Busch Gardens Tampa

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Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa logo.png
Slogan Born for Busch Gardens
Location Tampa, Florida, USA
Coordinates 28°02′16″N 82°25′18″W / 28.0379°N 82.4216°W / 28.0379; -82.4216Coordinates: 28°02′16″N 82°25′18″W / 28.0379°N 82.4216°W / 28.0379; -82.4216
Theme Africa
Owner SeaWorld Entertainment
Opened March 31, 1959; 56 years ago (1959-03-31)
Previous names

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: 1990s–2006, 2008–present Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent: 1976–1990s

Busch Gardens Africa: 2006–2008
Operating season Year-round

335 acres (136 ha)

(365 acres (148 ha)) total including Adventure Island (30 acres (12 ha))
Total 25
Roller coasters 8
Water rides 3
Website seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/

Busch Gardens Tampa (formerly known as Busch Gardens Africa) is a 335-acre (136 ha) 19th century African-themed animal theme park located in the city of Tampa, Florida. It opened on March 31, 1959, as an admission-free hospitality facility for Tampa Anheuser-Busch; in addition to various beer tastings, they had a bird garden and the Stairway to the Stars, which was an escalator that took guests to the roof of the brewery.[1]

Busch Gardens continued to grow, and in 1965, opened the 29-acre (12 ha) Serengeti Plains, which allowed the African wildlife to roam freely.[1] It continued to focus on its tropical landscape, exotic animals, and amusements to draw visitors. Busch Gardens began charging admission as the entertainment became more complex, with extra fees for the thrill rides, such as the roller coasters for which Busch Gardens is now known. Alongside sister waterpark Adventure Island (30-acre (12 ha)), Busch Gardens is the anchor of Tampa's 365-acre (148 ha) amusement multiplex. Currently Busch Gardens competes with other such parks in Florida and charges comparable fees. The park is operated by SeaWorld Entertainment, majority owned by the private equity firm The Blackstone Group. Busch Gardens is currently accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).[2] In 2011, the park hosted 4.3 million people, placing in the top 20 of the most-visited theme parks in the United States and in the top 25 worldwide.[3]

Themed areas[edit]

Train cars from the Serengeti Railway in the foreground with the Skyride in the background
  • The 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge[4] Serengeti Railway (a replica steam train) runs along the back end of the park and makes stops at the Nairobi, Congo and Stanleyville themed areas. The train track was recently renovated, and its tracks have been changed.
  • The Skyride transports guests between Crown Colony and Stanleyville.


The park's main entrance. Treats can be purchased at the Sultan's Sweets and the Zagora Cafe. The Moroccan Palace is located here, as well as the outdoor Marrakesh Theater. Gwazi was the major ride in this area.

  • Gwazi was a 105-foot (32 m), 51 mph (82 km/h) dueling wooden roller coaster named after a mythological creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a lion that opened in 1999. The dueling sides consisted of a lion side and a tiger side, which crossed paths seven times. In 2011 Busch Gardens replaced the original trains, which were boxy and sat four per coach. The "new" trains sat two per coach and provided a smoother ride. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters designed the original trains. Great Coasters International, who built the coaster, designed the "new" Gwazi trains.[5] At the end of summer 2012, Gwazi's Tiger side was closed off, with wooden boards partially closing the Tiger portion. Gwazi is now closed as of February 1, 2015, though the structure is still standing.
  • Gwazi Gliders, a small hang glider flat ride relocated from the Congo section's defunct Pygmy Village kids area.

Bird Gardens[edit]

The original section of the park that opened back in 1959. The area for the most part remains mostly gardens and animal exhibits. A staple attraction that once stood in this section was the brewery. However, the brewery closed in 1995 and Gwazi now sits where the brewery was located. In 2014, the Bird Gardens theater was demolished when a new theater was built in the re-themed Timbuktu area: Pantopia.

Sesame Street Safari of Fun[edit]

Former "Land of the Dragons" children's section of the park. Land of the Dragons, which itself replaced the Dwarf Village in 1995, was replaced by Sesame Street Safari of Fun on March 27, 2010. It contains all the attractions from Land of the Dragons which are now re-themed. It also contains four new attractions: Telly's Jungle Jam, an interactive play area; Rosita's Djembe Fly-Away, a swing ride; Bert & Ernie's Watering hole, a water play area, and Air Grover, a children's roller coaster. The area also houses a Komodo dragon exhibit.


This section of the park is home to the park's water rides and SheiKra, which was the first and only Dive Coaster in the United States until the addition of Griffon at the sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The section opened up in 1973 with the addition of the Stanley Falls Flume. The African Queen Boat Ride opened in 1977 as Busch's version of Disney's Jungle Cruise. The African Queen featured live animals, including alligators, crocodiles, rhinoceroses and spider monkeys. A colorful South American macaw rode on each boat as a first mate. There was also a cast member, dressed in African warrior regalia, who surprised each boat as it passed through a riverside village. The warrior was featured in television ads for the park in the early 1980s. In 1989, the African Queen Boat Ride was transformed into Tanganyika Tidal Wave with the addition of a 55-foot (17 m) drop that generates a giant splash. The section remained unchanged from then until 2005, when SheiKra opened, and the surrounding area was renovated.


Python, the park's first roller coaster. It was also Florida's first inverting roller coaster. It was removed in 2006.

This section, themed to the jungles of Congo, contains two of the park's most popular rides, Kumba and Congo River Rapids. In November 2006, Congo underwent major renovation, including the removal of the park's classic Python roller coaster.

  • Kumba, meaning roar in Swahili, is a 143-foot (44 m) steel sit-down roller coaster with seven inversions. Built in 1993 by Bolliger & Mabillard, it remains a popular ride today. The ride was repainted in 2010.
  • Congo River Rapids, a water ride that simulates raging whitewater rapids. The ride opened in 1982.
  • Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars, a bumper cars ride.


Opened on April 5, 2008, Jungala is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) family attraction featuring up-close animal encounters, rope bridges to explore three stories of jungle life, and a water-play area for children. Also located in this area are two family attractions: Jungle Flyers, a zip line that offers three different flight patterns above the treetops of the new area, and Wild Surge, a shot tower that launches guests above a waterfall. Another attraction is Tiger Trail, which is a walkthrough with tigers where there is also a glass turret where you can look out right in the middle of the tiger enclosure. During the Kareebu Jungala atmosphere show, stiltwalkers perform with puppets and interact with guests in the heart of Jungala.

  • Jungle Fliers, a zip line ride.
  • The Wild Surge, a Moser family launch tower ride.


A section originally themed after the malls and bazaars of Africa that opened up in May 1980 as Timbuktu. The Phoenix was built in 1984 and remains a popular ride to this day. The section was renovated in 2003. Important elements added during this facelift included the Timbuktu Theater, which replaced the park's Dolphin Theater with an indoor 4-D movie theater. In 2004, Das Festhaus was transformed into the Desert Grill, and the park's family-friendly Sand Serpent wild mouse roller coaster opened, replacing the Crazy Camel flat ride. In September 2014, Falcon's Fury, a 335 foot drop tower, opened. This section of the park was re-themed to Pantopia[7] alongside the opening of Falcon's Fury.


Alligators and crocodiles can be observed here up close. In Curiosity Cavern, guests can view mammal and reptile exhibits. Visitors to Nairobi can meet the Animal Ambassadors who travel the country and make educational appearances at Jambo Junction. The area also contains Myombe Reserve, a tropical rainforest that is home to Western lowland gorillas and common chimpanzees. In 2012 the Animal Care Center opened, allowing guests to observe actual veterinary procedures, as well as meet the start of Wildlife Docs, Busch Gardens' Saturday morning television show. The main train station at Busch Gardens is located at Nairobi. Another popular attraction here is the Asian elephant exhibit.

  • Animal Care Center, a nearly 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2) attraction, allows visitors the chance to view the Busch Gardens' veterinarians at work in a new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital.[9] The major visitor aspects of the facility include a nutrition demonstration kitchen, treatment rooms, a clinical lab and an interactive diagnostic activity. Behind the scenes the veterinary hospital also includes the animal nutrition center, animal recovery and holding rooms and vet offices. The park's former animal care center was located behind the scenes.[10]

Crown Colony Plaza[edit]

Crown Colony House

Crown Colony is the smallest section of the park. It features a restaurant, the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, and the Skyride station.

  • Cheetah Hunt, a multi-launch steel roller coaster that opened in 2011.[11]
  • Cheetah Run, an animal exhibit located next to Cheetah Hunt. It replaced the Clydesdale Hamlet.


Bedouin tents, authentic handicrafts and art create an Egyptian marketplace feel. Guests can visit a replica of King Tutankhamen's tomb with the excavation in progress. (The Tutankhamen Tomb closed in winter 2013, and will be replaced with the queue for the park's 2016 coaster, Cobra's Curse, and the Golden Scarab Gift Shop was converted into an arcade area.) The primary attraction of the Egypt-themed area is Montu, an inverted steel coaster.

Animal exhibits[edit]

Cheetah Run[edit]

In May 2011, Cheetah Run opened. Cheetah Run is home to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay collection of cheetahs. There are running demonstrations and Meet a Keeper sessions throughout the day. In addition, the exhibit has interactive screens with cheetah facts.[12]

One of Cheetah Run's most notable residents is Kasi, a male cheetah, who was paired with Mtani, a female Labrador Retriever, from 2011 to 2013 when they were young. Mtani now lives with a zookeeper and Kasi has been paired with a female Cheetah.[13] As of 2013, Busch Gardens has 14 cheetahs.

The Serengeti Plain[edit]

In 1965, the park opened its Serengeti Plain animal habitat, the first of its kind to offer animals in a free-roaming environment. Over the years, the habitat has expanded from 29 acres (12 ha) to its current size of 65 acres (26 ha).[14] It is home to the Grévy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, addax, white rhinoceros, eland, impala, ostrich, and marabou stork.

Myombe Reserve[edit]

Giraffes at the "Edge of Africa" attraction

A 3-acre (12,000 m2) home for six lowland gorillas and nine chimpanzees located in Nairobi, opened in 1992.

Edge of Africa[edit]

Opened in 1997, Edge of Africa is a walk-through attraction where guests can observe African animals. Among the exhibits are a Nile crocodile, meerkats, two prides of lions, a pack of spotted hyenas, two hippos, vultures, and a troop of lemurs.

The three newest members to the lion pride include a male lion named Kembe and two female sisters named Shaba and Shtuko. They arrived at the park as cubs in 2013 from a zoo in Africa.

Orangutan Outpost[edit]

Tree-top observation platforms to watch and interact with orangutans.

Tiger Lodge and Tiger Trail[edit]

Observation areas, trails and a bridge to watch and interact with tigers. Busch Gardens has at least 10 tigers.

On March 31, 2013, Bzui, a female Malayan tiger, gave birth to three cubs sired by Mata. She had two males and one female. The males were named Bundar and Rukayah. The female was named Cinta.

Kulu Canopy[edit]

A multi-species habitat for white-cheeked gibbons, flying foxes (fruit bats) and false gharial - a reclusive and very rare crocodilian native to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Jambo Junction[edit]

See many types of animals, including Caribbean flamingos, lemurs, cuscuses, sloths, opossums, snakes and more.

Walkabout Way[edit]

Area to hand-feed kangaroos and free-roaming wallabies and to see other animals such as kookaburras, magpies, black swans and tawny frogmouths.

A male kangaroo named Horatio arrived at the park in early 2014.

Curiosity Caverns[edit]

This cavern attraction, formerly known as Nocturnal Mountain,[15] contains animals such as aardvarks, bats, snakes, lizards, tamarins, and sugar gliders in the low-light environment. This attraction offers the true facts about the creatures inside and cracks the myths about them wide open.


The Nairobi section of the park has five female and one male (arrived from the Calgary Zoo in 2013) Asian elephants. There are daily interactions at the Elephant Interaction and Husbandry Wall or during the Elephant Keeper Experience.

Asian Adventures[edit]

Asian Animals in Rainforest Komodo dragon

Golden Ticket Awards[edit]

The following is a list of roller coasters at Busch Gardens that have placed on Amusement Today's Top 50 coasters, along with their highest ranking.

Roller coaster Highest rank
Montu 3
Kumba 7
SheiKra 13
Gwazi 38

Annual events[edit]

Real Music Series[edit]

Main article: Real Music Series

From January to March, Busch Gardens hosts a weekly concert series which invites popular bands either in big band music or pop to perform classic or contemporary songs.

Bands, Brew & BBQ[edit]

(Previously called Bud & BBQ) For the month of February, Busch Gardens hosts a series of concerts in Gwazi Field, mostly from classic rock and country music acts. Sometimes the event includes alternative rock, pop, hip hop and R&B acts as well as comedians; there are special culinary offerings along the walkway from the Gwazi Roller Coaster to the gate in Gwazi Field.

The documentary film Blackfish and a subsequent online petition led to several popular musical groups cancelling performances at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens "Bands, Brew & BBQ" event in 2014.[16][17][18]

Viva La Musica![edit]

In March, several Latin music acts are hosted on the Stage in Gwazi Field. There is a similar culinary setup with special offerings for the concert days as there is for Bands, Brew & BBQ.

Summer Nights[edit]

In the summer months, the park stays open later and includes concerts by performers like David Cassidy and Starship with Mickey Thomas. The park's Independence Day festivities add fireworks to the entertainment lineup.

In 2010, Busch Gardens added a new nighttime show called Kinetix, the first special effect-heavy show put on in Gwazi Field. Also, they added many new special effects (i.e. Strobe, Lighting, Fog) to their existing rides just for the Summer Nights season.


Every September and October since 2000, Busch Gardens is transformed into Howl-O-Scream. This event contains haunted houses, scare zones, and shows.[19] Howl-O-Scream is one of the top rated Halloween events in the United States. Howl-O-Scream has featured some attractions of the park turned into "horrified" attractions at night. This includes Serengeti Safari Tours, which was turned into Evening Serengeti Safari Tours, and Curiosity Caverns, which was turned into Dark Cavern, both in 2000. In 2012, Howl-O-Scream celebrated 13 unlucky years.[20]

Christmas Town[edit]

From November to December, theaters throughout the park are transformed into Christmas-themed shows in celebration of the holiday season for an event called Christmas Town. The whole park is decorated with Christmas lights and theming. Among the more popular attractions is Snow World, in which guests can play in real snow and ride down ice slides.[citation needed]


2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
4,410,000 [21] 4,100,000 [22] 4,200,000 [23] 4,284,000 [23] 4,348,000 [24] 4,087,000 [24] 4,128,000[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Park History". BGTNation. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved August 22, 2012. 
  3. ^ http://www.themeit.com/etea/2010Report.pdf
  4. ^ Steamlocomotive.info
  5. ^ Staff. "Gwazi, Busch Gardens' wood coaster, reopens with new cars". Tampa Bay Online. TBO.Com. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Staff. "Busch Gardens Tampa's New Area - Walkabout Way - Featuring Kangaroos". Seaworld.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  7. ^ http://www.orlandosentinel.com/travel/blogs/theme-park-rangers/os-busch-gardens-axes-timbuktu-for-pantopia-20131122,0,5124634.post
  8. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/busch-gardens-in-tampa-announces-falcons-fury-new-drop-ride-will-be-tallest-in-north-america/2013/06/11/a04fc0d2-d2d9-11e2-b3a2-3bf5eb37b9d0_story.html
  9. ^ Albright, Mark (January 12, 2012). "New attraction lets you see Busch Gardens' vets at work". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Animal care becomes part of the Guest Experience". Seaworld Parks. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Albright, Mark (February 18, 2011). "Busch Gardens' Cheetah Hunt coaster in sprint to May 27 completion". St. Petersburg Times. Tampa Bay. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Hayes, Stephanie (May 26, 2011). "At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's Cheetah Run habitat, the cats are a nose away". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Chaney, Anna (11 March 2013). "An Update from Cheetah Run". Busch Gardens Tampa. Retrieved 1 June 2015. Mtani has since left her first home at Busch Gardens and traded it in for a new home. She now lives with one of our staff members and is thriving in the lap of luxury where every dog belongs - on the couch. 
  14. ^ "Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Fact Sheet", page 4. Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay. Retrieved January 31, 2010.
  15. ^ "There's a lot more to Africa than animals". St. Petersburg Times. August 19, 1975. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  16. ^ Duke, Alan. "Barenaked Ladies' SeaWorld gig is off after viewing 'Blackfish'". Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  17. ^ David, John P. "Blackfish Backlash Continues". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2014/01/16/us/ap-us-travel-brief-seaworld-entertainers-canceling.html?hp
  19. ^ Gershman, Rick (October 14, 2004). "Scare tactics". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  20. ^ Staff. "Do You Dare Enter Trickster's Garden as Howl-O-Scream 2012 Celebrates an Unlucky 13 Years?". SeaWorld Press release. SeaWorld. Retrieved 14 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "TEA/AECOM 2008 Global Attractions Report" (PDF). Themed Entertainment Association. 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  22. ^ "TEA/AECOM 2009 Global Attractions Report" (PDF). Themed Entertainment Association. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 2, 2010. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "TEA/AECOM 2011 Global Attractions Report" (PDF). Themed Entertainment Association. 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "TEA/AECOM 2013 Global Attractions Report" (PDF). Themed Entertainment Association. 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2014. 
  25. ^ "TEA/AECOM 2014 Global Attractions Attendance Report Report" (PDF). Themed Entertainment Association. 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 

External links[edit]