Updated: Sep 5, 2022
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Many factors come into play to make Busch Gardens Tampa unlike any other amusement park in America. This 335-acre park is African themed and home to more than 200 species of animals. Each section is named after a different part of Africa, such as Nairobi, Morocco, Egypt, and many more. Experiences allow guests to get up close to animals, and thrilling rides make it impossible to have a boring time. When you learn of all the amazing things to do, it'll be clear why the park accumulates more than four million visitors a year. It's also on our list of top things to do in Tampa.
Section: Edge of Africa
Cheetah Hunt is a 4,400-foot-long roller coaster with a triple launch. This steel coaster is the longest in the Tampa Bay area and reaches speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, which is just below the average speed of an actual cheetah. It's appropriately positioned beside Cheetah Run - an 11,000-square-foot exhibit where cheetahs roam among a ruined temple, grasslands, and a water fall. Cheetah Hunt remains my favorite roller coaster in Busch Gardens Tampa.
An extremely high-thrill ride, SheiKra dangles you 200 feet in the air before dropping you at a 90-degree angle. After reaching speeds as high as 70 miles per hour, it plunges into a body of water that splashes individuals watching at the end. It's a floorless roller coaster, meaning it allows riders' feet to dangle freely underneath them. At one point, it was regarded as the world's longest, tallest, and fastest of its kind.
Kumba is no stranger to impressive rankings in Amusement Today's annual "Golden Ticket Awards," and it's highly regarded as a favorite of frequent park visitors. The three-minute coaster drops riders 135 feet before creating the feeling of weightlessness on one of its seven inversions. Translated as roar from the African Kongo language, Kumba is known for its roar that's said to emulate the sound of a nearby lion.
When it opened in 1996, Montu was the world's first coaster to feature a simultaneous loop and roll - officially known as an Immelmann loop. The roller coaster has an inverted design, which means the train dangles under the track rather than resting on top of it. Designed by the same company responsible for Kumba, the ride is three minutes long with seven inversions.
Tigris begins by flying forward, backward, and forward again before launching you through 1,800 feet of twists and turns. The ride reaches maximum speeds of 62 miles per hour and slings riders at a height of 150 feet. As an ode to the big cats it's named after, 5% of sales from the roller coaster's gift shop goes to the conservation efforts of tigers.
This ride isn't your typical drop tower. It first offers a bird's eye view at 335 feet before tilting you 90 degrees and dropping you face first - the same way a falcon itself is known to dive. It takes about a minute to reach the peak and five seconds of 60-mile-per-hour freefalling to descend. While at the top, be on the lookout for a Falcon's Fury logo atop one of the park's towers.
Led by a tour guide, the Serengeti Safari takes guests in an open-air vehicle to see rhinos, ostriches, zebras, and antelopes. The 30-minute tour spans a 65-acre plain and is offered for anybody five years and older. Guests will also get the chance to hand feed giraffes and learn about various animal species. Those interested should reserve a spot ahead of time for the day they plan to visit.
It's one thing to drink beer with your friends, but it's something totally different to drink beer with a prime view of African animals. The Giraffe Bar serves cocktails, wine, beer, and seltzers with the park's Serengeti Plain as the backdrop. A great break from the heat, this air-conditioned spot is lined with TVs to entertain sports fans.
Animal Exhibits and Experiences
Thousands of animals and more than 200 species find Busch Gardens Tampa their home. The zoo is one of the largest in North America, featuring tigers, rhinos, elephants, cheetahs, hyenas, alligators, and tons more. Animal habitats are spread throughout the park, giving you something to discover as you trek ride to ride. Several encounters and insider tours allow you to get even closer to the animals you love. One such example is the Elephant Insider Tour, where guests learn how zookeepers care for the gentle giants.
Additionally, Busch Gardens offers many educational programs and summer camps. There are camps and sleepovers intended for children as well as programs for adults looking to enter the zoological or veterinary field. School programs provide a day of education for students, making for an exciting field trip.
There are several great places to stay in the Tampa area, and some are even remarkably close to Busch Gardens. La Quinta Inn is less than a mile from the park and very affordable for travelers on a budget. About a mile away is a Holiday Inn with a restaurant and outdoor swimming pool. Another option is Embassy Suites, a hotel with clean rooms and friendly staff.
Busch Gardens is an adventurous amusement park that caters to both thrill seekers and animal lovers. It's not often that these interests cross paths, so if your family is the type that's always divided on what to do, this should be a no-brainer.