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Kilimanjaro Safaris is a two-week trek through the African savannah searching for wildlife. The ride vehicles are actual trucks driven by your safari guide, who points out the various animals along the trail. There are some tricky spots on the road, including a rickety bridge, and the ride ends with your group joining in the hunt for a band of poachers.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a FASTPASS attraction.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is an original Animal Kingdom attraction; it opened with the park on April 22, 1998. Two original elements of the ride are no longer included:
Before Expedition Everest, this was the primary must-see attraction at the Animal Kingdom, drawing crowds first thing in the morning and staying busy throughout the day. With the coming of the Yeti, crowds are somewhat eased at park opening, but afternoons are still crowded.
This is certainly a not-to-be-missed attraction; even though the poacher story
is watered down, the anmials are worth the time. The skill with which Disney
has engineered the anmial habitats really shows through, as there isn't a fence
or ditch in sight, and some of the more harmless (i.e. herbivorous) animals can
walk right up to the road.
The queue is the safari station, including the office of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve. Signs overhead teach the Swahili names for various animals you may encounter on your trek through the bush.
Throughout the ride, your vehicle will not come to a complete stop, so if you are interested in taking photographs, you will need a steady hand and a ready shutter finger.
You board your vehicle and are introduced to your guide, who gives some of the history of the Harambe Wildlife Preserve and the animals you might see.
Your first viewing area, in the Ituri Forest region, includes okapi, saddle-billed storks, black rhinoceroses, pink-backed pelicans, and bongos (the large antelope, not the drum). Your guide will be in full tourist mode, describing the animals along with their physical features or interesting facts about their habits or the number surviving in the wild. As you leave the Ituri Forest, you have your first introduction to Wilson and Miss Jobson, two officials with the Preserve who are flying overhead. As the conversation winds down, you enter the Safi River.
The Safi River habitat is home to Nile hippopotamuses and Nile crocodiles. Here you will also cross Senegali bridge, where Wilson urges you to go "very slowly" to avoid compromising the span and landing in the crocodile river.
Safely across the bridge, you enter the West Savanna. Here you will see the large baobob tree (upside-down tree), then you are interrupted by a fight between Wilson and Miss Jobson over what to call a Thomson's gazelle. This portion of the attraction is what most people expect of the African Serengeti - wide vistas, sparse trees, and big animals. Here you have a chance to spot Patterson's eland, impala, sable antelope, and the aforementioned Thomson's gazelle ("tummies" to Wilson). We have never spotted a mandrill, but the Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom insists they are here.
You then enter elephant country, and here you will first hear about Big Red and Little Red, the prize members of the Preserve's elephant herd. Wilson chimes in that they have not been seen yet today, but might be at the red clay pit. Along with elephants, you will see the reticulated giraffe and flamingos. At this point you are passing into the East Savanna.
First up is the scimitar-horned oryx, although your viewing may be interrupted by Wilson, thickening the plot with a report of a suspicious jeep. Cheetahs follow, then lions and white rhinoceroses. Pumba puts in an appearance with his family of warthogs, and you get a quick look at the ostriches and their eggs.
At this point the crisis is reached. Wilson radios that poachers are in the area. Your guide floors it to chase down the illegal hunters. You approach the poacher's camp, where rhino horns and elephant tusks indicate that they have already been successful at their illegal game. Fortunately, you've chased them right into Wilson's trap, and you get a glimpse of Little Red in the back of a truck, safe and soon to be returned to his mother. This is the end of the safari, as your two-week expedition is cut short at about 16 minutes.
In the original version, the guide reported that "Big Red has been shot". You caught a glimpse of the poachers racing away in a jeep, then drove them into Wilson's trap. A game warden held the poachers at bay at gunpoint. All of this has gone away, due mostly to guests complaining about the grim nature of the story. But that's nothing compared to the soft opening version, where the cast members and their families actually saw Big Red down.
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