TAMPA — Hold onto your lunch: Busch Gardens’ latest thrill ride, the Serengeti Flyer, is going to test you unless you are a fan of playground swings that go really, really high.
“Is that what skydiving feels like?” asked Dillon Young of Bradenton, a member of the local chapter of the American Coaster Enthusiasts who was invited along with members of the media to preview the wild pendulum “screaming swing” ride on Thursday.
Though it officially opens Monday, we got a preview ride — as will Busch Gardens’ passholders this weekend.
Serengeti Flyer is a record-breaking 105 feet tall. It is the tallest and fastest of its kind. The dueling arms swing riders on a pendulum higher and higher over the park’s Serengeti Plain, reaching speeds of 68 miles per hour and a maximum height of 135 feet. Each swing features two back-to-back rows of 10 seats, allowing 40 riders at one time.
In reality, it looks scarier than it is. There are moments where you levitate out of your seat as the swing reaches its height, so it’s more like a playground swing on steroids. But if you are afraid of heights, this is not the ride for you.
“It is intimidating, but I wouldn’t call it scary,” said Michael Christopher, the regional Florida representative for the ACE club, whose day job is with the Hillsborough County government. “It’s more like a swing but for adults.”
Still, Christopher rode it three times before he started getting a little wobbly and took a break.
Air compressors get the momentum going pretty quickly. By the second swing, riders are already soaring well above the queue building. By the third and fourth swing, the ride levitates guests out of their seats as their legs dangle while they soar, reaching multiple negative-G moments before plunging back toward the ground. The last three of the 11 swings are almost pleasant, with a gentle, breezy sway that allows you to take in the view of the rest of the park and the expansive 65-acre Serengeti Plain.
The new pendulum ride adds to Busch Gardens’ already deep supply of 10 thrill rides, the most of any theme park in Florida.
It has a height limit of 48 inches, the size of an average 8-year-old, and there is a test seat in the front of the queue to allow riders to judge if they are comfortable in the seat.