Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, also known as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, is owned by Busch Entertainment Corporation who also own and operate other theme parks under the "Worlds of Discovery" banner. In Florida, there is also the SeaWorld Orlando Adventure Park, new Aquatica water park and Discovery Cove in Orlando, Adventure Island in Tampa Bay as well as SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks in other states.
As it's name suggests, it has an African theme and was originally tagged "The Dark Continent".
Busch Gardens is one of the largest zoos in America, spread over 335 acres with over 2,000 animals as well as 7 roller coasters including SheiKra, America's only vertical dive coaster, 3 water rides, live shows and other attractions. Today is competes with Disney's latest park in Orlando, Disney's Animal Kingdom.
If you are a thrill ride roller coaster fan, then Busch Gardens Africa vies with Universal's Islands of Adventure for the most fun to be had in Florida.
The park has a 19th century African theme throughout and is arranged into a number of different 'lands':
- Morocco - with its outdoor Marrakesh Theater
- Bird Gardens - including the Gwazi duelling wooden roller coaster
- Sesame Street Safari of Fun - children's playground (formerly Land of the Dragons)
- Stanleyville - home to SheiKra, Florida's tallest roller coaster with a 200 foot 90 degree vertical drop and the Tanganyika Tidal Wave water flume ride with a 55 foot drop
- Congo - with the Congo River Rapids water ride and Kuma 143 foot roller coaster with seven inversions plus the new Jungala village
- Timbuktu - Pirates 4-D movie plus the two roller coasters, the family orientated Cheetah Chase and the looping Scorpion roller coaster plus the Phoenix looping boat ride
- Nairobi - with its Nairobi Field Station Animal Nursery, Myombe Reserve and the Rhino Rally safari ride
- Crown Colony - Crown Colony House restaurant overlooking the Serengeti Plain, the Budweiser Clydesdale Hamlet and Skyride station (linking to the Congo). The new "Cheetah Hunt" roller coaster will start here.
- Egypt - with the final roller coaster, Montu, an inverted steel coaster
The other roller coaster, the Python has now been dismantled and in it's place is the new Jungala exhibit.
Busch Gardens in Tampa started out as a hospitality attraction as part of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in 1959, offering free drinks and animal acts. Over time more attractions were added and the brewery closed down in 1995. In 2007, it was ranked just outside the top 10 North American theme parks at number 11 for visitor attendance with 4.4 million visitors.
Busch Gardens Africa also offer a number of special educational and VIP guided tours (extra charge on top of the standard admission, reservations required) where you can get up close with the animals and avoid all the queues on the rides.
With either ticket you can also take advantage of the Busch Gardens Shuttle Express bus which offers a complimentary round trip service from SeaWorld plus a number of locations on International Drive and in Kissimmee to Busch Gardens Africa each day. Mears Transportation also offer round-trip services from a number of pick-up points in Orlando to Busch Gardens for those people who do not want to drive to Tampa.
Right now, Busch Gardens is offering free admission under the "Here's to the Heroes" program for any active-duty, active reserve, ready reserve service member or National Guardsman.
Other Busch Gardens
There is a second Busch Gardens, namely Busch Gardens Europe which is in Williamsburg, Virginia and has a European theme. Earlier Busch Gardens parks in Pasadena and Van Nuys in California and Houston in Texas have since closed.