When you head into Disney World’s Animal Kingdom you can’t help but notice the giant Tree of Life looming over the center of the park, the focal point for the spoke that all Disney parks like to build around.
But when you stay at a Disney Hotel you get the added perk of Extra Magic Hours, when the park likes to open up an hour early for you…and while everyone else immediately dashes to the sad world of Pandora, you need to make your way to the far back corner of Africa, and enter the Harambe Animal Reserve on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Now, before we get into the Safari, don’t mistake my slight jab at Pandora and the World of Avatar. When the movie first came out, it was the first one to use new motion capture technology, and made for an absolutely stunning film…but at the end of the day it was just another story, and only an “Okay” one at that. But people went gaga over it, and it made a lot of money, and then Disney turned it into a park of its own…and the 250+ minute lines for Avatar Flight of Passage, which is once again playing with new technological advances, that make it a ride of a whole other level.
But if I am going to the Animal Kingdom, I want to see Animals in a Kingdom, and the Kilimanjaro Safari is the best way to do that. When I went at 8AM, I was able to ride twice before the park opened for everyone else, experiencing the 22-minute journey with no lines, and the animals waking up and starting to wander their territories.
At some zoos, you get to be really close to the animals, but here you are amongst the animals, with no bars separating you (and only sometimes a moat between you…because we can’t trust lions that much…), and a fun storyteller in the front seat, jerking the jeep around.
Among the things you get to see are there are elephants and rhinos, gazelles and giraffes, crocs and lions, from all ages and sizes!
But nothing really compares to when a rhino just walks up to your vehicle for a chance to say hello!
MAKE SURE TO CLICK “ENABLE HD” TO GET THE BEST VIDEO RESULTS!!
Unfortunately, I was very disappointed to find out that the baobab trees located amongst the elephants were fake…
Once you are out of the safari, make sure you wander around the park (as one is wont to do), and get lost amongst the jungle birds, watch a Festival of the Lion King-inspired show, or just sit down and watch a 3D show inside the early modern-Disney animation days of A Bugs Life.
If it’s a really hot day (unlucky for me it was in the low 40s when I was there), make sure to hit up the Kali River, for what I’ve been told is a fantastic water ride!
Or if you are a weirdo like me and decide to skip most of the rides, just go find yourself a Disney character, and hang out for a bit!