Returning this year for just seven select nights is the Serengeti Night Safari at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. On this dimly-lit adventure, Guests travel through the “Edge of Africa” to explore the exciting nighttime behaviors of many wild creatures, both predators and prey.
Animals are not only spotted up-close, lit only by moonlight and lanterns, but also shown off in a much more active way than can be seen during the day. Lions normally seen sleeping are on the prowl, hunting for food. Hippos emerge from the water and run around surprisingly quickly. Hyenas jump climb, and jump for hand-outs. No matter how cute they might appear, they are all deadly! Fortunately, the predatory animals are kept at a safe distance inside glass-enclosed pens. They’re the same pens you can see during a daytime trip through Busch Gardens, but the night adventure offers a unique look at more exciting behaviors.
Guests are accompanied on the Serengeti Night Safari by expert tour guides who have a knack for mixing knowledge with a bit of humor. Here’s a video overview of the safari experience, including a few words from the adventure guides:
The $60 per-person nighttime experience begins and ends in the Safari Club, introducing Guests to the over-the-top personalities of the safari guides. Their antics might deserve a few groans and a bit of eye-rolling at times, but their humor adds comic relief to the 2+ hour adventure, which could otherwise become all too serious. At first, Guests might be taken aback by their wacky behavior that begins with a sometimes-silly photo opportunity. Here I am pictured with the guides’ as they show off their “Eiffel Tower” pose:
But their comedy styles are infectious, and by the end of the night, all are joining in the fun.
The Serengeti Night Safari only allows Guests 21 and older, so no screaming children will be found during this peaceful night. Instead, adult Guests are offered appetizers and adult beverages before the excursion, along with a nightcap complete with coffee and desserts after, including a few specialty drinks. Don’t expect dinner to be served, but enough food is available at the beginning to satisfy any rumbling stomachs for the duration of the trip.
Midway through the night, Guests stop off at a campsite, where more drinks are available, along with ample seating to enjoy some relaxing downtime while listening to a few choice safari-inspired stories. (No roasting marshmallows, though.)
Between all the eating and drinking, Guests first take an easy, slow-paced walk along Busch Gardens nature trails, then board open-air standing-room-only trucks to head out onto the savannah. The walking portion shows the predators, and the riding portion reveals the prey. And while it may seem like the predators would fill the night with the most exciting, the highlight for all comes when giraffes are invited up to parked trucks and Guests hand-feed them lettuce.
During the truck portion of the experience, Guests are given night vision-equipped monoculars, allowing them to peer into the darkness around them. But they’re almost always not needed as safari guides point out wildlife using a red-hued spotlight, which is outside of the animals’ visible spectrum, allowing onlookers to watch animal behaviors without startling or blinding them.
The laid-back Serengeti Night Safari allows Guests to witness animal behaviors generally not seen during the day and enjoy a peaceful time as the only visitors remaining in the Busch Gardens theme park. Gone are the screams that accompany fast roller coaster rides, replaced only by the chatter amongst the group – and a few occasional animal sounds. It’s a unique way to experience the impressive animals housed at Busch Gardens that can only be offered after-hours at night.
The remaining Serengeti Night Safari dates for 2010 are Nov. 13, 20, and 27 and Dec. 4, 11, and 18. The safari begins between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., depending on the event date and time of sunset. For reservations, call 1-888-800-5447 or visit BuschGardens.com. The experience is subject to availability, and additional dates may be added.