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Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa logo.png
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay logo
Slogan Born for Busch Gardens
Location Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Theme Africa
Owner SeaWorld Entertainment
Operated by SeaWorld Entertainment
Opened March 31, 1959; 62 years ago (1959-03-31)
Previous names Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: 1990s–2006, 2008–present

Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent: 1976–1990s

Busch Gardens Africa: 2006–2008
Operating season Year-round
Visitors per annum 4,252,000 (2015)
Area 335 acres (136 ha)
(365 acres (148 ha)) total including Adventure Island (30 acres (12 ha))
Total 23 (as of 2015)
Roller coasters 7
Water rides 3

Busch Gardens Tampa (formerly known as Busch Gardens Africa) is a 335-acre (136 ha) 19th century African-themed animal theme park located in the city of Tampa, Florida.

Alongside sister waterpark Adventure Island (30-acre (12 ha)), Busch Gardens is the anchor of Tampa's 365-acre (148 ha) amusement multiplex. Currently Busch Gardens competes with other such parks in Florida and charges comparable fees. The park is operated by SeaWorld Entertainment, majority owned by the private equity firm The Blackstone Group. Busch Gardens is currently accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In 2015, the park hosted 4.2 million people, placing 11th as the most-visited theme parks in the United States.


Busch Gardens Tampa opened on March 31, 1959, as an admission-free hospitality facility for Tampa Anheuser-Busch; in addition to various beer tastings, they had a bird garden and the Stairway to the Stars, which was an escalator that took guests to the roof of the brewery.

Busch Gardens continued to grow, and in 1965, opened the 29-acre (12 ha) Serengeti Plains, which allowed the African wildlife to roam freely. It continued to focus on its tropical landscape, exotic animals, and amusements to draw visitors. Busch Gardens began charging admission as the entertainment became more complex, with extra fees for the thrill rides, such as the roller coasters for which Busch Gardens is now known.

Themed areas

Train cars from the Serengeti Railway in the foreground with the Skyride in the background
  • The 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge Serengeti Railway (a replica steam train) runs along the back end of the park and makes stops at the Nairobi, Congo and Stanleyville themed areas. The train track was recently renovated, and its tracks have been changed.
  • The Skyride transports guests between Crown Colony and Stanleyville.


The park's main entrance. Treats can be purchased at the Sultan's Sweets and the Zagora Cafe. The Moroccan Palace is located here, as well as the outdoor Marrakesh Theater. Gwazi was the major ride in this area.

  • Gwazi was a 105-foot (32 m), 51 mph (82 km/h) dueling wooden roller coaster named after a mythological creature with the head of a tiger and the body of a lion that opened in 1999. The dueling tracks consisted of an orange-colored "Lion" side and a blue-colored "Tiger" side, which would cross paths a total of seven times throughout the duration of the ride. In 2011 Busch Gardens replaced the original "old" PTC trains, which were boxy and sat four per car. The "new" Millennium Flyer trains sat two per coach and provided a thought-to-be much sought after smoother ride experience for park visitors. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters designed the original trains. Great Coasters International, who built the coaster, designed the "new" Gwazi trains. At the end of summer in 2012, Gwazi's Tiger side was closed off, with wooden boards partially closing the Tiger portion. Gwazi's Lion side was later closed on February 1, 2015, ending operations of Gwazi due to low ride attendance and park feedback.
  • Gwazi Gliders, a small hang glider flat ride relocated from the Congo section's defunct Pygmy Village kids area.

Bird Gardens

The original section of the park that opened back in 1959. The area for the most part remains mostly gardens and animal exhibits. A staple attraction that once stood in this section was the brewery. However, the brewery closed in 1995 and Gwazi now sits where the brewery was located. In 2014, the Bird Gardens theater was demolished, and the former show (Critter Castaways) is now housed in the Pantopia Theater under the new name "Opening Night Critters".

  • "Walkabout Way". Themed as an Australian outpost, Walkabout Way opened in June 2010. This area gives guests the chance to see and hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies. The area is also home to a kookaburra, magpie geese and Australian black swans. This experience is open to all guests 5 years of age or older.

Sesame Street Safari of Fun

Former "Land of the Dragons" children's section of the park. Land of the Dragons, which itself replaced the Dwarf Village in 1995, was replaced by Sesame Street Safari of Fun on March 27, 2010. It contains all the attractions from Land of the Dragons which are now re-themed. It also contains four new attractions.

  • Telly's Jungle Jam, an interactive play area.
  • Rosita's Djembe Fly-Away, a swing ride.
  • Bert & Ernie's Watering hole, a water play area.
  • Air Grover, a children's roller coaster. The area also houses a Komodo dragon exhibit.


This section of the park is home to the park's water rides and SheiKra, which was the first and only Dive Coaster in the United States until the addition of Griffon at the sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The section opened up in 1973 with the addition of the Stanley Falls Flume. The African Queen Boat Ride opened in 1977 as Busch's version of Disney's Jungle Cruise. The African Queen featured live animals, including alligators, crocodiles, rhinoceroses and spider monkeys. A colorful South American macaw rode on each boat as a first mate. There was also a cast member, dressed in African warrior regalia, who surprised each boat as it passed through a riverside village. The warrior was featured in television ads for the park in the early 1980s. In 1989, the African Queen Boat Ride was transformed into Tanganyika Tidal Wave with the addition of a 55-foot (17 m) drop that generates a giant splash. The section remained unchanged from then until 2005, when SheiKra opened, and the surrounding area was renovated.

  • SheiKra, a 200-foot (61 m) Bolliger & Mabillard floorless dive roller coaster with a 90-degree vertical drop. This is North America's first vertical dive coaster. The ride used to operate with floors, but became floorless in 2006 and was repainted in 2013.
  • Stanley Falls Flume, a log flume with a 43-foot (13 m) drop.
  • Tanganyika Tidal Wave, a 20-passenger Shoot the Chute water ride with a 55-foot (17 m) drop. As of April 10, 2016, the ride is standing but not operating.


Python, the park's first roller coaster. It was also Florida's first inverting roller coaster. It was removed in 2006.

This section, themed to the jungles of Congo, contains two of the park's most popular rides, Kumba and Congo River Rapids. In November 2006, Congo underwent major renovation, including the removal of the park's classic Python roller coaster.

  • Kumba, meaning roar in Swahili, is a 143-foot (44 m) steel sit-down roller coaster with seven inversions. Built in 1993 by Bolliger & Mabillard, it remains a popular ride today. The ride was repainted in 2010.
  • Congo River Rapids, a water ride that simulates raging whitewater rapids. The ride opened in 1982.
  • Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars, a bumper cars ride.


Opened on April 5, 2008, Jungala is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) family attraction featuring up-close animal encounters, rope bridges to explore three stories of jungle life, and a water-play area for children. Also located in this area are two family attractions: Jungle Flyers, a zip line that offers three different flight patterns above the treetops of the new area, and Wild Surge, a shot tower that launches guests above a waterfall. Another attraction is Tiger Trail, which is a walkthrough with tigers where there is also a glass turret where you can look out right in the middle of the tiger enclosure. During the Kareebu Jungala atmosphere show, stiltwalkers perform with puppets and interact with guests in the heart of Jungala.

  • Jungle Fliers, a zip line ride.
  • The Wild Surge, a Moser family launch tower ride.


A section originally themed after the malls and bazaars of Africa that opened up in May 1980 as Timbuktu. The Phoenix was built in 1984 and remains a popular ride to this day. The section was renovated in 2003. Important elements added during this facelift included the Timbuktu Theater, which replaced the park's Dolphin Theater with an indoor 4-D movie theater. The dolphins had retired to other locations. In 2004, Das Festhaus was transformed into the Desert Grill, and the park's family-friendly Sand Serpent wild mouse roller coaster opened, replacing the Crazy Camel flat ride. In September 2014, Falcon's Fury, a 335-foot drop tower, opened. This section of the park was re-themed to Pantopia alongside the opening of Falcon's Fury.

  • Scorpion, a steel, Schwarzkopf-designed sit-down roller coaster with one vertical loop.
  • Sand Serpent, a steel wild mouse roller coaster.
  • Phoenix, an Intamin Looping Starship themed as an Egyptian cargo vessel.
  • Pantopia Theater, an indoor theater that now houses Opening Night Critters with the opening of Pantopia in 2014.
  • Caravan Carousel, a carousel with horses, camels, and chariots.
  • Falcon's Fury, a drop tower that has a speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and tilts 90 degrees towards the ground. It is the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America at 335 feet (102 m).


Alligators and crocodiles can be observed here up close. In Curiosity Cavern, guests can view mammal and reptile exhibits. Visitors to Nairobi can meet the Animal Ambassadors who travel the country and make educational appearances at Jambo Junction. The area also contains Myombe Reserve, a tropical rainforest that is home to Western lowland gorillas and common chimpanzees. In 2012 the Animal Care Center opened, allowing guests to observe actual veterinary procedures, as well as meet the start of Wildlife Docs, Busch Gardens' Saturday morning television show. The main train station at Busch Gardens is located at Nairobi. Another popular attraction here is the Asian elephant exhibit.

  • Animal Care Center, a nearly 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2) attraction, allows visitors the chance to view the Busch Gardens' veterinarians at work in a new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital. The major visitor aspects of the facility include a nutrition demonstration kitchen, treatment rooms, a clinical lab and an interactive diagnostic activity. Behind the scenes the veterinary hospital also includes the animal nutrition center, animal recovery and holding rooms and vet offices. The park's former animal care center was located behind the scenes.

Crown Colony Plaza

The Serengetti Overlook restaurant which replaced the Crown Colony restaurant in 2016.
Busch Gardens Crown Colony
Crown Colony House

Crown Colony is the smallest section of the park. It features a restaurant, the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, and the Skyride station.

  • Cheetah Hunt, a multi-launch steel roller coaster that opened in 2011. A suspended monorail previously occupied Cheetah Hunt's station.
  • Cheetah Run, an animal exhibit located next to Cheetah Hunt. It replaced the Clydesdale Hamlet.


Bedouin tents, authentic handicrafts and art create an Egyptian marketplace feel. The primary attraction of the Egypt-themed area is Montu, an inverted steel coaster. Tut's Tomb, a former audio guided walk-through tomb excavation closed in Winter 2013, and the interior was gutted to make way for the queue for Cobra's Curse. The former Golden Scarab Gift Shop will be converted into the gift shop you will enter as you exit the attraction.

Animal habitats

Animal Care Center

The state-of-the-art facility that allows the Busch Garden visitors to view animal care being conducted from treatments to x-rays.

  • The Wildlife Docs

Emmy nominnated television series that followers animal care takers caring for more than 12,000 different animals living in Busch Gardens Tampa.

Bird Gardens

A free flight aviary that shows over 500 tropical birds from around the globe including parrots, flamingos, and much more.

Cheetah Run

In May 2011, Cheetah Run opened. Cheetah Run is home to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay collection of cheetahs. There are running demonstrations and Meet a Keeper sessions throughout the day. In addition, the exhibit has interactive screens with cheetah facts.

One of Cheetah Run's most notable residents is Kasi, a male cheetah, who was paired with Mtani, a female Labrador Retriever, from 2011 to 2013 when they were young. Mtani now lives with a zookeeper and Kasi has been paired with a female Cheetah. As of 2013, Busch Gardens has 14 cheetahs.

Edge of Africa

Giraffes at the "Edge of Africa" attraction

Opened in 1997, Edge of Africa is a walk-through attraction where guests can observe African animals. Among the exhibits are a Nile crocodile, meerkats, two prides of lions, a pack of spotted hyenas, two hippos, vultures, and a troop of lemurs.

The three newest members to the lion pride include a male lion named Kembe and two female sisters named Shaba and Shtuko. They arrived at the park as cubs in 2013 from a zoo in Africa.

Jambo Junction

A former exhibit in which you could see many types of animals, including Caribbean flamingos, lemurs, cuscuses, sloths, opossums, snakes and more.


  • Orangutan Outpost

Tree-top observation platforms to watch and interact with orangutans.

  • Tiger Lodge and Tiger Trail

Observation areas, trails and a bridge to watch and interact with tigers. Busch Gardens has at least 10 tigers.

On March 31, 2013, Bzui, a female Malayan tiger, gave birth to three cubs sired by Mata. She had two males and one female. The males were named Bundar and Rukayah. The female was named Cinta.

  • Kulu Canopy

A multi-species habitat for white-cheeked gibbons, flying foxes (fruit bats) and false gharial - a reclusive and very rare crocodilian native to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Lory Landing

An open aviary habitat that invites guest walk around and be visited by the gliding and flying lorikeets. Purchasing nectar is an optional part of the habitat, however provides a wonderful experience of hand-feeding the birds.

Myombe Reserve

A 3-acre (12,000 m2) home for six lowland gorillas and nine chimpanzees located in Nairobi, opened in 1992.

The Serengeti Plain

In 1965, the park opened its Serengeti Plain animal habitat, the first of its kind to offer animals in a free-roaming environment. Over the years, the habitat has expanded from 29 acres (12 ha) to its current size of 65 acres (26 ha). It is home to the Grévy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, addax, white rhinoceros, eland, impala, ostrich, and marabou stork.

Walkabout Way

Area to hand-feed kangaroos and free-roaming wallabies and to see other animals such as kookaburras, magpies, black swans and tawny frogmouths. A male kangaroo named Horatio arrived at the park in early 2014.

Curiosity Caverns

This cavern attraction, formerly known as Nocturnal Mountain, contains animals such as aardvarks, bats, snakes, lizards, tamarins, and sugar gliders in the low-light environment. This attraction offers the true facts about the creatures inside and cracks the myths about them wide open.

Elephant Interaction Wall

The Nairobi section of the park has five female and one male (arrived from the Calgary Zoo in 2013) Asian elephants. There are daily interactions at the Elephant Interaction and Husbandry Wall or during the Elephant Keeper Experience.

Golden Ticket Awards

The following is a list of roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay that have placed on Amusement Today's award or nomination list, along with their highest ranking and year awarded or nominated. Busch Gardens Tampa has also been nominated for best landscaping in 1998 and 2007.

Golden Ticket Awards (1998–present)
Roller Coaster Top Steel Coaster Top Wooden Coaster Best New Ride
Montu 3 (1998) - -
Kumba 4 (1998) - -
SheiKra 13 (2006) - -
Gwazi (SBNO) - 40 (2007) -
Cheetah Hunt 37 (2015) - 2 (2011)
Cobra's Curse - - -

Annual events

Real Music Series

From January to March, Busch Gardens hosts a weekly concert series which invites popular bands either in big band music or pop to perform classic or contemporary songs.

Food and Wine Festival

(Previously called Bud & BBQ and Bands, Brew & BBQ) For the months of March & April, Busch Gardens hosts a series of concerts in Gwazi Field, mostly from classic rock and country music acts. Sometimes the event includes alternative rock, pop, hip hop and R&B acts as well as comedians. Also, there are special culinary offerings that include a variety of ethnic food and wine samplings from various local vendors along the walkway from the Gwazi Roller Coaster to the gate in Gwazi Field.

The documentary film Blackfish and a subsequent online petition led to several popular musical groups cancelling performances at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens "Bands, Brew & BBQ" event in 2014. This caused the removal of the event in Tampa, which was replaced by the annual Food and Wine Festival, resembling the one currently at Epcot in Walt Disney World Orlando.

Viva La Musica!

In March, several Latin music acts are hosted on the stage in Gwazi Field. There is a similar culinary setup with special offerings for the concert days as there is for Bands, Brew & BBQ.

Summer Nights

In the summer months, the park stays open later and includes concerts by performers like David Cassidy and Starship with Mickey Thomas. The park's Independence Day festivities add fireworks to the entertainment lineup.

In 2010, Busch Gardens added a new night time show called Kinetix, the first special effect-heavy show put on in Gwazi Field. Also, they added many new special effects (i.e. Strobe, Lighting, Fog) to their existing rides just for the Summer Nights season.


Every September and October since 2000, Busch Gardens is transformed into Howl-O-Scream. This event contains haunted houses, scare zones, and shows. Howl-O-Scream is one of the top rated Halloween events in the United States. Howl-O-Scream has featured some attractions of the park turned into "horrified" attractions at night. This includes Serengeti Safari Tours, which was turned into Evening Serengeti Safari Tours, and Curiosity Caverns, which was turned into Dark Cavern, both in 2000. In 2012, Howl-O-Scream celebrated 13 unlucky years.

Christmas Town

From November to December, theaters throughout the park are transformed into Christmas-themed shows in celebration of the holiday season for an event called Christmas Town. The whole park is decorated with Christmas lights and theming. Among the more popular attractions is Snow World, in which guests can play in real snow and ride down ice slides. This event was first introduced in 2012.

New Year's Eve

During New Year's Eve, Busch Gardens celebrates the new year by hosting live music throughout the park, thrill rides opened through the night, and fireworks located at the Gwazi Field. Including a park wide countdown to the new year.


2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
4,410,000 4,100,000 4,200,000 4,284,000 4,348,000 4,087,000 4,128,000 4,252,000
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