My Chevy Cruze road trip, in a Cruze Eco courtesy of GM in the Southeast, has a definite animal theme. Places like the Giraffe Ranch and the Safari Wilderness Ranch have customized experiences that focus completely on the animals. If you want to see wild creatures but want some roller coaster thrills, too, then Busch Gardens has a nice mix.
Busch Gardens Tampa is a little over an hour away from the Walt Disney World area. It has habitats with animals from places like Africa and Australia, as well as special exhibits like Cheetah Run, which is integrated with the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster.
You can do a number of extra-cost hands-on animal experiences at the park. They’re not as intimate as feeding the lemurs at a place like the Safari Wilderness Ranch, but it’s still fun. For example, you can sign up for a safari that includes going out on the Serengeti and feeding a giraffe. You can also kangaroo food or nectar for the lorikeets.
Click the video at lower left to see the kangaroo feeding. If you’re interested in these experiences, check the prices and times when you get to the park.
One other point of interest for animal lovers at Busch Gardens is the Animal Care Center. Veterinary activities used to go on behind the scenes, but the park opened this state-of-the-art facility earlier this year so guests can see procedures firsthand. Click the slideshow accompanying this article to see the interior of the center.
Some days, there’s not much going on, although it’s a nice air-conditioned respite from the Florida heat. Other days, you might see anything from an exam to an ultrasound to surgery. For example, recently guests and veterinary personnel alike were astonished to discover that a kangaroo undergoing a dental procedure had a joey in her pouch.
If you want to take your own road trip to the park, it’s an easy jaunt down I-4 to I-75. You usually don’t encounter much traffic head toward Tampa once you’re past the Orlando attractions area.
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