Deep in the wilds of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is what I consider the greatest attraction in the park. In fact my wife and I love it so much it we may consider it the best attraction in the World! True it is not the fastest ride on property. It does not have the big drop of say a Splash Mountain or the animatronics of Pirates of the Carribean. It does not rely on speed, height or technology to thrill. The stars of this show are the animals. If you love animals you will love this. Even if you don’t you have to try it at least once.
True to Disney form there is a back story behind the attraction. You, the guests, are embarking on a two week guided safari of the Harambe Wilderness Reserve on your safari truck, Simba 1. Throughout the ride you will be in touch with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve from the sky keeping an eye out for poachers. Thus your ride begins.
Some rides proclaim never to be the same twice. This ride delivers because the animals on the reserve are not in traditional cages. Instead the wonderful imagineers have recreated Africa in painstaking detail. It does not take much imagination to believe you are really in Africa. This of course, leaves you the guest at the mercy of the stars of the show and sometimes they are very shy while at other times some of the more peaceful ones will walk right up to your truck. On some occasions they will even stand right in front of your truck. During these occasions your truck will stop and your experience will be even longer. I have heard that on at least one occasion a baby giraffe was very curious, stuck its head in the vehicle and licked a guest! I am not sure whether that would be a thrill or not but you will come away with a once in a lifetime story.
Your vehicle will wind its way past various animals. Some of them you will be familiar with such as hippos, elephants and giraffe. Some you might not have encountered before such as the endangered Okapi and the Thomson Gazelle, called Tommies for short. Taking pictures can be a challenge because the vehicles may slow down a little but they never truly stop, unless one of the animals is blocking the way. If you want to take pictures try to get a seat on the sides of the seats and not in the middle. Your driver will help spot animals and educate on some of them. If you are a nerd like me, sit up front so you can ask questions.
As the ride nears its conclusion, which is considerably shorter than the “planned” two weeks but is still one of the longer rides at Walt Disney World, warden Wilson radios in that poachers have been spotted. Your truck jumps into high gear as you help keep them from harvesting elephants to sell their tusks.
Kilimanjo Safaris fills up quick. Head their first thing in the morning to get on quickly or use a Fastpass. The animals tend to be more active during the morning. This is especially true in summer when the heat sets in and many of them hide in the shade. If your first ride doesn’t thrill you don’t be too worried. Try it again and it will be totally different. If you love animals the way my wife and I do, you cannot miss this one!
As you exit the vehicles you will be right at the entrance to the Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail. I recommend not rushing away, unless you have a Fastpass about to expire. The trail offers views of several animals including hippos but the stars of the show are silverback gorrillas.