Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 15th Anniversary is just days away! The excitement is building, and with that, Beth and I welcome Gayle from the mega-blog Disney Gals. Lace up your hiking boots and join her on this journey back to 2011.
2011 Wild Africa Trek
April 2011, Disney opened one of its most exclusive experiences-the Wild Africa
Trek in Disney Animal Kingdom. During this three-hour tour, safari goers pick
their way through the wooded overgrowth, peer over a cliff at pools of hippos,
cross a rickety bridge high above Nile crocodiles and dine in a safari style
camp on five star cuisines. Having always dreamed of being on safari in Africa,
for me going on the Wild Africa Trek was a dream come true when I was lucky
enough to go on an adventure of a lifetime.
journey began with a quick walk through Harambe met with the envious glances of
the other park guests all wondering what we were getting to do. Before we knew it,
we were off the beaten path and on the Pangani Forest trail. You are
immediately struck with how the outside world all but vanishes, the sudden
stillness, and you totally forget that 5 minutes before you were amid the
hustle and bustle of Animal Kingdom. Our guides were enthusiastic and
knowledgeable. As it turned out, Jenny, one of our two guides was until
recently from Sacramento, which is located 90 miles east of me. It truly is a
small world after all. Each trip is tailored to the needs of the
individual group, in our case ranging from children to a couple in their seventies.
Even with our diverse group, they managed to find a happy medium of not too
fast, but not too slow. Along the path, we were educated on the history
of Animal Kingdom as well as the animals we would be seeing up ahead.
Before we knew it, we were at our first of two “tether over cliff” spots of the day, the Hippo habitat. Your vest allows you to be tethered to a track, which is fun in itself. Once secured, you are able to literally “hang” out as far as you dare over the exhibit right up to the very edge. At the hippo pool, we were fortunate enough to be met by a naturalist doing an internship with Disney, who along with our guides educated us on the hippos both here at Animal Kingdom and in the wild.
The next stop on our journey was the overhang above the Nile Crocodiles. Once again, we were tethered to a track so we were able to lean out as far as we dared. Unlike the cuddly hippos, most of us were slightly more cautious approaching the edge to catch our first glimpse of these powerful creatures, especially once we found out that they were only 10 feet below us. One of the many things we learned about these amazing creatures is that while it appeared that the crocodiles were “smiling” at us, keeping their mouths open was actually part of their natural cooling system. Our guides also joked with us that while we were tethered, it was still possible for us to slip over the edge if we ventured out too far and while the tether would not necessarily save us, it would make it easier for them to remove our remains from the croc pit so it wouldn’t scare the next group of adventurers!
practice bridge, nothing can quite prepare you for this until you are actually
on it. Both bridges span 100 feet in length are 30-40 feet off the ground.
The bridges have the feel of an old, rickety and weathered bridge that
you are convinced will collapse at any moment. As you can see from the
picture, there are missing boards and broken planks. It dawned on me that this
is Disney’s way to get you to look down from your unique vantage point and
marvel at all it has to offer. It only took a moment or two, and maybe a few
jumps up and down, to relax and take in the entire splendor.
When it came time to eat, Disney of course pulled out all the stops.
We were taken to our own private overlook area and were served an amazing
catered meal from Tusker House. After a leisurely 45-minute lunch, it was time
to complete the last leg of our journey. Once again, we boarded our truck
and were led through the area where many of the big cats roamed. Disney
is so meticulous in their camouflage techniques that unless they had been
pointed out to us, they would have been undetectable. Animals are separated
from one another with almost invisible fences, rocks, and moats.
too soon, our truck was pulling up to the platform where the Kilimanjaro Safari
groups also exit their trucks. One of the many special things that the
Wild Africa Trek does is to take a portion of your tour fees and donate them
back to various conservation groups to help preserve wild animals and their
All in all the Wild Africa Trek is truly a once in a lifetime
experience. I would do this again in a heartbeat and would not hesitate in
recommending it to all of you! Thank you Disney for bringing the heart of
Africa to me. For more information on this tour, call 407-WDW-Tour or
407-939-8687 to book your own adventure. Wild Africa Trek is not included
with standard park admission to Disney’s Wild
Animal Kingdom Park and is open to all guests age 8 and older.
Are you ready to book your walk on the wild side?
What a trek and what a Gal!! Don’t forget to visit @DisneyGals- that’s Gayle, Tricia, Judy, Kelly, Heather, Lori Hope and Laura too!– on Pinterest and Facebook!
Estelle from The Happy Place Blog brings us towards the end of our communal safari tomorrow; 2012 at 15 Days to 15 Years…