Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are living conditions like during Busch Gardens Resident Camps programs?
A. Resident Campers stay at Mzinga Lodge, Busch Gardens’ on-property dormitory, which houses up to 60 campers. Males and females have separate sleeping quarters, locker rooms, and bathroom facilities. Each bathroom facility contains four private shower stalls, sinks, and toilets. There are full-sized lockers for storing and securing personal possessions and toiletries—please bring a standard combination lock. Sleeping arrangements consist of two bunk beds separated by a corridor, four campers to a bunkroom. Mzinga Lodge is air-conditioned and contains a classroom, commons room, dining area, infirmary, and laundry room. Please limit the size of your suitcase to no more than 9 inches thick so that it will fit beneath the bunk beds.
Q. Who are the Busch Gardens Resident Camps team members?
A. The Education Department at Busch Gardens has a year-round team of experienced camp personnel. The senior camp team has years of experience teaching students of all ages. Our seasonal resident camp counselors are highly motivated, experienced college students that are carefully selected and background screened. They spend two full weeks training at the zoo facility prior to campers’ arrival. Our entire resident camp team trains and possesses First Aid, CPR, AED, Medication Administration, Epi-pen Administration, and reviews safe driving practices in the camp vehicles once they arrive at Busch Gardens.
The American Camp Association (ACA) accredits Busch Gardens Resident Camp, which exceeds ACA standards to ensure a safe and enjoyable camp experience for all. Busch Gardens follows ACA’s suggested guidelines for establishing the number of counselors necessary to oversee a resident camp group. Camps for elementary, secondary, and college students are often on the premises at the same time and our properly trained team allow for a well-managed atmosphere when conducting these camps simultaneously.
|Age of Campers
|Number of Counselors
|Number of Overnight Campers
| 9-14 years
| 15-18 years
Q. How close and how often will my camper see animals?
A. For Zoo Explorers, ZooVentures, and ThrillVentures, campers experience daily animal encounters on habitat, on sidewalk strolls, and in the classroom. These campers tour many areas of Busch Gardens’ zoo throughout camp, including some behind-the-scenes visits. Zoo Explorers travel to the Florida Aquarium to “Swim with the Fishes” one morning, plus visit Adventure Island, our water park. ZooVenturers explore the trails at a local nature park and enjoys some fun in the sun at Adventure Island. ThrillVentures campers visit a local beach and a zipline adventure course as part of an extended field trip excursion.
Participants in Zookeeping 101, Zookeeping 201, Zoo Careers and Vet Careers become amateur zookeepers during camp as they work alongside zoo professionals and camp counselors. Campers assist animal care specialists as they deliver diets, clean and prepare habitats using all the tools of the trade: shovels, rakes, gloves, wheel barrows and buckets. During any zoo husbandry experience, campers may observe behavioral training or medical treatments, all while experiencing unrivaled encounters with many of the diverse species at this zoological facility.
Wild Florida is a 9-night long travel camp that begins and ends at Busch Gardens in Tampa. During the course of the program, campers will visit and stay overnight at SeaWorld in Orlando, Marine Lab in the Keys, and Billie Swamp Safari in the Everglades. The campers will visit some of Florida’s native habitats have an opportunity to observe land and marine species, snorkel on coral reefs and sea grass beds, and ride an air boat through the Everglades.
All Busch Gardens’ resident camps include a tour across Busch Gardens’ Serengeti Plain and several face-to-face animal encounters with the Education Department’s animal ambassadors. Over the course of every camp, we will introduce campers to animal biodiversity: crocodilians, snakes, tortoises, lions, hyenas, tigers, hippos, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, flamingos, parrots, and many more.
Busch Gardens Resident Camps are progressive by design and prepare campers for more in-depth experiences in the next level of camp programming. Each grade level connects to the appropriate Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and National Science Standards.
Q. What are the differences between Zookeeping 101, Zookeeping 201, and Zoo Careers?
A. Zookeeping 101, for students in 10-12th grade, is a first level zookeeping camp. Campers rotate through three different zoo areas, working alongside zookeepers and counselors, 6:30-11:30a. The zoo area rotations are chosen by lottery and campers have the opportunity to visit a variety of zoo areas and animal species: Education, Zoo Nutrition Center, Bird Gardens which includes reptiles and amphibians, Myombe Reserve, Cheetah Run, Jungala, Edge of Africa or the Serengeti Plain. This camp includes a day trip to another local zoo and Adventure Island.
Zookeeping 201, for students 10th grade – college, is a second level zoo experience, and previous attendance in Zookeeping 101 or Careers at SeaWorld is preferred. Previous work or volunteer assistance in another animal care facility is acceptable. These zoo area campers work a couple full shifts alongside zookeepers and counselors, rotating through zoo areas 6:30a-3p. This camp includes a day trip to SeaWorld Orlando and Adventure Island.
Zoo Careers, for students in 11th grade – college, is a third level zookeeping camp. Previous attendance in Zookeeping 201 or Careers at SeaWorld, prior experience working or volunteering in an animal care facility, or current enrollment in a zoologically focused degree program are preferred. Zoo Careers includes an expanded zoo experience in a single zoo area. Each camper becomes proficient in his/her selected zoo area: Education, Elephants, Cheetah Run, Bird Gardens which includes reptiles and amphibians, Myombe Reserve, Edge of Africa, Jungala, or the Serengeti Plain. Campers submit three zoo area choices on a questionnaire and camp staff then place the students in one of the three preferred zoo areas.
Vet Careers, for college students and 12th students participating in dual enrollment (documentation required) only, is for campers who have previously attended Zoo Careers and are currently enrolled in a pre-vet curriculum. Campers will shadow our on-staff veterinarians during rounds and procedures, as well as go behind the scenes with professional zookeepers to better understand their role in veterinary care. Campers will learn from the professional zoo and education staff as they attend hands on workshops on various topics. Vet Careers includes a field trip to SeaWorld and interactive lab sessions.
Q. Do campers have to participate in all activities?
A. We design events to be enjoyable and realize that sometimes the schedule includes something new for some participants. Everyone is encouraged to participate to the best of their ability during group activities.
Q. Do I need to sign and send back all the registration forms and releases?
A. For campers to attend Busch Gardens Resident Camps, it is mandatory that all forms and releases be filled out accurately and completely, are signed by an adult parent/guardian, and then be returned before camp starts. Please return all completed, signed ORIGINAL forms and releases no later than 3 weeks prior to your camp start date.
Note: a physical exam within 12 months of the camp start date is required. If you are utilizing a school or camp physical to meet the physical exam requirement, you will still need to have your physician sign the physical exam release, part of the fulfillment package that will be available for download online March 1, 2015. Proof of medical insurance is requested.
You will receive a vehicle pass which allows a chosen adult to both drop off and pick up your camper(s) from Busch Gardens. Be prepared for a random vehicle search when entering park premises. NO PETS are allowed on property, so please leave your pets at home.
Q. Can campers receive school credit for participating in Busch Gardens Resident Camps?
A. Elective Credit is available for high school and college students for certain camps. In collaboration with Atlanta Country Day School and College (a SACS-CASI accredited college preparatory high school and college), students in grades 10 through college who are enrolled in Busch Gardens Summer Resident Camps will be eligible to receive elective credit for each camp attended. Credits offered will be in Elective Science with labs in Zoology or Environmental Science.
To receive school credit for one or more camps, the student must complete a short application form (provided at camp). A separate application fee of $35, payable to Atlanta Country Day School is required. This fee covers multiple camps attended (including SeaWorld Orlando programs, if eligible) as long as all camp titles are listed on one application. Students may not receive credit for attending the same camp multiple times.
Q. What are some possible health concerns of the program and how can they be prevented?
A. Participants will have the opportunity to ride roller coasters and other theme park rides on which they may experience high speeds and zero gravity. Campers will also be in close proximity to many species of animals where they may encounter the animals and associated dander, feathers, or food items. It is imperative to note any health issues or known food, animal or insect, and plant allergies on the Health History Form, and to elaborate on the severity of any condition or reaction.
NOTE: Some available food products may contain or have been processed in proximity to peanut and/or other allergenic ingredients. Please specify any dietary preferences, allergies and/or restrictions on the Health History Form, and elaborate on the possible reaction if consumed or touched. While Resident Camps can accommodate a simple vegetarian diet, please provide non-perishable supplements for more complex dietary needs or dietary restrictions.
While every zoo encounter is a controlled experience, the animal world is not totally predictable and a quill prick or unexpected nip is possible, although unlikely. Off-site, campers may accidentally contact jellyfish or stingrays if at the beach, or fall victim to mosquitoes, wasps, or fire ants almost anywhere. These Florida inhabitants can inflict bites or stings that are readily treatable with Over-the-Counter (OTC) medications. Be sure to review and sign the OTC Medications Release Form. Busch Gardens staff CANNOT DISPENSE ANY MEDICATIONS WITHOUT PARENT/GUARDIAN PERMISSION.
Sun, heat, and humidity can be a dangerous mix in Florida. Participants must wear sunscreen and protective clothing (e.g. light, cotton clothing, a hat, and sunglasses) and drink plenty of water to prevent sunburn and overheating.
Q. Are there Health Concerns for which my child may be sent home?
A. Some skin conditions, respiratory ailments, and other diseases are highly contagious for people and animals. If a Health Services team member identifies your camper as being infectiousthat he/she has an elevated temperature upon arrival, or exhibits signs of head lice, it will be necessary to send him/her home at your expense. Please evaluate any skin irritations or itching, or general health problems before coming to camp in order to avoid any inconvenience, expense, or disappointment.
Q. Do I need to send over-the-counter medications for my child?
A. Health Services keeps the most common over-the-counter (OTC) medications on-hand for all of our park guests, including campers. It is not necessary to send any of these medicines to camp!
Because we cannot dispense any medication without parental and/or physician authorization, please be sure to sign the OTC Medication Release Form and note the available OTC medicines. For the safety of all campers, all medicines, OTC and/or prescription, are collected by Health Services upon arrival and dispensed as required.
Q. What is the procedure in a medical emergency?
A. For all minor injuries and illnesses that occur at any of the parks, the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment Health Services team is available. For minor injuries that occur off-site, counselors carry a first aid kit and AED, and are trained in basic First Aid, CPR, AED, Medication Administration, and Epi-pen Administration. For serious injuries and illnesses, participants will be transported to the closest hospital. The Florida Hospital Tampa is within two miles of Busch Gardens or Adventure Island, and Sand Lake Hospital is within three miles of SeaWorld Orlando. For your child’s safekeeping, it is required that all your medical consent to treat, medical history forms, and insurance information are complete and signed before registration is considered complete. A Busch Gardens representative will contact you in case of an emergency.
A Health Services team member stays onsite overnight throughout camp, and also travels offsite with the Wild Florida camp.
Q. Are campers able to wash their own clothes?
A. A wash day is scheduled by the camp team once weekly to do only basic laundry—primarily T-shirts and work clothes since zoo activities do involve dirt and sweat. Since each camper carries, loads, and unloads his/her own gear at camp, please only pack what your camper will need for the week.
Combo campers will have all their clothes washed for the upcoming camp week(s) between camp programs, so it is only necessary to pack for one week. See the suggested Packing List and be sure to pack a collapsible, washable laundry bag.
Campers will be given two camp T-shirts for each camp session. If you would like to purchase more, please do so by calling 1-877-BGT-CAMP or bring cash to purchase at check-in. Please limit the size of any suitcase to no more than 9 inches thick so it will fit beneath the bunk beds.
Q. What type of food is served during the program?
A. Busch Gardens provides all meals throughout the course of the program. Breakfast is continental style and includes juice, milk, cold cereals, bagels, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Most other meals are eaten at the park restaurants, with foods ranging from burgers to spaghetti to fajitas, and pizza is delivered one evening.
NOTE: Some available food products may contain or have been processed in proximity to peanut and/or other allergenic ingredients. Please specify any dietary preferences, allergies and/or restrictions on the Health History Form, and elaborate on the possible reaction if consumed. While Resident Camps can accommodate a simple vegetarian diet, please provide non-perishable supplements for more complex dietary needs.
You may send non-perishable, individually sealed snacks such as cookies, crackers and granola bars. Counselors collect and store all food items upon arrival. To avoid attracting pests into the living areas of the dorm, campers may not store or eat foods in the bunk or locker room areas. Refrigerators are not available for personal food items unless you are providing special dietary needs for your child that need refrigeration.
Q. What happens during inclement weather?
A. Rain and afternoon thunderstorms are common in Florida and may affect some camp and free time activities. Most program components are not affected by wet weather. A camp supervisor will determine if any activities need to be postponed or canceled, and we may reschedule an event if the camp schedule allows. Indoor activities are planned if thunderstorms prevail.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are possible threats in Florida during June - November. If the Weather Service forecasts a potential threat to the Tampa Bay area, we will advise parents to begin seeking alternative transportation for participants to leave early. Camp staff will prepare stranded campers to ride out the storm. Attending counselors will stay at the Outpost Classroom, an on-site secure facility that is rated to withstand hurricane forces and is fitted with an emergency power generator. Camp staff will accompany any stranded special needs campers to the University of South Florida evacuation shelter designated by the Emergency Operations Center as a “special needs” facility.
Average temperatures and rainfall in Tampa, FL:
Q. How can participants be contacted during the program?
If your camper is traveling by air, counselors encourage them to contact their parents upon arrival at the dormitory. Campers may use the dormitory phone (we recommend calling cards) or personal cellular phones. To leave a message at Mzinga Lodge, call (813) 987-5172
. Remember that Resident Camps are very active and you may not receive a call back from your camper until the evening. In an emergency only
, call our Resident Camp Hotline pager at (813) 987-5848 and leave a detailed message and phone number where you can be reached. A Resident Camp representative is automatically paged from this emergency hotline and will respond or forward the message to the participant.
Carrying cell phones or other electronic gear during a regular camp day or after LIGHTS OUT is not permitted because of disruption to programming during the day or to resting bunk neighbors at night. Camp team members will collect and store all cell phones upon arrival to monitor usage. Counselors typically distribute cell phones to campers during free time at the dorm each evening for calling home, family and friends, or if there is a family emergency.
Q. Does Busch Gardens provide transportation throughout the program?
A. Busch Gardens provides transportation throughout the program in vans or trucks. All resident camp team members review safe driving practices before driving any vehicle for camp and practice skills in the vehicles provided for camp.
Q. What are the pick up and drop off procedures for campers flying in and out of Tampa International Airport?
A. Make sure the Travel Information Form is completed and mailed at least 3 weeks prior to start of camp! For campers flying into and out of Tampa International Airport, camp staff will meet arriving campers at the tram gate in the Main Terminal. We will send a nametag sticker. Please instruct your camper to wear this nametag upon arriving at the airport so camp counselors can quickly identify your child for pick-up. Camp staff will be wearing Busch Gardens Camp apparel (polo shirt or camp T-shirt, khaki shorts). At departure, camp counselors deliver all departing campers to the Security checkpoint at the appropriate tram gate in the Main Terminal, unless he/she is traveling as an Unaccompanied Minor. Remember to send a credit card or cash to pay for any extra baggage fees.
For parents of younger campers or first time air travelers, you may consider sending your camper(s) as Unaccompanied Minors. This status assures that the airline provides an escort for the camper from the time they leave parents/guardians until our camp staff can pick them up from or deliver them into the hands of airline personnel. The airline staff delivers young travelers back into the hands of designated parents/guardians upon arrival at their destination.
While flying your child as an Unaccompanied Minor does allow the Camp team to better monitor a camper’s arrival and departure, there is often an added fee associated with a camper traveling, and parents/guardians are responsible for prearranging and prepaying all fees.
For campers traveling as Unaccompanied Minors, most airlines require identification information about the escorting Resident Camp staff. The Education Department can accommodate this requirement 48 hours prior to their arrival/departure time. Please call ahead no earlier than 48 hours at (813) 987-5172 to request this information. A Resident Camp team member will return your call.
Q. What is the Busch Gardens Resident Camps refund policy?
A. If written notice of cancellation is received more than SIX WEEKS prior to the session, 100% of the camp fee will be returned, if written notice of cancellation is received between FOUR (4) TO SIX (6) WEEKS prior to the session, 50% of the camp fee will be returned. If written notice of cancellation is received FOUR (4) WEEKS OR LESS prior to camp, the entire camp fee will be forfeit. Rebooking into an open session within the same calendar year is an option. If a participant leaves camp early, or is dismissed, no refund will be given.
Q. What photo opportunities will campers have?
A. Campers will have the ability to practice their photo skills park wide as a park guest, and in a few behind the scenes areas. We suggest they bring a camera since cell phones are stored back at the dorm for safekeeping and to prevent any disruption of programming. There are certain ride and zoo back areas where cameras are prohibited and counselors will inform campers where they may or may not use cameras.
Busch Gardens provides campers with an individual photo with an animal and a group photo as part of the camping experience.