Busch Gardens, Tampa

Busch Gardens in Tampa offers a different attraction to the theme parks in Orlando – a cross between Animal Kingdom and Islands of Adventure, showcasing animals and amazing thrill rides.  The entire park is walkable

An hours drive from International Drive, it’s actually rated among the top 4 zoos in America.  It is advisable to arrive at opening if only to be first in line for the roller coasters.  Coaster lines only get longer as the day goes on and you really want to ride them before you eat.

Similar to Animal Kingdom it boasts a safari like section of Africa spread over 65 acres – you can go round it on a lovely train ride which also offers a rest for your feet and a breeze from the train movement, we like to take a turn after lunch while our food settles!

There are 5 big coasters – Kumba, Sheikra, Montu, Gwazi and the new Cheetah Hunt.    Kumba is the giant turquoise structure – 60mph, it loops and spirals and dives underground.  Sheikra is the giant steel structure – 200ft/62m high hitting 70mph, you get 2 vertical drops, go underground and of course loop – no floor  means there is nothing between you and the track but air.  Montu is an inverted coaster, 60mph, legs dangling with more twists and dives.  Gwazi – the bone shaker – Busch’s 2nd largest, a wooden classic coaster which doesn’t go upside down but still thrilling – watch you sunglasses and hats, our friends brand new holiday glasses rattled out of his shirt pocket never to be seen again.  Cheetah Hunt is the brand new ride – designed to create the thrill of a cheetah high-speed chase to catch its prey – figure of 8 tower and 130ft plunge – it takes your breath away (and in my case my voice from screaming!)

Apart for the rides, there are animal encounters – gorillas, cheetahs, tigers, orangutans, and then the savannah where you will see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, antelopes and elephants.

I’m not a huge fan of bird exhibits but Busch has a good one and I particularly like Lory Landing where you walk through a tropical aviary with lorikeets, hornbills, parrots and can buy a cup of nectar for $5 to feed the friendly lorikeets.

There are also shows and special events throughout the year – including Halloween.  www.buschgardens.com

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