Animal Kingdom is a paradise for animals, birds, reptiles and other creatures, so what better way to see them than by taking the Kilimanjaro Safari Ride? We have ridden this ride several times, but each time we see something different, and enjoy it even more. It is a good idea to go straight to the safari ride as soon as you arrive, as it is really popular, and gets busy very early. However, you can use your fastpass if you arrive later. It’s great for taking photos of the animals, and if you arrive early you will have more chance of seeing them than after midday, when they tend to be having a siesta.
Kilimanjaro Safari Ride is located within ‘Africa’ at the far left hand corner of the park. As with many of Disney’s attractions, there is a long walk before you reach the actual safari ride, but there are overhead TV screens to get you in the mood, and fill you in on the background story, so you really don’t notice the wait. It is quite cool, with fans overhead, and open sides to the covered walkway which let in any cooling breezes. The scene is very cleverly set, and you can almost imagine yourself back in the old colonial days, wearing a pith helmet and safari suit. After quite a winding walk, which twists and turns, you will eventually come to the Park Ranger Station.
Here you will line up ready to board the large 32 passenger, open sided trucks, which will take you over bumpy ground into the bush. The seats are quite high up, so you get a good view of the animals, and with the canopy overhead and a fresh breeze coming in, it makes for a really enjoyable, if bumpy, ride. If you peer out of the truck at the road you will see animal footprints and tyre tracks in the dust – but, on closer inspection, you will see that it is really concrete! If you go more than once, try to sit on different sides of the truck, as you will get a different view from wherever you sit.
Do have your camera at the ready, but you will have to be quick to capture any photos of the animals, as the truck does not stop. Be prepared by setting your camera to take moving shots.
As you set off, the driver becomes your guide, and it is his, or her, enthusiasm that will make the experience seem real, or not. Our first driver was South African, and entered into the spirit of things with real gusto. It was simply amazing, as the truck set off into the underbush. Throughout the journey he kept in contact, by radio, with the bush pilot who is ‘flying’ overhead, and looking out for animals for us to view – as well as keeping an eye out for poachers. The safari takes you through very realistic African terrain, through savannahs of tall grass, over rocky trails, through a canopy of towering trees, and at one stage over a very rickety and dilapidated bridge – look out for the surprise here! Everywhere you look there are animals, gentle, shy antelope grazing in small groups, then onto the Bongo pool, where you may see a black rhino drinking.
You may see hippos, basking at the foot of waterfalls, which cascade over the rocks, or large alligators, half covered with water, just waiting to snap at you. The grassland is really spectacular, and gives the impression of being in Africa. There are huge termite mounds and baobab tress – alright, they may be concrete, but they do look realistic.
The height of the safari, for us, is always the elephants, who stand majestically in groups, their massive bodies taking on the red rust colour of the soil they like to bathe in, trunks waving to and fro, as they reach up for leaves. You may be lucky enough to see a baby. It is now that we are asked by the pilot to start looking for Big Red and her offspring, Little Red, who are missing. Could they be in danger? Well, we will keep a look out and see if we can find them.
As we pass a flock of graceful flamingos, their delicate pink plumage making a splash of colour against the gold of the savannah, we are told to look out for cheetahs, lying up amongst the rocks, and maybe a regal lion, stretched out lazily on another mound of rocks, eyes shut, taking a nap in the sunshine. Your truck will take you past tall necked giraffes swaying as they walk elegantly by, basking hippos and real alligators, wildebeest and gazelles, grazing placidly, regal lions lying splayed out on the rocks, lazily dozing in the sunshine.
All this peace and tranquillity is suddenly shattered, by the crackling of the radio, and an urgent appeal, by one of the reserve wardens, urging us to help find some poachers who have wounded Big Red. Little Red is missing too. It’s time to hang onto your hats as the truck suddenly accelerates, making a quick detour away from the track and through geysers spouting 20 feet into the air. This is when the fun really starts, and you really do have to hang on tight, as the truck twists and turns, rocks and rolls at speed through the potholed terrain. A jeep disappears round the bend, and at the side of the track we can see the remains of the poachers’ camp. The campfires are still smoking, and there are elephant tusks strewn around. They have obviously left in a hurry. We wonder if we are going to be too late to save Little Red? Well, I won’t spoil the excitement……..you will have to wait and see for yourselves!
Then it’s back on the road, through lush tropical vegetation, across a large pool with three large waterfalls, and then we are back home at the Ranger Station. Sadly, our safari is at an end, but you can do it all again if you go and use your fastpass! It’s a ride the children will love, adults, too, and even if the termite hills and the baobab trees are made of concrete, they are pretty good replicas!
The amazing thing is that you will be unaware of the ditches and barriers, which keep the animals in the right place – there are no visible fences. Most extraordinarily – all the animals are taken into safe enclosures at night – makes you wonder how they get them all back in.
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