Many trips to Florida and I finally went to Busch Gardens Tampa! Not many people know about this team park as it gets overshadowed by Universal Studios and Disney World. I for one did not know about it until my cousins ended up living in Florida, and told me. Over the years, they have always insisted on us going, but due to limited time, I always chose the 4 theme parks of Disney, over it. Since we had free passes, I decided this trip it was time to go.
We were staying in Orlando, so it was about an hour drive out to Tampa Bay. By the time we got there, the crowds had begun. Before going, we didn’t realize it was peak season, and as such there were line-ups everywhere. Just to get in we had to wait about half an hour. As soon as we got through the gates, it was completely different from what I expected. To be honest, I don’t think I had any real expectations going in, other than crazy, fast roller coasters. It was the theme of the park that caught me off guard. Instead of being a basic amusement park, with a lot of rides and games, Busch Gardens was an animal and African themed park.
At first glance, it had the regular theme park vibe, but it wasn’t until you started to get deeper into the park, you noticed all the animals, and African themes. The first ride we headed toward was called Sheikra; a steel dive coaster, with a 90 degree drop. The closest I have been to a 90-degree drop was 80-degrees, on Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland. One great thing about Sheikra was that as it got to the top, and tilted you 90-degress, it stopped and held you there for a few seconds, before dropping. This definitely gave more excitement and a rush to everyone instead of pulling to the top and just immediately dropping. With the hold at the top, it tried to give more fear to the riders.
Finishing up with Sheikra, we headed off to Kumba, which was located in the Congo region. Every area in the park is divided up into smaller sections, named after different African countries. Kumba was definitely the highlight ride for me. As with Sheikra, I took my GoPro on the ride to try and record the whole thing, but the intensity of this ride prevented me from doing so. I got the first few seconds before I said forget it, and put away the camera to enjoy the ride. Not only was it a fast ride, but it had many ups and downs, twists and turns, and constant loops. It was definitely my favourite ride, and quite possibly the best roller coaster I have been on.
After Kumba, we headed to the Pantopia area to ride Falcon’s Fury. This wasn’t a roller coaster, but a free-standing, drop tower. At 335 feet it is actually the tallest free-standing drop tower in all of North America. I was quite excited for this, because I love drops (the reason why I wanted to skydive in Dubai). So we got in line, and the wait began. Due to it being in the middle of the day, I would say this was definitely the longest wait we had for a ride, and after about an hour and a half, we were at the front. Getting into our spots to board the ride next, and then… they announced the ride is closed!! Are you kidding me?!?! After all that wait, and we were legit the next people, the ride is closed? I was pissed (and I hardly EVER get pissed). Apparently there were high winds, and such, had to be cautious and close. Which is understandable, as its safety first, and they can’t do anything about the weather. I was quite disappointed as the day was nearing end, and we had to make it to the Hard Rock casino for dinner plans. We decided to wait for about 15 minutes, hoping they would re-open, but it never did.
We ended up leaving and just walking around the park until we ended up in Nairobi and found a train station. There were two other train stations in the park, and these train stations all allowed people to either get on, or get off the train that circled the whole park, while giving a tour, and viewing wildlife. At first I was quite let down as the ride was going through a lot of the backlot, so there was nothing interesting at all. It wasn’t until we started to pass through the Serengeti Plain’s that it got interesting. It was here that we were able to see quite a few animals, from Rhinos to Giraffes to Zebras and more! I love animals in general, and it’s one of the reasons why I want to make a trip to East Africa – to experience the safaris.
The whole trip took about 30 minutes and we were back in Nairobi. By the time we got back, we realized that time was limited so we wouldn’t be able to ride anymore rides, so started to head back to the park entrance. As we were walking back, we crossed through the Bird Gardens, and I noticed Walkabout Way which showed interactions with Kangaroos. I totally jumped on this idea, and told my cousins we have to stop in for a bit. It was a small enclosure where you can see, touch and feed kangaroos. The whole experience was limited as most of the kangaroos were either busy eating food that was already there, or sleeping (majority of them). It was pretty cool to see them up close, but a trip to Kangaroo Island in Australia would definitely be 100x better! We didn’t spend long in the enclosure and in about 20 minutes we were out and leaving the park.
Although we only got to ride 2 real rides, the experience at Busch Gardens was fun, and I would want to return again in the future, but only during the off-season. I’m pretty sure if we were to come during the off-season, I would have been able to ride every ride I wanted to, at least once. Here’s to hoping on my next trip to Florida!