Park History

This page features a timeline of Busch Gardens' Africa's history from its opening in 1959 up to the present. This part of the site will be continually under construction as updates are released about the park.

March 31, 1959: Busch Gardens Africa (then known as Busch Gardens Tampa Bay) officially opens. The park originally was home to a brewery and aviary. The main attraction was the brewery tour, and while guests enjoyed their free beer, they could watch bird shows. Admission, the brewery tour, and the animal shows were all for free.

1964: The Old Swiss House opens, and became known as one of the finest restaurants in Tampa.

1965: August A. Busch, Jr. adds the 29-acre Serengeti Plains (known then as the Veldt), the largest free-roaming habitat outside of Africa. It was eventually expanded to 70 acres.

September 1966: The one and a half mile Monorail ride opens, providing guests with an aerial view of the Veldt.

July 31, 1970: The Boma area, now known as Nairobi, opens. A African small animal zoo, this area featured a petting zoo where guests could pet and feed goats and baby camels as well as an indoor lit area where guests could view nocturnal animals.

May 1971: The Trans Veldt Railway is added. Now known as the Serengeti Express, this train takes guests on a tour of the Veldt, stopping in Nairobi, Stanleyville, and the Congo. Four trains were part of the railway; two of the engines were fashioned after the type used in Africa in the 1990s, and two are replicas of those used in the American Old West.

June 1973: Stanleyville opens. The main feature of this area of the park was the Stanleyville Log Flume, the park's first water ride.

May 1974: The Skyride opens. The attraction, three stories high, allowed guests a new way to view the Serengeti Plain.

April 1975: The Moroccan Village, known as Marrakesh, opens. In addition to small cafes, it featured Moroccan craftsmen, organ grinding monkeys, acrobats, sword swallowers,  magicians, and belly dancers.

July 1976: The Congo opens. Monstrous Mamba and the main attraction, the Python were included in this area. The Python, a corkscrew roller coaster, was revolutionary for its time. The park also earns a new name: Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent.

September 1977: Busch Gardens' version of Disney's "Jungle Cruise", the "African Queen Boat Ride," opens in Stanleyville. Claw Island, featuring Bengal Tigers, the Swinging Vines, and Vivi Storehouse Restaurant are added to the Congo.

May 1980: Timbuktu, an area fashioned after the malls and bazaars of Africa. It featured a German Festhaus, Dolphin Theater, rides, games, and crafts.

1981: The steel roller coaster, Scorpion, opens in Timbuktu.

May 1982: The Congo River Rapids ride opens in the Congo area.

June 1982: A pair of white Bengal tigers are added to Claw Island.

August 1983: The Dwarf Village, a play area for small children, opens.

June 1984: The Phoenix, a pendulum ride, opens in the Timbuktu area.

April 1986: A one-acre elephant display opens

August 1986: The Moroccan Palace Theater opens in Morocco.

December 1986: The Nairobi Field Station, an animal nursery, opens.

1987: Two Giant Pandas, on loan from China, are on display for a year. The Monorail is closed for renovation.

February 1988: The Monorail reopens with 6 new trains.

1989: Busch Gardens celebrates its 30th anniversary.

June 1989: The African Queen Boat Ride, transformed as the Taganyika Tidal Wave, and the Clydesdale Hamlet open.

1990: The Old Swiss House opens, transformed into the Crown Colony House.

1991: The Questor, a simulator ride, opens.

1992: Myombe Reserve, a three acre Great Ape habitat opens. It's original inhabitants were 6 Western Lowland Gorillas and 9 Chimpanzees.

April 1993: Kumba, then the south east's largest roller coaster, opens.

1995: The Land of the Dragons replaces the Dwarf Village.

May 1996: The Egypt area of the park opens featuring the roller coaster Montu.

1997: The Monorail closes once again for renovation.

July 2, 1997: The Edge of Africa opens, featuring hippos, lions, hyenas, and others. The Monorail, which had renovated to include this section of the park, was reopened.

1998: Questor reopens as Akbar's Adventure Tours.

June 1999: Gwazi, the only dueling wooden roller coaster in the southeast opens.

2000: The Serengeti Plain is improved upon.

2001: Rhino Rally, an off-road safari ride, opens.

2003: Dolphin Theatre reopens as a 4-D theatre showing R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse. The World Rhythms on Ice Show ends.

February 2004: Cheetah Chase, a roller coaster styled after the "Wild Maus" in Busch Gardens Europe, opens in Timbuktu. Katonga, an African musical, opens in the Moroccan Palace Theater.

December 2004: Akbar's Adventure Tours closes. The Zambia Smokehouse is opened in Stanleyville.

May 2005: Sheikra, the United States' first dive roller coaster, opens in Stanleyville near the Smokehouse.

February 2006: Pirates 4-D replaces R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse.

November 1, 2006: Several areas of the Congo are closed for intense renovation. After 30 years of operation, the park's first coaster, the Python, is demolished. Claw Island also closes.

January 2007: The park announces that Sheikra will be going floorless after Memorial Day.

June 16, 2007: Sheikra reopens, floorless, to the public.

April 5, 2008: The Congo's renovated area reopens to the public as Jungala. It features up-close exhibits for the Orangutans and Bengal Tigers, three new kiddie rides, and a massive play area for children.

July 2008: The InBev Corporation purchases the Anheuser Busch's breweries and the Busch Entertainment Corporation for $52 billion.

2009: Busch Gardens celebrates it's 50th anniversary.

February 1, 2009: The two free beer samples traditionally offered BEC park patrons are no longer offered.

Summer 2009: Land of the Dragons was closed for renovation. It will be reopened in Spring 2010 as "Sesame Street Safari of Fun." The majority of the renovations will be just a makeover of the existing rides. However, there are plans to add a kiddie coaster onto the area as well.

October 2009: Busch Entertainment Corporation, which includes both Busch Gardens parks, all SeaWorld Parks, Adventure Island, Sesame Place, and Water Country, are sold to the Blackstone Group for $2.7 billion. Within the upcoming months, the Clydesdale Hamlet and the Budweiser Clydesdales will be removed. 

January 4, 2010: Budweiser Clydesdales are removed from the park.

March 27, 2010: Sesame Street "Safari of Fun" is set to open.

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