One of the oldest operating attractions at Busch Gardens Tampa, the Serengeti Express takes guests on a journey through the vast Serengeti Plain where you can see roaming African animals like giraffes, zebra, and rhinos, as well as into the depths of the jungle under rides like Kumba and SheiKra.
Open Date: June 1971
Previously/Also Known As: Trans-Veldt Railway, Trans-Veldt Railroad, Serengeti Railway
The addition of the railway was part of a $14 million expansion plan for the park announced at a preview of the new Boma area on June 5, 1970. The attraction opened in June 1971, featuring a ride along an approximately 2-mile-long circuit.
It was listed as the Trans-Veldt Railway on the 1974 map and was described as being patterned after African trains of the late 1800s. It featured tours of the Outer Veldt with tops at Treetops, Stanleyville, and Nairobi.
The attraction was listed as the Trans-Veldt Railroad on the June 1999 park map. The building where the Egypt station was located was displayed on the map, but not listed as an operating station at that time.
A dedication ceremony was held on June 23, 2000, as the attraction reopened to guests as Serengeti Express Railway. Enhancements were being made on the Serengeti Plain in the previous months which included the realignment of some sections of the railway. The ceremony for the project completion included a golden spike driven in by step dancers from Riverdance: The Show, which was being performed at the park.
In April 2010, the Serengeti Express closed for some realignment work due to the new Edge of Africa walkway from Nairobi being built along with Cheetah Hunt construction. The railroad reopened by the end of May 2010, although not using the Nairobi train station at that time due to continuing construction work in the area. By June 13, 2010, the Nairobi station was again in use.
Listed by the park as “Serengeti Railway Train,” the attraction was closed for two days on January 24 & 25, 2011 due to construction.
The park announced on March 16, 2015, that the Serengeti Railway would be closed following the day’s operation until early summer due to construction related to the new 2016 attraction (later revealed to be Cobra’s Curse).
Three days later on March 19, 2015, construction walls were erected around the crossing and former station area between Egypt and Edge of Africa. By March 28, rails and ties were being torn up in that area. Ultimately, the rails were removed from the area next to Cheetah Hunt‘s brake run to an area past Montu.
The grade crossing between the Cheetah Hunt plaza and Edge of Africa was raised slightly and beyond the Crown Colony building the rail line curved slightly to the north, over a new short bridge where one of the trenches for Cobra’s Curse would later be added. The new alignment then continued past the spot of what would become a new grade crossing for guests walking along the path between Egypt and Edge of Africa and curved back slightly south to rejoin with the rest of the line near Montu. The former Egypt station was demolished as part of the project.
The railroad reopened to guests on May 21, 2015. The park released a time-lapse video shortly after which gave a glimpse of the train moving through the Cobra’s Curse construction site.
At the time of reopening, the rail line through most of the 2016 attraction construction site was flanked on either side by a construction fence featuring a themed Egyptian wall print. A spokesperson stated there were no further planned closures for the railway during the new attraction’s construction.
Along with the realignment, additional maintenance work was completed on other sections of the railroad and equipment during the closure. A new Spanish recording of the safety announcements was also added.
By the beginning of September 2015, the Congo station was again closed for the season.
A small fire occurred on one of the locomotives at sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg on August 16, 2018. The Serengeti Express in Tampa was closed on the afternoon of August 17, and the park’s website was later updated to state the train would be closed until further notice. Serengeti Express reopened on Sunday, September 30, 2018.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the attraction in the summer of 2021, the park released some new merchandise highlighting the occasion, including several new shirts.
The Stanleyville Train Station was not operating from October 4 – 26, 2021 as work was conducted on the railway, including the replacement of track in the area around Kumba.
The Congo Train Station, which had irregular usage for several years, reopened in early April 2022.
Additional information and images of Serengeti Express will be added in the future.
Serengeti Express was featured in a number of postcard views available to guests as souvenirs over the years.
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Last update: March 3, 2023