The Casual Runner

Casual Adventurer: Wild Africa Trek

Wild Africa Trek Adventure

 

The What: Wild Africa Trek

The Where: Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida

The When: Daily Tours Available

 

Casual Runners know that while running is a part of our lives, it is not our entire lives. Better yet, as Casual Running allows us to be healthier and live more active lifestyles, it allows us to experience new and wonderful adventures. In this special series, we will look at fun Casual Adventures that our Team takes on when we are away from our training, even if its only for a day or two! And remember, adventure is out there!

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

The Setup

My brother became an annual passholder at Walt Disney World last spring when he came over to see us during the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge weekend.  Over the past year he easily became most enamored with Animal Kingdom, more specifically Kilimanjaro Safari.  I decided months ago (based on his love for the safari) that the Wild Africa Trek would be the best birthday present I could get for him this year!

What is the Wild Africa Trek you ask? Without giving away too much right now…it is a behind the scenes VIP tour of the Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The Scene of the Adventure

The Wild Africa Trek takes place daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom multiple times throughout the morning and early afternoon.  To book these tours you have to call the Walt Disney World reservation line.  Unfortunately this line can also be made to book dining reservations so the phone line can be very backed up.  I called probably 10 times before I got a response time that was going to be less than a 45 minute on hold time.  Eventually I got through and waited approximately ten minutes to talk to someone.

After conferring with Jordan when he would be able to do this tour, I called about 9 days before our planned trip with the hope that, with all the dates and times this tour is available, I wouldn’t have any trouble booking with such short notice.  I originally had wanted to do a morning tour because from what I had heard, this is when the animals are most active.  Unfortunately, the Annual Pass discount is only available on the afternoon tours, so I went the cheaper option and booked the 12:30 PM tour.

Adventuring the Adventure

We were to arrive for our adventure by 12:20 PM and we definitely cut our time close.  We had gone to Epcot earlier in the day for the Easter Egg hunt and I was so determined to find the eggs that we did not walk out of Epcot till almost 11:45 PM.  Oops!  Then it was a ten minute drive over to Animal Kingdom before being directed to park in what was probably the furthest lot away possible, hop a tram, bag check, enter the park, bathroom break, and then finally walk all the way back to the Safari!  Basically what I’m saying is that we should have been in the Animal Kingdom parking lot more like 11:45, not leaving Epcot at that point.  

We checked in at the Wild Africa Trek next to the entrance to the standby line of Kilimanjaro Safaris and it was time to be on our way.  We had to go over safety procedures while on the Trek and sign that we understood the risks of this tour.  We had to lock all personal belongings in a provided locker if they could not be tethered to us in some way.

Next we were weighed (they hid the number, but you cannot be under 45 lbs or over 300 lbs) and if we were close to 48 inches tall we would have been measured, so they could pick out the correct harnesses for us to wear.  Along with getting us in the correct harness, we were given canteen water bottles (that were ours to keep), straps to put on our cell phones so we did not have to worry about them becoming lost on the tour, and hooked up to a headset to better hear our tour guides.

After getting all ready to go, they informed us that we were waiting on one more group.  Looks like we were not the only ones running late after all.  Once everyone was there and ready to go we headed out into the park and onto the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.

Adventure Awaits!

We took a walking tour of the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to start off our Trek with our two tour guides.  We learned some interesting facts along the tour of this area of Animal Kingdom. We walked past the cotton-top tamarins, into the bug hut, thru the bird sanctuary, then finally it was time to head backstage on the Kilimanjaro Safari.

We entered the safari on a dirt path up above the hippo pools.   This part of the Trek does not have a flat surface and you have to watch for roots, so you do not trip.  In this area it is very important that you have on close toed shoes.  I did learn from another guest that they did provide close toed shoes for them to wear (they looked very similar to Crocs).  It was time to get close to the hippos and at this time we were greeted by a zoologist who specialized in the hippos for some more in depth knowledge.  To get closer to the hippos we had to lock our bungee cords into basically a clothesline system to keep us from falling into their area.  We were able to get close to the ledge and get super close to the hippos (compared to the safari jeeps).  Not to give too much away about the hippos, but most fun fact I learned: the eldest male hippo, Henry, is the grandfather of the famous premature baby hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona. Cue the music: “It’s a Small World After All…”

Next it was time to make our way to the Nile Crocodiles.  Now to get up close and personal with these fellows (yes fellas, all the Crocodiles at Animal Kingdom are males, because they do not want them reproducing – I would make a Jurassic Park reference here, but that is not a Disney IP)!  

As scared as I am of alligators/crocodiles this was the most exciting part of the Trek!  We once again hooked our bungees into a high ropes system and walked over a rope bridge with the crocodiles underneath us.  For added safety there was a net underneath to keep us extra safe if we did fall (spoiler alert – noone fell).  

After we made it to the end of the rope bridge we hooked into another system and were greeted by a crocodile specialist, so we could get as close to the crocodiles as possible without falling in and getting all of our questions answered.

It was now time to head out onto the safari in our own personal truck.  At this time we also got out of our vests as we would not need our bungees for the rest of the tour.  We headed out onto the Savannah and began the portion of the Safari.  As we got closer to the giraffes we pulled onto our own personal stretch of the road so we could spend more time with the animals and get a little closer than we would have been had we been on the safari ride.  We were also allowed to stand up in the truck at this time and walk around on the back of it and take pictures.  The three baby giraffes (more like toddlers) were out and being absolutely adorable. As our tour guide continued to talk to us about the Savannah she was quickly interrupted because the star of the show, Stella, came out onto the safari and stole the show!

Who is Stella?  Stella is the newest baby to the safari and happens to be the cutest little elephant ever!  I had been on a mission to see Stella since she made her appearance on the safari back in December.  She was being the most active animal on the Safari all day and was running around like crazy making her mother and sister continually chase after her.  I could have stayed out there and watched her all day, but soon she went back in her enclosure for a nap and it was time to head to lunch.

Our lunch was served on a far side of the Savannah where we had a view of so many different animals while we enjoyed our lunch. This was also the first and only chance to use the bathroom. This meal was definitely different to say the least.  I am a picky eater, and this meal was definitely not for picky eaters.  I did try everything though!  The meal included: Pomegranate, Orange, Mango juice, chicken curry salad, marinated tandoori shrimp, sun-dried tomato hummus and mini pita, smoked salmon roulade with dill, air-dried beef and prosciutto, and fresh fruit marinated in mint and ginger.  Hands down my favorite was the hummus and pita.  After we finished our meal we had a little time to take pictures of the animals all around.

We were greeted by all different kinds of animals, including Stella who came back out for some more play time.  

After lunch we made our way back onto the safari and headed back to where the white rhino lives.  We were able to stop and see him very close as he ate moss off of a rock.  After that our tour was quickly coming to an end and it was time to bid farewell to our wonderful tour guides.

Adventure Tips

Some things you may want to know in case this Casual Adventure is now on your radar.

This is a three hour tour, so will take up a good portion of your day at Animal Kingdom.  You must have park admission to do this tour as you have to walk to back to the Kilimanjaro Safari entrance to begin your Trek.

This tour involves a lot of walking!  You spend more than half of this tour on your feet.  This tour is not equipped for someone who needs assistance walking.  

They are not joking about the weight and height requirements.  It is very important that you follow these rules or the tour could become very dangerous (or not happen at all).  This is not a time to sneak your child into shoes that make them appear taller than they are.  The bungees have to be able to work properly to ensure your safety.  

I mentioned it before but I will mention it again.  I am a picky eater.  Knowing this I did eat a light snack at the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot before so I knew I wouldn’t be starving if I did not like the food that was served.  I highly suggest this!  I am not sure if there is a kids option for food, but it is definitely something worth asking if you have a child joining you for this tour. Also, if you have any special dietary restrictions (and aren’t just picky like me), please do let them know in advance so they may accommodate your needs.

Wrapping it Up

Once we were back to where we checked in we were able to get our belongings out of the locker.  At this point Jordan put back on his birthday badge and the group burst into a round of “Happy Birthday to You!”  You know you’re going to be singled out at Disney if you wear a Birthday button.  Afterwards we were all given a card to retrieve our pictures that were taken of us during the tour.  How much are these pictures you may ask?  They are FREE!  Yes, FREE! By 8PM that day our pictures were posted that night and I loved them!

Would I do this tour again?  ABSOLUTELY!  I think this tour was definitely worth the money I spent.  In addition to a great tour we also received lunch, water canteens, and free photos. Will I ever ride Kilimanjaro Safari again?  Not any time soon, with all the great information I recieved on my tour it will be hard to enjoy the 15 minute ride for a while now.

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!         

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