Day 12 of The First Time 2011, the first of my Disney Trip Reports, is here! Today we drive over to Tampa to visit Busch Gardens for the first time!
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Day 12: Busch Gardens
Serengeti Safari Tour, and Zambia Smokehouse
15th August 2011
Instead of our usual right turn onto the 27, today, we turned left for our journey to Tampa.
We stopped off for some gas ($35) to refill our half-used tank, and we made it to Busch Gardens in about an hour or so.
It was an easy drive and what was weird was seeing the roads turn from white, back to the black we are used to here in the UK – it made my eyes go funny for a moment!
The Brit’s Guide is right when it says that the entrance to Busch Gardens isn’t well marked and we were part of a convoy of cars that turned right thinking it was the entrance, then realizing it wasn’t, all doing a u-turn!
I think it doesn’t help that there is a big sign for Busch Gardens on that corner, so it seems like it is the way to go, but no, you continue past and do a left turn.
With parking paid for, we drove in and made our way to the entrance of the park.
The ticket machines weren’t working properly so it was taking ages to scan and fingerprint everyone.
Finally, we were in and it seemed very busy…however once into the park proper, the crowds seemed to thin out.
We had to check in at the Up-Close Adventure Centre in Morocco first, to exchange our email confirmation for tickets.
We were shown where to go on the map (the same style as Seaworld, and so not user-friendly) and told to be there at 11:15 am.
If the weather was bad enough to cancel the tour, we could either get a refund or do it another time.
Knowing that we probably wouldn’t be able to fit another day here we hoped the weather was going to stay nice!
We decided first to walk through Myombe Reserve which was quite quiet, so it was nice to be able to get a good view of all the animals.
We then walked over to the Serengeti Outpost to wait for our tour time.
Even though we wouldn’t be going on any coasters today, as a theme park fan, I marveled at them all and promise myself that when we come back I will be able to go on every single one!
Cheetah Hunt – the newest coaster at the time looked absolutely awesome, but with over-the-shoulder restraints, I wasn’t going to have any hope.
Anyway, back to our tour. We sat in a shaded waiting area before our guide came out.
We stowed our bags in the lockers provided and followed our guide on the short walk to the safari truck.
Nothing could have prepared us for this amazing experience of being up close to and feeding the giraffes, one of the biggest highlights of our holiday without a doubt.
We were all given lettuce leaves to feed the giraffes with and took turns whilst the tour guide told us about these animals.
We all then took turns to pose for official photographs, and they also allowed us to use our own cameras as well, so I handed ours to an American lady who was happy to take a photo of the three of us together.
As we continued the tour, the heavens opened. Luckily, by now, the guide had put up the canopy so we didn’t get too wet…the rain was very refreshing as the canopy was initially put up to keep the glare of the sun off us!
There were plenty more animals on the reserve in addition to the reticulated giraffe, including white rhino, ostrich, zebra, gazelle, and marabou storks.
The rain did eventually ease off and the canopy came down.
Those of us still clutching lettuce leaves (me included) were able to feed the giraffes again.
All too soon, our tour came to an end, and as I said before, it was amazing. I was so glad we booked this and would highly recommend it!
We bought the full package of photos and stuff at the end of the tour which came to $56.
We got a CD with all our images on it (we were able to choose which ones) as well as some of the animals that the photographer took whilst we went around.
We also got prints of certain photos and a cute cuddly giraffe frame, which now sits proudly in our front room!
Onto the train now at Nairobi Station to go up to Congo.
Our plan of action was to walk our way back down and around the park to the exit.
Like Seaworld, we found Busch Gardens hard to navigate – maybe it’s just us, but the map really didn’t seem to help us at all!
Our first ride was the Congo River Rapids with a 20-minute wait.
From a plus size point of view, the seatbelts were shorter than at Animal Kingdom’s Kali River Rapids, but the staff anticipated that and discretely handed me an extension which I was grateful for.
It was a great ride, but we got ABSOLUTELY DRENCHED!
So believe the sign that says you will get wet and possibly soaked!
I think everyone on our boat got wet – there was no escape. A much more intense ride than the rapids at Animal Kingdom too!
After drying our feet, we walked through Jungala and into Stanleyville to do the other water rides whilst still wet.
The Tanganyika Tidal Wave was practically a walk-on.
Just looking at the ride seats and lap bar, I thought it was going to be tight for me, and it was.
The restraint that comes down was very snug and took my breath away a bit as we climbed up for the drop.
It was a very slow boring ride, to be honest with you – it takes about 5 minutes to get around with an annoying song on loop for a splash at the end which wasn’t all that.
Glad we didn’t have to queue for it! Avoid!!
We stopped for a drink before queuing for Stanley Falls Flume. The queuing area was horrid, we were crammed in like sardines.
Liam and Steve rode up front, with me in the back.
It was an average log flume and you can tell from our ride photo that I wasn’t overly impressed, but Liam loved it and that’s the important thing.
He asked if we could do it again but I didn’t want to endure that horrible queue again!
Slowly drying out, we made our way to Zambia Smokehouse for lunch.
We ordered various platters containing ribs, chicken, and brisket, with sides, desserts, and drinks.
As we hadn’t had brekkie, we were all very peckish – but stuffed to the brim when we had finished!
Tasty food, part self-serve for the sides and desserts, and the staff plate up the main dishes.
This eatery is part of the meal wristband deal which I think is about $30 per person, we didn’t bother because we knew we would eat just once, and it turns out it was cheaper for us to buy the food outright at $75.
According to my diary, as I was writing and looking back at the park map I realised how much we missed a lot of the park. Oh well!
We went into Lory Landing next, which was just lovely. Liam bought some nectar and fed the birds which were so pretty and colourful
And then we ventured into Sesame Street Safari of Fun. A show was starting in the theatre, it was quiet so we sat down and watched for a while since it starred Cookie Monster!
I then spied Big Bird out of the corner of my eye and abandoned the ‘way too young for us anyway’ show to hug him! He was great and posed for photos.
Like the Muppets, I grew up with Sesame Street, so another nice bit of nostalgia!
Eventually, we found our way out of this area of the park and past the wooden coaster, Gwazi. If you are a coaster fanatic then this park certainly is for you – very impressive!
Back in Nairobi now and a walk through Jambo Junction for more animals, before heading to Rhino Rally.
I spied a sign outside mentioning larger guests and the staff member said that the end seat in rows 1 and 3 was slightly wider.
The seatbelts were like aeroplane buckles and were fine for me.
Our truck driver was very entertaining as he drove us around and pointed out the animals.
It was a very short ride and I heard others comment (as I was also thinking) ‘is that it?!’ I think I would have been a bit miffed if I had queued for this – it was just a walk-on for us this late in the day.
Edging ever nearer to the park closing, we decided just to make our way to the exit.
We were also starting to get a little cranky to be honest, and it was best that we made our departure for fear of tearing each other apart!
We missed a LOT of this park, at least it feels like we did, and really, I think you could do two days here – especially if you are into roller coasters.
Even with it being a bit of a drive, it actually didn’t seem to take that long (but then I love driving so I don’t notice time).
That also said, if you don’t like coasters, you could easily miss this park out, as I don’t think the water rides were all that, and nothing special.
The Serengeti Safari Tour though was VERY worth it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do that again.
When we go back (hopefully in 2013) I will be going back to do every single rollercoaster!
So with our car located, we were back on the road (with a lovely sunset) to Tuscan Hills to relax in the pool, watch TV and fall into bed.
I took a LOT of photos today at Busch Gardens – if you want to, please look at them all on my Flickr!
Read about the day after:
Day 13 – El Parque Acuático
Aquatica, and Banana Beach Cookout
Read about the day before:
Day 11 – Seafood & Shopping
Red Lobster, Factory Outlets, Premium Outlets
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