Each trip our family tries to enjoy one “Magical Extra”, and this time we chose the Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom. I thought others might be interested to know how the experience was for their own planning purposes. What follows is my personal review on our experience on this tour.
We selected the first tour of the day, which started at 0800, in large part because this was our last day on property and we wanted to ensure full ability to enjoy it without worrying about timelines around our departure. It also occurred to us that, it being late April, it might be wise to do it earlier rather than later so as to enjoy more moderate temperatures.
To give a very broad overview, this tour is “an active, approximately 3-hour privately guided expedition into the world of African wildlife. This trek is an outdoor journey requiring physical stamina and comfort with heights.” It involves walking - I would call it a light hike - riding in a special safari vehicle, different than the ones in Kilimanjaro Safaris, and enjoying a light meal in an open-air cabana-type accommodation overlooking the savanna.
As with many of the Magical Extras, this tour does not populate to My Disney Experience so I made personal note of the confirmation number at the time of making the reservation. However, one week prior to our tour date - which just so happened to be our check-in date - I received an email from the “WDW DAK WAT Help Desk” both confirming our reservation and providing further instructions around proper attire for the tour, requirements for participation, checking in, what to bring (and what not to bring!), as well as instructions around how to notify the team about any dietary restrictions.
We were staying at Polynesian Village Resort on this trip, and given that we needed to arrive no later than 0730 to check in, we utilized a Lyft to arrive at the front gates of Animal Kingdom. Our guides, Steve and Olivia, presented themselves to us at 0745 and got us all checked in. It was an 0800 EMH opening and so we entered at the same time as the masses. I was a little concerned that we would become separated in the throng of people, but our guides expertly helped us make our way through the check points without losing any of us.
Steve stopped us in Harambe and offered the group one last chance to use the restrooms, explaining that the next opportunity would be in about two hours. It was pretty awesome to be in an empty Harambe:
We made our way to the entrance of Kilimanjaro Safaris where just to the left is the locker area for WAT. We were instructed that absolutely everything must come out of our pockets, including any and all paper, and that nothing would be allowed to come with us that could not be secured to our safety harness. This included our magic bands, though personal watches were allowed. Complimentary lockers were provided for all of our belongings that could not come with us. We were then asked to step on the scale, to both verify that we met the weight restrictions for the tour and to ensure we were fitted with the most appropriately sized safety harness. I was impressed with the discretion observed here, for those worried about any disclosure of their weight.
Each individual was sent with a guide who fitted the harness appropriately. We were given souvenir water bottles that attached to the safety harness, and those whose phone cases allowed were provided with a strap that attached the phone to the harness as well. Straps were also provided to secure sunglasses, though none were given to me for my prescription lenses presumably because they were not coming off my face.
I should mention, too, that we had been informed at the start of the trek that both guides would be snapping photos throughout the journey, both posed and candids, of us and of the wildlife. So if your phone case does not allow for being attached to your harness, as my husband’s, you should be reassured that you will have PLENTY of photos of the experience. Our guides took nearly 200 of our group, and we were given access and permission to use about 50 additional photos that are in the WAT gallery.
Once we were all fitted, we set out on our journey with the first stop being at the hippo pool. Here we were met by animal keeper Emily who talked to us at length about her role in caring for the hippos, hippo behavior and facts, and about Gus (Augustus) the hippo baby born about 4 months ago.
We made our way next to the suspension bridges where each person took a turn making their way across with their safety harness hooked in to ensure nobody would fall into the crocodile pit This tour does warn that those with fear of heights may not find this tour suitable, but my husband has a terrible fear of heights such that he won’t even stand near windows in very tall buildings and he did not struggle at all. He did say that the anticipation of it was anxiety provoking but that once there he was so distracted by everything around him that he didn’t even think about the height thing.
We spent a few minutes here waiting for each person to cross. Nobody was asked to hurry, and nobody was made to feel rushed. Each person was encouraged to go at their own pace, even stop and take photos if they liked, and to “get there when they get there”. It gave us some time to take a family shot and to check out the crocs up close.
There was a water refilling station here too.
Once each person was across, we hiked on to where we met our safari truck and our driver, Will. We relinquished our safety harnesses there before boarding the vehicle.
We made our way out onto the savanna where, unlike the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles, our truck was able to stop here and there to get some up close animal sightings and some education along the way too. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to enjoy KS quite the same again
It was a little more than halfway through the tour and time to enjoy a snack. We headed over to that cabana you see off in the distance when you’re on Kilimanjaro Safari. Our driver parked us right up close to the deck there and we disembarked. This is where the only restroom was available on the tour, and folks availed themselves of it while our guides distributed our meals. We were encouraged to partake of the killer view and to take as many pictures as we liked. There were binoculars available at each table for getting a closer look if you cared to.
Our light meal was served in tiffins which is a sort of lunch box similar to the bento box, and which is also the name of the signature restaurant in Animal Kingdom! I now need a tiffin.
In the top part of the tiffin was some fruit yogurt topped with granola, a fruit salad, and some soft cheeses and apricots. A bamboo spoon was also provided. I now need a bamboo spoon.
In the bottom part of the tiffin was a salmon roulade with a vegetable slaw, some cured meats, three small pitas, and a sweet snack made of, I think, dates and figs with nuts. This was all served with jungle juice, with which you may be familiar with if you’ve eaten at Tusker House or Boma. Everything was delicious. Even my picky eaters enjoyed a little of everything and got brave enough to try some things. My husband LOVED the salmon roulade ---- he doesn’t eat fish!
We spent about 20ish minutes there in the dining location. Steve and Olivia were happy to answer questions and take plenty of photos.
When we had finished eating, we went back out on the truck to see one more savanna up close.
And then it was time to return to where we started from.
If you can’t tell from the photos, this tour was AMAZING! It was, by far, one of the coolest things I’ve ever been fortunate to do on a vacation - not just at Disney but anywhere. Our guides were so kind and knowledgeable, just really phenomenal ambassadors for the park. They took an interest in each and every one of us and got to know us a little, and we got to know them too. Olivia talked with me at length about her experience in becoming an employee of Disney, through her experience in College Program. And they praised my son quite enthusiastically for doing so well with the bridges; at 10 he just about meets the minimum age requirement, and some of those slats were spaced fairly widely apart for me! They taught us a lot about what they do, about Animal Kingdom and its mission, about what it means to be an accredited zoo, about animal care and conservation efforts. And they kept checking in to make sure we were having the experience we wanted. In fact, they started off the tour by asking us if there was a particular animal we hoped to see and said they would try their best to make sure we saw them all - and we did! Our meal was delicious and so graciously prepared and served. And the photos they took will help us to forever document this special experience.
At three hours, this tour was just the right length. While I was sad for the experience to come to an end, as one is with all great experiences, it also felt like it was time for it to draw to its close. It allowed us plenty of time to do a lot more in Animal Kingdom before it was time for us to leave. But I really do worry that it really has spoiled us for the typical Kilimanjaro Safari experience!
Oh, and as to the first tour of the day: it was a wise decision! Temperatures did in fact remain low throughout our time, and it was getting hot by the time we returned. It is nice that much of the tour is in the shade of vegetation, in the truck, and in the cabana. So one does not have to worry much in the way of becoming sunburned or overheated. And with the water bottles provided at the start of the trip and refilling options twice along the way, one would have no trouble remaining hydrated.
This tour is not inexpensive, ranging from $189-$249 per person depending on the date you go. But given that we had such an up close experience, a light meal, AND that a portion of the cost of the tour is donated to conservation efforts, we felt it was a good value. We would gladly spend that again on this tour, and I would encourage anyone interested to go ahead and do the same. You will not be disappointed!
I hope you enjoyed this review of our Wild Africa Trek! Please let me know if you have any questions; I am more than happy to answer!