For my birthday, Chris took me to Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa, which had a lot more animals than I thought it would. Busch Gardens Africa is a roller coaster/zoo combo, but it turned out to be more zoo than roller coaster park.
I have also dutifully taken over 800 photos of which I've managed to whittle down to a mere 377. This is what happens when one card can hold over 1100 large photos.
We arrived at the park around noon and didn't leave until closing at 7:30p.m. We didn't see all the exhibits at the park either, but luckily we are Florida residents and can return all year for free!
There are two things that I suggest doing if you visit. The first is the lion feeding. There's a sign (I can't remember where) that will tell you when they get fed. It's not always the same time every day. The lions are fed five pounds of food each day, but they could be fed all five pounds at one sitting or five feedings of one pound each or any variation in between. Lions in the wild sometimes won't eat for several days, so that's the zoo keeper's attempts at giving them that sense of what happens in nature.
The lion enclosure allows them to get right up to the glass. And they can see you, but they seem to ignore the humans. The lionesses that walked up to the glass was ignoring the children running up and down the glass. I think keeping them fed helps.
The three that we saw were adolescents and were a bit scrawny, much like human teenagers might be. They've fixed the females so that they can't have any babies. Apparantly, there are too many lions in the zoos, so they're trying to be responsible. I didn't think about this at the time, but I always thought it was easier to fix boys than girls, so why fix the girls?
At the lion feeding, the lions become much more active. They run after the food that's tossed to them and they stalk up and down the enclosure waiting for that food.
While at the feeding, I asked about the buses that go to the giraffes. I wasn't sure which ride that was and I didn't want to miss that. Well, it turned out that it's an adventure tour that required tickets. We made our way to the ticket tent and discovered that there were only two tickets left for the whole day, so we bought tickets. Yes, they cost extra, but the cheapest short tour is worth it.
There are more expensive, longer tours as well as adult tours that offer free Anheiser Busch products and there's even an 8 hour guided tour. Unless you want free beer or want to be told where to go and where to eat for 8 hours, I think the 30 minute tour is sufficient enough.
So they take you out to the giraffes and they give you a decent amount of romaine lettuce and you feed the giraffes that come to the truck. There's one that's particularly friendly (or loves lettuce so much, she'll tolerate a dozen hands touching her neck.), she'll come along and seek olut lettuce from any place she can find, whether you offer it in your hand or in your mouth or in your face. She will stick that long agile tongue out and get it.
I only offered the lettuce with my hand. Giraffes have no upper teeth, so they can't bit you. And if you hold the lettuce at the end, that tongue won't ever touch your hand. Their saliva is thick and gooey because of the food they eat in the whild. And their tongues are dark at the tip and pink further inside to keep it from getting sunburnt in the African sun. They also pick their nolses with it, so I wouldn't sujggest putting the lettuce anywhere near your face like some drunken passengers and their child.
There's another giraffe that's more timid, and she'll think about it and get up her nerve enough to grab the lettuce. I don't think she likes being petted. When another woman tried to pet her after feeding her, she moved away again. But she was cute. She'd see the lettuce and you could see herself thinking about coming to get it. Her mouth would move and she would stare at the lettuce. If you hold it out long enough, she'll come get it.
Giraffe fur feels a little rough, like a shar-pei and not like a smooth-coated laborador.
Another thing that I'd suggest is to enter the lorry exhibit. The birds are allowed free roam of the area and you can feed them nectar. Chris and I didn't do it, but there were plenty of other people willing to do it. And the birds are a wonderful array of colors.
I had a great time overall. The sky was overcast and at times there was even a breeze that cooled the sweat from my skin.
We'll probably go back again before the end of the year. I want to get better pictures of the lorries.
The rest of the excessive zoo photos are here