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Taking Advantage of a Discount

Continuing my tourist ways, I took a trip to Tampa Tuesday to visit Busch Gardens. Never before had I visited there, however, during my time at Darden last week, a fellow showed me some photos he took there of Bengal tigers. What was I waiting for?
Babies no less!!!

Seriously, this was a bit of a stretch for me; seems like the older I get, the less I want to make longish drives by myself. But, the truth of the matter is that I work a little better solo, so off I went, traveling a convoluted route to I-4 because, as I was leaving, Regina stopped me on our street, and after learning of my mission, she mentioned she'd heard on the radio about a fatal accident which had traffic at a standstill for miles.

Now I know how to get on from the Osceola Parkway--not recommended for routine use, but it worked in this case.

I'm pretty sure the accident was caused by the heavy fog, continuing for the better part of my journey.
Arriving just before 11, I rode the tram to the park, which come to think of it, aside from my trip with Bev and Bonnie in the spring, I'd not been to a real-live theme park in who knows how long. I was rusty.

Well, it was just GREAT! Sounds a little like Tony the Tiger I guess, but I mean it--nothing short of fantastic! The regular admission is something like $90, with $15 for parking, however, checking their website, I learned that I could get a weekday ticket for $50, with parking only (only!) $9 if I paid online. It was worth every penny, and after what I saw, I'd say it is most definitely worth the full admission, particularly if you like massive roller coasters, which I do not.

That's the thing, there are all these crazy high roller coasters, with screaming riders, along with all sorts of quiet animals. Because it was 90 degrees, and I knew I had the 85 mile drive home, I only spent about 4 hours there, leaving at 3 to beat the traffic, however, I could have spent much more time had I not had those factors to think about. Whew--some really great sights, at least to my eyes.
I hardly know where to start, but I will warn you that there are loads of photos coming!

Maybe with the gorillas because that's where I started. The amazing thing is there are big plate glass windows, with the animals just on the other side. This one was laying about, just looking at the folks.
Sporting a bit of a goatee he is. They actually live in a very large compound with a big waterfall, climbing rocks, and the like.
Do you see the one resting on the rocks? Educating people about gorillas is a big part of what they do, with veterinarians giving talks throughout the day.
Consulting my map, I next went on the train trip running through what they call the Serengeti Plain with animals roaming freely, including giraffes, zebras, and various antelopes. It was good, but if I'd had the time, I might just have paid the extra to ride in one of the open top trucks, getting really, really close.
Can you imagine?? Angela would just die, as she LOVES giraffes. So does Tom for that matter.
See that little boy by the wall? See how high that roller coaster is? Yikes, it twists and turns, goes through a tunnel, or so I think, and ends up zooming over water. Check out the splash:
Not only are the people standing nearby to watch loved ones, but also to cool off in the gigantic spray!

Although I've seen a white Bengal tiger while visiting the Lowery Park Zoo, back in 2009, I'd yet to see the ORANGE variety. The exhibit is simply wonderful with multiple viewing stations. Get ready for photo overload!
I wasn't the only one! Sadly the glass was kind of scratched and messy, helped not one bit by all of us clamoring for a close up. One thing I learned from taking photos at The Shard, was not to wear stripes! Seeing the little girl's shirt reflected in the window shows you just what I'm talking about. I wore a plain white sleeveless top, which I think worked well.  From the open side of the enclosure you get a look at how it looks to the tiger as he looks in on us.
Three cubs, mind you!
They were so cute and playful, chasing after one another, and climbing the rocks.
Don't you just love that white spot on their ears?? I learned form one of the workers that they've only just begun to run around without direct parental supervision. Mama is just beautiful, isn't she?
You can even climb up a little ladder to view them at ground level. While I did so, one of the cubs was lying (laying?) on top of the glass!
Just wonderful!
Eventually one of the other cubs got up there as well. Sadly I took my leave of the tigers, in search of the LIONS!
Papa lion was having a nap when I went by, which was a little disappointing. What didn't disappoint were these cute ring-tailed lemurs having a lunch of fresh spinach.
I bet you want to see one in action don't you?
See, what I mean--one after another, the sights kept coming. Two female lions were hanging around the other open part of their habitat, but I did not see the lion cubs--drat!

Making my way around the other areas, I saw the elephants,
as well as a few zebras coming close for a drink of water. Interestingly enough, this is the variety whose stripes are actually very dark brown.
A view of the Serengeti Plain where they took off to roam.
You can see it turned out to be a lovely day, albeit very warm, unlike today which is gray, overcast, and chilly.

Thinking I couldn't see anything better, I did. A hippopotamus, or make that two, swimming underwater. This little girl liked it as well.
Honestly, it was incredible to see these huge creatures bobbing along, every now and again, coming up for water. They swam with the fish,
and turtles,
and ducks!
Yup, you get to see the underwater action of ducks. Honestly, I was mesmerized.

Making my way back the way I came, I took one last look in through the lion window, and what did I see? A lion, silly. Awake and alert.
What a face! It's almost hard to believe how strong and vicious lions are looking at one so close. I was lucky this time as there weren't too many people to vie with for space close to the window. Getting down on my haunches put me on his level to get the shot.

Could there be even more to excite me? Why yes, there could. The kangaroo area was closed for the day, so I missed that, but along the way I saw this cool/creepy lizard.
Not to mention a couple of gators and turtles hanging together,
but the cheetahs were elusive--maybe another time I'll get to see them. Three big cat varieties in one day? Too much to hope for.

I never stopped for lunch because I wanted to see everything I could;  by now I was getting a wee bit tired, but not so much that I missed the bird aviary. OH MY GOSH, did I see one of the most amazing birds in the world. Actually, because he was running around like a banshee in the bushes, I nearly missed him. Maybe some of you have seen the Lady Amherst's Pheasant, especially if you live in England. Here's what I found out about it using our friend, Google:

Named after Lady Sarah Amherst, who first introduced the bird into England in the
1800's, this birds natural habitat is in the bamboo forests of China and Burma.  This bird, for obvious 
reasons, is prized around the world by bird collectors. The male of the species is the more boldly colored one, like 
many other birds, and sports long colorful tail feathers, black and white neck feathers, a metallic green throat, 
and a red crest. 
They left out the shocking orange tail feathers! Honestly, is that one of the most colorful birds you've ever seen? Nearly every color of the rainbow is to be found on this astonishing bird, not to mention the intricate layering of feathers.
I can hardly get over that I saw it at all. The bird above on the right is none too shabby either, with a beautiful mix of blues, greens, and a hint of orange. Seriously, I could go on, and on, and I suppose that I have, but it isn't every day that one gets close to so many amazing animals, and birds. This little guy was not sure if he was happy or not, hanging with the Lorikeets, which are pretty beautiful themselves.
Here's a little history of the park, opened originally as a beer garden in 1959. How is it that I've never been there before, and it is so close? Don't ask me--probably because I'm a scardy cat when it comes to roller coasters?

Driving home, I kept smiling, thinking of what a great day it had been. No traffic problems marred that vision either. An early dinner, and it wasn't too long after that this tourist hit the sack. What a day!
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