From the massive SheikRa to its equally terrifying cousin Montu, and from the exhilarating Cheetah Hunt to the smaller, whizzier coasters of Kumba, Scorpion, Sand Serpent and even the tot’s ride, Air Grover, there is something at Busch Gardens for every level of thrill-ride fan.
As if those scream machines aren’t enough, drop-tower Falcon’s Fury adds to the fear factor (aka fun), and Busch Gardens will debut its brand new Cobra’s Curse coaster this summer (we’ll tell you all about it in an upcoming blog).
But as fantastic as the coasters are, the park’s real roots are in its animal attractions. And in a place that takes its guests’ experiences seriously, Busch Gardens goes above and beyond to break down the barriers that usually separate guests from the animals and allow their visitors to get up close and personal, sometimes in rather quirky ways:
Hand-feed a Kangaroo: When you meet the red and western gray kangaroos in Walkabout Way, you’ll know exactly why their species’ collective name is ‘mob’. They do tend to hang out (or, more accurately, lay around) in a mob, but when there’s food about they can get pretty active, pretty quickly! Curious members of the mob will come up to the fence that separates them from guests, and that’s your cue for a quick scratch on the chest (theirs, not yours). No takers? Tempt them over with a small cup of food, available for purchase before you enter the enclosure.
If there are any baby kangaroos in residence they’ll be bottle-fed by keepers who are happy to answer your questions, and other Australian animal ambassadors regularly visit Walkabout Way, so you never know who you might meet. Visit here early or leave it until the last part of the day, when the animals are more active.
Become a bird perch: Unless you have a fear of flying things, Lory Landing in the Bird Garden section of the park is a must-visit stop during your Busch Gardens day, primarily for the chance to have its resident Lorikeets land on your hand, your shoulder, or even your head. Lorikeets are small arboreal parrots whose diet includes berries and nectar, and the area’s name comes from the short-tailed version of the bird, known as the Lory. Weird fact about the Lorikeets? Their tongues have brush-like tips that help them lap up nectar and pollen.
Small cups of nectar are available for purchase at the enclosure, but just like the kangaroo food, you don’t need to buy it to experience the birds at their best. We recommend entering the enclosure early in the day, when the birds are hungrier and more interested in their visitors. Hornbills and other birds make their home here, and often interact with guests, but it’s really the brightly coloured Lorikeets whose antics make this a fantastically fun experience. Some of the best photos of the day might come out of your visit to Lory Landing.
Watch an elephant take a bath: How often do you get to see an elephant playing in the spray from a hose? Every day, when you visit the elephant enclosure in the Nairobi area of the park, for a good look at the five female Asian elephants during their interactions with their keepers. It’s hard to imagine their bath isn’t one of their favourite times of the day and, just like kids running through the sprinkler, their sense of play is joyful and obvious.
There is also an Elephant Interaction Wall—part of the enclosure that features screened doors—that allows keepers to demonstrate basic husbandry such as cleaning the elephant’s feet with a broom, or take part in enrichment programmes designed to keep the elephants happy and engaged, and to form bonds with their keepers. Being so close to these enormous pachyderms is quite an experience, and it’s incredibly enlightening to see how curious and gentle they are.
There is also an in-depth 45-minute behind-the-scenes Elephant Insider paid-for tour for those who want to learn more about these majestic animals.
Observe an operation: With over 12,000 animals from over 300 species, the keepers at Busch Gardens rely on the Animal Care Center to keep their charges healthy and happy. When guests enter the building, located in the Nairobi section of the park, the first thing they see is the demonstration area, where volunteers can help prepare some of the animals’ food for the day. Next are the operating and laboratory rooms, with enormous windows that allow visitors to watch as procedures take place. When an operation or examination is scheduled, a sign out front alerts guests who would like to observe, and some are quite popular, so there are TV monitors set up for a good view even from the back of the room.
See exactly how long a giraffe’s tongue is: While we’re big on free things once we’ve paid our theme park admission, this interactive opportunity is worth the extra cost. The Serengeti Safari is one of the highlights of any visit to Busch Gardens, and well worth adding even if it’s your first visit to the park. What makes it quirky? The chance to hand-feed a giraffe from the back of a flat-bed truck and watch their long black tongues wrap around their food, that’s what!
Open-air safari jeeps take visitors out on the Serengeti Plain for the chance to see and learn about zebras, ostriches, wildebeest, rhinos and, of course, the park’s herd (properly—and appropriately!—known as a ‘tower’ rather than a herd) of giraffe, who are far more comical than they’ve been given credit for. The tour is 30 minutes long, which is ideal for seeing the animals without carving too much time out of your day. Bring your camera. The photos will be priceless!
More up-close animal encounters can be found at Jambo Junction, where guests are occasionally invited to feed some of the animal ambassadors being cared for, and you won’t want to miss Cheetah Run, near the Cheetah Hunt coaster, where you can watch these sleek animals run during special daily demonstrations.
So make the most of one of Central Florida’s best thrill-ride parks, but don’t forget to add a little ‘wild’ to your day!
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