If you’ve had your fill of roller coasters in the Central Florida area at the Walt Disney World ® Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World Orlando, but still want more, take the short 60-mile drive West to Busch Gardens Tampa to tackle the world’s first dive machine roller coaster in the world, SheiKra. It may take about an hour to get there for a just over two-minute attraction, but this ride that thrives on the motto “what comes up must come down” is well worth the extra ride in the car!
SheiKra was built in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in May of 2005. Much like everything else in this animal-based theme park, its unusual name is animal based and is derived from a shikra, an African hawk that is best known for diving straight down when attacking its prey, thus also giving us the premise for the entire attraction. After guests board vehicles that have three rows of eight seats each, passengers climb the 47-degree lift up to the 200-feet summit, making it one of the tallest coasters in the entire world! But the anticipation of climbing all 20 stories is only the beginning of the gut-wrenching thrills that are ahead for anyone who dares to venture onward!
After a brief U-turn at the top of the climb, riders finally reach what they have been waiting for – the dreaded 90-degree drop. But before SheiKra lets go, it first dangles you over the edge for a daunting four seconds as you peer straight down, much like the shikra does before it unleashes its attack. But then, just like the animal for which it is named after, SheiKra releases its hold on you and your vehicle plunges straight down, reaching speeds of 70 mph as it roars through an Immelman loop, takes a second vertical plunge through an underground tunnel and even skims over water as it concludes its heart-stopping 3,188-feet journey!
As if SheiKra wasn’t scary enough when it first opened, this ride underwent changes in the summer of 2007 to make it floorless, meaning that riders ride above the track with their feet dangling below. The conversion process took less than a month to complete, but it is one change that will leave riders at Busch Gardens Tampa in awe for years to come!