For the coolest coasters and the very best in animal antics, head to Africa-themed Busch Gardens in Tampa. Split into nine different ‘lands’ and with a clutch of top-class rides, roller coasters and flumes, it’s a winner with wildlife fans and adrenalin addicts alike.
If it’s animal action you’re after, then Busch Gardens delivers. The park’s Serengeti Plain has hundreds of animals roaming free over 65 acres, and three ways to see them: take the Skyride cable car, the Serengeti Express railway or book a jeep safari to spot rhinos, giraffes, zebras, antelope and other wildlife. Plus there’s lions and meerkats in Edge of Africa; gorillas and chimps in Myombe Reserve; rare Bengal tigers and orang-utans at Jungala; and plenty more.
There’s a lot on offer for thrill seekers too, since the park boasts some of the US’s fastest and most furious coasters. Montu is a monster that hurls you at 60mph through seven different inversions along 4,000 ft of steel track. Kumba has one of the country’s highest hoops at 143ft and spins riders 360 degrees. And SheiKra is America’s first vertical drop dive coaster with a truly terrifying 90-degree drop, a 360-degree spinning climb and a double loop.
If you want to get wet that’s no problem either – and you’ll dry off quickly in the hot Florida sun. There’s watery fun galore at Busch Gardens, and you can ride the Congo River Rapids on a twelve-person raft, negotiating plunges, waterfalls and geysers along the way, or experience the splashy twists and turns of the Stanley River Falls before plunging 40 feet to its base in a shower of spray.
And there’s more. Other things to enjoy in the park include live shows, exclusive experiences, summer music concerts, and some great restaurants and shops. There’s a whole lot going on.
Dare you take on Falcon’s Fury? The USA’s tallest freestanding drop tower. Those brave enough to climb aboard are hiked up to the tower’s peak at 335ft, before they’re pivoted 90 degrees mid-air into dive position and then plunged face-down at 60 mph. Definitely not one for the faint of heart.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun is entirely dedicated to littl’uns and is where giant-size characters from the show dance to the rhythms of Africa. There’s a junior coaster that takes youngsters soaring through the Sahara; a kid-size car ride; a splashy flume ride; a safari carousel; a Ferris wheel; large play areas, including water zones with bubblers and geysers; and a whole lot of Sesame Street fun.
There’s a range of special experiences you can book to make your Busch Gardens adventure really special. You can work alongside the parks’ zoo keepers for a day, caring for and feeding some of the 12,000 animals that live there. You can get up close to cheetahs, hippos and lions on the Heart of Africa tour. And you can even go behind the scenes at the Animal Care Centre, to meet the wildlife docs.
Live performances are all part of the package at Busch Gardens. The Stanley Theatre plays host to Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation, where Alex the Lion and co. sing and dance their furry hearts out. The stars of Opening Night Critters are cute performing animals, and the award-winning Kinetix show features a rock-fuelled blast of music and acrobatics.
Next door to Busch Gardens is its sister park, Adventure Island. With 30 acres of slides, corkscrews, waterfalls and pools including a children’s water playground, it’s a great place to to cool off when the temperature rises.