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Testing wheelchair accessibility on selected attractions at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens

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Published: November 13, 2013 at 11:33 AM

I decided to take advantage of SeaWorld/Busch Garden's $50 weekday ticket offer for Florida residents and experience Antarctica as well as the Serengeti Safari, which I had not experienced before.

I went first to SeaWorld Orlando. Antarctica's queue is wheelchair accessible. You have to choose between mild and wild for the ride portion; I chose mild since everyone went to the wild option. I had no one in front of me, and I went directly to the ride's vehicle. One is able to get the wheelchair next to the vehicle, and the seats are on the same level; it is an easy transfer.

Antarctica ride vehicle

The mild version moves in a gentle way from side to side and around the rooms; no spinning or tilts. I watched the other vehicles, and they not only did spin, but they also tilted in a way that would have been uncomfortable for someone like me with upper torso weakness. I found the mild version to be a relaxing preview to the penguin exhibition. You can skip the ride, but I recommend it as part of the experience. As for the exhibit itself, the point of view of a wheelchair is as good as anyone else's point of view. I brought a sweater with me, and that was enough to feel comfortable for fifteen minutes. There is an elevator that will take you to the lower level where you will see the penguins underwater. To exit, you get to the same elevator and return to the main level, and then you have to exit through a different door than the rest who use a revolving door.

Antarctica penguins

I also went to TurtleTrek. I warn wheelchair users that there is a long and steep pathway going down to the theater, and then the same type of pathway going up from the theater as you exit. Park employees will get you inside the theater before the rest of people, and any spot is a good one to watch the 360 degree movie.

Finally, most of the wheelchair spots at the Shamu Stadium are in the wet zone; don't worry though, since the splashes don't get to that area (not even close).

My second trip was to Busch Gardens. I live in Tampa and I have been to this park many times, but for some crazy reason I never did the Serengeti Safari before. Well, it was time to do it. First of all, the open truck is wheelchair accessible; the loading area is at the same level of the truck. There is a ramp between the truck and the platform, and rolling inside is very smooth. Park employees strap the wheelchair to the side of the truck, and they lower the side so it doesn't obstruct the view. Even if the terrain is uneven, I never felt to be in any danger; my wheelchair didn't move at all. The views of the animals are magnificent, but it is the giraffe feeding that makes this tour a unique experience. The guide gave me lettuce, and one giraffe approached the truck. What an experience to hand feed a giraffe! Not to be missed.

The Serengeti Safari has an additional charge [$19, online].

Readers' Opinions

From N B on November 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Loved the Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa... Antarctica... ugh. Then again, it was the wait that gets most people frustrated before they even get on the ride.

It reminded me of The Dark Knight coaster at SFGA.... "I waited two hours.... for this?"

From Daniel Etcheberry on November 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM
I have to say that I don't understand why Sea World does not offer a vehicle for wheelchairs; it is the same type of vehicle as the ones at Mystic Manor, and that attraction has a special vehicle that one can get in with the wheelchair.

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