Located in Africa section of Animal Kingdom and taking up one of the largest, if not the largest area per square foot for an attraction at any Disney Park sits Kilimanjaro Safaris (opened April 22,1998). This is one of the best experiences at Animal Kingdom and is highly popular. FastPass+ is recomended unless you beeline for it first thing when the park opens. Which actually you may want to do as typically the anials are more active then. To note though, the activity level of the animals varies during the day and also many can walk right upto or in the road, so you are likely to have a different experience everytime you ride. From personal experience I would suggest avoiding the back row as you can get bounced about a foot off your seat on some of the bumps you encounter. Guests are encouraged to have their cameras ready, as you will get a lot of opportunities for unique photos as you go thru the safari.
The trucks you ride themselves hold a large number of people and above each row give you a list of the animals it is possible to see out in the safari with a photo of the animal. You can ride the safari til the sun goes down as that is when most of the animal go to bed. There was a brief stint during the holiday season of 1998 that tried Kilimanjaro Night Safaris, a nighttime ride thru the savannah that was dropped. It featured extra animal sounds, reflectors designed to look like animal eyes, and an actual African Dance Troup that performed where the Elephants hang out during the day around a bonfire. Visibility was poor and few real animals were able to be spotted which caused complaints among guests. Add in the extra cost and the Mouse cut the safari. Over the years there has been talk of a new version of the Safaris for evening/nighttime, however, so far it hasn’t happened. Perhaps when Avatarland opens and gives some extra attractions to push the park hours open longer.
The attractions story has undergone some changes over the years starting with trek that is supposed to take weeks thru the savannah that was cut short to aid a warden save a baby elephant and it mom, Big Red and Little Red. Originally, A cast member played the warden who captures the poachers, but that was eventually taken out. On Februaury 10, 2012, The Little Red segment was totally scrapped and zebras were put in it’s place which opened back up later that year. The zebras, however, were removed four months later and replaced with addax due to assorted problems including infighting, biting each other and the ride vehicles, staying in the middle of the road, etc. They have since re-added them to the safari and so far without all the previous problems.
You board your safari trek at the station and set off for your safari which will take you thru several ecosystems. You’ll pass some light wooded areas into a watering hole with Hippos and you’ll pass over some crocs, eventually winding your way out onto the savannah itself. Looking out over the savannah you’ll get a breathtaking view. Passing various wildlife (there’s so many scattered out there) you’ll see giraffes and rhinos and more. You can also spy cheetahs, warthogs, and lions as well as ostriches or at least their eggs. There are several elephants to see in their section, currently with a few younger ones that are absolutely adorable. Speaking of ostriches it’s not uncommon for them to come near the truck or stand in the road for a while when they are up and about.
Itching to get closer? Disney has you covered. You can sign up for a 3 hour tour where 12 guests take a VIP Safari called the Wild African Trek. You’ll hike thru the Pangina Forest and the Safi River Valley with expert Disney guides taking you placs the trucks don’t go to. It offers up some unique African Dishes and a profesional CD of photos. It is an additional cost though and must be reserved in advance. You can see part of this trek going thru the Savannah depending on the time you are going thru the regular Safari.
Animals on the Safari (include but not limited to):
- Vehicle Type: Safari Truck (custom build)
- Rider Capicity: 32
- Thrill Level: Slow Ride
- Height Retriction: None
- Duration: 18-22 Minutes
- The road is actually dark brown concrete with permanet tire ruts.
- The rickety bridge is actually quite sturdy, it’s just designed to act like it will fall apart any moment.
- The trucks run on propane.
- Between each ecosystem there are a number of hidden barriers and chain sensors to prevent the animals from venturing out of their ecosystem.
- When it’s time for bed, each animal is called with a different sound and they return to their nighttime enclosures.
- Ever wonder why say on the hotter summer days the lion is chillin’ out in broad daylight and not hanging in the shade. Hidden air conditioners, cooling points, and feed troughs are scattered around to encourage the animals to be out where guests can see them.
- The music snippet that is heard when driving past the elephant area is called “Hapa Duniani” and is performed by the vocal group, “African Dawn.”
- The flamingo island is actually a gigantic Hidden Mickey.
This is a must see attraction that you should at least try once. It’s one of my personal favorites and if you love animals this might just be your favoite attraction ever. As a side note the gift shops in Africa also tend to have some of the most unique items available at the Walt Disney World Resort.