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|Busch Gardens Tampa Bay|
|Opening date||May 23, 2001|
|Closing date||September 1, 2014|
|Attraction type||Safari ride|
Quick Queue available
Rhino Rally was a safari-themed attraction located at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay an African-themed park located in Tampa, Florida. The ride was opened on May 23, 2001 in the Nairobi section of the park. The ride is a Vekoma Safari Adventure and is the only one ever made. The pretense was that guests are going on a normal safari ride which turns into a search for a lost driver named Scooter Roberts.
Guests entered the queue and learned they were going on a popular safari tour, known as the Rhino Rally, which held an annual racing event where the safari trucks must race against each other with passengers on board to make it to the finish line. As guests walked through the queue, they heard news reporters and rally drivers discussing the disappearance of a lost rally driver on the course named Scooter Roberts and their attempts to find him as well as the voice over of Scooter himself calling for help. Guests also passed a vehicle which has won the 10th Rhino Rally race, as well as a map showing their path on the course.
As guests boarded the vehicle, the safari driver welcomed them and picked one of them to be their navigator, whom they told to look out for green and black poles which showed them where to go. As the safari truck started driving, the voiceover of lost driver Scooter Roberts was heard, explaining that he has been stranded on the course after his truck broke down and that he lost three of his personal items on the course: a water barrel, gas can and his favorite hat. These items act as a mini scavenger hunt throughout the ride as they were scattered throughout the course. Guests then went past the START sign for the rally race followed by the truck going past an elephant ground. The driver then warned guests to look out for African killer ducks as they passed the next area, followed by the truck passing by exotic animals and onto the rhino ground. The truck then dropped down and entered an alligator pond, with the driver warning guests to keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle during this time. After, the vehicle traveled back onto solid ground, and the driver discovered Scooter's stranded truck with a HELP sign draped over the back of it. If staffing allowed, a Busch Gardens actor would appear in the truck and interact with guests as they drove by (this generally occurred on peak days only). If not, then the driver immediately took a path to the right, revealing the FINISH sign, and a new voiceover of Scooter's voice played explaining that he heard them driving by but was taking a nap in the back seat of his truck, and then congratulates the driver and guests. The rally driver thanked guests, who exited the vehicle.
Before the closure of Rhino Rally, the park's Skyride also crosses over the ride, allowing an aerial view of the zoo animals.
The attraction had a soft opening held for park guests beginning in March, 2001 and going until late May 2001. The ride first opened at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on May 23, 2001, in a grand opening style ceremony hosted by Busch park executives. The attractions enormous wait times following the opening prompted the park to begin a temporary "express" style system which would allow the buyer to re-visit the attraction at a later time and receive front-of-the-line access. This was later discontinued in 2002. However, it was brought back in 2010 as part of the park's new Quick Queue system for major rides and attractions.
In June 2001, one of the cars flipped over during the ride while the driver was crossing over a narrow path in the track while reportedly "acting goofy". The incident resulted in minor injuries to some guests, two of whom were taken to a local hospital. Busch Gardens later shut down the ride for a lengthy refurbishment in order to make the ride's pathways wider, and to re-design the ride vehicles.
The ride originally featured a larger water portion which was part of the ride from May 23, 2001 until May 1, 2010.
During this tenure, at the section of the ride immediately following the crocodile scene, the driver would notice that while the vehicle is back on solid ground, there are no green poles. Confused, the driver asked the navigator which way to go, since the path split into left and right roads. Regardless of which path the navigator chose, the driver always went to the left. The right path was used only when the water portion of the ride was down or in case of an emergency situation. After turning left, the driver drives into a rain forest, then the truck reaches a bridge beside a huge waterfall, which becomes too powerful and breaks the bridge apart with the truck on it. The truck then proceeds to float down a river on a piece of the bridge. The driver gets upset at the navigator and quickly radios Rescue ONE to come get them. The truck then passes under another waterfall. This one happens to soak guests in the back row. Soon, the driver finds Rescue ONE stuck due to a broken bridge. As the truck reaches the broken bridge, the current pulls it in and it stops just in time before plummeting down a waterfall. Thinking quickly, the driver notices a pathway in front of them, and tells guests to hope that it leads to safety. Shortly after, the truck reaches the finish line and wins the race, as victory music plays loudly. The driver thanks guests for joining them as they exit the truck.
As of May 1, 2010 the water portion of Rhino Rally was closed permanently for construction of Cheetah Hunt. Now the ride is themed around rescuing a lost driver named Scooter Roberts. Scooter has run off course and lost three items: a water barrel, gas can and his favorite hat. These items are located along the course acting as a mini scavenger hunt. Finally, near the end of the ride, the group will find Scooter's Land Rover. If staffing allows, an employee will act as Scooter and interact with the guests as they drive by.
The water section of the ride was plagued with problems, often causing it to break down. When this happened, the land portion of the route operated as normal, but with a detour towards the end of the ride. If the navigator said to go left, the driver would go right instead. This was the only time that the vehicles went to the right at the split in the paths until the water portion's closure in 2010, resulting in the vehicles now only going in the direction of the right side path.
In January 2015, Busch Gardens confirmed speculation Rhino Rally would close permanently. The current area of the park the ride is located in will be used for future development.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris, a similar safari ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom, part of Walt Disney World Resort.
- Safari park