Busch Gardens Africa Trip Report 10/03-10/06

Busch Gardens Tampa: With Europe conquered it was onward to Africa

From John Lumsden
Posted October 7, 2007 at 11:36 PM
Slipped down to Busch Gardens Africa with my wife and son for quick getaway October 3rd thru the 6th and had a great time. Our journey began with and ended with flights on Southwest with no annoying delays. After reading through tripadvisor.com I opted for Embassy Suites as our hotel and had no regrets. Embassy is about 20-40 minutes from Tampa airport dependent upon traffic (our driver noted we were lucky that day, traffic was usually terrible) With a free on demand shuttle to the park, local restaurants and shopping within 3 miles, daily complimentary breakfast buffet and an evening manager’s reception with unlimited free drinks, this hotel offers a lot for the price. The only thing they did not fulfill was my early check-in request as they had a convention group in for the weekend.
Having just been to Busch Gardens Europe this past July I can say that that I enjoyed Sheikra, Montu, Kumba, and Gwazi as a group as much as Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot and Griffon. Without a doubt however, aside from the animal portion of BGA, BGE does a better job creating the themed environment.
Also with Darkcastle and Curse of Pompeii as well as a host of other smaller rides and more food and shopping options, I have to say BGE gets the nod as the better of the two parks.
Back to my BGA review. Montu was a great surprise! This suspended coaster leaped into my top 5 coaster list with fantastic elements from beginning to end. On Wednesday and Thursday we rode this multiple times, exiting and walking right back on.
Kumba also received multiple rides. This is an extremely smooth coaster that would actually be a great for first time coaster riders not wanting to “tackle” Montu or Sheikra. The trains seat four across inside the car. The over head restraint system coupled with the lower in car seating style provides a “secure” feeling to the rider (this is info provided by my wife, a slightly nervous coaster rider.) As with most coasters, front row is the way to go on Kumba.
Gwazi was unique. Only one track was running so the line was a little too long but this woody delivers on the thrills and should not be overlooked. The cars are only seat two though so if you have an odd number in your group somebody’s riding solo. The only drawback of this coaster is its location. It sits in front of the park with not much else around it so we found ourselves only riding it a few times.
Sheikra, as did Griffon in BGE, delivers on the thrill scale. The set up varies a little and the second drop sends you through a tunnel that seems like its cutting through the back of the Zambia Smokehouse grilling area with the smell BBQ caught up in the tunnel. I had hoped to ride this coaster many times on Friday night but the weather didn’t cooperate.

The zoo portion of the park was nice and we took our time to look at all the various animals, take many pictures and do the Serengeti Tour. The tour lasts about 30 min. and they load you into the back of a stake body truck and take you out onto the “Serengeti” with the animals. The highlight of this tour is hand feeding the giraffes. A photographer is along and snaps multiple pics throughout the trip. If you have young children I would have to highly recommend this as I saw the look of delight and astonishment of the children in our group as they hand fed these beautiful creatures. Others may find this experience not worth the time because after the giraffes the tour only interacts with one other animal. You can take some great pictures as you drive by the rhinos, zebras and antelope. There are no elephants or tigers on the Serengeti. You will have to view them from their enclosures.
The BGA food was an exact imitation of the BGE food as far as menus go (or vice versa.) I understand the economic feasibility of this, but really, they should look to vary the menus. Desert Grill was like Festhaus, Zambia Smokehouse was Trappers, Zagora cafe was England etc. It would be nice to vary the menu between the two parks. We did not eat at the Colony House. The menu was weak and the prices were not in line with the offerings. I understand the seating provides great views of the Serengeti but after doing the Serengeti tour how much better could a view be?
I have to say the Katonga show was great and everybody seemed to really enjoy it. If you want to catch a show and only have time for one I recommend this one. Some of the shows are also the same as BGE, with Pirates 4-D, and American Jukebox (inside the Desert Grill). Perhaps they should design unique shows to each park so the same experience is not duplicated.
As with BGE there is a train that encircles the park and there is a sky ride as well. Take the sky ride from the Congo and it will give a nice ride past Kumba and over the animals on the Serengeti ending in Egypt. I’m not a huge fan of water rides but went on Congo River Rapids. Boring is all I can say. They need to do water rides that have some level of thrill in them like Curse of Pompeii and Rip Saw Falls. Needless to say we skipped the Flume and the other water ride, Tidal Wave, was not operational.
Howl-O-Scream was a huge disappointment for me. Due to rain and lightning the coasters were operating intermittently and it seemed whenever I left a haunted house to get on a coaster, it would shut down. The haunted houses were probably three stars on a five star scale. My only comparison is HHN about two years ago. It would appear that USF/IOA has the upper hand as far as haunted house themes and scare actors are concerned. It was enjoyable but without the nighttime coaster riding it was definitely not worth the money. All in all the trip was great and I will go back except I will do it while staying at USF/IOA and just buy a flex park ticket that way I can utilize the parks free bus services and get over to Sea World as well. It’s too bad Busch doesn’t link service from BGA to Sea World and back. I would have added a day to the trip and spent a day a Sea World. I guess there must not be enough demand from the Tampa area.

From Brian Emery
Posted October 8, 2007 at 8:13 AM
Thanks for posting…

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