Cheetah Hunt, Busch Gardens’ newest roller coaster and animal exhibit, officially opened today. It’s an amazing ride that you have to experience in person to truly appreciate. What makes Cheetah Hunt such a great ride is the air time … no it’s the three launches … no it’s the zig-zag motion through the trench. I guess it’s the combination of all three.
The ride starts off with a quick launch out of the station. You head around the corner, down into a trench where you encounter the second launch, straight up a hill to the iconic-looking figure eight pictured above. Unlike going straight up the lift hill on Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios, the launch makes it seem as if you’re blasting up into the sky. This is the first of many times you’ll come out of your seat for some “airtime”.
All of the launches happen while you’re moving, (First launch at 30 mph, second at 60 mph and third at 45 mph) so it’s not truly 0-60, but they all feel powerful so it doesn’t matter much.
Once you’re on the figure eight, things slow down as you go around then down into a tunnel. This isn’t a huge coaster heighth-wise. The largest drop is 130 feet. It’s not as scary as Busch Gardens’ Sheikra, but it’s just as thrilling.
After that, you go upside down in a heartline roll. It’s sort of a spinning roll while still headed forward. The upside down turn doesn’t happen too quick. It seems like you’re upside-down for more than just a second, so make sure things in your pockets are secure. Lockers are available for .50¢ (with no time limit), so be sure to use them if needed.
Next is the side-to-side motion through a trench. The coaster track is curved left, then right, then left and so on. It’s a neat maneuver that had many in my coaster car chanting “whoa” with each banked turn.
Now it’s time for the last launch. This is the best one of all. It shoots you right up a hill, then you come right back down. It gives you maximum airtime that surprises you because you expect to level off at the top of the hill. A few more thrilling turns and your ride is over. From first movement to stop is about two minutes. At 4,429 feet-long, this coaster is the longest in Florida and it covers a lot of ground at the park.
When asked to name my favorite coaster in Florida, I could never decide. Now I know Cheetah Hunt is it. Here’s a video of Orlando Attractions Magazine – The Show hosts Jessica Steele Allen and JD Trussel taking their first ride, captured via the Cheetah Cam Busch Gardens had set up for the media. After that we’ll take a look around the rest of the attraction.
This is an overview of the cheetah habitat area. The brown line is a track for the cheetahs to run. The trainers have certain times when they encourage the cheetahs to run the track. The roller coaster is off camera to the right of this picture. So the cheetahs don’t really run alongside the coaster track. In fact, it’s really hard to see the cheetahs while on the ride. (The yellow tents are not normally there. They were set up as part of media day.)
A test car sits outside the entrance. There’s a light that turns green to let you know you’ve pulled the restraint down far enough to ride. I saw a really tall person riding with no problem, but those with a big belly or chest may not be able to ride. I saw one man have to get off the ride because he couldn’t get the restraint belt latched.
Here’s the loading area. They have signs indicating the lines to ride in the front or back. I tried both. I prefer the front because of the view, but I think the back is a bit more thrilling and gives more airtime.
This ride isn’t on their Quick Queue system yet, although they have a separate entrance for it. They said they don’t yet know when it will be added. Hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster opened almost two years ago and it’s still not a part of Universal’s Express Pass.
Of course the gift shop is at the exit to the ride. It’s fully stocked with a lot of cheetah merchandise. They even have a plush baby cheetah and dog representing Kasi and Mtani, the dog and cheetah they’re raising together. You can read more about them Here.
Here’s a front row, point-of-view ride along Cheetah Hunt’s track:
• For interviews and more video, be sure to watch episode 27 of Orlando Attractions Magazine – The Show.
• For a full in-depth story on the new attraction, get your copy of the Summer 2011 issue of Orlando Attractions Magazine.