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  • Busch GardensKumba Busch Gardens Tampa, Florida
    Busch Gardens at Tampa Bay, Florida, opened in 1959, with an awesome African theme, and had original been called the Dark Continent. The park is one of the biggest zoological parks in the nation, with over 2,700 animals, most of which live in a natural habitat environment that has wide open spaces and exciting rides that entwine with the animals to create one of the best theme parks in the country. And certainly one of the most exciting and sensuous ones, as the smells and sights of the animals assail your sense while you walk, ride or coast along in the park. Rides and attraction venues include; rhino rally, Sheikra, Gwazi, Montu, edge of Africa, Kumba (shown in the image to the right) and Scorpion. The park is a few miles from downtown Tampa, which means it is more accessible for motorists. The Sheikra ride is a vertical dive coaster that opened in 2005, and was the first dive machine roller coaster that opened in this country. The park offers many types of private tours that bring you up close to the various animals in the park, which is very exciting for you and your family. A few are; the Serengeti Safari, Jungala Insider, Sunset Safari, Sunrise Safari, Endangered Safari, Serengeti Night Safari and much more. The rides at the park are made to invoke the most serious thrills you will ever try in a theme park. The Sheikra is 200 feet high, with dives that are 90 degrees straight down and will give you the most incredible sensations ever. The Gwazi is fashioned after the old wooden coasters that were around years ago, rickety and creaking, causing you even more than the normal anxiety you would from this kind of ride. It can reach speeds of up to 100 miles an hour, which, when hooked up into some kind of contraption that makes you wonder if it is safe or not. Of course it is probably safer than your car, but that doesn't help your mind feel that way as you roar along the wooden tracks. The new Kumba ride, pictured to the right, will give you even more frightening sensations, but that is what makes it so fun. In the animal attractions, you have the bird gardens, Serengeti Plain, edge of Africa, Lory Landing, rhino rally, Myombe Reserve, Jambo Junction, Jungala and more. Another feature of Jungala is the zip line that takes you across the tops of a rainforest. You will get up close to Bengal tigers and huge orangutans that will make you think about whether you were right in choosing to come here. But it is all for your pleasure, excitement and positively fun. If you go to Tampa, or are planning to, then make sure you plan on going to Busch Gardens, for it is one of the best places to visit in the state of Florida. Disney parks, Universal, SeaWorld and others will certainly give you a wonderful time, but for the best, the most unforgettable, go to Busch.

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  • Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing CenterTampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center Tampa, Florida
    The state and the federal government have designated the Manatee Viewing Center a manatee sanctuary, and was created to educate, and showcase these gentle creatures of the deep, the public about their habitats and lifestyles. The center is open November to April, since that is when the waters are cooler and the manatees love warm water, especially in the winter months when the water coming out from the electrical company warms the water. There are also exhibits and other materials that will help the public and the student learn more about these marvelous mammals and their life cycle; particularly the challenges that they face. It is disheartening to see these gentle sea cows with wide open cuts along their bodies, put there by the insensitive boaters that fly along the rivers where these creatures live. At the center, there are volunteers and other staff that will inform you about the manatees and the continued efforts to save them and keep them safe. The center gets its name from the fact that the viewing center is located next to the warm water discharge canal that lays between the Big Bend Power Station and the center; where the manatees always come and gather when the water falls below 68 degrees. Some observers have seen up to 300 manatees at one time near the canal, and it is an exciting and unbelievable sight. Besides the center viewing station, there is a tidal walkway that brings you into the deep recesses of a mangrove habitat, manatee observation platforms and more. With hundreds of birds, fish and other animals that live and thrive along the coast, there are many varieties of plants as well. There is a museum about the manatee and you can see numerous films about them, the power station and the history of Tampa Electric; plus a gift shop, South Shore Cafe and web cam that shows you what's happening during the season. When the power station opened in 1970, the workers were quite surprised to see the manatees swimming around the waters of the canal in huge numbers. The company's officials soon realized what a prize that they had stumbled upon and before too long, they went to the Florida legislature to make the area an official manatee sanctuary, in 1986. They were given their federal status in 2002, and grew from a few observation platforms into a 50 acre site that has enticed over 2.7 million visitors so far.

January 11, 2011