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Busch Gardens is a hybrid---half amusement park, half zoo. Once owned by the Annheuser-Busch beer company, it was sold years ago to a holding corporation when A-B was bought by the Belgian beer conglomerate InBev. There are two Busch Gardens in the US---the one in Williamsburg, VA has a European theme, and the one in Tampa Bay has an African theme. The same company also owns Sea World.  There used to be a shuttle bus that ran between Busch Gardens in Tampa and Sea World in Orlando.

Recently, the Tampa Bay park has been adding some attractions to try and draw in both younger children (and their parents) and teenagers. The new additions include a Sesame Street section, the Jungala children's rides, and the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster. Me, I'm not much of a "ride" person--I come for the animals. Busch Gardens is a fully functional zoo, and like Sea World it participates in conservation and captive-breeding programs for a number of endangered species. I have an annual pass, and come to visit at least once a month.

I also find that Busch Gardens' visitors are just as interesting as the park itself. Because Busch Gardens is the major tourist attraction in Tampa Bay (apart from the beaches), one can find tourists here from all over the world.  You can get a good snapshot of how the world economy is doing by listening to the languages and accents you hear in the park--in some years, Brazilians dominate; in other years, it might be British or Russians. I've chatted with people from almost every continent.

So here are a few photos from a day at Busch Gardens Tampa.

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The Cheetah Hunt roller coaster.

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Cheetah. The two cheetahs on display are brothers.

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The Montu roller coaster.

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The "Egypt" section.

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Papyrus plants.

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The Plains of Africa exhibit area. Over 100 acres with free-roaming animals from the African savannah. These are Reticulated Giraffes.

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A colony of Lesser Flamingos from East Africa. A bit smaller than the more widely-known Caribbean flamingos.

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A female Zebra and her foal, spending some time away from the herd.

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A Meerkat on guard duty.

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Meerkat portrait.

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Spotted Hyena asleep in the shade.

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Male African Lion.

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Nile Crocodile, about 12 feet long.  His name is "Sobek", and he has been here for over 15 years.

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Hippopotamus. A viewing window lets you watch the hippo underwater.

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A gaggle of Guinea Fowl wandering around.

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Lowland Gorilla.  This is the dominant male silverback.

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Portrait of Lowland Gorilla.

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A Pitcher Plant. They are carnivorous--insects are attracted to the fluid-filled cups, fall in and drown, and are digested by chemicals in the fluid.

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Gila Monster.

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Juvenile American Alligators.

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A Greater Flamingo asleep. Native to the Caribbean; despite the popular image, there are no native flamingos in Florida.

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A Tentacled Snake, from Southeast Asia.

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An Eyelash Viper, from Central America.

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Aldabra Tortoise. Often confused with the Galapagos Tortoise.

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Portrait of Aldabra Tortoise

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A curious Hawaiian Goose, or Nene, watches me.

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The Skyride.  It's a great way to get some aerial views of the park and of Tampa.

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The veterinary hospital. Open to the public. All of Busch Garden's veterinary procedures are done here, with the vet explaining the procedures to the audience of tourists.  I once watched one of the Hyenas being operated on.

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The Scorpion roller coaster.

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The Carousel.

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The Kumba roller coaster.

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The Congo River Rapids raft ride.

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Jungala.  An Asian-themed section with kids rides, orangutans, and tigers.

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Tiger and two cubs.

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The Stanleyville Log Flume.

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The Zambia Smokehouse.  A barbecue grill, it has the best beef brisket in Florida.  I often go to Busch Gardens just to come here for lunch.

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The Sheikra roller coaster. It ends with a plunge to the water.

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Tourists beat the Florida heat by standing near the Sheikra.

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The Ubanga Banga bumper cars.  Get it?

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The aviary. You can feed cups of nectar to the free-flying lorikeets and other birds.

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A Roseate Spoonbill.

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Lorikeet.

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Lorikeet perched on a British tourist, drinking nectar from a cup.

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The Sesame Street section.

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Sesame Street characters ready to pose for pictures.

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The "Flying Elephants" in the Sesame Street section.

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Kangaroos.

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At feeding times, tourists can feed the 'roos.

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Portrait of a kangaroo.

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Black Swan.

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An Emu who finally stood still long enough for a portrait.

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This used to be the Hospitality House, where you could get free samples of Annheuser Busch beer. Now it's a pizza and pasta buffet.

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Laughing Gull. This one is just beginning to lose his summer plumage. There is an entire population of uninvited seagulls at Busch Gardens who make their living stealing food from tourists.

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Busch Gardens is wonderfully landscaped. An amateur botanist could probably spend an entire day just looking at the exotic plants.

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Tropical plant.

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Hibiscus.

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A pair of Macaws.

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Turaco.

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A baby aardvark asleep on her blankie, in the Animal Nursery.

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Gwazi, the park's only wooden roller coaster.

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The Sand Serpent roller coaster.

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Inside the Alligator pond enclosure, a keeper gives a talk to the tourists, while a second keeper stands guard.

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American Alligator, about ten feet long. All of the gators here are adults who are too old to breed.

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A keeper offers a chance to pet one of the flamingos.

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A Florida Cottonmouth, also known as the Water Moccasin.

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Asian elephants.

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The choo-choo train.  It's a quick way to get around the park, and also gives great views of the African Plains exhibit.

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Thompson's Gazelle.

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Giraffe and a herd of Impala.

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A couple of Wildebeest, and a White Rhino, Zebra, and Impala in the background.

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A Safari Vehicle out on the African Plains exhibit.  Get close to the animals; feed the giraffes.

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The "Castaway Critters" trained-animal show.  Pooties, woozles, llamas, porcupines, birds.

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