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Busch Gardens Tampa – Egypt: Serengeti Safari Tour

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Guided tour
Time: 30 minutes
Kelly says: A safari for those who can’t get to Africa

First the bad news: There is a hefty extra charge for this attraction of $34 for everyone five and older (annual passholders get a $2 discount). That will probably be a budget-buster for many families; but if the cost doesn’t scare you off, this one will provide experiences you’ll remember for a good long time. If it’s any consolation, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than going to Africa.

The tour begins when about 20 people are loaded on to the standing-room-only back of a flatbed truck. A small awning provides some shade at the front, but since it is lowered for the animal feedings much of the time you will be in the searing sun; a hat, not to mention water, is not a bad idea. Your friendly tour guide, a Busch Gardens' education staffer, lays down a few simple safety instructions and then it's off to the interior of the Plain for the real highlight of the tour—a chance to hand feed the giraffes and elands. Along the way, you will see ostriches and maribou storks, but the giraffes are the stars of the show.

The adult giraffes tower over you, while the youngsters just get their heads over the edge of the truck. They are remarkably tame and will let you pet their stiff, tawny necks and soft muzzles. You may also get a demonstration of how they use their long black tongues to pluck the dainty leaves off thorny acacia bushes. For most people, this is the highlight of the tour. To have two or three of these gentle giants leaning into the back of the truck as you feed them and stroke their powerful necks is a very special experience indeed..

The best seats in the house. The back of the truck where you stand has a padded rail around the rim. I suggest positioning yourself at one of the back corners since giraffes will often trail after the slow-moving vehicle looking for another handout.

Tip: The trucks have a maximum capacity of 20 people and on a typical day there are just five tours. While the high price keeps the crowds down, tours do fill up quickly. You can reserve ahead for the first tour of each day only, which departs at 11:15 a.m. and is the only morning tour. The morning tour also offers the advantage of beating the heat of midday.

Call (813) 984-4043 to make your reservation. When you arrive at the park, look for the Adventure Tour Center in Morocco (on your left), where you can pay for your tour with cash or credit card. If you don’t reserve ahead, you must sign up in advance for one of the afternoon tours when you get to the park; it is wise to do so early.

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