A Side Trip to Busch
Gardens - Africa
A trip from the Southwest Florida area to
Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida will take you approximately 2 to 2-1/2 hours by
car. It is about 150 miles from the Southwest Florida International
Busch Gardens is a theme park similar to those you find at Disney World.
It’s a combination zoo, entertainment center and amusement park. You’ll
see live entertainment, enjoy thrill rides and learn about many types of
animals. You can even see the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Busch Gardens is made up of several distinct areas, including Egypt,
Morocco, the Bird Gardens, Nairobi, Stanleyville, the Congo, Timbuktu and
the Serengeti Plain. Within each area, you’ll find animals, entertainment,
attractions, dining and shopping. As you enter the park, be sure to grab a
map and a schedule for the various shows. You’ll want to plan your
priorities early on.
Each section features different animal life.
For example, the alligators live in the Morocco section, the flamingos
live in the Bird Gardens section, and the elephants call Nairobi their
home. However, most of the animals are found within the Serengeti Plain.
To see these animals, you can take an overhead Skyride or ride the train,
which travels in a circle within Busch Gardens.
Additionally, throughout the day the park holds “Meet the Keepers”
sessions. At designated times (listed on the show schedule) an animal
keeper will arrive at the specified area to educate you about the animals
and to answer any questions you may have. These talks are very interesting
and highly recommended.
[Note: We find the train to be slow and noisy, and we don’t recommend that
you stay on the train for the full loop of the park. To get the best view
of the animals by train, board at the Nairobi Train Station and get off at
the Congo Train Station. Or if you would like a bit longer ride and more
animal viewing, board at Stanleyville, stay on at Nairobi and get off at
Congo. There isn’t much to see on the train route between Congo and
Stanleyville, so the only reason to take the train here is if your feet
can’t handle any more walking (which may very well be the case!)]
At the Busch Gardens entrance gate, pick up
a copy of the show schedule. It will list the shows, locations and times
for each act. The major productions are shown at the Moroccan Palace
Theater, the Marrakesh Theater and the Timbuktu Theater. You can also
enjoy live entertainment while dining at the Desert Grill Restaurant. This
is a cafeteria-style restaurant and it’s not necessary to arrive precisely
at showtime; patrons come and go as they please. There are several other
entertainment venues within the park, so plan early, as it’s unlikely
you’ll be able to see every show in one day.
Thrill rides are a popular attraction at
Busch Gardens. SheiKra is a roller coaster with a 90-degree drop, an
Immelmann loop, a vertical dive into an underground tunnel and, most
significantly, “floorless” cars. Gwazi is a double wooden roller coaster
with a seemingly endless number of spirals on almost 7,000 feet of track.
Other exciting roller coasters include Kumba, Montu and Scorpion. Busch
Garden visitors also enjoy water ride attractions, including the Stanley
Falls Log Flume, the Congo River Rapids rafts and the Tanganyika Tidal
Wave boat plunge. And of course there are a variety of kiddie rides for
the little ones. There is also a carnival-type game area, which we do not
recommend for the youngsters due to the poor odds of winning.
Dining at Busch Gardens ranges from snack
stands to fine dining. If you’re on-the-go, grab a quick hot dog, soft
pretzel or chicken strips. For a fast, yet more satisfying lunch, stop in
at the Desert Grill Restaurant (the carved turkey is delicious), the
Zagora Café or Zambia Smokehouse. For full-service, sit-down dining, visit
the Crown Colony House Restaurant. Here you’ll choose from the fine
entrees, salads and sandwiches while enjoying a view of the Serengeti
Gift shops are located at the park entrance,
as well as within each of the individual sections of Busch Gardens. You’ll
see lots of stuffed animals, as well as home décor and other gift items.
This information gives you a good overview
of Busch Gardens and all you can encounter in your day trip. Be sure to
check out Busch Gardens’ official website at
At this website, you will likely find admission discounts. And if you
would like to extend your side trip to two days, across the street from
Busch Gardens you’ll find its sister park -- Adventure Island, a 30-acre