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SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa Roller Coaster Review

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SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa Roller Coaster Review

Hang time on Busch Gardens' SheiKra.

©Arthur Levine, 2008. Licensed to About.com
North America's first diving coaster, SheiKra takes riders to the precipice in a single 24-passenger, precariously open car, dangles them for a few heart-skipping seconds, then drops them straight down a 200-foot hill. And that's only the beginning of this wild ride.

SheiKra is one of the top roller coasters in Florida. See which other rides made the list.

Up-Front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8.5
    Diving features; open, floorless car; aggressive speed; 200-foot height
  • Coaster type: Floorless diving coaster
  • Top speed: 70 mph
  • Height restriction: 54 inches
  • Angle of descent: 90 degrees
  • Drop: 200 feet
  • Ride time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds
  • SheiKra and Busch Gardens Tampa Photo Gallery
  • SheiKra Ride Video

Minimal Cars. Maximum Shiekras, er, Shrieks.

Located in the Stanleyville section of Busch Gardens Africa, SheiKra is a wild sight. Looking up--way up--at the first totally vertical drop is enough to send shivers down any would-be riders. And the vehicles themselves are both unique and shiver-inducing.

Instead of a train of cars, the ride uses single cars that contain three extra-wide rows of eight seats each. To accommodate the wide cars, the tubular steel track is also unusually wide. The "floorless" cars have no floors--or sides or backs. The cars are essentially seats bolted to a chassis. The open design leaves riders especially vulnerable for the ensuing dives.

Although the two back rows offer "stadium seating" and afford good views, the front row features the primo seats. With nothing above, below, or in front of them, the dives are all the more terrifying (in a good way) for those in the first-row.

As with other floorless coasters, once passengers are secured and the ride is cleared for takeoff, the loading platform drops away, and a gate in front of the car swings open with a dramatic flourish.

Hey! There's Tampa and...Eeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!

The ride rounds a bend, latches on to the chain lift, and chugs up a surprisingly steep lift hill. At 200 feet, the hill is high enough to provide spectacular views of the park and the city of Tampa beyond. SheiKra's car slowly navigates a 180-degree "carousel" at the top of the coaster and faces the drop. There is a slight jerk as the car momentarily stops, followed by a false start as it crests the top and hangs perilously over the edge for an agonizing few seconds.

Then, eeeeeaaaahhhhh! The 90-degree drop reaches a bone-rattling 70 mph and feels all the more bracing with the open, floorless car. SheiKra soars into a huge "Immelman" loop (a diving loop named for a German army pilot who performed acrobatic maneuvers). It then swoops around, soars heavenward, and slows as it approaches a second 138-foot, 90-degree dive. Instead of hanging over the edge, however, it drops without hesitation and enters into a disorienting, fog-filled tunnel. SheiKra then soars up and down before it skids over a pool of water that sends huge plumes of water spray into the sky and onto midway spectators (but does not douse the riders) before it races back to the station.

Hanging...and Hanging, and Hanging

Like Busch Gardens Africa's other superb thrill machines, Montu (one of the industry's best inverted coasters) and Kumba, SheiKra was manufactured by the Swiss ride wizards, Bolliger & Mabillard (also known as B&M). Known for manufacturing ultra-smooth coasters, the B&M floorless diving coaster is a remarkably smooth ride--especially given the cars' considerable size and heft.

There's really no wiggle room for wimps to gather up the courage and tackle SheiKra. It's an unapologetic thrill ride that coaster lovers will adore and coaster wimps will avoid--especially coaster wimps who wig out over extreme heights. Hanging...and hanging, and hanging 200 feet in the air certainly adds to the ride's drama. But, with SheiKra's unusual cars, thrilling dives, and water-shooting finale, it does provide quite a spectacle for non-riders to behold.

The park says that a SheiKra is an African hawk that dives down for its prey. SheiKra doesn't attempt to incorporate or convey any kind of story; it's essentially just a thrilling coaster. But oh, what thrills. I consider SheiKra to be among parkdom's top steel coasters.

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