This park is a hybrid zoo and theme park all wrapped up in one. There are several animal interactions, shows, and rides geared to everyone in your family. I personally love coming to this park and I hope you’ll see why in this review, but first, here’s some history about the park and the area it’s located in.
This area was once the south end of Hillsborough Army Airfield during World War Two. the field was abandoned after the end of World War Two and was eventually renamed Henderson Field which eventually became Tampa’s first Drag Racing strip. In 1957 Schlitz purchased 15 acres to build their “million dollar brewery” and a year later, Anheuser Busch bought the south end and built their brewery where the park currently stands. Busch Gardens opened on March 31, 1959 as a brewery with a tour and beer tasting class and a small aviary collection, all at no charge. The Brewery tour included a long escalator ride called the “Stairway to the Stars” that takes people to a room on the roof of the brewery where they can see the brewery operations and learn what it takes to brew Anheuser beer.
In 1965, Busch Gardens added the 29 acre Serengeti Plains which had free roaming animals, at this point, Busch Gardens began charging admission as the park was starting to add attractions that were expensive. In 2009, Busch Gardens celebrated its 50th anniversary and set up a small museum documenting its history which you will see in the video below.
Today, Busch Gardens has ten themed areas, twelve animal exhibits, and hundreds of animals most of which are in the Serengeti plains area. The Themed areas include Morocco (entrance/exit), Crossroads, Egypt, Nairobi, Pantopia, Congo, Stanleyville, Jungala, Sesame Street Safari of Fun, and the Bird Gardens. We’ll start at the entrance/exit area of the park but first there are some things you need to know before getting to the entrance. You’ll be parking in a lot across the street from the park and you can choose to take the tram to the front gate or you can walk but it is a long walk to the ticket booths so I do recommend taking the tram. There is also an indoor air-conditioned kennel here as well but it is a first come fist served basis and the kennels will fill up during the busier times of the year and there is an additional fee as well depending on the size of the kennel you rent. They do provide water but will not feed or walk your pet so you’ll need to do that yourself.
Now that we’re at the front gate, there’s a few things I should tell you before you enter. Throughout the park there are several recycling containers where you can deposit your plastic and aluminum bottles so please do so instead of just throwing them away. It’ll help reduce the garbage that’s deposited in landfills and it will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil as it does require the use of oil to make those things. Here what those containers look like.
There are several spots in the park that are designated smoking sections so you’ll need to consult the Busch Gardens park map to see where they’re at as you cannot smoke anywhere in the park including indoors, and in ride queues (lines). You can be dismissed from the park without refund if you’re caught.
Off to the right as you approach the main gate is the Nairobi Gate. This gate is usually only open during the really busy times of the year for annual pass holders only in order to cut down on the traffic at the main gate and in the Morocco area.
Now lets venture into the park through the main gate.
This area is themed to the Moroccan area of the African continent and contains some rides a show, seasonal character meet and greet locations, an outdoor restaurant, and the parks main souvenir shops as well as guest relations, lost and found, and the ticket booths.
Above are photos of the main gate where you’ll purchase you’re tickets, go through the security checkpoint, and enter the park. Guest assistance and will call is on the right side of the photo and here’s a photo of the Ride Height Check Station located on one of the ticket booths. It’ll tell you what height you child must be to ride certain rides. You’ll also see sign posts like the one above that will guide you to different areas in the park.
Once you enter the park, you’ll see the Adventurer’s Outpost on the left where you can book your behind the scenes tours and purchase dining plans, quick que passes, and other things.
park and in the middle is a small gift shop and the Adventurers Photo where you can pick up you photos that were taken by the parks employees throughout the park.
On either side of the shop are basically gift shops where you can pick up your last-minute gift or souvenir to remember your visit to the park. At this point, you can turn left and head to Sesame Street Safari of Fun, or turn right and head for Egypt and Nairobi. we’re going to eventually head right but we need to go left to see what else is in this area. The next thing we see right in front of us is the Zagora Café.
This restaurant is an outdoor covered restaurant where you can pick up breakfast and lunch and dinner when the restaurant is open.
Across the way is the Sultan’s Sweets ice cream shop to satisfy your sweet tooth after your meal.
Next up is a ride that is no-longer operational called Gwazi. This was two dueling wooden roller coasters in one location and it opened on June 18, 1999 and contained three fly by elements where the two trains came at each other. One side was called Lion and was more of a slalom type of coaster and the other side was called Tiger with tight turns. Each side had basically the same stats but were not racing as the did not run side by side. Each side was 3,508 feet long,105 feet tall, has a top speed of about 51 mph, and a total ride time of about two minutes and thirty seconds. This coaster was built by Great Coasters Inc. (GCI) who has built several other world-class coasters like Storm Runner at Hersheypark and White Lightning at Fun Spot America.
The park is currently converting this into a new hybrid coaster from RMC (Rock Mountain Construction) for the 2020 season and it looks like it will be impressive. It will be North America’s tallest, the world’s steepest, and fastest hybrid coaster and I am really looking forward to riding it.
Once you go through the main entry, you would have to choose which side you want to ride and believe me, they were far from being the same. My favorite side was the Tiger side due to the tight twists and turns.
Unfortunately, form 2005-2010, the ride had become pretty rough, even though it was a wooden coaster, it still was rough and I could only ride it once or twice without getting a slight headache. So it was decided that the whole ride would be completely re-tracked and had GCI’s new Millennium Flyer trains added that were lighter and more comfortable than the PTC trains the coaster originally opened with. It really helped and the ride was as good as it was when it originally opened. Here’s an off ride video I have on my YouTube channel that was shot not long after it reopened.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for it to resort to its rough ways and it was permanently shut down on February 1, 2015. There has been no decision on what will replace it yet as it does cost quite a bit of money to raze a structure of this size.
Next up is a kiddie ride called the Gwazi Gliders.
This ride is pretty self-explanatory with riders sitting in gondolas that rotate around a central axis while going up and down at the same time. Also in this area is a gift shop and 3 point basketball challenge where you can possibly win merchandise for an extra fee.
Now, we’ll need to back track a bit and go around the Zagora Café to explore the rest of Morocco. The first thing we’ll see is a seasonal Character meet and greet location on the left where you can meet Santa, the Easter Bunny, and other characters during their respective seasons.
Then on the left are a few more gift shops and another ice cream shop called Moroccan Delights Ice Cream. Then, on our left, is our first animal encounter called the American Alligator Habitat.
You’ll get to see what an American Alligator looks like here and you can even meet the trainers and ask them questions at certain times of the day.
They’re not as big as their salt water crocodile cousins in Australia or Africa but they can get up to 15 or more feet long. Many people think that ring around their neck is just fat, well it isn’t. That is all muscle that is used when the Gators quickly clamp down on their prey. The force is so great that is can break bones and can actually be heard when the jaws close.
A little farther down on the right is the Moroccan Palace Theatre which currently houses a beautiful a show that just recently opened called Turn it Up but have yet to see it.
The final area in Morocco is a large habitat called the Myombe Reserve that opened 1992. Here you’ll get to see Chimpanzees and Lowland Gorillas in their natural habitat.
This area is heavily forested to give you the feel that you are in the jungle which is their native habitat and the first one is the Chimpanzee habitat.
Then comes the Gorilla Habitat and look closely as you’ll see two or three newborn babies.
You can even learn about their plight and how they live, eat, and interact with each other and how they’re being threatened by human poaching and encroachment into their natural areas.
the exit is in the Nairobi area so we’ll turn right pas a gift shop, then turn left at the Moroccan Palace Theatre and pass under a broken arch and enter our next area.
This area now encompasses the area that was formerly known as the Crown Colony Plaza which had a beautiful restaurant called the Crown Colony Restaurant, the former Monorail station, and Skyride’s drive station. This area was briefly renamed the Crossroads when the new Cheetah Hunt roller coaster was installed in the old Monorail station but then the area was absorbed by Egypt. There are food stands, restrooms, a first aid location, and a gift shop at the Cheetah Hunt exit.
The first thing we come to in this area is the Cheetah Run habitat that features the Cheetah Run demonstration at certain times of the day.
Here’s what the Cheetah Run demonstration looks like from wgd2005’s YouTube channel.
This habitat is actually quite large and there’s usually several Cheetahs outside. It’s best to see them early in the morning as they’ll be more active at that time.
Later in the afternoon/evening they’re more likely to be laying down in the shade due to the heat of the day.
There are several places where you can learn about the Cheetahs and get up close to them by looking through the glass windows.
Now that we’ve seen the Cheetahs, we’ll walk under another set of arches and turn left and a roller coaster called Cheetah Hunt that tries to mimic a Cheetah on the hunt.
This coaster opened on May 27, 2011 and utilizes the old monorail station house and queue and inside the queue is the Cheetah Rock which is supposed to be have special powers.
This roller coaster is a family friendly roller coaster that has three launches, the first of which launches riders out of the station from 0-40 mph.
After the launch, the coasters goes up and around to the left then down into a trench for the next speed boosting launch.
The second launches riders up to 60 mph up to the top of the Cheetah Tree element which is 102 feet tall. This is one of the ways the coaster mimics a Cheetah hunting as the Cheetah first climbs to a high spot, which can be a rock formation or tree, to spot their prey.
Then the coaster goes down a 130 foot drop right into a trench and then up over the Skyride which is the first time that has ever been done.
The ride then dives under a walkway, swings up to the right going through a heart line roll on it way to the mid-course brake run.
After the brake run, the coaster dives down into the former water element of the Rhino Rally attraction, then turns right into its third and final speed boost that launches riders up and over this air time hill on the right side of the photo above. Then it returns to the station by going over a walkway, down into a trench while turning right then back up and into the final brake run but not before one small dip before the brakes.
This coaster is really fun and smooth as is most of the coasters that are built by Inamin. The coaster is 4,429 feet long, 102 feet tall with a drop of 130 feet, and has a top speed of about 60 mph with one inversion. Earlier I said this coaster attempts to mimic a Cheetah while it is hunting and described how it starts its hunt and now I’ll finish it. The Cheetah comes down off its perch and pursues it prey and uses its agility and ability to accelerate when needed to catch its prey.
Here’s an off ride video from my YouTube Channel called Themeparkfanatic.
The next ride is literally right behind Cheetah Hunt with its entrance right next to Cheetah Hunt’s main entrance and is one of the parks oldest rides called the Skyride.
This Skyride was built by Von Roll and opened here in 1974 and really offers great aerial views of the park. This is a transportation type ride that ends in the Stanleyville section of the park so you will have to disembark and get in line to make a return trip. The ride is 60 feet high and travels at a stately 3 mph and is the only operating Skyride of its kind that has a 90 degree bend in the middle. That bend was actually a station that used to serve the Treetops observation stand that was near the Veldt/Serengeti Plains. The Treetops was located off to the right side of the ride as you approach the mid-point check station. It was over the railroad tracks and had a small snack stand inside, but it didn’t last long as it really wasn’t able to accommodate the disabled guests at all as they would have to climb several flights of stairs to get to the observation stand.
The next photos are of the midpoint check station and the second leg of the trip to the Stanleyville area.
Here are some photos of the Stanleyville station and a photo of the return trip.
Here is my video of the trip from Egypt to Stanleyville and back.
Next up is a place to eat if you’re at the park during the busy season.
This is the Crown Colony House with a full service sit down restaurant upstairs and a quick counter service restaurant downstairs.
There is an elevator in the clock tower that’ll get you to the first and second floors.
Now we’ll head into the rest of Egypt which opened in the mid 1990’s.
This area is filled with games, photo opps, a gift shop, arcade, restrooms, a world-class roller coaster, and a children’s archeological dig sand box.
This is a very family friendly coaster and it really is quite fun as well.
This coaster is a custom family coaster from Mack Rides and it opened here on June 16, 2016 and it is really well themed and comes complete with a back story. An excavation company called VISE discovered an ancient temple in Egypt that was dedicated to the Snake King. The Snake King was a benevolent god that got too powerful so the Snake King’s subjects revolted and tore down all the Snake Kings statues and temples so nobody could worship him, thereby robbing him of all his power. Then VISE discovered the temple and statue in pieces and began to reassemble them and that is when the Snake King took revenge on everyone by calling to all the snakes to destroy the humans. This coaster is very unique in that it has an elevator lift instead of a traditional lift hill that takes a two car train to the top of the 70 foot tall coaster. Then riders pass very close to the Snake King’s open mouth all while hearing the statue talk to them. Then riders take a dive at a top speed of 40 mph into a helix and the first brake run. Then the Snake King talks to the riders again and turns the cars around so the go through the next helix backwards. Then the train ascends the final lift hill backwards where the Snake King again talks to you and releases the trains cars to free spin through the rest of the course. A free spin means that it isn’t programmed and is dependent on the weight distribution of the riders so each ride will be different from that point forward.
Here is my off ride video of this amazingly fun coaster from my YouTube channel, Themeparkfanatic. This video includes a walk-through of the queue which includes a look at several Cobra snakes and a projection show telling the story of the Snake King.
Next up we take on Egypt’s marquee attraction called Montu.
Montu is named after the Egyptian Falcon god of war and this incredible coaster was built by Bollinger & Mabillard (B&M) and opened on May 16, 1996 and has consistently been ranked in the top ten ever since for worlds best steel roller coasters.
This coaster is a steel Inverted coaster which means the track is above you with no floor below you. Please don’t confuse Inverted with suspended as there is a difference as a suspended coaster has the track above riders but there is a floor and suspended coasters do not go upside down and Inverted coasters do go upside down.
This coaster is 150 feet tall, is 3,983 feet long, has seven inversions, a top speed of about 60 mph, and a ride time of about three minutes long. Here’s a photo of the first drop,
followed by a loop,
then a trip through a tunnel and into the second inversion called an Immelmann.
Then comes a zero-g roll which is the photo on the left and the third inversion and the Batwing, a double in he photo on the right. The Batwing (inversions four and five) is the first element of its kind on a roller coaster and is half buried in a trench.
Then a trip through the mid-course brake run and right into inversion number six, a loop that’s half buried in a trench.
Then a quick series of turns and into the seventh and final inversion, a corkscrew that is half buried in a trench and then a quick turn into the final brake run into the station.
Here’s my off ride video of Montu and I hope you see why I consider this one of the best coasters I’ve ever been on.
Well. We’re done with Egypt but we must backtrack through the land and then turn right at the Crown Colony House Restaurant and head to the next area called the Edge of Africa.
This area has nothing but animals that can be found in the African continent. It is a walk-through attraction that opened in 1997 that has Meerkats, Lions, Spotted Hyenas, Hippos, Lemurs, and a view of the Serengeti Plain.
Here is the first one which is an outlook on the Serengeti Plain with Giraffes,
Up next is a Troup of Meerkats that are sleeping.
Then the Hippopotamus habitat that has multiple viewing areas.
You may see one or many see one or many of the Ring-tailed Lemurs that live here.
Next up are the Pride of Lions.
Only these three were in sight this time as the rest were sleeping off the afternoon heat. There are several interesting places to view the Lions from including these Land Rovers.
Last but not least are the Spotted Hyenas.
Like I said earlier, the best time to see these animals is in the morning when they’re up and about and the heat of the day hasn’t hit yet.
Now we walk over and under the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster and cross over the railroad tracks to enter our next area.
Next up is Jambo Junction where you can participate in animal feeding, husbandry lessons, and behavior training. There are many animals here to see such as Cuscuses, Caribbean Flamingos, Sloths, various birds, a Rock Hyrax, and Opossums.
Next up is the Serengeti Railway, one of the parks transportation rides.
From here, you can see all the animals on the Veldt and Serengeti Plains and you can stay on it as long as you want to. There are three trains in the fleet, this yellow one came to the park from Six Flags St Louis, the green one came from Kings Dominion just north of Richmond, Virginia, USA, and the red one was original to the park when the ride opened as the Zuma Express in 1971. There are three station on this loop and they are in Nairobi, Congo, and Stanleyville.
Here’s part one of my full circuit on ride video.
Here’s part two of this ride.
Now that we’ve ridden the train, we’ll disembark and grab a snack at one of the Kenyan Kanteen or the Caravan Crossing quick service food stands.
You can also go next door and book your Serengeti Safari excursion where you can pay extra to take a flatbed truck out on the Serengeti Plain and feed the animals and get a photo taken while doing so.
Next up is the Animal Care Center.
Here you can learn how food is being prepared and how medical examinations are conducted and, if you get there early enough, you might even see an exam or surgical procedure taking place there. This building is now only open during surgical procedures which are normally done in the morning.
On this day, a common Loon was brought in as it was found alive and unresponsive on the roadside in the Tampa area. they scoped the bird and did an x-ray and really couldn’t find anything wrong other than its eye was infected and no longer working. The next step was treating the infected eye, getting its weight up, and observing the birds behaviors.
You can pick up one of the many cards in the Animal Care Center and scan it at any of the stations from observation to diagnosis, to treatment to learn how they care for their animals.
Next up is the Elephant habitat. Here you can see one of the five or six elephants playing in the water. The other elephants appear to be in the back area.
Now that we’ve seen everything in Nairobi, it time to go on our next adventure.
This area originally opened as Timbuktu in 1980 and was re-themed into the current area in 2014 and is basically a bazar, or village square . This area has several games, food stands, gift shops, rides, restrooms, a counter service indoor restaurant called the Pantopia Grille, a first aid station, shows, several kiddie rides, and two steel roller coasters.
One thing Busch Gardens does is they try to reuse things whenever possible and they did this here as well whether it’s used ride components or cookware that is being reused in decorative theming, tables, or other things.
Here you can see some of the different food stands and how they’re decorated to represent what they’re serving.
Here’s the Pantopia Grill which used to be called Festhaus when it opened, it is an indoor sit-down quick service restaurant that also has a show stage. The restaurant is currently closed for a refurbishment and will be open soon.
The first ride we come to is the newest ride called Falcon’s Fury.
It is a drop tower that was built by Intamin and opened here on Sept 2, 2014. It is a Sky Jump model that is 335 feet tall with a drop of 310 feet at a speed of 60 mph.
It is also the worlds first drop tower to rotate riders at the top so they’re facing down a they drop towards the ground.
This is easily the best drop tower I’ve ever ridden and would only recommend it for those that feel up to the challenge. I myself have ridden this many times and absolutely love it. Here’s my off ride video from my YouTube channel.
Up next is a classic steel roller coaster called the Scorpion.
This is a rare coaster as it is from the well-known Anton Schwarzkopf Company and is only one of three Silverarrow models that were ever built. It also is one of the few looping roller coasters that still uses individual ratcheting lap bars.
This coaster usually only has one train on the track with the other train with the other train in their warehouse being completely overhauled. You will only see both trains on the track, one being on the circuit and the other resting on the transfer track, when they’ve finished overhauling one train and are preparing to take the other one back to the warehouse.
Schwarzkopf coasters are well-known for having very circular loops instead of the more familiar Clothiod, or upside down teardrop, loop. I personally recommend riders chose the middle car in the train as you get a bit of a zero-g feeling at the top of the loop.
This coaster finishes strong with two downward spiraling helices that are quite intense.
I love riding the Scorpion and it is quite smooth and very family friendly for those that choose to ride. The Scorpion opened on May 16, 1980, is 1,817 feet long, is just over 60 feet high, has a top speed of just over 40 mph with one inversion and a total ride time of one minute and thirty seconds. Here’s my off ride video from my YouTube Channel.
Next are some kiddie rides
I believe there are two or three kiddie rides here with the Bush Flyers being out front and possibly a small kiddie train behind and one more right next to it.
Then there’s one of the few remaining Looping Starships from Intamin, this one is called the Phoenix.
Here’s my off ride video I took when the ride had a different paint scheme.
Next up is a steel roller coaster from Mack Rides called the Sand Serpent.
This is a wild mouse type coaster which means it has many sudden, quick, and very flat turns and sudden drops.
This coaster originally opened as Izzy at its sister park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA in 1996. The name was changed to Wild Maus in 1997 and then the coaster was moved to Busch Gardens Tampa and renamed Cheetah Chase in 2004. The coaster kept that name until 2011 when it was changed to its current name so it wouldn’t be confused with the Cheetah Hunt coaster that opened at the same time.
Here’s my on ride video of the Sand Serpent.
Next is a carousel called the Sahara Go Round from the Chance Rides company.
This carousel originally opened with the land in 1980 and was originally called the Caravan Carousel and is a menagerie carousel as it has many other animals other than jut horses. It is a very family friendly ride as just about anyone can ride it. Here’s my of ride video of the carousel.
The last thing in Pantopia is a new show that was moved from the former Bird Gardens Theater to the indoor Pantopia Theatre in 2014 which used to be the old Pirates 4-D theatre.
This is just you’re typical animal show that is well done and set to a specific story that the animals have a big part in.
Afterwards, the trainers bring some of the animals out for show and photo opps. This show is well worth your time and can be a welcome break from the heat as it is air-conditioned.
Here’s my full length video of the show.
Well that does it for Pantopia so now we venture on to the next area.
This area of the park opened in the late 1970’s and was much bigger then as it encompassed the area now known as Jungala which we will talk about later on. The sign above no-longer exists as it was removed to make way for Jungala. This area includes several rides, a gift shop, restrooms, a food stand, and the Congo Train Station.
The first ride we come to is the Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars where you can ride in your own cars, if you’re tall enough, and have fun bumping each other until the ride is done.
Next we come to the Serengeti Railway’s Congo station where you can board the train and head to the Stanleyville or Nairobi stations. After that is the Kumba, the area’s marquee attraction.
Kumba means roar in the Swahili language and boy does it ROAR! This coaster was built by the Swiss firm B&M (Bollinger & Mabillard) and opened here on April 20, 1993 and has been running strong ever since.
Kumba is 143 feet tall, has seven inversions including two first of their kind elements like the Dive Loop (above right photo) and a zero-g roll (below) as well as the loop around the lift hill which is one of the hallmarks of a B&M coaster.
After those first three inversions, the coaster dives into a Cobra Roll (two inversions) over the Congo River bridge, the comes back for a brief run over the coasters mid-course brake run. Then the coaster goes through the interlocking corkscrews which is another B&M hallmark.
Then the coaster does a quick fly by of the station, dives into a tunnel, does an upward 360 degree flat-spin and then through the final brake run just before the station all while riding a coaster that’s 3,978 feet long at a top speed of about 60 mph in just under three minutes. I recommend riding in the last row in the middle left seat for the maximum amount of air time. Here’s my off ride video of the coaster and you’ll hear how it really does ROAR!
This attraction can be a very wet attraction so I wouldn’t recommend it for those that don’t like getting wet. The Congo River Rapids is a River Raft water attraction that was built by Intamin and opened here on May 26, 1982. It is about a quarter-mile long and features rapids, water cannons, and waterfalls that can get everyone absolutely soaked.
Here’s my off ride video of the Congo River Rapids.
That was the last ride in the area but there are two remote control games here where you can pilot boats or monster trucks through obstacle courses for an extra charge per game.
Next up is a play area for the kids that are too old for the kiddie rides but not tall enough yet for the big coasters.
There are several rides and animal exhibits in this area as well as restaurants, gift shops, and restrooms so lets start with the first thing that is on our left.
The Tiger Trail takes you to two separate areas that are connected by tunnels and bridges so the tigers can go to different areas. Here you can see the Bengal Tigers swim and play if you get here early enough.
There’s even a pop-up viewing area here which the Tigers love to lounge on.
You can barely see the tunnel entrance in the photo below, just look for the paws of the white tiger.
That tunnel will lead to another area that has multiple viewing locations.
There’s also an elevated viewing stand called the Tiger Lodge where you can watch them in the comfort of an air-conditioned room and where there are several interactive displays where you can learn all about the Tigers.
Now we’ll cross the walkway and see our next animal encounter called the Orangutan Outpost.
From this air-conditioned elevated observation post, you can observe these beautiful species Asian species of the Extant Great Apes. You can also learn all about them through the interactive displays in this building as well.
You can also see the steel structures that used to be part of the Python roller coaster being used to support the high climbing platforms the Orangutans frequently use.
Next up is some fun for the kiddies, and adults, alike.
Inside this outdoor play area are several play structures for kids of all ages to have fun on and wear themselves out in.
There’s even a water play area for the kids and toddlers.
In this area are two rides that the adults can ride as well called the Wild Surge and the Jungle Flyers. The Wild Surge is a tower ride that goes up and down with a few big drops at the end.
You can see my off ride video of this attraction below.
The Jungle Flyers is a zip line type attraction where riders sit in seats and go out to a point, then return to the station.
This area also has several exhibits including this Flying Fox habitat.
There are other animal habitats that include viewing stations that only kids can get into.
There is also a street show and character meet and greet in Jungala at certain times of the day. They’ll come out and do a small show and then stick around for a lengthy photo opp for the family and kids.
Now that the kids have worn themselves out, we’ll walk on over to the “wettest” part of the park.
This area of the park opened in 1973 with the Stanley Falls (log) Flume and African Queen Boat rides. Unfortunately, the African Queen Boat ride is no longer in operation and was replaced by the Tanganyika Tidal Wave which was then replaced by Tigris in 2019. There also is another steel roller coaster, an indoor/outdoor counter service restaurant, a gift shop, restrooms, an indoor show, and two transportation ride stations.
The first ride we come to is the Stanleyville Skyride Station. You can get an aerial view of the park from this ride while going from Stanleyville to Egypt on the other side. Unfortunately, you must disembark and wait in line to get back on if you want to return to Stanleyville.
Next up is the Stanley Falls Flume.
This is your typical log flume ride from Arrow Dynamics that has two drops with the last one being the highest at 43 feet. You do get wet, but not soaked and the wetness basically is like someone using their hands to splash water on you from a pool. This is also a ride that everyone can ride and is nice on those hot summer days and they do take a photo of you at the bottom of the hill.
Here’s my on ride video I took a number of years ago.
Next up is Tigris, Florida’s tallest launch coaster.
This coaster replaced the aging Taganyika Tidal Wave in 2019 and really is quite a thrill.
Tigris is 150ft. (45.72m) tall, 863ft. (263m) long, has one inversion, a non-inverting loop, and a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h). The train is launched out of the station and goes half way up to the top, then comes back into the station where it gets a speed boost backwards almost up to the top of the non-inverting loop. Then it comes back through the ststion where it receives another speed boost up to the top, through the heart-line roll, then through the non-inverting loop and back through the station where it is slowed down and then stopped. This really is a fun ride and the back row is my favorite row. Here is my off ride video of Tigris.
The queue uses some of the water channels that the Tidal Wave used as you can see in the video. The building on the left was the station for Taganyika Tidal Wave. There are also several signs that talk about the Tigers, their environment, and the coaster itself.
Next up is the Stanleyville Theatre which is currently unoccupied and used mainly during the Christmas season. Our next attraction is a roller coaster that will take you diving down from high in the sky.
SheiKra was the first Dive coaster built in the US and the worlds first roller coaster to have a true ninety degree first drop. It originally opened here on May 21, 2005 with a floor and was converted to a floorless coaster on June 16, 2007 and seats eight riders per row with three rows per train. How do you get on to a floorless train? Well, the train comes into the station and floors lift hydraulically from the side, then riders enter and exit the ride vehicles. Once the riders are secure, the floors fall away and the train departs the station.
The coaster itself is 200 feet tall, has one inversion, a track length of about 3,188 feet and a ride time of about two minutes and twenty seconds and was built by B&M.
After ascending the lift, riders are treated to a panoramic view of the Tampa area, on clear days, you can even see St Petersburg across the bay. Riders then are slowed and engaged by a drop brake which hangs riders at the very top of the drop looking down 200 feet at the ground between 1-5 seconds.
Riders are then dropped where they’ll reach speeds up to 70 mph at the bottom and then they’ll go right up into the Immelmann inversion and then swing around into the mid-course brake run.
Once they’re in the brake run, they’re slowed to a slow roll and then they drop into a second near vertical drop right into a tunnel. Then the train exits the tunnel and executes a high banked turn over the Zambia Smokehouse and into the water brakes. At this point, riders DO NOT get wet but everyone near the south end of the splashdown pool gets soaked.
Then the train banks to the right and does a 270 degree turn into the station brakes. There are actually only six or seven of these Dive coasters in the world and two of those are in the US so this is pretty unique for the area. Here’s my off ride video of this coaster.
Here are some nice time-lapse nighttime shots I took a few years ago.
Next there’s the Stanleyville train station where you can board the Serengeti Railway for the Nairobi area or the Congo area.
Next is the Zambia Smokehouse, one of the best restaurants in the park in my opinion. The entire restaurant is located under the turn around part for SheiKra.
The entrance is really a great photo spot for those that have a good eye and a quick finger for their camera.
The restaurant itself is a counter service restaurant that serves delicious B-B-Q ribs, sandwiches, salads, deserts, and wraps with different side items like fruit, fries, macaroni & cheese, and others. You can choose to eat outdoors in a well shaded spot next to the splashdown pool without getting wet or you can eat indoors if it’s just too hot outside.
After having your fill of food, why not head over the bridge to the Lory Landing and feed lots of Lorikeets fore and extra charge? Or you can simply walk in to the aviary and see all the different and exotic birds that call that area home if you don’t want to feed them.
Now we’ll travel on to out next area and let our kids have some fun.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
This was the former Land of Dragons was rethemed and expanded with the addition of a character meet and greet breakfast, a junior coaster, and a photo opp place. There are several rides, a large multilevel play structure, water play areas, a show, gift shop, restrooms, and a food stand.
Here’s the Character Meet and Greet Breakfast location and the photo opp location.
There is one show in the Sunny Day Theatre called “A is for Africa” where you can see and sing along with your favorite Sesame Street characters.
There are a few animal habitats outside of the entrance like this Red Knobbed Hornbill birds.
There is a junior coaster from Zierer called Air Grover which opened on March 27, 2010. It is a Force 190 model that is family friendly and is relatively tame.
Here’s my off ride view from my YouTube channel.
We’ll now head into the oldest area of the park after the kiddies have worn themselves out in the previous two areas.
This is the original section of the park when it opened in 1959 and it also contained the Hospitality House where you could take a class in brewing and sample the many alcoholic beverages that Anheuser Busch provided when they owned the park. Since then, it has been transformed into an all you can eat buffet that requires a reservation.
this area also hosted the bird gardens show until 2014 when the show was moved indoors to the Pantopia area. There also used to be a dedication plaque where the military monument currently stands.
This area has also largely been gardens ever since it opened back in 1959 which I think is nice. as you’ll get to see a flock of Flamingos and other exotic birds here including a rare white Peacock.
You can also see several floral arrangements and topiaries here as well.
There are also two exhibits here as well which are the Walkabout way that has many small Wallabies and Emus that can be fed for an extra fee and a walk in aviary called Kookaburra’s Nest.
This area features attractions that were replaced or outright removed from the park.
Motor City Groove
This was a live stage show in the Marrakesh Theatre that was in Morocco right next to the Ice Cream shop.
It was formerly in the Pantopia Grill restaurant but was moved here during the renovations of the restaurant and then moved back once the renovations were complete. The show is basically a musical revue filled with different popular songs. The staged was permanently closed off when the show moved back into Pantopia Grill.
This was at the Moroccan Palace Theatre which currently houses another production.
It was a story of a grandfather taking a reluctant grandchild away from electronics and on a voyage around the planet where the kid discovers the wonders of the world.
This was, in my opinion, the best show Busch Gardens ever had which ran for several years from around 2004 to 2010 it the Moroccan Palace Theatre. It was replaced by a temporary show which was pretty good itself. That was eventually replaced with Iceploration.
Monorail and Clydesdale Hamlet
Here is a video from YouTube user weatherguru76 of the old monorail ride that used to be where Cheetah Hunt is now. The monorail would leave the station and go out over the Veldt and Serengeti Plains over what is now the Edge of Africa area and re-enter the station by going over the parking lot. That is just the opposite way that Cheetah Hunt exits and enters the station, just to give you an idea on how the station was oriented for the monorail.
Here is a video on my YouTube channel of what the area used to look like during the days when it was owned by Anheuser Busch that shows what the area looked like as well as the Clydesdale Hamlet that eventually became the Cheetah Run exhibit.
This was a nice air-conditioned walk-through attraction that was a mock up of Tutankhamon’s burial tomb in the Valley of the Kings. It opened with the Egypt section of the park in the 1990’s and closed in 2015 to make way for Cobra’s Curse.
This also was a air-conditioned walk-through attraction in the Nairobi section but it was a bit hard to find for the general public, except for those who knew where it was, which was behind the Penguin enclosure.
This area really dispeled the rumors of some of the smaller species of animals like fruit bats, snakes, some small monkey species, and other animals.
This ride was a really unique concept that combined a off road excursion with a thrill ride. Riders would board specially outfitted Land Rovers that held up to 18-20 passengers (I believe) and you were taken on a off road adventure to see different animals like Corcodiles and such with the star attraction being a endangered White Rhinoceros. Then the driver came to a unmarked intersection which they always took the wrong turn. That lead to a “rickety” pontoon bridge which then gave way during a flood. you then floated down stream, twisting and turning, all the while missing rocks, overturned boats, and even going quite close to a waterfall before being “lodged” in another “washed-out” bridge where we could drive back to the station.
This ride was very family friendly attraction and could be ridden by just about anyone. Unfortunately the water section proved to be very problematic and was removed from the attraction. The park tried to do the best it could with what remained but it wasn’t drawing enough of a crowd to justify keeping the attraction open so it was closed. The former water section is now being used for the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster.
Here’s my on ride video of this attraction.
Falcon’s Fury took the place of the Sandstorm that was moved to their Sesame Street park just north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
This area used to be part of the Congo and Jungala replaced the area that used to have the Python steel roller coaster and the Vivi outdoor restaurant. The Python was the first roller coaster in the southeastern US to invert riders and operated from July 1, 1976 to October 31, 2006.
The coaster was only 1,200 feet long, had two inversions (double corkscrew), was only 72 feet tall, had a top speed of about 40 mph, and a ride time of just over one minute long. That may seem tame by today’s standards but it was quite thrilling in its heyday and I will remember it as being the first roller large roller coaster I got to ride by myself. It should be noted that the Python was built by Arrow Dynamics and designed by the famous Ron Toomer. Fortunately, pieces of the Python are still in use today as the trains were shipped to the Busch Gardens park in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA to be used on the Loch Ness roller coaster and some of the steel tubing was reused in the Orangutan Habitat in Jungala. Here’s my tribute to the Python.
Taganyika Tidal Wave
This water ride was one that got you completely soaked no matter where you sat.
This ride opened in 1989 and closed sometime around 2013 and was an Extended Spillwater model of the Shoot the Chute ride from Intamin that has a 55 foot drop at the end. This ride also used some of the waterways that were used in the old African Queen Boat ride including the African Village. Here’s an on ride video from FloridaValentine’s YouTube channel.
As you can see, the riders got pretty much soaked but that doesn’t end there. You can also get soaked on the bridge after you exit the ride if you’re not paying attention.
There’s nothing quite like getting hit with a wall of water after you get off the ride. Here’s my off ride view of the splashdown.
Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation
This was an indoor show in the Stanleyville Theatre that only operated for a few years.
This was an entertaining show to say the least. It was installed in this theater that was an outdoor covered theatre that was used for seasonal shows and special events. The Madagascar Live! Operation Vacation show featured Alex The Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julian the Ringtailed Lemur and his loyal subject, the Penguins, and a live band. Unfortunately Marty the Zebra and Melman the Giraffe aren’t in this show. Different characters from the show would come out for photo opportunities just before the show begins.
Land of Dragons
This area has gone through a number of transformations from when originally opened as the Dwarf Village sometime in the 60’s. The Dwarf Village was transformed into the Land of Dragons in 1995 and finally into the Sesame Street Safari of Fun in 2010. Here’s my walk-through video of what the Land of Dragons looked like.
Well that does it for this review and I hope you enjoyed it and discovered a few things you might not have known about this park.