Review of Disney’s Wild Africa Trek at the Animal Kingdom
The pavement was dappled in shadows, sunlight streaming through the bright green leaves in the hot Florida afternoon. A parrot cawed, a brook bubbled happily past. No, I wasn’t I visiting some exotic locale – I was in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I was admiring the sights and sounds of Africa while waiting for my turn to go adventuring on the Wild Africa Trek during my most recent Disney vacation. The experience was amazing all around, and I simply cannot stop talking about it. So for those of you who would like more information on the tour or those who want to go on an adventure outside of Disney’s regular offerings, this tour – and this review – are for you! (Just in case it needs to be said, there be spoilers ahead!)
Here’s the skinny: The Wild Africa Trek is a special tour that takes “herds” of up to twelve guests on a private tour of the Kilimanjaro Safari. Two guides lead the group through various animal enclosures – though the enclosures are so natural you wouldn’t notice them unless they were being pointed out to you, as some are pointed out during the Trek. After that, a private Kilimanjaro Safari truck takes your “herd” to a special location for a refreshing snack. Throughout the Trek, the guides pass a camera back and forth, taking pictures of both the guests (group pictures and individual shots) and the animals. A complimentary PhotoPass CD of all of the pictures from your herd’s Trek is mailed to each guest shortly after the trip. (I was told it was arrive in two weeks, but it was waiting for me less than a week later when I got home.)
Our herd – that is, our group – was full; twelve people, including my husband and I, participated in the Trek on the day we signed up. We had decided to take advantage of the summer special – in late spring and throughout the summer, you can get a $50 per person discount for taking the tour during the afternoon, as it’s hotter during the day. I was a little concerned that we either wouldn’t see any active animals or that I would have a heat stroke, curl into the fetal position, and die; neither fear was realized. Animal specialists – like a hippo specialist – were around to make sure we saw the animals at their finest, and several precautions were taken against the heat. As for the heat, much of the experience is in shade (or at least semi-shade), and guests receive a canteen – a souvenir that you get to take home with you – and a very welcome, freezing cold washcloth to refresh yourself with when you finish the walking portion of the Trek.
Our herd began our Trek by plunging into the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. After a brief hike along established walkways, we left the trail for uncharted (or at least, off-limits to non-Trek guests) forest. After a short time, we came out of the foliage and into the hippo area. I felt like Indiana Jones on an expedition as I clipped myself into a carabiner that attached me to an overhead rail (Disney is nothing if not conscious of guests’ safety on this tour). We entered the area and had a chat with a hippo specialist, who fed lettuce to the two male hippos as we watched (and gaped in wonder at their tusks). I learned a lot that day about hippo behavior from the specialist and our guides. Did you know that female hippos have a very unusual (and loud) honk-bellow? I didn’t. A female will bellow, and if several female hippos bellow back, you know the first bellower is a very senior member of the pod. I also learned that I am a very poor honk-bellower. None of the hippos bellowed back to me – although they did for one of our guides!
While the hippos were up-close-and-personal and absolutely phenomenal, my absolute favorite part of the tour came next. We climbed up a tower and again hooked ourselves into an overhead safety system. Then, we each got to walk across two rope bridges. Not just any bridges, hold on to your hats and cameras (literally): the bridges were 30 feet above the ground, and on the ground – get this – were the crocodiles. We walked directly over their heads. The view from the bridges was amazing – looking both up and directly down – and one of the crocs began to snap at another as I was immediately over them. For some reason, I kept thinking about Captain Hook at that point… but I heard no tell-tale tick-tock as I finished my jaunt across the bridges.
After the adrenaline rush of the bridges, I thought the tour couldn’t get any better, but never underestimate the creative planning of Disney! We boarded a private Safari truck and were driven out onto the Serengeti portion of Kilimanjaro Safari! We were able to stop and get a good look at various animals, including a herd of elephants. Two of the young elephants were playfully bonking each other with their trunks, and our guides got some fabulous pictures of the pachyderm playtime! Our guides were also available at that point for questions, and both ladies were extremely knowledgeable.
After passing some warthogs, cheetahs, and other fabulous animals, we headed to lunch. I cannot say enough about how amazing, phenomenal, and awesome lunch was. We ate on a balcony RIGHT THERE ON THE SERENGETI. I kid you not, we ate lunch right beside a giraffe snacking on a nearby tree. Even the brief afternoon rainshower that began during lunch was amazing – giraffes don’t like rain, so they thundered across the plain in a herd to escape the drizzle. And we were there to see it. Truly amazing. The sight was almost enough to distract us from our food – almost, but not quite. The “snack” that was promised to us was actually a nicely-portioned lunch, and both my husband and I agree that this is some of the best food we’ve ever eaten. Anywhere. Ever. The smoked ham and salmon were mouthwatering, the tomato-based hummus was brilliant (I don’t generally like hummus, but I was practically licking the inside of my container to get at the last little bit stuck to the bottom). The fruit salad was tossed in a honey sauce (note to self: eat everything in honey sauce from now on) and the rest of the meal was equally exquisite. The food is prepared at the Yak and Yeti restaurant, but don’t get too excited – while you can get SIMILAR food there, the exact menu that we were served is unique only to the Trek. But trust me, the price of the Trek is almost worth lunch alone when coupled with stampeding giraffes.
For another review of the Wild Africa Trek – albeit a slightly different Trek than I experienced – visit the Disney Food Blog’s review of the Trek. They spend a little more time talking about the food – I think “yum” sums it up nicely!
Unfortunately, all goods things must come to an end. While we may have had to say goodbye to our herd when the Trek was over, the experiences that I took from the tour will endure. I bellowed with hippos, crossed a suspension bridge over crocodiles, and generally had a ball on one of the best activities currently available at the Animal Kingdom. Disney’s Wild AfricaTrek costs a little more than some of their other special tour experiences, but it is well worth it to become an adventurer for a day.
Now, pass the honey-sauced fruit and the tomato hummus – it’s dinner time!
For more information on Disney’s Wild Africa Trek, visit https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/animal-kingdom/wild-africa-trek/ or call (407) WDW-TOUR.