Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scott And Carol Present - Cheetah Hunt Establishes It's Position As The Apex Coaster At Busch Gardens Africa

It was just before dawn, and like a cheetah, we were out hunting. Our prey was to be Cheetah Hunt, the newest roller coaster at Busch Gardens Africa, in Tampa FL. The lights from below made it appear alive, which was good because we were there to ride it after all the progress reports.

Mark Rose, Vice President of Design & Engineering gave us the rundown.  "This has been an idea of mine for about 5 years, a low to the ground coaster emphasizing speed with sudden changes of direction to mimic how a cheetah chases down its prey. We really liked Maverick but we wanted to give it our own special treatment." Rose continues, "while it is a slight energy hog, the already low level of noise is reduced by filling all the circular support pipes with sand for the sake of the cheetahs."

The 7 feline residents have been spending time in the new Cheetah Run habitat for a week and a half, according to Tim, Assistant Curator. "We have added a waterfall, dens for shade, multiple levels for them to chase each other around, and some cool air vents up by the window so they will come closer to the guests." During our visit, we saw the glass fogging from the breath of the cheetahs, and they watched the guests as much as the guests observed them.

"The ability for them to follow a guest with their eyes along the outside of the enclosure provides stimulation for them mentally, and we run them several times daily using a different path all the time," says Tim, "we want them to not know which way the lure is going to go, but merely to react to its path, like they do to prey in the wild." For some reason, the big cats today had a great interest in the hats of the guests, watching their favorites as they walked along the edge.

But now it was our time to ride, and we experienced our first ride on Cheetah Hunt in the dark. With the camera lights shining in our faces, everything was just a blur, and Scott described the ride by feel rather than sight. The initial launch subjects guests to 4 Gs of straight ahead acceleration, the way a cheetah can reach full speed in just three strides. If it wanted, a cheetah could out run its namesake coaster by 4 miles per hour, as the coaster will only reach a speed of 60 miles per hour itself.

Frequent bursts of airtime simulate the cheetah falling back to earth and the back and forth track in the re-purposed Rhino Rally river section is an authentic replication of observed behaviors exhibited by cheetahs in the wild and the speed hills duplicate the way cheetahs can move 20 feet with a single bound.

After our ride, Scott talked with Park President Jim Dean. "We use the old monorail building and created a special area for both our guests and our cheetahs. It is critical for us to provide guests with new experiences since we are a year round park." When asked about the 'wind catcher,' the signature element on the new ride, he said, "The location is not an accident. We wanted a unique attraction and by putting it high and in front, we can create excitement before the guest even purchases a ticket."

He was especially proud of how the custom trains incorporate the cheetah theming and how the track was put below ground so guests gain a cheetah eye level perspective while on the ride. He concluded, "I would like to invite all the readers of News Plus Notes to come and experience Cheetah Hunt for themselves."

But it is not all just fun with Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund have supported the Cheetah Conservation Fund since 2005. Mike Boos, Vice President of Zoological Operations brought a special guest on behalf of the vanishing cheetahs worldwide. Kasi, Swahili for "one with speed," and Mtani, "close friend," surprised us with an appearance during an interview. Mtani, a boundless puppy wanted to experience it all, and Kasi was content to just lie in Mike's arms. The serious part of the attraction is the interactive guest room where you can view your on ride experience, look at some of the components that are included in the building of Cheetah Hunt, and learn more about the plight of cheetahs in the wild. Mike is better at explaining this because all Scott wanted to do was look at Kasi.

Cheetah has several launches, the first one launches you through the ruins after you roll out of the station.

You dive into the first tunnel and up into the wind catcher.

More of the subterranean features of Cheetah Hunt

Here Cheetah Hunt demonstrates that it can out run the train.

Because Cheetahs don't like water, you soar above the Rhino River, undergoing many changes of direction.

Cheetah's one inversion takes you high above the Serengeti Plain ... upside down.

Cheetah readies to dive under the Nairobi Bridge.

So that is the new Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run attractions at Busch Gardens Africa. And we want to leave you with one final picture of us with our new BFF, Best Friend Feline. Yes we did get to pet her, and she will be a wonderful ambassador for cheetahs everywhere. If you want more information about how you can help, here is the website for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.


robert said...

looks like a fun ride. How does it compare to Maverick (if you know)?

Scott and Carol said...


We have ridden Maverick, but comparing the two coasters is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Cheetah Hunt has softer over the shoulder restraints & only one inversion, it's some 10 mph slower & the height restrictions is set lower. It's heavily themed and meant to be more of a family friendly ride. Where as Maverick is a rough & tumble thrill machine.

Scott & Carol