Advertisement
  1. Theme Parks

We rode Tigris, the new Busch Gardens coaster. This is what it's like.

Members of the media got to preview the new coaster Tigris on April 18, 2019 at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Tigris is Florida’s tallest launch coaster, and reaches 150ft high. The ride opens to the public on Friday. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Apr. 18

The near fiendishly excited look on the face of the retired Air Force pilot strapping passengers in told me this was going to be one heck of a ride.

"Speed, rolls, Gs, this has absolutely everything," Ty Mendelson-Curry said. "It's absolutely phenomenal."

A few seconds later, I was launched 150 feet in the air at 60 mph and I knew exactly what he meant.

ALSO READ: Here's how you can ride Busch Gardens' Tigris coaster early

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay began letting passengers aboard Tigris, its latest roller coaster – and the tallest launch coaster in Florida – this week, ahead of the official opening Friday.

Busch Gardens director of design and engineering Andrew Schaffer said fitting the 1,800 feet of bright orange steel track into the site of the old Taganyika Tidal Wave attraction was a major challenge. But don't let its size fool you, the ride is just as intense and formidable as the revered jungle cat from which it gets its name.

Infamous TV socialite and "Gilmore Girls" matriarch Emily Gilmore said it best:

"When you're tasting anything, the first taste acclimates the palate, the second establishes the foundation, and the third is to make your decision."

ALSO READ: Busch Gardens will add two new roller coasters by 2020, including this Gwazi replacement

So, naturally, I had to ride at least three times. The verdict: Tigris is an intense and worthy ride that catches you by surprise. Thrill seekers, the line starts in Stanleyville.

First, its speed is visually impressive. Cheetah Hunt, another Busch Gardens launch coaster, is a rush of G-force adrenaline and speed off its first launch, but for standers-by it looks docile from the ground. Not so with Tigris. It zooms and roars by you so fast you have no time to think about what you just saw.

Then you step in, secured mostly from the shin and thigh with a "comfort strap" over your shoulders that is more there for something to hold onto than keep you in.

The ride first launches you about halfway up its tower, then there's a gut-ripping reverse launch back through the station and up, before you're dropped back in for the final launch up the tower at 62 mph – the ride's highest speed – through a twist and into a heartline roll.

The ride slows heading into the heartline roll, lulling you into a false sense of security as you slowly rotate, taking in the spinning world and contemplating the decisions that brought you to this point in your life. Then it hurtles you about 90 feet down toward seeming doom and into another twisting loop. And there's more, 45 seconds speed and what-the-heck-just-happened-to-me intensity that leaves you no time to react, just exist in a blissfully terrifying moment of thrill.

ALSO READ: Free beer is back at Busch Gardens for its 60th anniversary

The ride is intense from any of the two-person rows, but the experience can vary slightly depending on where you sit. The front offers the best views and is certainly not for don't-look-down types. Mendelson-Curry said the front right seat is his favorite, especially the view going into the heartline roll.

"It's the best view of the park ever," the former aviator said.

Shaffer likes the back, especially on the reverse launch. That's definitely where you feel the ride the most. The launch backward feels like your stomach stayed in the station and you pick it back up when shoot through. The rear seat also gets you in the loop. While other rows might feel somewhat of a pause when entering the loop, passengers in the back are whipped through like the balance point of a deftly stabilizing tail.

The middle sections, which I rode first, are a good intersection of the two, while still providing enough excitement to jellify your legs and have you looking up to see if your heart stayed above that 90-foot drop.

Park representatives said the ride is designed to "mimic the awe-inspiring agility of the world's largest and most powerful cat – the tiger."

Now, I've never been a tiger, so I can't speak to the accuracy there. But as someone who's ridden many a coaster across the country and the world, I can say Tigris offers one heck of a ride.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Two western lowland gorillas at Busch Gardens were part of the successful Budweiser ad campaign during Super Bowl XLI. Sim Sim, left, and Cenzoo, right, helped sell Bud Light. BUSCH GARDENS  |  Tampa Tribune
    Sim Sim’s claim to fame was a 2007 Bud Light commercial.
  2. Visitors ride the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster at Tampa theme park Busch Gardens, which has put its 2020 Fun Card on sale early. AP/Busch Gardens
    Buy your 2020 Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Fun Card and get a few months free, plus more sales for Florida residents.
  3. Actors emerge from a simulated farmhouse at the center of the Infected haunted house at Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City in 2015. LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times
    You can also catch a talk from Dick Vitale at St. Petersburg theater the Palladium.
  4. A vignette featuring actors that guests will encounter inside the Ghostbusters haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights 2019. ROBERTO GONZALEZ  |  Courtesy of Universal Orlando
    Wait times can get long at Halloween Horror Nights. Here’s how to skip, maximize and prioritize your line time at Universal Studios Orlando’s annual Halloween attraction.
  5. Chewbacca stands in front of the Millennium Falcon at the Black Spire Outpost at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Orlando. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Social media was awash this week with Disney and Star Wars fans breezing through Galaxy’s Edge as Hurricane Dorian pushed many from theme parks.
  6. The crowd at Disney’s Galaxy Edge, a new Star Wars land, at 6 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, the land’s official opening day. MICHELLE STARK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    We were there when Galaxy’s Edge opened to the public.
  7. A rendering of Epcot at Lake Buena Vista's Walt Disney World, which will undergo a historic makeover with a number of new attractions and experiences. Walt Disney World
    The transformation of Walt Disney World’s second-oldest theme park was among the news announced at the D23 Expo this weekend.
  8. A visitor peers down the marketplace of the Black Spire Outpost during the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Media Preview at Disneyland Park, Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    It’s about to get real in Orlando. Here’s what to know.
  9. Angelique Herring, a photo intern at Tampa Bay Times, uses her FastPass to scan into The Magic Carpets of Aladdin on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando. ALLIE GOULDING   |   Times
    We never waited more than 20 minutes in line. Here’s how.
  10. A group of investors that includes the owners of toy maker Lego is buying Merlin Entertainment, a British company that operates theme parks like Legoland. Merlin said Friday it accepted the deal. [AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement