Kumba @ Busch Gardens Africa | World’s Best Looping Coaster?
Strap in for a ride on the best steel looper on the planet. I’ve reviewed the rest of my top ten, for my 300th post I figured it’d be fitting if I reviewed my favorite roller coaster. These days there’s nothing special about a roller coaster with seven loops. The way Kumba at Busch Gardens Africa (Tampa, FL) integrates its twisted layout with the lush tropical terrain makes it a world-class roller coaster and my favorite of the 100-plus that I’ve ridden.
Welcome to the Jungle
Tucked away back beyond the tiger pits, deep in Busch Gardens Africa’s Congo section lies Kumba. You’re welcomed to this corner of the park by Kumba’s roar, the sound the yellow trains make as they traverse the twisted teal steel. Fittingly, Kumba means ‘roar’ in an African Congo language.
After boarding the comfortable trains, you exit right out of the station.The trains starts its ascent and you can’t help but notice the enormous tear drop-shaped loop that you pass through as you climb. Tension builds as you reach the crest and the train dips a bit as it leaves the chain lift. Next, the train takes a swooping 13-story drop to the ground below. The train roars to top speed along the ground, setting you up for the first of your seven inversion trip. The train rockets back toward the sky into the once record breaking vertical loop. If you take the time to look upward you can see the lift hill that you’re flying over.
The Dive Loop & Zero-G Roll
The underrated dive loop really shines on Kumba. The seldom mentioned positive g-forces as you exit this loop and return to the ground are brief, but forceful. Next, you rise back up and into steel coaster bliss. The zero-g roll (or camelback as B&M calls it) is a buttery smooth maneuver where the train makes a fighter jet like spin. As it’s name suggests there’s a moment of weightlessness. This is arguably one of the most popular or types of loops out there and here it’s executed for probably one of the first times ever, flawlessly. After the roll, the train drops back to the earth and rides along a straight section of track in a ravine.
A Cobra Roll With a Purpose
The cobra roll is another run of the mill inversion by today’s standards, but was beautifully executed on Kumba. It consists of two nearly back-to-back inversions and is typically feels a little thrown in to up the loop count. On Kumba, the cobra roll wraps around a path bridge. Spectators are frozen in their tracks as they look up and marvel at the beast that just roared overhead twisting in the air and then disappearing back into the jungle.
Interlocking Corkscrews & a Dark Finale
By now, most coasters would be over. You’ve already been spun upside-down five times, but thankfully Kumba’s not through with you. You have just a moment to catch your breath as you enter a mid-course brake run. Next, the train dives into a set of corkscrews (or flat spin as B&M calls them). Instead of the typical way of executing two back-to-back corkscrews resulting in a bit of dizziness and disorientation (not that’s there’s anything wrong with that), the train enters a transitional curve. Then you roar through the second corkscrew which is final inversion on your trip. The train dives below a walking path and then flies right by the station giving perspective riders a glimpse at their future. Kumba finishes strong with a brief, but dark and rocky tunnel and a upward helix with some surprising g-forces.
Kumba: A Piece of History
In 1993, this was Bolliger & Mabillard’s first foray into seated steel loopers. Oddly, they had created a number of stand-up coasters before venturing into other types. Busch ordered two steel loopers, one for Busch Gardens Europe and one for Busch Gardens Africa. B&M declined the Williamsburg project and Busch pursued Drachen Fire with Arrow. B&M would go onto create countless thrill rides and crowd-pleasers, many of which use inversions first seen on Kumba. Hulk at IOA, Medusa at Great Adventure. But in my opinion, they haven’t topped Kumba’s perfect pacing, beautiful tropical atmosphere, inventive layout that interacts with the track and surroundings.
For the fun, re-ridable, and thrilling adventure that Kumba offers, its my favorite roller coaster. According to the latest Internet Coaster Poll it still fares pretty well for a 15 year old coaster. I highly recommend it the next time you’re in the Tampa area. Final Rating 10.0 (Superior)
Check out this professional onride video of Kumba at Busch Gardens Africa:
Kumba is rated ‘IN’ for Intense. It’s a 4 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale for of its loops and speed.
What’s Your Take?
What’s your favorite roller coaster and why? What do you think of Kumba? Leave a comment below. Images 1, 3, & 5 courtesy of CoasterImage.