Number 1: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
This should come as no surprise to fans of grumpymickey.com. I have posted several stories already on Kilimanjaro Safaris. It is quite simply, in my grumpy opinion, the best ride Disney World has to offer.
To understand why you have to understand some things about me. First I am not only grumpy I am a nerd at heart. Second I love animals. this ride combines both of those parts of my personality into one ride. The nerd gets to learn about animals!
The ride premise is nothing spectacular. You are leaving Harambe Village for a tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. The tour is scheduled for two weeks. I have taken this safari numerous times and though it is one of the longer rides at Disney World it has never been two weeks! During your tour you will be in constant contact with warden Wilson Matua who is patrolling the reserve for poachers. Your particular tour has the call sign Simba 1. Okay its not an original name but the theme behind the ride is not the impressive part. It is the ride itself.
Your ride vehicle is a rather large open-sided truck. All seats are bench seats that hold up to six people. Unlike many of the rides at Disney World, including even the Liberty Square River Boat which actually runs on a rail, these trucks are true trucks. The driver can take them anywhere he or she wants. Don’t bother trying to bribe them into taking you off the prescribed course though. I have tried and it doesn’t work. For the best view, of course, try to get a seat on the outside.
Disney has pulled out all the stops to recreate Africa on this one and it is very much appreciated by me! You get to see a lot of different animals some of which I had never heard of before. Having been to Africa myself, the real one I mean, the road is especially authentic. There are bumps and potholes everywhere and the ride can be a little rough at times but don’t be discouraged it is worth it.
The animals are the stars of this ride and they are not hid behind cages as they would be in a zoo. Many of them roam quite freely through their designated area. On more than one occasion the entire system has had to be shut down because an animal has chosen to stop right in the middle of the road. I had the unique experience of staring at a giraffe’s butt on one trip because he was blocking our path. He eventually tired of eating leaves and moved out of the way as if he really had no where else to go. Even white rhino’s are allowed some freedom to roam. They can come right up to your truck!Dangerous animals of course cannot get close to you! Ignore the rumors about guests being lost to the great cats. It never happened. At least not to me. The dangerous animals are kept separated from all the guests by trenches and other systems that have been built into the environment in such a way you never see them!
Even keeping the animals in their respective areas has been tackled with typical imagineering skill. You will notice from time to time that you come to what looks like a gate. In fact it is but it is always open when the ride is running. As you pass through the gate you will notice chains on the road. For whatever reason the animals do not like the chains and will not cross them!
Keeping animals separate and guests safe is not the only way the imagineers outdid themselves though. Many of the bushes and plants you see are actually feeders only pretending to be normal plants. Keeps the animals in better range for your viewing pleasure!
One other fact you may not know. The animals do not actually sleep on the open savanna. They are brought each night to their respective homes, which are much more like the zoo you might expect. There is no ranger who goes out to gather them up though. Each of the different animals has been trained to respond to sound and when they hear the appropriate sound for their species they head in all on their own! For the most part that is!
Of course all those little imagineering tricks go unnoticed for the most part and the ride is exceptional. Keep your camera ready for some excellent shots!
If you missed part one of the Disney World Top Seven Must Sees click here.
If you missed part two of the Disney World Top Seven Must See click here.