Unlike all of the other parks we visited, this one is not in Orlando but in Tampa Bay; Busch Gardens is about 75 miles West-South-West from where we were staying and took about 1.5 hours to get there on the coach.
As you can see this is a very large park, the small grey patch in the bottom right-hand corner is the car park.
We enjoyed the park so much that we visited it twice (even though it was a fair distance away); we first visited the park on the Tuesday of the second week and again on the following Friday. The second visit was just my brother-in-law (Simon) and I; my sister and nephew went to Disney Magical Kingdom instead.
On the way to the park for the first time, I was reading my sister’s Florida Guide and it mentioned that a number of extra itinerary safari’s were available, at the time I only expected to visit the park once so I decided to go on one; I chose the Serengita Safari; as the safari didn’t start until later in the day, I went on some other rides first.
The list below is not everything at Busch Gardens and just covers the rides, attractions, etc. that we saw over the 2 days. Without a doubt this was my favourite park in Florida, they have the perfect mix of animals and rides/attractions and you need at least 2 days to experience all of this.
- Cheetah Hunt
To go through everything I liked would make this post extremely long so I’ll go into a bit more detail on the things I liked the most.
Serengeti Safari – this was my favourite experience of the whole holiday in Florida and is definitely something I would do again (although I might pay for a half of full day experience next time as these are available too). You can find more information on the experience here.
There were three parts to the trip, the first involved driving through the Serengeti Plain part of the park in an open-topped jeep, after a short journey you stop in the area of the Giraffes (there are many sub-species of Giraffe and these are “Reticulated” Giraffes) The Giraffes know that that the jeeps with tourists equals food; I (along with the other people in the jeep) got the opportunity to feed the Giraffes some of the lettuce leaves we had, they are very gentle and graceful creatures and had no problems getting close up to us.
The reticulated giraffes at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay have irregular-shaped, tan coloured spots surrounded by a network of bright white lines on their fur which is like a short-haired dog and is nice and soft. Reticulated giraffes are found in north-eastern Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
After feeding the Giraffes we were taken to a secluded part of the park to see the second of the 3 attractions; here they have White Rhino (this is not to be confused with the more common Black Rhino). The rhino is a massive creature that has been brought to the point of extinction for the “magical” qualities of its horn, which is very similar to the nails on our hands and feet but it’s really extremely compacted hair.
Our final destination was to another part of the park where there is no public access. This is where they keep some of the Cheetahs and it’s feeding time. Although we couldn’t go up to the fence, we were still very close, about only a metre away from them. In some ways these are just larger versions of the domestic cat (if there is such a thing as a domesticated cat?).
Here is a video which gives a better impression of what it’s like to see a Cheetah being fed:
This is without a doubt my favourite roller-coaster of all time, though this partly because it has all of the various tricks, inversions, loop the loop and speed it is mainly for the smoothness of the ride too. I am used to a certain amount of discomfort whilst I’m on a roller-coaster but this gives the fun without the pain. The ride is called the cheetah hunt as it aims to give you some sense of the speed and agility of this magnificent creature whilst it on the hunt and this is evident with the initial surge where you are pulling nearly 4G’s of g-force at up to 60mph.
The best description of the ride can be found on WikiPedia, click here.
All of the roller-coasters were very good and until I was composing this post I had forgotten how many there were. To get an idea of each ride, click the title (in blue) for each ride and this will take to Busch Garden’s web site with a description, photos and some videos too. As stated earlier, my favourite was Cheetah Hunt but coming in a close second at the park was SheiKra, this is similar to Alton Towers’ Oblivion ride but you can see where the ride goes (in Oblivion you are dropped into a black hole which makes it a bit more terrifying).
This attraction aims to show how fast and agile the Cheetah is when stalking prey, there are a number of Cheetahs on the run together and although they aren’t always running about you can see how magnificent they are when they are on the hunt.
There is a reasonably sized Bird Garden at Busch Gardens, this houses many birds; some of them I have seen before, many I had not. On my return it took quite a bit of detective work to work out which birds I had taken pictures of. Here are a few of the birds:
Busch Gardens has many different habitats and areas where there are some animals; the list below shows all of them, I have mixed in some photos from each area:
The final area where I spent some time (this was actually the first and last area I visited each day because it’s not far from the entrance/exit) is just before the Myombe area, there are a large number of Alligators sharing a pond with a large number of terrapins:
The terrapins just like the alligators do spend quite a lot of time sunning themselves.
The park is vast and can take a very long time to get around; however the park has two methods of internal travel. The first one (which travels through a number of the nature areas is the Serengeti Railway. This has 3 stations and if you don’t mind waiting for the next train is a good way to see most of the nature areas.
The second method of travel is the Sky-ride; this gives you more of a birds-eye view of the park. Both of these modes of transport were excellent ways to get around.