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Old 11-08-2011, 07:53 AM   #31 (permalink)
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Great pictures and another great day!


The Disneyland, San Diego, and Vegas oh my! Trip Report

The Trip of a Lifetime - Alaska Land and Sea - Trip Report

A Whirlwind Trip to Arizona/Utah and the National Parks - COMPLETED 4/1/15

Another Whirlwind Trip to Arizona/Utah and the National Parks - 2015 - UPDATED 4/19/15
My Countdown Counting down to: Spring Break at Bryce and Zion NPs
Hiking around the National Parks
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My Previous TripsAPR '12 - POFQ, JUL '10 - DL, AUG '09 - DCL Western, AUG '08 - POFQ/BC, AUG '06 - AKL/BC/DisneyWonder/Poly, DEC '05 - AKL, APR '05 - AKL/BC, DEC '04 - AKL, MAY '04 - AKL/BC, MAY '03 - WL/BC, MAY '98 -offsite, MAY '94 - BC, AUG '85 - Poly, AUG '83 - Poly, AUG '81 - Poly, JUL '79 - World Inn, JUL '76 - World Inn
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Old 11-08-2011, 07:28 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Dlandmom2 View Post
I'm glad you were able to get some rest on this day. Hopefully Nest is better in time for Busch Gardens!

Nest really is quite the photographer! He really outdid himself this time! I already thought he took wonderful shots, but these are just spectacular! Can't wait to read your next entry!
Before we took this big trip, I used to wonder incredulously how people could bear to go back to their rooms in the middle of the day for a rest, or even "worse", have a non-park day , when there's so much excitement to have in the parks themselves! As our trip went on, as fantastic as it was, I began to understand, first-hand, the importance of breaks

At the risk of spoiling my next entry, with considerable difficulty, I managed to get Nest to come to Busch Gardens with me at the last minute! To this day, he imitates me trying to get him to come along on an activity, while he's trying to ignore me while sleeping

Super glad to hear you loved Nest's photos this post - I'll pass it on to him - I'm sure it will make his day
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
September/October 2012
My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-08-2011, 07:38 PM   #33 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by chezp View Post
I'm not surprised you slept in - you guys have been keeping going so well and it had to catch up sometime! The parade and the fireworks at the Christmas Party are the highlights for us, so I can imagine going there and just focusing on those.
Nest understood the importance of a good sleep-in more-so than I did, as he was always the last one to get up I thought he would've been the one with the higher energy levels, what with being almost half my age

I'm glad we had this quiet day, as not only did it let us catch up on some sleep, but it gave us ample time to focus on enjoying the Christmas fireworks and parade before the crowds noticeably increased further on down the track. Nobody does fireworks displays and parades like Disney
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
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My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-08-2011, 07:44 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Cam22 View Post
Awesome photos that make me feel like I'm right there! Great update!
Originally Posted by mushu22 View Post
AmazingCan't wait to more.
Originally Posted by Colexis Mom View Post
Great pictures and another great day!
muchly! I'm glad to hear you've all been enjoying my entries, and that they make you feel like you're there. I'm still "at" the Christmas parade myself, as I viewed my video so many times to ensure I got the descriptions correct, that the soundtrack is on a continual loop in my mind

Workin' on the next entry as we speak - have just passed the halfway mark
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
September/October 2012
My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-12-2011, 07:00 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Super-dee-duper beautiful photos! Amazing, spectacular - they looked like Disney press photos!
Can't wait to read more!

2009 Feb Disneyland - offsite
2007 Aug WDW - offsite
2005 June DCL West Coast/DL & DCA
2002 April Disneyland - offsite
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Old 11-12-2011, 07:40 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Really wonderful pictures of the fireworks and parade!

April 2012

My Countdown Counting down to: Disneyland and Southern California!
celebrating Disneyland's 60th Anniversary!
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My Previous TripsMarch 1989 - offsite; April/May 2002 - Coronado Springs; March 2003 - All Star Movies; May 2003 - offsite; July 2003 - Port Orleans Riverside; April/May 2006 - Port Orleans Riverside; September 2007 - All Star Sports; August/September 2008 - All Star Movies and Pop Century; June 2009 - Pop Century; August 2010 - All Star Sports & Disney Wonder; June 2011 - All Star Music; April 2012 - Disney Fantasy
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Old 11-12-2011, 09:24 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Amazing pictures of the fireworks and parade. I can't wait to read about Bush Gardens.
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My Previous TripsWDW Trips: Oct. 1976, Nov. 1977, Nov. 1978, Nov. 1980, Nov. 1981, Nov. 19 to 21, 1982, Nov. 17 to 19 1983, Nov. 10 to 12 1984, June 26 to 28 1986, June 26 to 28 1987, June 25 to 29 1988, June 25 to 29 1989, June 25 to 29 1990, June 17 to 19 1991, June 24 to 29 1992 (Port Orleans), June 24 to 29 1993 (Dixie Landing), June 24 to 29 1994 (Village Resort), June 25 to 30 1995 (Caribbean), July 5 to 10 1996 (Caribbean), Dec. 7 to 12 1997 (Caribbean), Aug. 7 to 13 2000 (Caribbean), July 16 to 22 2001 (AK Lodge), Jan. 22 to Feb. 3 2002 (AS Music), Jan. 19 to 26 2003 (POR), Sept. 21 to 28 2003 (Caribbean), Oct 3 to 10 2004 (AS Movies), Oct. 2 to 9 2005 (Pop), May 14 to 26 2006 (Pop), Sept 30 to Oct 7 2007 (Pop)
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:22 PM   #38 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dsnytina View Post
Super-dee-duper beautiful photos! Amazing, spectacular - they looked like Disney press photos!
Can't wait to read more!
Thank you so much - it means a lot to us both!
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
September/October 2012
My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:23 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by pamcarey View Post
Really wonderful pictures of the fireworks and parade!
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
September/October 2012
My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:25 PM   #40 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by clio View Post
Amazing pictures of the fireworks and parade. I can't wait to read about Bush Gardens.
Glad you liked the photos - thank you

Busch Gardens update coming right up (it took longer to write than I thought )
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My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-23-2011, 08:22 PM   #41 (permalink)
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DAY 12: Saturday, 20 November 2010

Tiger and Orangutan Keeper Experience at Busch Gardens in Tampa

I arose at 6am and got ready for a driver from Florida Express Bus to take me to Busch Gardens, a combined zoo and theme park featuring awesome coaters, approximately one hour and fifteen minutes away in Tampa. I was terribly nervous and not looking forward to the day as I should've been , as Nest had said the night before that he wouldn't be coming, as despite feeling as if he was over the worst of his cold, he still wasn't feeling 100% . I had invested way too much money in this day to outrightly cancel it , so at 6.30am, I woke Nest up and begged him to come with me, hoping that during the night his health had advanced further towards the 100% mark. After a lot of convincing, he got ready just in time for us to go and meet our driver in the foyer at 7am - I was so happy and relieved! Our driver wasn't there, which was a surprise, so we went out the front and spotted a Florida Express Bus vehicle with a man nearby looking out for us. He called out to us, "You people look as if you're looking for a ride!", so we knew we had found the right person. He apologised for not having been in the foyer as arranged, but on having identified himself to reception staff, he was asked to wait outside?!

Our driver's name was Keith, and because he was very friendly and easy to talk to, the drive to Busch Gardens seemed to take no time at all. We were excited to find out that Keith works for Disney four days a week, and Florida Express three days a week. He told us that Disney takes care of his insurance plans, and the driving pays his bills. Due to being employed by Disney part-time, he had so many interesting anecdotes to tell us as a result! He currently works in the Custodial section as a cleaner, but has the opportunity to rotate into other areas after a certain amount of time. 900 people work shifts in the Custodial section in the Magic Kingdom each day, and there's at least one person present in every bathroom, looking after them all day. With the night shift/super early morning shift, every doorknob and railing is polished in each bathroom.

Keith moved to Florida from Indiana with his wife, four years ago, after his five kids grew up and left home to raise families of their own. Back in Indiana, he used to be a driver, and drove brand new fire trucks from where they were made, to where they were supposed to be delivered. Because of this, he has been to every state in America, except two. Before starting work at Disney, he attended seven days of Disney school, where he learnt to interact with guests of all sorts, amongst other things.

One of the perks of being employed by Disney, is that staff have access to a staff only store called Company D, which sells discontinued lines and slightly damaged items, such as toys missing a piece, or clothes missing a thread, etc. Another interesting tidbit he told us, was that Disney sell enough popcorn in the Magic Kingdom each day, to cover the cost of that night's fireworks - we couldn't believe it! Either the popcorn is really over-priced, or the thousands of people who visit each day, really do love the stuff!

Keith passed us his lanyard of pins to look at during one point of the ride, and told us the story of a couple who had been coming to WDW for the past ten years, and how for the past two years, they had been looking for this one particular monorail pin produced for one year only in 2000, to complete their set. Both Keith and the couple were ecstatic when he had it to swap with them - it was a white monorail with gold trim around the window.

As we were driving down the freeway, Nest pointed Dinosaur World out to me from his window. We both love corny things, so I asked Keith if he had ever been there, but he said no. This was Keith's first time to Busch Gardens also, and he asked us to pick up some brochures for him to show his family, as well as some for his office at Florida Express. We happily agreed.

We arrived at Busch Gardens at around 8.15am. At first we thought we were the only ones there, but we eventually noticed two other small groups of people closer to the entrance. We waited around the big Christmas tree, taking photos, when Nest mentioned how tired he was.

At that moment, as if on cue, Santa boomed out, "Ho! Ho! Ho!", from the speakers, then this incredibly loud bouncy Christmas music started pounding away, which I couldn't help but find amusing in that circumstance. Needless to say, we moved to a quieter place near a life-size lion topiary and beautifully decorated lights, for Nest's peace of mind.

On the approach to 9am, we lined up at the entrance with a small crowd of other early bird guests, where a marching brass band came out to meet us and play a selection of Christmas carols, before the gates were opened. It was a nice memorable start to our day in the park, as opposed to just being let in on the dot of 9am with no fanfare at all. I thought it was nice how the machine said hello to us by name as we inserted our tickets.

Once inside, Nest and I went straight to the Adventure Outpost to get our Quick Queue wristbands (Busch Gardens' version of Disney's Fast Pass.) Their system was down, so we were directed to Guest Relations, where the system was also down. So no more time would be wasted, the staff member took my printout to redeem when the system was back up, and gave us orange wristbands to wear for the duration of our visit. We were required to put them on before leaving the counter. While I was helping Nest with his, and vice-versa, the staff member made a comment how it was just like a marriage ceremony. Nest walked away totally unimpressed and grumbling how he doesn't like people making the assumption that we're married. Perhaps we should design some brother/sister t-shirts in preparation for our next trip, to prevent this kind of thing from happening in future.

Our next order of business, was to check in for our 1pm Tiger and Orangutan Keeper Experience at the Up Close Adventure Centre. We were told to check-in at Tiger Treasures at 12.45pm, and were given a map with directions. The staff were really nice about it (and even more importantly, didn't mistake us for a married couple despite the matching wrist bands ), but I couldn't help but think back to where I had read on the website that it was essential to check in within the first hour of the park opening, which was one of the reasons I had organised door-to-door transport, instead of making do with the $10 Mears bus that wouldn't have got us in on time for this. I didn't let it bother me though, as by using Florida Express Bus' personalised service, we were free to enjoy ten hours in the park, where-as if we had caught the Mears bus, we only would've been able to spend seven hours in the park.

A whole 17 minutes had passed by that stage, and Nest had developed quite an appetite, so we went in search of some breakfast. We ended up at Zagora Cafe in the nearby Moroccan region of the park. It wasn't a good choice for people such as ourselves with my many food allergies and Nest's likes and dislikes, so we originally opted for just water as a result, before searching for another eatery. While waiting to be served, Nest's appetite got the better of him, and he decided to get a breakfast burrito with a side of fried potato cubes. After making our purchases, we sat outside in the cafe's nice cool shaded seating area. When Nest went to eat the burrito, he noticed some specks in amongst the scrambled egg, which he suspected were bacon, so I went in to check for him, and they said they were sausage, but weren't able to tell me whether it was beef or pork (I got the impression the staff member had trouble understanding what I was asking to begin with), so Nest didn't eat the burrito at all on the off-chance it was pork (Nest refuses to eat pork products, as pigs are his favourite animal.) I tried a bit, and found it to be quiet nice, but couldn't tell what kind of sausage it was. I shouldn't have been eating the burrito in the first place, as eggs usually bring me out in a rash, and pork products don't agree with me. Nest didn't feel like hunting down another eatery (those potato cubes must've been more filling than they looked!), so off we went to hit the rides.

I had been disappointed on entering the park, to find that three attractions were closed, one being a major coaster - noooooooooooo! As we were walking past the actual coaster, we discovered that it consisted of two tracks, and that it was only the tiger track that was closed - we were free to ride the lion track! Woo hoo! Gwazi is the biggest wooden rollercoaster I've ever been on - it was so HUGE (I've read that the highest point is 90 feet, but it seriously seems much larger than that), and the aerial shots I've seen of it are most impressive. The most memorable thing about it, physically, was that it really rattled my head around as it careened around the track, which got quite painful after a while. I heard someone else in the exit queue mention the same thing, and poor Nest ended up with a headache.

Squirrel racing us to the Gwazi Queue

Across from Gwazi, was a souvenir shop called Xcursions. We stopped in for a mandatory thrill ride break (despite only having been on one so far that day - - we must be getting soft in our old age! ) Nest didn't see anything that took his fancy, but I came out with a pack of souvenir postcards for my collection, and a Gwazi magnet for the fridge (can't forget the fridge! )

As we were now in the Bird Gardens region of the park, we came across some beautiful birds not native to Australia. We were particularly excited to see the absolutely gorgeous apricot-pink coloured flamingos (they matched the flowers in their area perfectly! Perhaps they were eating them, hence the perfect match in colour?), and some brightly coloured macaws (some were blue and yellow, others were red, green and blue.) The blue and yellow macaw kept opening and closing its left wing, as if it was saying hi to Nest while he took a photo. On hindsight, it reminds me of the macaw signage up in Disney's Animal Kingdom, doing that very same thing.

As one of our bros is a horticulturalist, I do my best to keep an eye out for flora not indigenous to Australia, to take photos of and tell him about on our return. Near the flamingos' area, were some interesting plants called Elephant Ears, which I thought were really cool, both in name and appearance. According to the name plate, the Elephant Ear plant is native to Asia, and the arrow-shaped leaves can rapidly grow to a length of three feet long.

Moving along, the natural course of the path led us to Stanleyville. Everything seemed innocent enough as we walked past the brightly coloured childrens' area, Safari of Fun. But as you know, appearances can be deceiving, and as we turned a corner, found ourselves face-to-face with the horrifying 200 foot 90 degree drop of the SheiKra coaster. So what do we do? Hunt down the entrance as quickly as possible, arms stretched out as if we were approaching a long lost friend! Boy, was I going to regret that move in the next few minutes!!

I was feeling fine as we were secured in our seats - just the usual butterflies of anticipation were present. I was fine as we set off. I was fine as we climbed 200 feet of track (but only because I could see sky, and not how high up we actually were.) I was not fine as we levelled out and approached the 90 degree drop. As Nest and I were sitting in the FRONT ROW, we had an **awesome** (disengage sarcasm mode) unobstructed view of the 90 degree drop from 200 feet up. You know when Will E. Coyote chases the Road Runner, and sometimes runs off the cliff, and when he realises he's in mid-air, desperately begins pedaling air with his feet, as if that will help him back safely to solid ground, before he starts to fall? That's exactly what I was picturing myself doing at that exact moment. I was so bleeping terrified , and desperately wished I could get off back the way I came. As that was in no way possible, all I could do was scream as it tore around the track at 70mph after that cruel four second pause over the drop! (Nest has since made a note to bring ear plugs with him in future ) For reasons I cannot explain, we got straight back on afterwards for another whip around the course , but this time I wasn't subjected to the front row. As we were exiting the ride, a squirrel hesitated right in the middle of the path, as if to say, "Should I or shouldn't I go on?" Perhaps it was the same one we saw over at Gwazi? Nest requested that I didn't buy any souvenir photos or videos during our visit that day, due to him feeling a bit off-colour, so I respected his wishes. He thought they were way too overpriced anyway.

We followed a squirrel into Kariba Marketplace across from SheiKra, for our second mandatory recovery period. This time it was Nest's turn to make a purchase, while I just looked on. He bought a personalised dog tag from a machine. He chosen image was a Busch Gardens white tiger, and on the other side, he programmed the machine to etch one of his random sayings, which I believe was, "I like cheese." It was genuinely interesting to watch the machine etch the phrase with such precision - a task once only achievable by human hand.

At 11.30am, we had an early lunch at the nearby Zambia Smokehouse, taking a seat in the outdoor eating area. Nest had a smoked chicken salad (it was nice except for the grated carrot, which was super dry), a slice of carrot cake (he said the icing tasted like Dr Pepper, which he's not a fan of), and water. I had a turkey wrap with a side of coleslaw, a cup of chocolate pudding topped heavily with whipped cream, and a bottle of water. My main course was delicious (I loved it how the sliced turkey was put on an inch thick, so you could really taste it), but I found my pudding to be surprisingly detestable. Nest had a try, and managed to eat it only after picking off the cream.

There was so much activity going on around us while we were having lunch. There were a lot of squirrels dashing about, which was fantastic, as they're a novelty to us Aussies. We also noticed loads of old people getting about, some of which were quite frail looking. I wondered to myself what would they want with a bunch of thrill rides , before remembering that the park has an animal component as well! We also had a great view of where SheiKra's cars fly over water near a public viewing area, spraying any unsuspecting onlookers with huge flumes of water. Unfortunately for us, no one got unexpectedly sprayed during our watch

Speaking of water, we decided to do all the water rides after lunch while there was still of a lot of sunlight left, to give us a chance to dry out afterwards. I thanked my lucky stars I was still carrying around one of the ponchos given to us at Universal, so that Nest could ride with me, as he wouldn't have come on them otherwise because of his cold.

The first water ride we came to, was Stanley Falls Flume. This travelled in a windy waterway high above the paths like the one we rode at Wally World (Six Flags Magic Mountain, California) back in 2007. We floated along at a pleasant speed, going down the occasional dip, but not getting wet (though I do remember Nest jokingly complaining about his shoe at one stage.) The final drop of 40 feet didn't faze me at all compared to the drops on Jurassic Park and Splash Mountain, but I was still excited to go down it, and got quite wet in the process, as Nest made me sit in front so I couldn't hide behind him. At the tallest points of the ride, there were people stationed in tiny dark coloured enclosed look-outs. I was concerned for them, as there didn't seem to be any room to move in them, and the dark colour the look-outs were painted, must've really been conducting the heat, making such a hot day more unbearable than it needed to be.

On Tanganyika Tidal Wave, Nest and I got a big boat to ourselves, which was a surprise, considering how hot the day was. The boat travelled super slowly through barren jungle scenes spotted with tribal art and skulls, followed by a deserted village of stilt houses, to the beat of jungle music. The 55 foot drop to this ride didn't faze me either, but I got absolutely drenched! (I have since read that the boats are specifically designed to drench riders - what a cheek! ) Thank goodness I wore my jumper in place of an emergency poncho of my own, and didn't need it for warmth at all that day. I remember people watching us as we came down, and smiling as I went by screaming, but they were watching from the side behind the protection of a glass panel, and not the viewer's platform above where they, too, would've gotten drenched. C'mon - where are people's spirit of adventure?!

To get to the Congo River Rapids, our last water ride of the day, we left Stanleyville, by-passed the Jungala region, and entered the Congo region. The passengers on our circular white water raft consisted of a really nice Indian family, a really nice Spanish family, and a well-dressed teenage boy who was noticeably worried about his clothes . He was so worried about his hat in particular, that he whipped it off and shoved it under Nest's poncho without asking - hey!

As we got underway, all these old people standing on the bank took great delight in squirting us with supplied water cannons! As it was a hot day, none of us minded (though I can't speak for the well-dressed teenage boy ) - it was good to see them joining in and having fun. The huge tyre we were travelling in, travelled quite fast along the course of choppy water. Depending on which side of the tyre went down in the dips, depended on which side got splashed (or should I say drenched? ) the most. I thought it was funny how me and a Spanish lady screamed a lot in anticipation, thinking were going to get wet, only to have nothing happen! I got absolutely drenched when my part of the tyre was the part that hit this horizontal stream of strong running water, and seemed to stay in it for the most part, before heading up to the disembarking area. One of the guidebooks I used to research this trip, described the way I was feeling at this point, superbly: "There's nothing like the helpless feeling of watching your boat drift into the path of one of these megafirehoses." (Sehlinger, Bob and Rafter, Grant. Beyond Disney : the unofficial guide to Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and the best of Central Florida. 6th ed. Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, 2009 ; p. 85)

My jeans got absolutely drenched as a result, which made them really uncomfortable to walk around in for a long time afterwards. Our tyre was allowed to go around again without anyone having to disembark, but Nest and I unfortunately had to get off to make it to our Tiger and Orangutan Keeper Experience in time , otherwise we would've jumped at the chance for a second round. Unfortunately, the drying booth at the exit of the ride was being heavily used, and we didn't have time to wait for it, so it was up to the sun to dry us off. As Nest was 'cheating' and wearing a poncho, only a small patch of his shorts got wet.

We back-tracked to the Jungala region, and made our way to the Tiger Treasures store using the directions we were given that morning. On entering the Jungala region, I suddenly became aware of a terribly mega loud noise , and instinctively ducked down, thinking some kind of plane was about to make an emergency landing, as that's how bad the sound was. I started fussing to Nest about what on earth was that noise. He had been momentarily distracted from it due to the sight of my sudden crazy avoidance movements I felt so stupid on discovering that it was the Kumba coaster!! It was unbelievable how close to the footpath it travelled, and how deafening the noise was! This area is definitely not for the faint-hearted!

We made it to Tiger Treasures with our hearing still intact (minus one or two percent), and were directed to one of the public tiger viewing areas which led off the store, where we checked in for our experience with Beth, who was to be our host. She gave us tiger badges to write our names on and wear for the duration of the tour. We waited for a bit, in case other potential tour participants were running late (or caught out by the volume of Kumba), but no one else turned up after about five minutes, leaving myself really pleased that it would just be Nest and myself on the tour Beth started off by taking us around to the three different public tiger viewing areas, and telling us each tiger's name, describing their characteristics and personalities. One of the tigers who was meant to be out, was currently inside her night pen, as she was afraid of the stilt walkers who roam the Jungala region interacting with guests during certain hours. Once the stilt walkers are gone, the said tiger is let back out. Staff have tried reassuring the tiger that there's nothing to be afraid of from the stilt walkers, by bringing down pieces of their costume, but that approach didn't work.

Because the tigers could recognise Beth's voice, they came over to where we were standing, expecting a snack and giving us great photo opportunities, but no snacks were forthcoming at this stage, leaving one tiger in particular, looking rather unimpressed. Sometimes the tigers are fasted, as if they were in the wild, they wouldn't eat every single day. On the fasting days, the tigers are given huge bones to gnaw on, to make them feel as if they're eating something. On their eating days, they get a base diet of mince with all the fat and sinew left in it that tigers love. All the tigers are fed separately so that they get the correct amount of food according to their weight. They also get treats - their favorite being raw chicken (at the Zoo here in Canberra, I was told that chicken to big cats, is like chocolate to humans ) The tigers are trained to recognise their name, so that they come when called. If they're asleep when called, and don't hear their name, they're also trained to come inside when they hear a drum beating.

After frequenting all three public tiger viewing areas, we then moved on to the public orangutan viewing area. The orangutans out in the yard, were a Dad, Mum and daughter family from New Zealand. The orangutans have a base diet of lettuce (which they didn't seem overly fond of, as it was spread all around the yard, like I'm sure my eldest brother wishes he could do with his broccoli! ), and absolutely love eating fruit. They're also given enrichment toys to amuse themselves with, both day and night. The keepers have to be careful about the enrichment toys they put in the day enclosures, as one intelligent orangutan stacked them all up against the wall of her enclosure one day, and escaped!! I got the impression there was a video of the incident on YouTube, so didn't ask anymore questions about it. Staff hope to breed the New Zealand male orangutan with their own female orangutans, but the females don't like him , so there goes that plan! Staff are trying to overcome this problem, by housing their female orangutans next to the New Zealand male orangutan in separate pens at night

After familiarising ourselves with these beautiful creatures from the public viewing areas, it then came time for the part of the tour I was most excited about - backstage access! We would be visiting the orangutans backstage first, but before we went inside, we had to step in shallow trays of disinfectant so our shoes wouldn't carry any germs into the sanitary areas. Nest and I were also given plastic gloves to put on, so that we could assist in feeding an old female orangutan called Joy, and a young male orangutan called William, rockmelon cubes, without passing on any of our germs, and vice-versa.

We could see them through this massive pane of what I assumed to be thick Perspex. They came right up to it, and it was just so wonderful to be able to be that close to them and see them without having to strain for a good view, even though we knew there wouldn't be any physical contact. For our own safety, we had to put the rockmelon cubes down a feeding chute, because a fully grown orangutan of either gender can be three to five times stronger than an adult male human (with the exception of Chuck Norris ) When we took turns in feeding Joy, you could tell that she really enjoyed her rockmelon, as she waited for it to come down the chute with her hand hovering expectedly at the bottom, ready to catch it. She gobbled the chunks up straight away, only eating the flesh and spitting out the peel. We attempted to feed William, who had the most adorable bowl-style haircut, but he didn't want any, and moved away from his shoot. Joy didn't waste a second in moving to William's shoot and eating his share of the rockmelon

We then went to another backstage area where there were more orangutans. Their keepers were there and showing us some things they had taught them, and the reasons behind these actions. I thought it was so cute (and sensible) how the petite female orangutan we'd be observing, went and got an armful of straw to sit on once she knew it was training session time, so she wouldn't be sitting straight on the cement floor. Donna did the interacting with the orangutan, while the other keeper whose name escapes me (as does the orangutan's, sadly), did all the talking. Once again it was explained to us the superior levels of strength orangutans have compared to humans, so all staff interaction with the orangutans is carried out in the protective area we were currently standing in, through a secure metal cage - never are they both on the same side of the cage.

Sitting at the petite orangutan's height, Donna touched two shoulder-high parts of the cage, where the orangutan put her hands for inspection, and for foot inspection, Donna touched two lower parts of the cage. In-between these two heights was touched for a torso inspection. Each time the orangutan complied (which was always), her actions were positively reinforced with a big chunk of pear, which was fed to her through a cage gap with a fork. Next on the inspection list, were facial features - nose, forehead, and teeth. I thought it was interesting how the command for teeth, was Donna holding her thumb and forefinger apart near the orangutan's face. More pear chunk treats followed. The purpose of this training, is if an orangutan is feeling unwell, staff can get them to easily present body parts for inspection with as little stress as possible.

To get the orangutans used to the medical instruments that would accompany a real medical check-up, such as their annual physical, stethoscopes, ear thermometers, tongue sticks and a syringe are incorporated into this training. For a genuinely serious situation where an orangutan is required to follow direction, they are positively reinforced with a small piece of candy, which they love. Candy is only used on these rare occasions, to keep the treat fun and exciting. The orangutan we were observing, was given the special treat of having lip balm applied after the medical instruments training. We were told that she also loves having hand lotion applied.

Another part of the training I found really interesting, involved a laser pointer. The keepers have trained the orangutans to go and touch wherever they shine the laser pointer. The reason behind this is if an item the keepers don't want the orangutans to have access to, accidentally ends up in their day or night enclosures, all they have to do it shine the laser pointer on the offending object, say "Give!", and the orangutan will retrieve the item for them.

This little orangutan has the best relationship out of all the orangutans at Busch Gardens, with the keepers, and absolutely loves interacting with them. She also loves observing the keepers, and mimics them blowing kisses, putting on lipstick and brushing their hair. While we were there, Donna gave the orangutan a hairbrush, so we could see for ourselves how much the orangutan relished using such an object. The keepers have also noticed how this little orangutan loves experimenting to get their attention, such as clapping, twirling, and doing handstands. Such human actions had to have been picked up during training sessions, and performed as little impromptu actions for attention, as I don't think she would've been able to come up with such behaviour purely on her own. I'm not very good at asking questions on the spot, so didn't think to confirm my thoughts at the time.

Under Donna's guidance, we were permitted to present the orangutan with a command, and she would react accordingly. Donna would show us a command out of the view of the orangutan, then turn back to face her. Calling the orangutan by name, Donna would then point at the person about to give the command, as a sign for the orangutan to know who to take notice of. I simply blew the orangutan a kiss, to which she blew one back to me, then clapped her hands, and we all joined in. Nest was shown the forward-roll command, to which the orangutan rolled to the corner of the section of the cage she was in, and back again with ease. Whenever I tried to do forward rolls at school, I always ended up rolling onto my side instead of straight ahead ... and that's when I was thin! Think of the trouble I'd have doing them now! Other commands we saw the orangutan undertake, was a self hug and a handstand. She was also presented with a harmonica, but she wasn't able to play it, and just looked as if she was nibbling it. I'm sure she'll eventually be able to work it out, as keepers view her as the most intelligent orangutan on property. Out of the seven orangutans at Busch Gardens, two of them have learnt how to play the harmonica, which was really impressive to see.

Due to her observations of the keepers, the petite orangutan is now able to sneeze on cue, which the keepers class as an accidental behaviour Now whenever the orangutan is handed a sheet of paper towel, she sneezes into it, a behaviour which came in handy when she genuinely caught a cold a few years back. After the pretend sneeze, Donna quickly twirled her hand in the air, to which the orangutan proudly swirled the paper towel in the air. For some reason, I found this funny, and was quiet relieved that the sneeze she used it for previously, was fake and not a snotty one

There was a fire extinguisher mounted on the wall opposite the row of cages, with curious lengths of material hanging off it. When we asked the keepers about it, we were told that the orangutans were left with some t-shirts overnight, and when the trainers came in the next day, they found that the t-shirts had been carefully torn into strips, made into long lengths of rope, and hung around their cages like a spiderweb. How cool is that?!

As we were about to leave the orangutans' backstage area, I blew the orangutan we had been observing, a kiss, without Donna telling her to pay attention to me, and she madly clapped her hands in response

The next part of the tour was a surprise, as we weren't expecting to see anything but tigers and orangutans. Beth, our host, took us to the public gibbon viewing area, where we were just in time to see them being fed by their keepers. The male gibbon was black with white side-burns, and the female gibbon was blonde with a short black mohawk. The keepers moved to opposite ends of the viewing area, and a gibbon followed each of them, perching on top of a wooden post, focusing intensely on the cup of food in their keeper's hands. The gibbons had to be fed simultaneously while separated like this, finishing at the same time, so that they wouldn't squabble. As it was, the female gibbon was making fast chirpy bird/squeaky toy noises, which sounded cute to me, but probably meant something totally the opposite to a gibbon. The keepers fed them small bits of carrot, apple and banana through the wire mesh fence using long metal skewers. The handles were shielded by a metal guard in case the gibbons shot their long fingers through the fence and accidentally scratched the keeper in their quest for food. Before being fed each piece of food, the keepers touched various parts of the fence, which was the gibbons' cue to display various body parts such as hands, feet, head, tummy and back, or simple behaviours such as standing up and sitting back down, to ensure the gibbons were fit and healthy. The blonde gibbon was in such a hurry to be fed, that when she was asked to display her back, she sat so hard up against the fence, that her fur fuzzed right through it, which made me wonder how soft she felt.

As the gibbons swung out of sight after finishing their snacks, I noticed for the first time, what a beautiful outdoor enclosure it was that they called home - it was lovely and green, with logs at all height and angles, tall green trees, short green bushes with pretty blue flowers, a refreshing looking stream, and long thick ropes for swinging on. If it weren't for this tour, Nest and I wouldn't have gotten round to viewing the gibbons (even if we had've, would we have been able to see them this closely without the keepers there with offerings of food?) I'm so glad we got to see them for the short time we did, as they were very comical, cute and fun to watch due to their long flexible bodies and limbs.

As much as I had been enjoying this tour, the very best thing was saved till last - backstage with the tigers! Before being admitted through the secure gate, we were informed that we must ensure we kept behind the thick yellow line at all times for our own safety. The three feet between the yellow line leading to the front of each tiger cage, was for keepers only.

The first tiger we came to in the outside backstage area, was a white female tiger. She was the third tiger at Busch Gardens to be in training to retrieve a stick from a metal pool of water. The reason behind this was so that keepers could get the tigers to go in the water in their habitat areas, to demonstrate to the public just how much tigers love water. One tiger can do it on command so far, but the other two in training, are still learning. The white tiger we were observing, is able to complete the task in a minimum of five minutes, but keepers want her to be faster at it. The keeper doing the training that morning, was Jodie. She was a brilliant person full of energy, and very passionate about her job. She appeared in front of the cage, gave the single command of, "Stick!", then stood there quietly, patiently waiting for a result. The tiger keeper with us, was talking us through what was happening. Even though we could see the events for ourselves, her interpretation was helpful and assisted us in understanding the scene in a new light. We were told that the tiger understood what was asked of her, but that she was deliberately testing Jodie first, making the occasional vocalisation and half-picking up the stick then dropping it, "... like a bratty child, testing her parents to see how much she can get away with first." Jodie erupted with excitement once the stick was finally retrieved from the pond, and the tiger shot over to where she was standing, for her special chicken treat, followed by a meatball. I was quite taken aback by the speed of the tiger's movements - it happened so quickly, that my brain didn't have time to process it until after it had happened! Scary speed from such an awesome, yet dangerous, animal.

The next tiger we came to in the outside backstage area, was a very pretty cinnamon and white coloured tiger. I've never seen a tiger of this colour before, so I tried super hard to get a decent photo, but the many bars and numerous wire fencing separating us from her, made that an impossible task. I wont be winning any photography prizes for the shots, that's for sure! (Nest was busy taking the odd video here and there, in preference to photography.) This tiger was in a very bad mood, which we were told was a permanent personality trait. For the duration of our observation, she was constantly growling and emitting the odd snappy roar while a different keeper attempted to get her to follow direction so she could inspect her paws and agility. The tiger was very stubborn and didn't always present her paws on request, or jump up on the different levels of platforms in the cage when asked. I don't believe it was because there was something physically wrong with her - she just didn't seem to feel like it. We were told that she's always like this with all the tiger keepers.

While in the outdoor backstage area of the tigers, the roar of the Kumba coaster was painfully loud. I was concerned with the effect this would surely have on the tigers' wellbeing, as it was certainly bothering me, and asked the keeper if the noise bothers the tigers. The keeper said that she doesn't actually notice the noise until it comes time to talk on these tours, but admitted to thinking that Kumba has gotten louder that past year. That wasn't exactly what my question was, but I didn't push the matter any further. Nest and I were talking about it after the tour, and were convinced that it had to have some kind of negative effect on the tigers, and perhaps that was one of the reasons why the cinnamon tiger was so permanently cranky for.

As if on cue, we then moved indoors, where it was much quieter, to see the tigers who were backstage there. The first tiger we came to, was an orange and black one called Bhutan. Nest and I took turns in assisting Jodie train him. When it came to my turn, Jodie got me to get Bhutan to get down on his tummy, then sit up. The hand command for 'down', was a downward pressing motion, and the hand command for 'sit', was holding your hand out straight in a fist. Bhutan quietly grumbled and moved about the whole time as if to say, "What are you trying to get me to do, woman? I don't know you!" Jodie said we'd take a quick break, and explained that it wasn't my fault that Bhutan wasn't complying, as these commands were new ones they were testing out. Bhutan was more compliant the second time around in a reluctant kind of way, and was rewarded with meatballs.

The second lot of training we assisted Jodie with, involved a very long wooden pole with a blue ball in a white cup on the end. Nest and I took turns in gently holding it anywhere on the cage front, which was Bhutan's cue to touch it with his nose while Jodie quickly inspected his paws and tummy, then feeding him a meatball for complying. As we were much closer to the indoor tigers than outdoor tigers, we were able to appreciate their size so much better. It was a little freaky to see when Bhutan stood up on his hind legs, that he was taller than Nest (who I thought was pretty tall at 6ft 4"), and would be able to reach the ceiling with ease if the notion took him - thank goodness there was a 'lid' on these cages!

A few doors down from Bhutan, lived a magnificent white tiger called King. There was an air of peacefulness about him, and he responded immediately to Jodie's paw presentation requests. As King was so much bigger than Bhutan, which was immediately obvious when he stood up on his hind legs, he was housed in an area of the building with a much higher ceiling. Nest and I quietly watched on while Jodie and another keeper brought out some sheets of paper and orange paint. King watched on also, and seemed really inquisitive when they approached him with the items. It soon became apparent that the keepers were going to try and get King to do a paw print painting. After a few hits and misses, he produced a perfect replica. As a reward, some big cardboard boxes smeared with peanut butter inside, were placed in the empty cell next door, for him to explore. He seemed a bit deflated that this was his enrichment reward, and Jodie said she'd have to organise some "good excitement" for him.

Down towards the end of the building, were shelves of scruffed tigers toys, such as witches hats, tyres, giant pot plants, and buoys - they were covered in a myriad of scratches and punctured with large powerful teeth marks.

We also got to see the corridors the tigers walk down to be weighed without it being too much of a bother for them. The sight of them reminded me of an episode of the BBC crime show called Dalziel and Pascoe I watched years back, where a policeman was crawling down similar corridors for some reason, and someone let the tiger loose in them!! Before leaving the backstage tiger area, Nest and I were given a paw print painting each of King's, which really surprised us - we loved them! Nest was extra pleased he was handed the perfect painting, and jokingly taunted me about it for days afterwards, saying all I got were random orange smudges on mine. Brothers

The backstage component of the tour now sadly over , we returned to the covered public tiger viewing area, where I got to feed a white tiger a bucket of meatballs under the guidance of Beth, and Nest got to feed an orange tiger a bucket of meatballs under the guidance of Jodie. We were really crowded by the public, who wanted to know how they could have a go, which impeded on the enjoyment of our experience somewhat, as I wasn't able to concentrate solely on the task at hand despite Beth asking people to move back Feeding the tigers in this way, was the same locked chute arrangement as with orangutans William and Joy. Despite the crowds, I enjoyed dropping meatballs down the chute to the beautiful white tiger waiting so close to me on the other side of the glass (though my vision of said tiger was obstructed some-what by the chute.) As Beth told me to be super careful not to put my hand down the chute at all, I never got to see the tiger eat any of them.

Even though I know tours eventually come to an end, I was still surprised when told that the tiger feeding marked the end of our Tiger and Orangutan Keeper Experience. When having a great enriching time like this, I just wish it could keep going and going! I am very grateful that Nest and I received such warm gracious hospitality from the various keepers we came into contact with. We could tell that they were all very passionate about their jobs, and proud of the animals entrusted to their care. We were very fortunate to be the only guests on this tour, as it allowed us to enjoy and take in the experience at our own pace without having to stress about the behaviour of other participants, as well as take photos and videos without having to jostle for the perfect view. This experience was meant to last for an estimated hour-and-a-half, but it ended up stretching out to two-and-a-half hours for us.

As Nest and I were leaving the public tiger viewing area after saying our thanks and goodbyes to Beth and Jodie, I noticed the orange tiger Nest had been feeding, stalking him through the upstairs walkway, probably wondering if Nest had dared to keep any meatballs aside for himself! It was a tiny bit intimidating, as the location of the tiger made him seem taller than he actually was, and you could see his powerful leg and back muscles rippling through his coat. In the photos I took, you can see the tiger's eyes glowing, which makes him appear even more threatening!

On our way back to the Congo region to ride Kumba, we came across some remote control jeeps, which Nest wanted a go of. Who was I to refuse? Nest spent quite some time playing with them, and seemed to relish the relaxed pace we had returned to, after the constant go go go of the tour.

Afterwards, as we hadn't eaten for the past four hours, Nest shouted me to an ice cream and bottle of Pepsi from the Jungala Market. (I panicked when I discovered that Busch Gardens was a Pepsi product venue, and not a Coke product venue! )

Sadly, the only thing I remember about our experience on Kumba (apart from the noise), was setting off on the bright blue track. I feel really let down about this gap in my memory, especially as it's one of Busch Gardens' headline coasters. Perhaps I was so traumatised by the experience, that I completely blocked it from my mind? I have no trouble remembering Gwazi, as it was our first ride of the day, and how could I forget SheiKra after facing that 90 degree drop for four seconds? I suppose some parts of the day are bound to be lost forever, as it was an information overload kind of day by the end of it all.

The next attraction we came to, were the Ubanga-Banga Bumper Cars. Nest and I absolutely love bumper cars (partly because they're the only cars we're legally allowed to get behind the wheel of at the moment - a running joke in our family), so we joined the very long queue for them. It took ages to reach the front of the line, and while waiting, I noticed how the attraction had a very dark and dingy look and feel to it. Still, everyone who rode the dodgems, did so with a big smile on their face, so it couldn't be all that bad. Due to the kind of crowd that we rode with, when we finally were able to get behind the wheel, I didn't feel self-conscious in the slightest, crashing into anyone and everyone (with more family-orientated parks like Disney, I'm always careful to aim for Nest only, as I don't want to upset anyone.)

Having conquered the Congo, Nest and I moved onto the next region, which was Timbuktu. The place had a Middle Eastern theme to it, and was full of brightly lit-up carnival type games which offered oversized stuff toys as prizes, amongst other things. There were also super large skill testers, offering large electronic items as prizes (I'm not up-to-date on what all the latest gadgets are called - I still haven't progressed past a CD walkman, and my mobile phone is so old, it doesn't even have access to the internet or sends picture messages ) These skill testers were so large, it was like they were the size of small rooms, and the huge claw (which never seemed to grip the wanted objects as tightly as they should've ) hung down and operated from the ceiling.

Much to Nest's delight, Timbuktu also featured the Sultan's Arcade, which was full of the types of games he absolutely loves playing, and offering funny little random objects as prizes. It was so hard to drag him away after what I considered a decent amount of time devoted to the place!!

The first Timbuktu coaster we went on, was Cheetah Chase, a crazy mouse coaster. There was quite a line for it, but thankfully it was fast moving. Soon Nest and I found ourselves sitting in the front row of a vehicle, with a Mum and her young son behind us. The Cheetah Chase is classified as a family/kiddie coaster, and I'm embarrassed to say that the razor sharp hairpin turns really made me scream, which in turn, unfortunately made the boy behind us start crying (I'm really )

Scorpion was the next coaster on our agenda. The line for it was longer than the one for Ubanga-Banga Bumper Cars! The ride was really slow to load, and I estimate we had to have been queuing for over an hour at least (our Quick Queue wristbands were only valid on the superheadliner coasters, the three water rides, and Rhino Rally.) Unfortunately, because we spent more time waiting in line than on the coaster itself, I don't remember much about it. I stopped for a bathroom break afterwards, and Nest shot back to the Sultan's Arcade quicker than I could say, "Have you got enough quarters?" I took the opportunity to take a few shots of Scorpion (at least I'll be able to remember what it looked like! ), before heading back to the Sultan's Arcade myself in an attempt to extract Nest

By the time I had extracted Nest from the stronghold of the Sultan, the sun had began to set and time was getting on. There was still one more superheadliner we had yet to ride, and that was located on the other side of the park. As neither of us felt like running, we set off for the Egyptian region immediately. To get to the Egyptian region, we had to pass through the Nairobi region, where we discovered, much to our dismay, that had unbelievably forgotten about all the animals on this side of the park!! There were so many of them to see! We hadn't even taken the train around the Serengeti Plain, which takes up almost half of Busch Gardens! Where did the day go?! There was no chance we'd be able to see all the animals, travel around the Serengeti Plain, and ride Montu, the remaining coaster, before the park closed , so we reluctantly cut our losses, and continued on towards Montu. Having said that, we still took a few moments to admire the elephants, which we both really love.

We had just began to continue on our way, when we spotted a rhino charging out of sight in his habitat area. It was so awesome to see such a large rare animal move like that with our own eyes, instead of having to rely on the TV for such a scene Unfortunately, neither of us were ready with any kind of recording device (the light was really bad for photography by this stage anyway), but thankfully the scene has been emblazoned in my memory banks, so that will just have to do until next visit

It was after this moment, that we spotted the sign for Rhino Rally safari, both lamenting out loud that we couldn't pass this opportunity up , even if it meant missing Montu Ooooo, the sacrifices we were suddenly forced to face at this late stage of the day! We hesitated when we saw the length of the line, but then we spotted the Quick Queue entrance, and ran for our lives for the first time that day, calling for the jeep to be held for us (we're never this extroverted in public, but we were desperate to catch this ride, as it could allow us to still possibly catch Montu immediately afterwards.) We clambered into the jeep, scoring the last two seats right up the back. I was so relieved we had made it, and felt as if I could finally relax and enjoy what was ahead of us. After introductions all round, and a child called Dakota being chosen to sit in the front passenger seat as our driver's navigator, our jeep set off on its wild adventure

The only Rhino Rally photo that kind of turned out (I don't know why I wasn't aiming at the animals in this shot for?!)

Driving past the elephants, our driver's commentary began: "They are some of the ugliest animals in the world, and they are behind the fence for a reason. Those are called the people." He then went on to say that elephants drink up to fifty gallons of water a day, and can hold three gallons in their trunk. He then asked Dakota if he could name the two different types of elephants, to which Dakota matter-of-factly replied, "African and Indian." Our driver immediately hit back with, "No - male and female! But you were so close!"

As we drove through some water, our driver went, "WOOOOOOOOO!", so loudly into the microphone, he could've rivaled with Kumba in the volume department Recovering from that, he then informed us all that he just happened to look over at Dakota as we entered the water, and how Dakota had been screaming, "Ahhhhh!" I thought it was hilarious how he then added, "Even if you didn't, Dakota, I've got the microphone, which means I always win!"

Matter-of-factly, our driver then got us to look over to our right: "Can you see that? That's called water!" Further upstream, were a flock of flamingos, honking away, presumably feeding. Our driver referred to them as African killer ducks. He was immediately correct by Dakota, but our driver refused to concede, telling us all how he had had one fly into his windscreen the other day, and that it had put a "quack" in it. "And do you know how I fixed it? With duck tape!" Some fussing ensued from Dakota

We passed some Scimitar-horned oryx during our travels. Their horns can grow up to 42 inches in length, and our driver informed us, "With them, they can scratch their own backs, pick each other's noses, and receive up to 72 channels of satellite TV."

"The creature in front of us about to get in our way ... WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! ... is the Hartman's mountain zebra." That, my friends, was our introduction to the Hartman's mountain zebra This breed of zebra is brown and white, as opposed to your typical black and white zebra. Then our driver asked Dakota if he knew how to tell the difference between a male and female Hartman's mountain zebra, "without looking at the obvious", which I thought was just so to the point and funny. The answer, obviously, was that the females' stripes go white, brown, white, brown, white, brown, where-as the males' stripes go brown, white, brown, white, brown, white.

The excitement continued when our driver called out, "Everybody put your hands up on the air and make some noise! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" As Nest and I were right up the back and couldn't see what was coming, I genuinely screamed as we shot down a dip. Noise mission accomplished! As we levelled out, our driver's commentary resumed, with, "That was three feet down at a blazing speed of 7mph ... it was almost 8mph, as we were going downhill."

We eventually made it to the rhino's habitat. Our driver told us that he didn't know where the rhino was today, but if we looked over to the right on the ground, he could definitely show us where the rhino had been. The humour then intensified: "Those are genuine factory made Florida rhino brownies. I'm going to slow down for you guys so you can smell the poo-pourri in the air. Everybody breathe in and show me your stinky faces yeeeeeah!" That last sentence was delivered in such an ever increasing high squeaky voice, I wasn't able to hold my breath as we passed the poo-pourri, as I was too busy laughing The toilet humour theme was brought to a close with our driver saying, "We actually like to call that the endangered 'faeces' of the rhino." A sensible rhino fact we learnt, was that they can charge up to 35mph, "But he wont be charging us today, as his credit cards are all maxed out."

On our way to the disembarkment point, we drove through a swamp area ("WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" ), home to some Nile crocodiles. Crocodiles can jump up to half their body length out of the water, "eating baboons, small mammals, park guides, and Daaaakotaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" As our brilliant safari experience came to an end, the driver said that if we were happy with our tour, then his name was ?? (I regrettably didn't catch it), and if we weren't happy, then his name was Dakota.

To put it mildly, our driver was AWESOME! He was so entertaining, quick-witted, had a fantastic sense of humour, and was so full of energy. I do realise that a lot of what he was saying was most likely scripted, but it was the delivery of the lines that really made the experience for me. He also had an immediate rapport with Dakota, and they played off each other to great effect during the safari, which was great. I was so glad Nest and I had been able to catch this particular jeep.

Much to our delight and relief, we still had a tiny window of time at our disposal after Rhino Rally, to try and catch Montu. We had just taken the path through the Edge of Africa section as a short-cut to the Egyptian region, when breakfast took its revenge on me To make matters worse, there wasn't a bathroom in sight! The timing couldn't have been worse! As we changed pace from a relaxed stroll to an intense power walk, I heard the sly mischievous laugh of some nearby hyenas, as if they were relishing the spot of bother I suddenly found myself in. We just made it to the Egyptian region and found the bathroom, with virtually no more time to spare - phew! Like Bill Murray's character in the wonderful 1991 comedy movie What About Bob?, there's nothing more stressful than desperately needing a bathroom, having none to be found, causing your bladder to explode.

Apparently I was so long, Nest had time to browse some nearby stores, partake in a turtle-shaped choc-coated ice-cream, and get the lighting right to enable him to successfully photograph a wall covered in Egyptian lithographs. I was so dehydrated by the time I emerged from the bathroom, I bought myself a bottle of water to down as we hurriedly hunted out the Quick Queue for Montu, which turned out to be through the shop we were in. As I knew we wouldn't have time to shop after riding Montu, I also purchased some more postcards and an awesome "Defy the 5" Busch Gardens coaster t-shirt for myself, and matching hoodie for Nest.

Shoving our belongings in a locker, we made it onto Montu in minutes, with only five minutes to go till closing! We both only just fitted in the seats, with poor Nest only just being able to click his shoulder restraints down due to his height. As Montu took off, I was so glad it was night-time, as I got an attack of the nerves once again ... the approaching 13 story drop no doubt had something to do with it There were a lot of corkscrew turns and upside-down loops, which I got through with my eyes closed and mouth operating at full volume Getting off the coaster, I was surprised I wasn't physically sick all over again - as it was, I had the shakes big time (apparent from the last two photos I took in the park that night), and Nest had a headache (hopefully not from my screaming ) Despite the after-effects of Montu, I was super happy Nest and I were able to "defy the 5", as that was our main goal in coming to Busch Gardens.


After such a turbulent ending to our time at Busch Gardens, we had a lovely relaxing walk with the remaining park guests, to the exit. It was a really nice atmosphere, with the sounds of water features running in the background, the odd animal noise here-and-there, and colourful Christmas lights sparkling magically against the night sky.

Still shaking from riding Montu

On the drive back to WDW, we excitedly relayed out day's experiences to Keith. He also told us how he had been asking around about Dinosaur World, and eventually came across someone who had been, saying it was just a whole lot of dinosaur statues. We really appreciated how he seemed to have gone out of his way to find out for us, without us asking him to. Before heading for 'home', Keith asked us if we needed to go anywhere else first, to pick up something to eat or drink. At first we said no, but then I asked if he knew where we could find Twinkies, and explained the story behind our request. (Nest and I once watched a movie called Zombieland starring Woody Harrelson. We loved it how his character's main goal of the whole movie, was to hunt down a place that still had Twinkies in stock. His hunt for Twinkies became so intense - it really resonated with us! A character after our own hearts, or should that be stomachs As we had never tasted them before, we were really eager to experience them for ourselves.) Keith said a nearby gas station should stock them, and came in with us to help find them. We grabbed a few packets (including one for Keith!), as well as a packet of powdered donuts and a packet of Suzy Q's (chocolate cake layers with creamy filling.) Because we were all talking so much afterwards about this, that, and the other, we ended up at the All Star Resort instead of the Pop Century Resort - LOL! We didn't mind though, as we got to see a giant Coke cup (Pity it wasn't full, as I had still yet to have my fix for the day )

On pulling up at the Pop Century Resort, we said our goodnights, and went to Everything Pop to pick up some dinner and take it back to our room We made being served just in time, as our receipt was marked 9.01pm! Nest had what was to become a firm favourite - chicken parmigiana with side of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and mini herbed bread stick, supplemented with a container of carrot and celery sticks with ranch dipping sauce. I had what was to become a firm favourite of my own - beef and broccoli stir fry from the Chinese cuisine counter. We got a small cheese pizza to share, which was really delicious. For beverages, Nest got an apple juice, and I finally got a Coke ("WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" ) and a bottle of water. We didn't pick up any desserts this time round, as we had our packets of Twinkies (deliciously sweet), Suzy Q's (deliciously rich), and powdered donuts (disappointing - we thought they were powdered in icing sugar, but it turned on to be something else) to munch on afterwards. We had the TV on the entire time, but I don't recall what was on.

I was so happy as I drifted off to sleep that night , worn out from the magnificent day we had had, and my stomach full from a delicious dinner. It was also a very happy thought, knowing that we could get up at our leisure the following day, as we had no booked transport to catch, or any tours to prepare for.

Next entry: Our first day at Disney's Hollywood Studios, followed by the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party and the Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom
Little Brother & Big Sister
Cruising the Pacific Coast on the Disney Wonder
September/October 2012
My Previous TripsWalt Disney World: 2005 & 2010 ; Disneyland California: 2007, 2010 & 2012 ; Disneyland Resort Paris: 2001 & 2003
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:50 PM   #42 (permalink)
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I have so much fun reading your updates! That's just amazing that you hit all 5 coasters! At one point in my life I would've happily gone with you, but I think that point has passed...and you'd be lucky to get me on maybe one or two!

I actually hadn't heard much about Busch Gardens until your update, so thanks for sharing! I didn't realize they had so many things to offer. The tour looked really fun and interesting. How wonderful that it became a private tour for you and Nest!

You are such a great sister to plan all these things to enjoy with Nest! I can't wait to hear about the next day's adventures!
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:57 PM   #43 (permalink)
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Old 11-23-2011, 11:11 PM   #44 (permalink)
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What an amazing day at Busch Gardens! It sounds like a great tour! You got some amazing interaction and great photos too!

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Old 11-24-2011, 01:22 AM   #45 (permalink)
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Wow, what an amazing time at Busch Gardens - that tour sounds so good, we may have to look into that next time we're there!

Enjoying the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot on the second Disney World portion of our Disney Dream and Walt Disney World vacation. The pre-trip report for our forthcoming Alaskan cruise on the Wonder and our return to Disneyland has now started.

I'm Cheryl and I'm the author of PassPorter's Walt Disney World for British Holidaymakers and the co-author of PassPorter's Disney Vacation Club Guide I'm also one of the PassPorter guides for the Disney Vacation Club, Eateries, Globetrotting, Globetrotting Trip Reports, Disneyland Resort Paris and Disneyland Trip Reports forums.
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My Previous TripsDisney: 18 trips to WDW, 5 to Disneyland in California, 8 to Disneyland Paris, 1 to Hong Kong Disneyland, 1 to Tokyo Disney, 1 to Aulani, 1 to Hilton Head, 2 to Vero Beach and 7 Disney cruises on the Magic, Wonder, Dream and Fantasy to the Caribbean (four times), Alaska (once) and the Mediterranean (twice). Non-Disney (because otherwise I can't keep track...): American cities (Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington DC), American National Parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Death Valley, Everglades, Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons, Virgin Islands, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion), Hawaii (Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Big Island) and Europe (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Spain (including Tenerife, Lanzarote and Mallorca), Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Monaco, Finland, Norway and Sweden)
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