9 Things You Should Know About Disney’s Kilimanjaro Safaris

Kilimanjaro Safaris Disney's Animal Kingdom

When planning a Walt Disney World vacation I have had many people say to me “I’m not going to visit Animal Kingdom, I’ve been to a zoo before”.  This always makes me chuckle a little before I start to explain what Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers.

One of the most unique and different experiences available in the park is Kilimanjaro Safaris. This experience lasts about 20 minutes where you will explore the Harambe Wildlife Reserve that is home to over 30 different species.  The reserve is 110 acres of open plains, forest landscapes and rocky wetlands.  It’s an experience like nothing else in any other Disney park.  It’s educational, fun, exciting and interesting – you would forget that you’re actually inside of a theme park!  It’s one of the most popular attractions in the park, but there’s some things you should know before you venture out on your first safari.

Harambe Wildlife Reserve

Here are 9 things you should know about Kilimanjaro Safaris

1.  It’s suitable for all ages – but not all people

In order to visit the reserve you are taken out by a tour guide in a safari truck.  The ride vehicles are spacious with no seatbelts.  You enter through the door and slide along the bench, small children should be seated on the inside.  There are wheelchair access trucks, but they cannot accommodate an ECV, you must transfer to a wheelchair.

Now who is it not suitable for?  Anyone with high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness or expectant mothers should not ride.  The ‘roads’ or paths that the vehicles take are rough and unpaved, it is an incredibly bumpy ride during some of it.  It’s also important to note that there is no air conditioning (it’s an open-air safari) and if you get stuck behind a slow moving animal you could be there for a while.  Generally you should be in good health before setting out on this african safari.

Kilimanjaro Safaris Warning Disney

Fun fact:  The rutted road on Kilimanjaro Safaris is part of the landscape design and was done intentionally! The Walt Disney Imagineering design team matched concrete with the surrounding soil, rolled tires through it, tossed stones, twigs and dirt into it to create an appropriately bumpy experience duplicating a remote African road.

2.  The animals are real

Unlike the Jungle Cruise at the Magic Kingdom, the animals on Kilimanjaro Safaris are real.  There are over 30 different species of live animals to see so make sure you have your camera ready and on sports mode!  Sometimes the animals are right next to you, and sometimes they are a bit further away.  While the giraffe is friendly walking beside the truck, you wouldn’t want the lions doing that!

Giraffe so close Kilimanjaro Safaris

3.  You get an expert guide

The cast members that drive the vehicles point out animals that you might otherwise miss, not all of them are in plain sight and can be hard to spot.  Your safari guide will share information about the animals and their surroundings.

Giraffe stops vehicle Kilimanjaro Safaris

Yes – these are real animals with minds of their own.  They can hold up the safari if they get too close to the path, the trucks will come to a complete stop until it is safe to continue.  You can see this one above just sauntered right up to the vehicle!

4.  There are 30+ different species of animals

You aren’t getting on this safari just to see a giraffe or two, the amount of different animals is overwhelming.  Each truck comes with a picture list showing you the animals you might see.  The reference card runs the width of the truck.

Animal Reference on Safari

Animal Reference on Safari

From white rhinos to black rhinos, warthogs to elephants, it’s a fascinating journey!   Just so you know, the Wildebeest aren’t as scary as they are in the Lion King!

5. It’s a great view – well as good as it can be with animals

Disney imagineers did everything possible to make this look like natural habitats that are good for spectators, but most importantly the animals.  They place salt licks, water holes and even some air-conditioned rocks in spots to encourage the animals to be in sight when your safari truck passes along.

Zebra on Kilimanjaro Safaris

Fun fact:  In preparation for creating Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a core team of seven Walt Disney Imagineers, led by Creative Portfolio Executive Joe Rohde, crisscrossed the globe in search of the essential look of life in the wild. The team traveled more than 500,000 miles . . . a distance equal to circling the globe 20 times.

6.  There can be long lines, but you’ll want to do it twice

It’s a different experience every time you ride so there really is no “best time” to ride.  Some animals are more active first thing in the early morning while others perk up in the late afternoon.  If you have the time and can fit it in to your day, I recommend doing it twice to make sure you can take it all in.  Early theme park entry or use of a lightening lane with Genie + is a great way to minimize the wait times.

Kilimanjaro Safaris Wait Time

7. It’s HUGE

If you wonder how the animals get the exercise and space to live comfortably, just know that the entire Magic Kingdom Park is comparable to the size Kilimanjaro Safaris.   For another point of reference, it’s larger than 83 football fields.

Rhino

The rhinos have lots of room to graze and explore!

8.  Healthy animals are important here

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to one of the leading animal hospitals in North America.  It has an emphasis on advanced imaging, digital radiology, ultrasound and endoscopy.  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of only a few animal hospitals in the U.S. with CT scanners on the premises making it easier for the team to quickly diagnose and treat animals.

A happy lion taking an afternoon siesta

If you take a ride over to Conservation Station when you get off of Kilimanjaro Safaris you can see one of the treatment rooms and the nutrition center where they prepare the meals for the residents of the safari.

9.  Some of the animals are endangered species

Of the more than 300 different species at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, there are eight now listed on the endangered species list. Painted Dog, African Elephant and Okapi can all be seen on the safari.

While not specific to the safari itself, it’s important to note that the research being done in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is helping animals all over the world!  On the Caring for Giants tour we were told about one of the projects where they found a solution that allows farmers to protect their farms without harming the elephants. Did you know elephants were afraid of bees? Researchers discovered this and now have helped farmers in Kenya build “beehive fences” that stop elephants from raiding the farms. Now people can defend their farms without hurting elephants, and they get honey too! Genius right?

Elephants at Kilimanjaro Safaris

Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund has directed more than $120 million to support nonprofit organizations working with communities to reverse the decline of wildlife in more than half the countries in the world.  If you would like to learn more about the conservation fund, click here

Have you been on Kilimanjaro Safaris?  Was there anything else I should have mentioned?

9 Things To Know About Disney\'s Kilimanjaro Safaris
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