Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Walk on the Wild Side- Wild Africa Trek Disney's #Animal Kingdom

#Animal Kingdom -  Wild Africa Trek

            In 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.

             My day started bright an early on a beautiful sunny morning as I was allowed entry to Animal Kingdom before the park opened. Wandering through the Park with no one else present is an amazing experience all on its own. Once crossing the path into Africa, I headed to check in at the Dawa Bar located behind Tusker House. As soon as everyone that would make up our safari had checked in, we were on our way up the path to meet our guides, be outfitted in our safari gear complete with water bottles and given our first task of the day-the practice rope bridge. Now let me just say that crossing over a rope bridge 6 feet off the ground in no way prepares you mentally for the two suspension bridges we would travel over later in our trek. Once our training was completed, we were treated to "jungle juice", sunscreen and bug spray, filled up our water bottles and were off to embark on our trek of a lifetime. 
        Our 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!

          The next part of our trek was where our real courage kicked in, as we faced not one but two suspension bridges that were overlooking the hippos and crocodiles that we had just met face to face. 

 Although we had trained earlier on a 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.

     Now that we had safely traversed the Pangani Forest trail, it was time to take off our safety vests and board our own open-air safari truck to continue our trek. Soon we found ourselves "off road" through the savannah itself.  Talk about the ultimate in animal adventures!  As we drove along on this privately guided expedition, we were so close we could almost reach out and touch giraffes, elephants, and rhinos just to name a few. Our driver provided us with many extended stops to allow us to take pictures to our hearts content.
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.

      All 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 habitats.  
     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?


  1. Great article! It's on my bucket list! Also great warthog photo - we were on the safari ride a dozen times to capture a picture like that for my Pumba loving son. Didn't get a very good shot like yours!

    1. This was a dream come true for sure! Now on my Wish List is to go back and take Zack with me next time and stay at the Animal Kingdom Logde!