I love animals. I love watching animals, learning about animals, hearing animals, feeding animals, etc. So at some point my vacation should involve animals...swimming with dolphins or riding burros down the Grand Canyon or maybe an African safari?? Maybe some day. But for now, my choice was to take part in the Wild Animal Trek adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
On one nice Sunday afternoon at Walt Disney World, my 8 year old son and I embarked on an awesome adventure through the wilds of Africa. The trek started out meeting our guide, where we learned some regulations, like only shoes with toes covered and straps (no sandals, flip flops or slippers) filled out paperwork (in case we get eaten by crocodiles, I willed my giant cactus to my daughter) and proceeded to the outpost. There, we were weighed and measured for our vests and harnesses. The equipment is only designed to work safely for a range of heights and weights, so they had to make sure. The vests had lots of pockets and straps to connect our essentials, like camera and water bottle. Our other non-essentials, we were not allowed to carry with us. A locker was provided for storing these items.
After suiting up, we were each given a special water bottle to fill. The top had two lids: The big lid unscrewed in order to fill the bottle with water, the second smaller lid had a strap connected to the bottle and this is the lid that you use for drinking out of. They are very conscience of things falling off your person and littering the Serengeti. If you wear glasses or sunglasses, you are also giving a glasses strap. That was good because I don’t think my sunglasses would have fit the hippos had they fallen in the river.
Only about 12 other explorers were on the adventure with us and our two guides: one as the leader and one as the follower so no one gets lost. In order to hear what our guides are saying as we walk, we also were wearing radio earphones. The guides had many good stories to tell about all of our surrounding, so I was glad that we could listen while we walked and not just wait until we were at our destination to hear about the trees we just walked by or the ant hill you almost stepped on.
Our trek began by walking through the African outpost in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and continuing on into the “exit only” of the gorilla animal trail until we arrived at the secret trail head into the Florida, I mean, Africa jungle. We didn’t have to hike too far through the jungle until we arrived at our first stop: hippos! If you have ridden the safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you would recognize the hippo pool as the first pool on the right...the one you usually don’t see hippos in. This pool only has one male hippo but was taught to come to the side of the bank, so we could get a closer look. They fed the hippo lettuce as an persuasion to stay close to the bank. So that we didn’t end up as the snack, we snapped into a sliding rail system with our harnesses. This allowed us to get as close to the bank/cliff as we wanted without the fear of falling off. While here, the guides and one hippo specialists told us all about hippo characteristics, feeding, what they were researching and allowed us to ask questions about the hippo. We even posed for a great photo shoot!
More trekking through the jungle brought us to a rickety rope bridge. Are you afraid of heights? Me too! Especially when the rope bridge has missing planks and crosses the crocodile river!! Ok, it was all very safe as we were harnessed into the cable above, but still scary. I made myself take my time, though, while crossing over the bridge to get a good look around. When else can you watch crocodiles in their natural habitat through the steps of a 30ft high rope bridge? And have the Kilimanjaro Safari trucks passing on the road underneath you?
On the other side of the rope bridge, we all once again, clipped into a safety system so we could stand on the top of a 15 ft. cliff and listen to all that we ever would want to know about crocodiles. The knowledge of the guides is awesome. And they didn’t mind silly questions like “What would happen if I fell into the pit with all the crocodiles?” The guides answer: “Well, you’d die..” HA!
Since this was the last stop where we needed to be clipped in for safety, we removed our harnesses, filled our water bottles and boarded a truck to leave the jungle and go view the savannah. On the way to the outpost for our lunch, the giraffe spotted our truck and came in for a closer look. I really love watching giraffe, so this was a real treat! The whole family of giraffe surrounded our truck, stood in the middle of the road and stopped the Kilimanjaro traffic for at least 20 minutes. I could have watched them for hours, but alas, when the road was clear we moved on to the outpost.
At the outpost, we had great views of the entire savannah, elephants and flamingos. What a great spot to eat our snacks which consisted of African food such as, smoked meats, curried chicken salad, ginger infused fruit, salmon roulade,tomato hummus and pita rounds, and shrimp all topped with an edible orchid. It was a great relaxing end to an awesome tour! It was a great memory that I have with my son. I am so glad we did this trek.
Some of my final thoughts and tips to those interested in the tour, do it!
-Disney sends you a CD of all the pictures taken during the tour along with some of the best animal shots taken on other tours.
-There is only one potty stop at the end of the tour, during snack time, so don’t drink a bunch before hand!
-If you want to bring your camera, make sure it has a strap that can be connected to your vest.
-Must wear closed toe shoes
-The trek isn’t all on nice sidewalks. There may be roots, low branches, dirt and bugs. Also if you are extremely afraid of heights, this might be a good place to conquer that fear. You are on a Wild Africa Trek!
-Take an afternoon tour...the animals might think that it is "closing time" and be more restless. i.e. moving around more. That is why the giraffe surrounded our truck. We were by the entrance to their barn where dinner is served. They thought we were there to let them in. The lions and cheetahs were also up and about.
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