Disclaimer: My family and I were provided with passes to Busch Gardens to experience the Serengeti Safari. All opinions are our own.
It's no secret that my family loves Busch Gardens. I write about it often on the blog. I've been going to Busch Gardens since I was a toddler. In fact, one of my first memories was of being trapped in a horrible rainstorm while at Busch Gardens, and running with my sister, parents, aunt and uncle (and our babysitter) down the ramp (where the birds are located) and there being huge puddles and Lori and I sloshing our way through them. I must have been around 4 years old. 38 years later and I'm still frolicking away at Busch Gardens.
But in all my years of visiting the park, I have never been on a Serengeti Safari tour. I knew the #TampaTrio would LOVE the opportunity to see the animals up close and were all smiles when I told them what we'd be doing!
We were planning on staying all night at the park to see the Steve Miller Band (another post on that will be coming up!!) so decided that we'd get to the park closer to our tour time which was 2pm. We arrived just in time and the kids were excited and ready get on the jeep!
Our safari guide went over some rules for the safari and we began to head over! Ronin took lead with our guide and group photographer and led the way over for our 30 minute tour!
The rules of the jeep were pretty easy to remember. Hold on and don't touch any animals. The driver would beep the horn several times if were going to go over a bumpy patch. We could only bring a water bottle and camera with us. No bags at all. Base camp is located just behind the elephant exhibit. Not sure how I missed seeing it after all these years, but I guess if you're not looking for it, it doesn't stick out!
There were 6 other people on our tour, for a total of 11 of us (crazy to think my gang nearly doubled the size of the tour ) but we had plenty of room in the open bed of the jeep.
We all thought it was super cool to be "behind the scenes" and as we drove through these gates, Ronin grabbed my hand and excitedly said "mama, it's like we're going to Jurassic Park."
I started to keep my eyes peeled for a T-Rex, but quickly learned from our guide that all the animals we'd see on our tour were vegetarians. Whew. I was worried there for a second.
Quickly we arrived at the Rhino habitat where we were informed that the driver would no longer be able to beep her horn because it could cause the rhino to charge the jeep, so we all better just hang on because she'd be stopping and going without warning.
I wouldn't want to mess around with this guy.
That is a Black Rhino, named for the color of mud it covers itself with when it's in its native African habitat. Here in Tampa, the staff at Busch Gardens provides him with a red Georgia mud, but he's still a black rhino. And black rhino's like to be left alone. They are the only species of rhino that prefers solitary living.
We also saw a lot of zebra. These two zebra's playing and snuggling reminded us of our big puppy, Matthew. We learned that this species of zebra does not have stripes encircling their entire bodies. Their stomachs are white.
We stopped along the way and learned about gazelle, ostriches, and cranes. The crane is the only animal on the Serengeti Safari tour that eats meat (carrion). It's a big bird and I wouldn't want to mess with it, that's for sure!
But what the Tampa Trio were most excited about were the giraffe. Our guide told us we'd be driving over to not only see the giraffe up close, but if the giraffe were in the mood, we could even feed them!
We learned that giraffe lick on the palm trees to get salt into their diet. Pretty cool! Some of the trees had their bark completely licked clean!
Giraffe have very long, dark colored tongues! And teeth! And my kids wanted to put their hands near this giant creatures mouth?? Our guide demonstrated the correct way to feed the giraffe, and went over some specific rules. For example, NO hugging the giraffe. Apparently in the past a guest hugged a giraffe and got lifted right out of the back of the safari van! That would not be happening on this trip!
We quickly caught the attention of Beka (or Becca) the Giraffe and she made her way over to the jeep for some yummy Romaine lettuce (see that big tower in the background? That's Falcon's Fury....opening in May! ACK!!)
The Tampa Trio where chosen to feed Beka first, and they all waited patiently to see whose hand she would pick from.
And it was HALEY!! You can see Haley with her mouth agape as Beka munched on the lettuce in her hand.
And then it was Ronin's turn!
And Beka made sure to save room for Ella's handful of romaine!
Actually, Beka seemed to have a bottomless pit of a stomach as everyone on the jeep had the opportunity to feed her several times!
We even had the opportunity for a family photo with Beka, though the sun was right in our faces, and the picture didn't take with my camera, so this is a picture of a picture that I took from the photo kiosk.
Our family had a great time out of the Serengeti Safari tour at Busch Gardens, and the kids have now set their sights on the Jungala Insider Tour.
The tour is an additional fee to your daily park admission and fees range from $19-$39 depending on the season. I highly recommend taking the Serengeti Safari tour! Make sure you wear sunscreen and bring bottled water. It gets HOT out on there on the African plains! All children must be at least 5 years old to participate in this tour.
It was a great way to see the animals up close. We always see the animals on the train ride, the sky ride, or when we walk through the Edge of Africa, but this was a totally different experience and one that we won't soon forget!
Our family fully supports Busch Gardens and its mission of envisioning a global community rooted in human understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the natural world and its wonders. If not for places like Busch Gardens and Sea World, our family would only have the chance to see animals on TV. We want to teach our children to Push Away the Screen, and get out, be active, and explore the world around them.
Have you ever taken a behind the scenes animal tour at a zoo/park? What did you think??