Although I hesitate to compare a traditional “sitting coaster” to a floorless coaster, in this case the reason for doing so is a compelling one.  After riding Kumba at Busch Gardens Tampa within the past several months, I tried to think of a coaster I’d ridden which was the most similar in design and the one that immediately came to mind is Bizarro at Six Flags Great Adventure.  (Other possibilities were Hydra The Revenge at Dorney Park and Wildfire at Silver Dollar City but neither comes as close.)  Both Kumba and Bizarro are B&M (Bolliger & Mabillard) coasters which feature the exact same elements in the exact same sequence.   In addition, both seat four across in eight rows for a total capacity of 32 riders. They even travel at approximately the same speed (60mph and 61mph, respectively).

Layout and Setting

Kumba and Bizarro have meandering layouts in contrasting settings.  Kumba takes advantage of its park’s luxuriant scenery while Bizarro sits in more pedestrian surroundings.  For setting, except for the view of a parking lot at the top of the lift hill, Kumba comes out way ahead.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield


Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Elements and Sequence

Both Kumba and Bizarro feature seven inversions: vertical loop, dive loop, zero-g roll, cobra roll and interlocking corkscrews, in that order.  Both have a brake run before the final two inversions.  When Kumba opened in 1993 it set a new record, long since surpassed, for tallest vertical loop on any coaster.  In this category the two coasters are equal.

Ride Experience

Kumba makes a right turn out of the loading station, ascends a 143-foot chain lift hill, drops 135 feet to the left and enters a 114-foot vertical loop.   The loop wraps around the lift hill, a nice touch, especially when the train passes through the loop on the way up.  The train then races through the dive loop, dives to the ground and ascends into a zero-g roll which will blow you away.  After a slight turn it goes up into the cobra roll, and exiting this element, comes to the block brake.  These elements are all exceptionally smooth.  Following the block brake are the interlocking corkscrews, small hill and two short tunnels which signal the end of the course. (The train enters a helix after the first tunnel.)  It’s an action-packed ride with tremendous momentum.  Kumba is said to mean “roar” in South African Congo language, and with no sand to dampen the sound of the train, roar it does.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

Bizarro makes a left turn from the loading station, ascends a 142-foot lift hill, drops 132 feet to the left and navigates the same elements as Kumba.   The second inversion features special effects.  When the train is halfway to the bottom of the dive loop, flames shoot up on the sides of the track – except when it’s very windy.  You can really feel the heat!  Next are the zero-g roll and cobra roll.  The first five elements flow beautifully although I find the zero-g roll to be just a bit rough.  I know this coaster intimately because it’s in my home park and whenever I see the zero-g roll coming up I brace myself.  The cobra roll is good but the train seems to come to almost a crashing halt at the block brake that follows. The remainder of the course consists of a short drop to the left, 270-degree helix and the interlocking corkscrews.  It’s worth mentioning that while going through the corkscrews, the riders are sprayed with mist.  There is a large cylinder, with sharp projections, from which the mist emanates.  Whenever I reach this point of the ride I experience an irrational fear of having my eyes gouged out. (See first photo below.) Otherwise the corkscrews are just dandy.  After the corkscrews the train goes through several twists before returning to the station.

In this category Kumba scores points for positioning of the loop, smoothness of the ride and the tunnels.  Bizarro scores points for the special effects and higher G-forces.

Bizarro, the newly transformed coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson NJ. Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure.

Photo by Bobbie Butterfield

The Winner

And the winner is: Kumba.  While these coasters share one of the best sequences of elements I’ve encountered, I think that on Kumba the elements are executed somewhat better.  Kumba may be old- school compared with Bizarro, which is basically a new and purportedly improved version of the same ride, but sometimes the more traditional model is the more powerful.  Yes, floorless coasters are great; they offer a feeling of freedom and it’s really cool when the gate opens so you know that you’re off and running.  Bizarro is a good floorless coaster but Kumba is an exceptionally good sitting coaster.  It retains a primal feel and high level of intensity that I find lacking on Bizarro. I approach Bizarro with the expectation of having a fun ride whereas I approach Kumba with the expectation of having an awesome ride. To sum it up, Kumba impresses me as more vital and dynamic.

What’s your take?  Have you ridden Kumba and Bizarro and if so, how do you think they match up?

About The Author

Hi! I took up roller coasters late in life, 8 years ago at the age of 59 and am trying to make up for lost time. Most of my favorite coasters were made by Intamin and lately, Rocky Mountain Construction. I love Hersheypark not only because it's the sweetest place on earth but because the three major coasters are Intamins. In real life I work in the legal profession.

7 Responses

  1. Brian MacDonald

    It’s interesting that you regard Bizarro’s setting as dull compared to Kumba’s. I haven’t ridden Kumba, so I’ll accept your judgment, but I find it interesting because Bizarro is most often compared to Scream at Magic Mountain. Scream is a clone of Bizarro, so they’re identical, except Scream is plopped down on a parking lot. There’s no landscaping, no decoration, no theme at all. It’s even hard to find the entrance. Everything about Scream just says “Yeah, we had this extra roller coaster, so we just kind of stuck it over there in the corner. You can ride it if you really want to.” I can see giving that kind of treatment to a Vekoma SLC or something, but a B&M floorless? It makes no sense. On the plus side, I believe the lines are usually short. But the complete lack of…anything…makes Bizarro’s “grass and trees” setting look amazing by comparison.
    I’m still a fan of Bizarro (which I still want to call Medusa), because I’ve ridden it so many times. The other B&M floorless models I’ve ridden, Hydra and Kraken, are probably slightly better, but it’s only a slight edge.

    • Bobbie

      I didn’t mean to imply that there is anything wrong with Bizarro’s setting, just that BGT is such an exceptionally beautiful park that nothing at SFGAD can compete on quite that level although one gets a great view on Nitro. What you say about Scream is interesting. You have the advantage over me here in that I haven’t yet made it to Magic Mountain or Sea World Orlando. As to Hydra, that will be featured in another showdown although not for some months b/c I have 3 lined up before that.

      • Theme Park Families

        I always like seeing the Safari on Bizarro’s lift hill. That setting is pretty cool. Love no lines on Bizarro as well, but the stacking with a three train setup can be a bit obnoxious. Hope to get down to BGT at some point. Good article!

      • Brian MacDonald

        You’re right that Great Adventure has some nice trees and a lake, and…that’s about it. And it’s completely flat. Any scenery there is going to be “good, not great,” so Tampa is probably better. I hope to get there sometime.

  2. Eric

    Kumba’s a classic, one of my personal favorites. The way the train emits an absolutely deafening ROAR at night time still makes the hair on my neck stand up. I rode Bizarro pre-F/X (still Medusa back then) and I enjoyed it. Kraken is a far better floorless, though Hydra didn’t impress me…..much too slow.

  3. Judy P in Pgh

    When I visited Busch Gardens Tampa in 2009, I got ten consecutive rides on Kumba before the park closed. What a great way to end the day! This coaster has definite re-rideability. Florida is my destination in a few days and I will be arriving with a 14-day Busch Gardens/SeaWorld pass in hand. Can’t wait to hear that ROAR again. I only got one ride on Montu the last time, so I am hoping to rack up a few laps on it. October’s broken ankle slowed me down a bit, so I have some credit-collecting to do in Florida! I also plan to hit Carowinds’ passholders’ preview night on my way back north to Pittsburgh. Anyone else?

    • Bobbie

      Have fun, Judy! I had to wait 3 or 4 years to ride Kumba, as it was down on my only other visit to BGT – but it was worth the wait. Got a bunch of rides on Montu b/c I had Quick Queue. Cobra’s Curse wasn’t there on my last visit so I got to pick up another coaster credit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good photo of it. I wasn’t expecting much, as it’s hardly a high thrill ride but I thought that it was delightful. How I wish I could ride the coasters at SeaWorld in Orlando. The problem is that there aren’t enough coasters to justify making the trip for SeaWorld alone.


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