Wild Africa Trek – 4/19/12, 8:45 am – Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Wild Africa Trek is one of Disney World’s organized cost extra tours, recently added to the Animal Kingdom offerings. Tours are available about every half-hour and have a maximum limit of 12 guests,with 2 guides per tour. There is a minimum size and a max weight per guest of 300 lbs. Tours assemble at the Animal Kingdom entrance, usually to the right just after bag-check, where the first cast member checks you in (remember to bring photo id) and then (after you sign the standard waiver form) passes you off through the turnstiles. Another cast member then escorts you back through the park to Africa, right next to the Dawa Bar, where you are taken behind Tusker House to be outfitted.
Guests are shown the lockers where all loose items from pockets must be stored, as nothing is allowed on the Wild Africa Trek that could fall off your body or out of your pocket. Lockers are easy to use being the personally set PIN-code type. Guests are then individually fitted with the vest/safety harness that is worn until the end of the tour. Guests are also fitted with individual single ear bud type wireless receivers that allow you to hear your guides. I found the ear bud a little uncomfortable at first but soon realized it that I could adjust it around the outside of my ear for a better fit. The system worked well all through the tour, making it seem as if the guides were speaking right next to me.
When it comes to photography, here is where I feel Disney tour booking does a real disservice to their guests. Most of the time tour booking operators do not seem to know the rules and tell guests that cameras are not allowed. You are most definitely allowed to bring a camera and take photos, the only rule is the camera has to be secure, either on a neck strap or to the vest. I personally carried a Panasonic Lumix gh-2, with 2 lenses, a 14-140 and a 100-300 (in 35mm terms these are 28-280 and 200-400) giving me more than enough reach for the possible shots. One lens was attached to the camera and the other in a lens pouch worn on my belt. The guides do check the attachment of such a pouch and make sure it won’t interfere with the bungee-type harness lead. Some of the photos in this review are mine and some are from the souvenir photo CD mailed to your home about a week after your tour.
The Wild Africa Trek then sets off. Out again through Africa, and into the exit of the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride. With a short first stop to see the Colobus Monkey and then on through a special gate and along a path that is up on the ridgeline created to separate the tropical/water feature animals from the savannah lands. You then proceed to the first use of the bungee-style safety tether. You are given a quick review by the guides on how to hand them the carabiner end, without snapping a finger in the strong springed clasp, and you are clipped off to a line on an overhead track.
A guide/naturalist joins your group and once everyone is attached the guides walk out with you to a point of land overlooking the hippos, where the naturalist gives a short informative talk about the hippos and answers questions. Here is where you get the first opportunity to get photos that you just cannot get from the regular safari ride.
After unclipping again you move on to the first of two suspension style bridges, where you are clipped in again and cross one at a time, assisted by a guide, and then made a right angle turn for the second bridge crossing
It is obvious that Disney Imagineers worked very hard to make the Wild Africa Trek a walk that would have you slow down, concentrate, and yet take in all around you.
The guides encourage you to stop and look for minute or two, as you pass right over the Nile crocodile habitat.
You then clip off, and move to another overlook area, clip in again, and get to go out onto an observation overlook above the crocodiles, where another cast member talks about the Nile crocodile. You then move out to an area where you take off the safety vest, and embark onto one of these smaller safari trucks for your very own slower paced Kilimanjaro Safari ride.
The neat thing about this portion of the Wild Africa Trek is that you get to pull off the regular track, and actually stop, at which time you are allowed to stand up and move around to take photos. You visit the giraffes and elephants with talks about each from the cast members that have been with you from the beginning.
You then arrive at the savannah overlook, where you have picnic tables, bathrooms, fresh water for your bottles, and where you snack on a nested lunch box (called dabbawala in India, also known as tiffin wallahs). Inside is a nice selection of smoked or cured meats, salmon, yogurt, cheeses, and topped off with an edible orchid, all washed down with nice fresh cold jambo juice, as is served in Boma.
After the nice break and a few photos you reload back aboard the safari truck and make your way out via the regular safari roads, but if the cheetahs and lions are up they will pause for a photo or two. Luck was with me that day as both species of big cats were up for a change. Kilimanjaro Safari tip – confirmed by our guides – the last couple of safaris’s of the day are the best for the chance at the cats being active as they are mostly nocturnal by nature, and start to key in on feeding time at those times.
Soon you arrive back at the debarkation docks, dismount the truck and return to the starting place behind the Dawa Bar. You then get to choose what research/conservation effort the portion of your tour fee earmarked for conservation goes to. I chose big cat research/preservation. You then collect your belongings from the lockers and off into the park you go.
Conclusion: I felt the Wild Africa Trek was one of the better tours at WDW of the several that I have done, which included the Backstage Safari of the animal care areas. We did the 8:45 tour, a perfect time of day I feel, it was not too hot when we finished, we had time to take in Festival of the Lion King, and the Finding Nemo show. The food was good, although some may find it a little too exotic, but I’ll try most any food once. Overall I would give this tour a solid AA- Satisfying enough that I may do it again at this year’s Pixelmania event.