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Photo TR: Andy's 2021 Floridian Revenge


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I've been mostly absent from the forums for a while, and when I last checked in I was getting my fix on a looping Pinfari, so that's about how exciting things have been over here.

I guess it was past time to hop on some real coasters again.

2021 was a much better travel year for me than the atrocity that was 2020. I went to the Outer Banks, I went to the San Francisco Bay area, I went to Washington DC, and then in October, I did a 10-day lap through the eternally wonderful state of Florida. Yeah, I did the Florida thing already in 2017, but that's OK! This is the sequel! The revenge!

Here's the start of a short 3-part TR focused on photography and new stuff. Part 1 is going to cover Busch Gardens. Part 2 is going to cover Islands of Adventure. Part 3 will include a collection of all the other crap I did while I was in Florida. And then when I get done with all of that, maybe I'll finish that 2019 Europe trip report I've been neglecting...

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021 -- Busch Gardens Tampa

Ah, yes ... a weekday in the off-season, on a day with no Howl-o-Scream. This place was dead, and that's just the way I like it. Walk-ons or one-cycle waits for every ride, even Cheetah Hunt in the evening. I've got a picture of a Sheikra train with only 7 riders. I had a solo ride on Falcon's Fury -- not just on my car, but on the entire gondola.

Even aside from the low crowds, something definitely felt a little off compared to normal. I wish I could say it was just the pandemic-era funk, but I know the Busch parks have had some issues extending even before that. The train was running only one train, with only one station. The sky ride was down, along with some other rides that were undergoing maintenance. A few small sections of the park were closed off, and dining options seemed limited, though I didn't eat at the park. Some of the animal exhibits were closed as well. The coasters were all running fine, and ops were actually decent. Kumba and Montu were just doing one train, but the trains rarely filled, so it really didn't matter much at all.

The park's hours were 12PM-8PM, which not only gave me time to sleep in, it also let me experience the park at night for the first time ever. Some of those pathways are really dark!

Oh, one little bonus. Cheetah Hunt was originally supposed to go down for a re-paint on October 11, but it got changed to October 14, meaning I got in just in time.

I got a new credit (Tigris) and several rides on all the other awesome coasters. This visit re-affirmed for me that B&M has lost their way in the last 10-15 years, because Kumba/Montu/Sheikra are still so good, and they still run so well. And finally, I ran my "SBNO RMC" count up to 5 now (NTAG, IRat, Lightning Rod, Zadra) but of course I knew that was coming. I did not see the giant "IRON GWAZI: NOW OPEN" roadside billboard that Erik showed me a picture of, but that would have only added to the fun!

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Entrance! Topiary!

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I did a big, slow counter-clockwise loop through the park. I started with a single ride on Cheetah Hunt, then...

...the big cobra thing.

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The cobra figure is pretty awesome!

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Some fun with perspective, but that cobra head is quite large.

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It's got its eye on you...

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I rode Cobra's Curse once. I don't love it. Too many block brakes. Decent family coaster, I guess.

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One theme of this TR is that I was able to spend lots of time doing photography, since I got on the coasters as much as I wanted to without any waits.

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That means plenty of time for fun candid reaction shots!

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Cobra's Curse is pretty good for photography.

I went to Montu next, which is decidedly not good for photography. I'll have some pics from Montu later on. I did a few rides, then moved onward.

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There are animals. So there will be some animal pictures mixed in here.

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This giraffe is hungry.

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There are a few birds in this little corner of the park, like these pelicans near Cobra's Curse.

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This one might just be a native.

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The ibis are everywhere.

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A porcupine enjoying a snack.

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An elephant, doing the same.

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A large cat, proving that all cats are basically the same.

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Back to the coasters -- Cheetah Hunt!

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Inversion through the trees.

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A little bit of airtime.

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I've only been to the park once before with Cheetah Hunt open, so I was disappointed it was scheduled to be closed during my visit. Then they delayed the closure by a few days, and all was right in the world.

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A few good photo spots near the middle portion of Cheetah Hunt, but the train is moving pretty quick so you have to be fast.

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I think it was about when I took this picture that I was like, hey, coaster photography is fun! It sucks I hadn't done any in two years!

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One-train operations.

Literally.

Normally I'd ride the train, but I wasn't going to mess with that.

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My only decent picture of Scorpion. Sorry, Schwarzkopf fans. I did ride it once, and it's still great!

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Falcon's Fury is up next. What an incredible, screwed-up thing this is.

I love how you can really see the riding position on the entire gondola in this shot.

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Another view of the whole gondola from the bottom!

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Oh, and the reaction shots are priceless.

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Plenty of spots around Pantopia for a good view straight up at the ride.

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That's a lot of hair.

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Tried to catch two cars in this one. The screams are plentiful.

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Relief at the bottom!

I rode Falcon's Fury four times -- twice during the day, twice after dark. No waits, and the last ride was a true solo ride.

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I didn't ride Sand Serpent, because it's a dumb mouse.

But it wasn't even operating on my last trip, so I did get a few pictures, like this one of these very excitable people.

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The sharp turns do elicit some interesting reactions.

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Hanging on for dear life, I guess.

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Kumba climbs through a forest of trees.

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Like Montu, Kumba was only running one train, which was more of an inconvenience for photography than for actually riding the thing. I got on 2 or 3 times.

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Also like Montu, Kumba is very tough to photograph. You're pretty much limited to a few spots near the ride's entrance and along the exit path. To top it off, most of the time the train is facing away from the walkways.

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Diving out of the loop.

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A swooping turn between the corkscrews.

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To make matters more difficult, you're stuck either shooting through or above a net, which is tough.

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I think the interlocking corkscrew shot is the one picture everyone gets, and my version is, eh, alright I guess.

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Another Kumba inversion shot.

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Kumba is still fantastic. Still smooth. One of the oldest B&Ms, and it's amazing.

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While I was taking these photos, I overheard someone ask a ride op "so, uh, my Quick Queue is really only worth it for Cheetah Hunt today, huh?"

Yep, it was that kind of day. And no, I didn't buy Quick Queue.

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The rapids ride was running, but the rafts were sparse, and the splashes didn't seem especially plentiful.

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Well, at least there were a few.

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Stanley Falls had run dry. It was closed on my last visit (Feb 2017) also. No log flume photos for you!

More in the next post.

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Continuing with something new....

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Tigris! New coaster for me, so I have to get a shot of the entrance, and the posted (and over-estimated) 5 minute wait.

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Ride sign! It's nice!

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Climbing into the clouds.

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Tigris is pretty. The orange works nicely. I've always thought orange is a nice coaster color against a blue sky.

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But, unfortunately, I just don't care much for these rides. This is the fourth I've been on (Holiday Park, Sea World San Diego, and BGW). They're one-and-done for me.

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Honestly, it's like a big list of stuff I don't like. The trains are uncomfortable. The comfort collars are ridiculous.

But this picture right here shows the real reason -- the hangtime.

I do not like prolonged hangtime.

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Other people seem to enjoy it, though!

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Dropping in from up top.

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Yep, that's a lot of upside-down. Gravity does interesting things to people.

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At least they made the train look nice.

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Flipped the wrong way.

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You can almost feel the intensity in this picture. Either that or the blood rushing to your head.

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Only one good spot I could find for close-up rider shots, and it's coming off the smaller of the two hills.

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Klassy!!!

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OK, let's get to a better coaster.

Sheikra was very kind to me on this fantastic October day.

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This coaster is a photographer's dream. Amazing photo ops of both drops and the big splashdown element.

As for the lines? Well, you'd get the occasional full train...

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...but here's one with literally only seven people on it.

I think I got 6 or 7 rides on Sheikra, including three at the end of the night in the darkness.

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Sheikra makes me sad that Valravn exists. But then I remember I'm riding Sheikra, and I'm happy again.

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Going straight on down.

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Here's the second drop off the block brake, which is almost as fun as the first in the back row, since you take it with a little bit of speed.

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Just checking to see if Garbles is reading this TR.

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Oh, the anticipation.

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And the drop begins!

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The afternoon sun angle was perfect for shots of the second drop.

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I'm running out of captions before I run out of pictures!

Sorry, Chuck and Erik&Smisty are way better at this than I am.

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All the excitement.

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OK, that's some fear.

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A "pop" of airtime.

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Thank you old-time B&M for the non-vest restraints.

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Coaster nerd shot.

Let's look straight up at the big drop.

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Just when the brake releases...

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Necklaces go flying!

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At the apex of the drop.

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The bottom is near!

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Some amazing reactions in this one

And then a dumb kid with a phone that makes me sad.

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One more on the way down.

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Rounding the curve to the splashdown.

I'd make a joke about the folks in the front row, but it would probably be too KoRny.

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Jets overhead!

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Splash zone!

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The splash zone is "brought to you by Adventure Island," which is a fun little piece of nonsense cross-marketing.

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Here's a shot with a different view than the normal splashdown pics. This one is kind of hard to get because there are some obstructions, and you have to time it just right.

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Of course, the real reason this shot is a little tricky is because you have to snap your picture and then immediately run about 50 feet away ... if you don't want to end up unacceptably drenched.

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The view from the other side.

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Climbing out of the mist.

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Water goes up...

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...and water comes down.

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Sheikra is a reliable drencher for those who enjoy that sort of thing.

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As for me, I learned exactly where to stand.

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Here's my one "it's Howl-o-Scream time" picture, but I intentionally went on a day with regular park operations only.

I don't do Halloween stuff. Nope. Hard pass.

You got Chuck's TR for that!

One more batch in the next post.

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Want some birds? We got some birds.

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Flamingo.

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Scarlet Ibis!

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Demoiselle Crane!

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Masked Lapwing!

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The Kangaroo/Wallaby exhibit was open. And they have, I believe, two albino wallabies.

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I don't think I've seen one before.

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Those are quite the eyelashes.

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A kangaroo with a little one.

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Hi, Joey.

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Oh, this thing.

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Right, OK, yeah, I knew there was no chance it would be open well before my trip.

But still.

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I mean, look at it!

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Running up the score with closed RMCs.

Let's see.

2013 TPR trip was right after the SFOT incident, so New Texas Giant and Iron Rattler were both closed. Haven't made it back to either park yet.

2016 TPR trip had a Dollywood stop, with Lightning Rod doing Lightning Rod things. We got on a year later, though!

2019 TPR trip had Zadra, which was not technically done, but was essentially constructed and would have been done if a windstorm hadn't blown the structure apart earlier in the year.

And now Iron Gwazi.

I'll get you next time.

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Just as a ridiculous teaser, I saw it run one train about 20 minutes before the park opened.

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This thing looks really good, though.

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I think it has a lot of what I enjoy most about RMCs.

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Like, this. This looks like it shouldn't exist, but it does, and it will be great.

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RMC, you twisted geniuses.

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Soon, Iron Gwazi. Soon.

That completed my big lap around the park, but that meant it was time for Lap 2.

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Let's start with a gator.

The last time I was at BGT, this pond was filled with large gators. Tons of them. I only saw two this time.

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Another animal I can't identify! It's so cute, though.

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Can I interest you in a nice frame?

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Heading back over to where I started my day -- and some more pics of Cheetah Hunt.

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Cloud pics.

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They should have named it Cheetaka.

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I really like this ride. It's just plain fun.

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More airtime!

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Intamin, you did well.

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Coming down off the tree.

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This part is fun, but especially in the back.

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More Cheetah Hunt fun.

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My guess, from overhearing conversations, is that Cheetah Hunt had an actual wait during the middle of the operating day. Probably nothing too crazy. By this time of night -- getting closer to 7PM -- it was a walk-on for all but the front row.

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I didn't mention it elsewhere, but I did the $8 transferable locker thing, and it worked fine. All the coasters I rode except for Cobra's Curse required it. Falcon's Fury also does not require a locker.

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Speaking of Cobra's Curse, it closed early for the night. No big loss...

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...because I'm just gonna go walk onto Montu about 3 or 4 times at sunset!

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Montu is just like Kumba -- hard to photograph from the park, and spends a lot of time facing away from you.

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So, I tried to get creative and do stuff like this.

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Gold-plated wheel covers.

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Montu is amazing. The batwing is just nuts.

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Let there be light!

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The only decent spot in the park to get a view of the riders!

Running one train, it required some patience. I attempted this shot three times, and only this one turned out right.

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This stupid little game thing is right next to the Montu entrance.

Uh, that is not a hurricane, or a sand storm.

Either that or I've been doing my job wrong for a long time.

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So, after my sunset rides on Montu, I got to experience something new -- night at Busch Gardens! I'd never been here after dark before.

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I went right to Cheetah Hunt for 3 more rides, each one progressively darker, and each one with zero wait.

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I continued another counter-clockwise loop, heading to Pantopia next.

I was doing hand-held shots with my camera at this point, so the image quality isn't great.

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What I really wanted was a couple night rides on Falcon's Fury.

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I got two rides, facing different directions each time, so I could enjoy the view of the park and the city of Tampa.

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I was all by myself on the last ride!

I finished at Falcon's Fury at about 730PM, then walked onward. Man, some of these pathways are dark at night, and I'd go 30 seconds without seeing even one other park guest. It was kind of weird.

I then went to Sheikra to try to get another few rides in.

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I did three night rides on Sheikra, and then decided to do actual night photography (long-exposure, with tripod) until they kicked me out.

So, here's one of the big loop.

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And here's one of the lift.

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This picture is a long-exposure of the splashdown. At night, the lights on the mist just make it look like a big purple glow over the lagoon.

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Seriously, it's like we're summoning a portal to an alternate dimension. Maybe in that dimension B&M never invented vest restraints.

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One shot of the lagoon after the last train had run.

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Hello again, Iron Gwazi. You're still closed, I see.

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This area is going to be hopping in 2022.

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Alright, this does look pretty cool, even if they didn't light up the coaster.

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Now that's bright.

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Almost a half-hour past close, and the main plaza is nearly deserted.

Guess that means I should head on out.

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Good times, BGT, good times.

And more importantly, a great day for my first actual theme park visit in over two years!

It only took me two days for the next one. ;)

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Great pics, Andy  (tho I'd expect no less from you).

 

can really tell the crowd level in your "people" pics, since I see the same riders in several different pictures.     What a great day, even with the challenges you mention (in particular the 1 train, train ops and no skyride).

But looks like you had a great time.

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On 11/17/2021 at 9:46 AM, bert425 said:

can really tell the crowd level in your "people" pics, since I see the same riders in several different pictures.    

I noticed the same thing! It's basically just the same 100 people riding everything over and over again! 🤣

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^ I've actually had that happen to me, in a way. I would notice certain people in the park crowd (a single person, a couple, or a family, etc.) .... then constantly see them/run into them, wherever I was in the park! And some times, even seeing them in the same queue I was in! Freeky.

Awesome TR Andy, especially those night shots!

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