In the spirit of the well-known song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, our writers will be counting up from 1 to 12 as we bring you a numbered, Disney-themed subject on each day leading up to Christmas.
Like many of you, we have found our lives full of things. Yes, filled with things like love, connection and good friendships. But also too many tchotchkes, too many knick-knacks collecting dust on our shelves and just too much stuff.
We want experience over things: The value of the time we spend together far outweighs any item or bric-a-brac. We knew that a unique experience would make the best kind of holiday gift.
On this eighth day of the WDW Radio 12-Day Christmas Extravaganza, here are our “Top Eight Reasons to do the Wild Africa Trek” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A quick spoiler: The tour IS SPECTACULAR and would make the perfect gift for Disney and animal fans alike.
1.) The Cool Outfits
Wild Africa Trek begins with check-in and a suit up. Vests complete with multiple pockets, a water bottle and a custom name tag are attached to a harness system that loops around your legs.
You will be weighed (Don’t worry: no ones calls your weight out loud – it is strictly for the size and capacity of the harness you will be wearing) and given a head-set to listen to the guides. It is a sleek earpiece that helps you to hear all the information about the savannah and the animals. You spend some time walking along a trail system and it would be very loud (not to mention disruptive to the animals) if the guide were to be yelling to the 12-person group. My girls loved it because they said it made them look like, “secret agents.”
2.) The Bridges
The trek starts out in a wooded area just next to the Safari and on the Savannah. You don’t see the “inner workings” of Walt Disney World and the Animal Kingdom (a.k.a. water tanks, staff parking, etc.): the experience is completely immersive and you feel like you are in the African Jungle. A trail system between the hippos and the base camp leads you to the highlight of the first half of the tour: the bridge system. High above the Safari’s stream and perched above the crocodile pit, lies a two-part suspended bridge that challenges your sense of danger and thirst for excitement.
The guides check your harnesses and link you up to a trolley system that acts as a safety net as you traverse the length of the bridge. The boards of the bridge are spaced just far enough apart to give you a little jolt: a few even have “Disney-crafted” bites taken out them. It is a true-life Indiana Jones-eque experience, perfect for the thrill seekers in the family and safe enough for moms like me who need to know its all “just for show.”
3.) The Crocodiles
These snappers are an all-male, well fed bunch. Our guides explained that the reason they were holding their mouths open was to “cool off” and not to show-off the ferocity of their teeth. The Nile Crocodiles at the Wild Africa Trek are well-tended bunch and are a great way to get up close (but not too close) to this ancient species.
4.) The Giraffe Close-ups
Like the regular safari ride, you see lots of animals native to the African savannah. But in the case of the Trek, you get so close (and are able to pause and take it all in) that the animals peek at you and look for you when you ride around them. You have the chance to stand up once the truck is stopped, to take lots of pictures and make the time to ponder their magnificence. The patterning and colors of the giraffe coats were beautiful. We saw young and mature giraffes and learned that their fuzzy horns are called, “ossicones”- a great piece of trivia for those who want to stump their family and friends. This level of closeness (in my humble opinion) helps people to care about their well-being: it makes them real, wonderful and worthy of protecting.
5.) The Boma
About 2 hours into the trek, you and your team stop at the private boma, or “safe place” in Swahili. You may have noticed the boma while on the safari: it sits to the right as you wind your way around the cattle, wildebeests and flamingoes. This open-air grass hut has a large, expansive view of the Savannah. The fans and restrooms provide immediate relief from the warmth and rigor of the trek. The tables and chairs are comfortable and the boma is equipped with binoculars, perfect to spy on the animals out on the grasslands. It is here where the guides set up your spectacular lunch, which brings us to our next best thing…
6.) The Food
The lunch is downright delicious, gourmet and over-the-top. Cured meats, cheeses, mini pita breads, fresh fruit salad, yogurt with granola, fig cake, and a salmon roulade with coleslaw come in tidy tins that the guides set up for you. There is a stacked tin for everyone with kid and vegetarian options available. It feels quite decadent to sit and relax in the boma, eating scrumptious food and sipping on the fresh-squeezed mango & passion fruit juice. It was a delightful surprise and nourishing after the trek’s activity.
7.) The Rhino Detour
Out on the trek, you are subject to the animals’ travel patterns. We encountered a crash of rhinos (another cool trivia term taught to us by our guides!) and watched as a mother, baby and aunt all played and sparred with one another. We were able to be close enough to see the texture of their hides, look into their eyes and take some great photos. One of the rhinos even decide to lean up against the truck for a quick rest. We hung out, took some photos and marveled at her size (and smell).
8.) The Guides
Disney is great at choosing leaders for their tours who can connect and share their knowledge with a level of compassion and interest that appeals to many types of guests. That being said, our guides Morgan and Frank were kind, knowledgeable and open. They shared the types of programs that Disney does for animal preservation and safety without judgement or overbearingness. They were a delight to learn from, and we felt a great connection to them by the end of our trip. The duo also took time to help us feel safe, check our gear and take hundreds of courtesy, hi-resolution photos. All guests get a link for downloading photos, along with a souvenir stainless steel water bottle, a pin and their custom name tag.
The Wild Africa Trek runs year-round at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and prices per person range from $189 to $249 per person based on the season. A tour runs for 3-hours and is a great way to start your day at the Animal Kingdom. A park pass to Disney’s Animal Kingdom is required for entrance. You can find out more details here and make your reservations.
(All photos courtesy of Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons, except for the Guides photo which is courtesy of Disneyparks/Wild Africa Trek.)
Have you been on the Trek? Want to go? I would love to hear from you and help to answer any questions you may have. -Kristin
Also, be sure to join us tomorrow for Day 9 of the WDW Radio Christmas Extravaganza. If you have missed any of the previous days, check out the links below!
Kristin is a food writer and social media manager in the great State of Maine. When she is not seeking out the next-best-thing-she-ever-ate, she is busy planning for her runDisney vacations and cooking with her family. She can be found at @kafcooks.