variety of wildlife in Florida -- it's so different from Ohio and Michigan.


Gopher tortoises are kind of tough to find, but some of my favorites.


Lots of birds that are fun to photograph.


If you're into the beach, or boating, or fishing, the Tampa Bay area has plentiful opportunities.


Or, just watch the sun set behind a pirate ship.


It's touristy, perhaps slightly more so than I'd prefer, but Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 is a fun place at the end of the day...


...and to enjoy the sunset.


Part of the shtick with both the Smugglers Cove and Congo River courses? They have live gators. You can feed them, or just look at them. Here's a few (with some turtles) at the Port Richey Congo River course.


Went to the Congo River course in Port Richey the next day. These are truly some of the best designed/maintained mini-golf courses I've ever played, and among the most fun too.


Or, try counting all of the gators here at the Indian Shores Smugglers Cove course.


Finally, the Smugglers Cove course at Indian Shores was also quite good. I think the Congo River courses are slightly better than the Smugglers Cove courses, but I enjoyed all four quite a bit. However, Fantasia Fairways is still the course to beat, and unfortunately I didn't make it to that one this time.

Edited by The Great Zo
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You skipped Sand Serpent tho?.. not a mouse fan?


I've already got the credit and I'm not a mouse fan, so I would have skipped it anyways, but... it was down for the count. Out of service. Temporarily kaput. No big loss. Cobra's Curse had actually just re-opened from a month-long maintenance period the day I was there, so I was pretty fortunate it opened as scheduled.

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Great photos! I really need to visit the Tampa Busch Gardens park since they look to have an excellent coaster lineup.


I'm a bit bummed Cobra's Curse isn't a great ride though. The two Mack spinners I've been on have been decently intense and fast paced rides despite their small stature.

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Awesome photos as always, especially the animal ones. I definetely need to plan a trip to Busch Gardens (and Florida in general). When I finally plan a WDW trip I'll definetely have to make a day diversion for Busch Gardens.

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Thanks for the comments!


You have a great eye (and probably lots of patience to wait for the perfect shot!)


Too much, maybe! Sometimes have to wait for a few coaster trains in order to get things timed out right, which means I'm standing on the midway for 5-10 minutes, knowing there's no line and I could be on the ride.


Gotta ask, if you're willing to share, what do you shoot with? Love the depth-of-field on a lot of those shots!

Nothing super special. Canon T2i with the cheapo 18-55 and 55-250 lenses. I'm not always thrilled with the performance of the latter, especially at the far end of the zoom, so for every one good shot there may be 1-10 lousy ones I don't use.



Not giving up hope for this season!

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This park is awesome if you can hit it on a slow day. And when the weather is not so bad. Feb and Oct, or Nov are good months. Weekdays if you can. I love the Lorikeets! Montu and Kumba are still very intense rides and have aged well. A question though, why has Universal replaced the Hulk track and Kumba's original track is still going strong? They are about the same age.

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Banshee vs. Montu: IMO, Banshee wins, no contest.


Those pictures are sick. Glad you had fun! This is easily my favorite park in Florida, I really need to get back there, I'm having withdrawals.


PS: I want her job


Your photos are phenomenal! I'm so excited to hopefully, finally get to BGT later this year.


Heads up by the way, don't go from 8/7 to 9/1.

Wonder if that means it's finally getting painted?

And yes, I'd like that job too.


I really hope this guy gets what he deserves:


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