While vacationing in Walt Disney World (WDW) free experiences are somewhat rare, and perhaps rarer still are opportunities for free food. However, there is a resort property in WDW that boasts not one but two free tours that also include free food! Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort Area is home to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) as well as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas—Kidani Village, which is part of Disney’s Vacation Club. Visitors to that resort can participate in the Culinary Tour of Boma—Flavors of Africa and Jiko—The Cooking Place at AKL and/or the Cultural Tour of Sanaa at Kidani Village.
Each of the tours is guided by a Cultural Representative who is one of many international WDW Cast Members working at various attractions, shops, pavilions, restaurants or resorts across WDW. Each Cultural Representative has been selected to share firsthand knowledge of his or her home country’s culture and customs.
Participants in the Boma and Jiko combo tour meet at Boma’s host/hostess podium where a Cultural Representative begins the 30-minute experience by sharing information about the African-inspired décor and the layout design of the spacious Boma dining room. The tour then continues with the group observing the preparation of the buffet line for the evening meal. Most tour-takers report having the opportunity to select and sample one of the evening’s featured soups, which might include: Ghanian Oxtail Stew, Mulligatawny, Seafood Gumbo, Curried Coconut Seafood, Butternut Squash or Harira. Following the soup tasting, the tour concludes with a legendary Zebra Dome— a small mousse-filled, truffle-like sweet prepared with Amarula Cream Liqueur from Africa, coated with white chocolate and drizzle striped with dark chocolate.
Immediately following the Boma portion of the Culinary Tour, participants head to Jiko-The Cooking Place to be guided by a new Cultural Representative. After a relatively brief tour of the bar and dining areas, guests are offered the option to sample portions of the Tastes of Africa appetizer that includes an assortment of dips and hummus along with lavash, khobz and naan breads. While partaking, tour guests are free to ask the representative questions about the restaurant as well as his or her home country.
You will be happy to know that the Boma and Jiko combo tour is not reserved for AKL guests. It is open to everyone, and is offered daily at 3:45 p.m. It is important to note that the start time may vary depending on season. For that reason, it is a good idea to confirm with the resort desk or @WDWToday on Twitter.
As noted above, the Cultural Tour of Sanaa is a free tour that takes place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas—Kidani Village, which is just a short distance from AKL. The tour begins at the restaurant’s host/hostess podium, and is guided by a Cultural Representative. The experience is not just for guests staying in the Villas—everyone is welcome. While the tour currently begins at 4:00 p.m., it is advisable to verify the start time before heading to the restaurant for the 30-minute experience.
When the restaurant’s name—Sanaa—means “artwork” in Swahili, it seems fitting that the Cultural Representative guiding the tour would begin with a look at a number of African art pieces adorning its walls. Following the tour of the bar and dining areas, a chef arrives to share with the group about the art of preparing Sanaa’s famous naan bread and meats in the tandoor clay ovens. Then, participants are presented with a taster portion of fresh naan bread and a few of the dipping sauces, which are part of the Indian-Style Bread Service appetizer found on the menu. While enjoying the samples, guests are encouraged to ask questions about the restaurant, food, and the Cultural Representative’s home country. The Sanaa tour is concluded in order to prepare for restaurant guests ready to enjoy, as the menu says, “African Cooking with Indian Flavors.”
Along with the Cultural Representative’s insights, each tour includes opportunities to sample some of the tastes of Africa, as well as India. An added benefit of taking the free tours and sampling some of the free foods is that partakers can decide if the cuisine flavors are to their liking without actually paying for a meal to do it. Though the Culinary Tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Cultural Tour at Kidani Village are just thirty minutes in length, they both offer excellent opportunities to learn more about the African culture that inspired the restaurants as well as the resort property where they are located.
Kendall is an editor and contributing writer for WDW Radio. She began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. Her home-away-from-home is Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and she believes a perfect day at WDW includes a dip in the Lava Pool, a ride on Splash Mountain and a Pineapple Dole Whip. Follow her on Twitter @kl_foreman.