Disney's Wild Africa Trek Experience
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What better way to celebrate my birthday this year than crossing a rope ladder over crocodiles or eating lunch overlooking the Savannah? After booking a last-minute trip to Disney World, I had one thing at the top of my list of must-dos: the Wild Africa Trek. Disney's Wild Africa Trek is a 3-hour privately-guide VIP experience in Animal Kingdom's Africa section. You are led through inaccessible parts of animal enclosures to a suspension bridge, which finishes at a private safari truck that after meandering through the Savannah takes you to a hut to enjoy a packed lunch while watching giraffes and antelope. Despite the high price tag ($200), this once-in-a-lifetime experience was definitely worth it.
We chose the first tour of the day at 8 am before the park opened. Doing the tour this early allowed us to walk through the park without anyone in it! The animals are also more active in the morning and after the tour, we still had the rest of the day to spend in Disney.
When we got to Animal Kingdom, there is a Wild Africa Trek cast member waiting near the left side of the turnstiles. We waited on the rest of our group (8 people total) and then a separate cast member (one of our private guides) walked us through the park, back to Harambe village. Our guide offered to take pictures of each group in front of the Tree of Life, free of the crowds of people who would usually be in the background.
The official meeting point for the Wild Africa Trek is back in Harambe village next to the entrance of Kilimanjaro Safari. Once there, cast members discretely weigh you, give you a name tag and water bottle, and suit you up in safety vests. There are lockers to put away any items you do not want to lug around with you. If you want to carry your phone with you, they will string a nifty loop around the case and attach it to your vest. This is less for your benefit and more to prevent random items being dropped into carefully maintained animal habitats. Once everyone is ready, you start you begin your Trek by walking through Pangani trail. There are two guides, one leading and the other taking pictures. They switch off jobs several times throughout the tour. At the end of the tour you are given a link to all of the pictures taken by the guides for free. Some of those pictures are included in this post. After a short bit of time, you are led off the normal trail and into a forested area through the Hippo habitat. The hippos have several pools, some for sleeping and eating and others for when they are on display for the safari.
At the second hippo pool, a zookeeper meets up with the group to provide more information about hippos and offer them a snack. Using the harnesses attached to our vests, we were hooked onto a bar on a cliff overlooking the hippo enclosure. The harness allowed us to get close to the edge without fear of falling. Since we went in the morning, right after the hippos' big meal for the day, they were not interested in the snack offered to them. We were then unclipped and walked through the forest a bit more, until we got to a series of suspension rope bridges.
The two-part rope bridge hangs above the crocodile enclosure. The actual bridge has several wooden planks missing, adding to the thrill and allowing you to see the crocodiles under your feet. When it is your turn to cross the bridge, you are harnessed in from above by a guide. They stagger people on the bridge so only 1 or 2 people are on each bridge at a time. The day we went was feeding day for the crocodiles, so they were a little more active than normal. Near the end, you can see them awake and fighting below you. Notice that many of the crocodiles have only front hand.
Once everyone was done walking across the bridges, we were hooked onto another observation platform to view the crocodiles closer, just like we did with the hippos. There was an additional guide at this part of the tour that helps us get unclipped at the end of the bridges and explained more about the crocs.
We were finally out of the woods and it was now time to load onto a private safari vehicle. Compared to the normal Kilimanjaro safari vehicles, our was smaller to allow off-road while we were out in the savannah and so we could move around easier while stopped. At this point we took off our safety harnesses. We spent around 30 minutes in the savannah, watching the animals and listening to the guides talk about the behind the scenes details of operating a zoo inside a theme park.
The guides tell you interesting details about the logistics of animal mating and individualizing diets to each individual animal. They will answer any question they know the answer to and even point out what is Disney "real" versus what is actually real.
After (not enough) time on the savannah, we are taken off the road to a hut or Boma for lunch. When booking the tour, we informed the cast member that we were vegetarians. We were given a specially prepared meat-free meal that include pita & hummus, fruit, fig cake, an edible flower, a black-eyed pea salad, tabouli, and a quinoa salad.
They also served more water and a delicious jungle juice. This was the only access to restrooms we had on the tour. After lunch, you have access to binoculars to look out at the giraffes, elephants, flamingos, or antelope.
Once everyone was done with their meal, we got back on the safari vehicle and finished up seeing the rest of the animals – the lions, zebras, rhinos, and ostriches.
At the end of the tour, the guides explain that a portion of the tour prices goes to conservation and you are given a choice into which animal fund you want your money to go. You are then taken back to where you started and able to collect your things from the lockers. They given you a button for your contribution to Disney's conservation funds and information on how to access the photos they took.
Overall, the Wild Africa Trek was the best experience I ever had at Disney. The tour is the best mix of being both informative and thrilling. If you are even a little bit of an animal lover and can afford this expense, do it!