I just returned from BGA after spending most of the day there, and had a great time. I wanted to share the trip with you all. It might help with trip planning for others, or something like that.
We arrived at the Busch parking lot around 7:45 AM, having left the Flagler County area around 5 AM, and were the first car there (and only car for a good ten minutes). The parking attendnats arrived around 8:20, and the gates opened at 8:30. We made our way to the turnstile and were amongst the first group to enter.
Much kudos goes to Erik Yates, as he recommended going to Montu first, then taking the skyride to Sheikra. Last year, I ignored that advice, becuase I really wanted to ride Sheikra first, but this time my group went to Montu first, and had a whole train to ourselves in the front row. When we got back into the loading/unloading area, there was still nobody in line, so staff let us stay in and allowed us to go around once again.
We got off, and headed for the skyride. There were two guys waiting there, but they got impatient (Skyride opens 9:30) when nobody was there at the time expected, and decided to make the walk to Sheikra. At 9:32, the gates to the Skyride opened, and my group was the first on the skyride. We saw a lot of people walking to Sheikra, but not really getting there that quickly. The best thing was the bunch of active animals that we spotted throughout the skyride.
Getting off the skyride, we went straight to Sheikra, and the wait was under 4 minutes. I was fortunate enough to get the outside most seat on the front row this time, and finally got to experience it floorless. I loved having nothing under me and being at the absolute edge of the train as it descended down the first and second drops. When we got off, we went back in line again, and when we were in our seats (back row this time), we were next to the two guys who had decided not to wait for the Skyride to open, and it seemed like they had walked the whole way and just arrived, making this their first ride on Sheikra for the day.
After Sheikra, we did Kumba twice, and it was 10:30 AM. To recap: 90 minutes = Montu Front Row, Montu Front Row, Sheikra Front Row, Sheikra Back Row, Kumba Back Row, Kumba Back Row.
At this point, my party split up, as I was interested in seeing Katonga, which had an 11 AM show featuring a sign language interpreter (it was deaf day there today). Loved Katonga, and was very impressed with the whole visual spectacle.
By the time I left Katonga, I was pretty much content, as I had achieved every one of my goals before it was noon, so at that point, I just walked around and checked out the animals and exhibits and shops. The food at the Zagora Cafe (chicken fingers and fries) was much better than I had expected, and I don't think I could have asked for a better day there in terms of a busy and adrenaline-filled morning balanced out by such a relaxing afternoon.
The weather wasn't so bad, even though it was humid and rainy. I say this because it felt like one of those days where the locals decided not to go because the weather was crappy, even though it really wasn't that crappy and didn't interfere with anything.
I don't go to Busch as much as I do my "home park", Universal Orlando, but I have to admit that UO's thrill seems to fade while BGA always seems to get me excited. I think this is because the animals provide the unpredictable nature that ensure that you will never have the exact same visit at BGA no matter what, whereas IOA and US visits sometimes tend to feel cookie-cutterish.
Kudos to Busch Gardens Africa for a job well done. The staff was obviously trained in advance to deal with the large deaf population that was anticipated to be coming to the park that day, as I observed many of them practicing some basic signs to communicate with deaf patrons there. I had no accessibility problems whatsoever, and that's always a plus when that happens. I just wish BGA was closer to me so I could go more often.