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Out of Africa

A safari trek through Disney’s Animal
Kingdom park looks and feels authentic.
By Katherine Jacob

For people who can’t travel to Africa, the three-hour guided Wild Africa Trek at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park is an authentic African adventure that combines a short hike, a safari truck ride through the savanna, and a meal at a safari camp.

hippos

Above: A hippo smiles for trekkers exploring Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the Wild Africa Trek.

Below: Look out below; crocodiles sun themselves as a hiker on the Wild Africa Trek carefully crosses the suspension bridge over a water feature on the trail.
Katherine Jacob photos

bridge

The Hike

In November, I joined a small group on the hike that began behind the Tusker House Restaurant in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom. The group is small, with a maximum of 12 people. With two guides, it’s a private and personal tour.

After checking in, we follow a guide to the outpost to get suited up in a vest, harness, and headset. While walking through Harambe village, we learn African words along the way, like jambo, which is Swahili for hello.

The trek starts on the Pangani Forest trail for a short while, and then a guide unlocks a gate and leads us off the paved track and on to a hard-packed earth forest trail into the behind-the-scenes world of the Animal Kingdom. The first stop is a bluff by a natural-looking riverbank where hippos feed in the water 10 feet below. We clip into an overhead cable for safety and then walk to the edge to view the hippos while a trainer feeds them and gives insights into their life in the park. The great thing about this trek is that you can ask questions at each of the stops.

By far, the most interesting part of this experience is the rope suspension bridge where boards are missing to add authenticity. The view from the bridge is spectacular, and you can stop along the way to enjoy it. Look down to see crocodiles on the last stretch of the bridge.

VIP Safari

After the hike through the Pangani Forest, we step onto a VIP safari vehicle and go through the same route as the Kilimanjaro safari. The only difference is that our vehicle makes frequent stops to watch the animals and learn more about their lifestyle, habitats, and challenges in the wild.

The safari breaks for 25 minutes at Boma, the “safari camp.” The raised, covered deck has a 180-degree view of the savanna. Watch giraffes feed on overhead trees. Another view of the grounds features a flamingo pond, and, if you’re lucky, elephants. Lunch is served in metal canisters at our table while we sample a variety of items from salmon rolls, fresh fruit, and cheese to specialty African dishes from Disney’s Jiko restaurant. Trekkers take note: This is the one place where to find a washroom.

Throughout the guided tour, we learn about the plights of various animals in Africa. For example, if poaching continues the way it is, we may not have rhinos in the wild by 2025.

To Disney’s credit, a percentage of the Wild Africa Trek fee is donated to conservation, and participants get a chance to choose which animal is the recipient of that gift. So far, the Disney World Conservation Fund has raised $20 million since 1995.

Wild Africa Trek Details

There are restrictions to participating on this guided tour. You have to be in good physical health and wear hiking boots or close-toed shoes with a back strap. Expectant mothers and children under 8 years of age or 48 inches in height are excluded.

Although you can take your own camera (note it has to be on an wrist or neck strap or attached to your vest), the guides also take photos throughout the trip. They snap picture of you on the trail, crossing the suspension bridge and walking close to the crocodiles. These photos are compiled onto a CD and sent to you in the mail.

This premium experience at Walt Disney World is not only highly enjoyable, but educational.

Katherine Jacob is a contributor from Toronto, Canada.

Jan/Feb 2013 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

To visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Your AAA Travel expert can help you to plan a Disney vacation, including one that includes a premium experience, such as a Wild Africa Trek ($202-266 plus tax). To find a AAA Travel professional near you, call (888) 366-3222. See current Disney vacation specials online at AAA.com/Disney


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