The Washington Times - June 4, 2008, 12:10AM


By Lisa M. Ruth, Associate Editor and Writer, Donne Tempo Magazine



Tamp, FL (May 2008)…Tigers and rides and playgrounds…oh my!

Busch Gardens newest attraction, Jungala, blends all the elements Busch Garden is famous for – adventure, animals, and pretty surroundings – into a self-contained area designed for the 6-13 year-old age group.

Lush tropical landscape and massive rock structures delineate the area, welcoming guests to the Jungala enclave inside the Congo portion of Busch Gardens Africa. Once inside, you can ride rides, play on a multi-tiered net play area, splash in fountains, or interact with animals.

There are also two dining options inside Jungala, Bengal Bistro and Orange Café. Jungala is dominated by a three-story family play area, Tree Top Trails, which gives guests an animals-eye-view of the jungle. The extensive maze includes nets, bridges, and tubes. It is full of kids running, balancing, climbing, and crawling, but it is so large that it doesn’t feel crowded.

The design of the area also allows those adults who choose not to climb to relax and watch children frolic on the nets without concern they will slip past them. Kids find it a nice respite from long lines in other parts of the park and a good way to burn off energy.

Two water areas in the attraction to give guests a break from the Florida heat. The central water area caters to older kids who want to splash each other and run through on their way to other sections of the park. The second area, snuggled to the side of Jungala, is for younger kids who want to cool off in a quieter setting.

That area highlights colorful frogs and gentle fountains, and an attendant stationed at the entrance greets young guests but keeps older kids out. There are two rides in Jungala, both billed as catering to 6 to 13-year-olds.

Wild Surge, the pneumatic ride that shoots riders 35-feet out of the top of a mountain, drops them, pauses, and drops them again, is by far the more thrilling of the two rides. Guests must be 42-inches tall to ride Wild Surge alone. Although designed for the younger age group, it is exciting and not for everyone.

On Jungle Fliers, kids sit on a swing-like seat and zip along the line over the Tree Top Trails. This is a serene experience, somewhat resembling the sky-ride, and signs warn of long lines. Guests up to 14 years old and 220 pounds are welcome on the ride.

Busch Gardens does an outstanding job of incorporating animals into the Jungala experience. Visitors get up-close to Bengal tigers, Orangutans, Gibbons, Flying Foxes, and Gharials (crocodile-like animals). As with other Busch Gardens animal areas, these are spacious and go to great lengths to make the animals comfortable and happy.

Orangutans swing on overhead lines, rest in hammocks, play in trees, or paint with a specially designed paintbrush. The tigers have a large, multi-level area and their own temperature-controlled pool. Visitors can watch them via an underwater viewing area or in a glass-enclosed cavity that extends into the tiger habitat.

A few lucky guests can participate in an animal encounter where they play tug-of-war against a 220-pound tiger.

Jungala is an excellent addition to the Busch Gardens Africa Park in Tampa. Designers create a sense of space by using wide walkways, rich landscaping, and water features, and included enough options that kids can stay entertained for literally hours.

All ages will appreciate the area, even if only to relax and watch younger guests run around, without waiting in long lines.

Lisa Ruth is an associate editor and writer for Donne Tempo Magazine

and a fan of amusement parks and fun family times!