These “It’s ____ Day!” creeps up on everyone… but today is apparently National Wildlife Day. So what better day to celebrate the awesome Animal Kingdom attraction known as Kilimanjaro Safaris!
An outdoor attraction, you work your way through the (somewhat lengthy) queue, where you eventually board a Safari “Jeep”. It’s manned by a real life Cast Member, who will take you on a “2 week” safari through one of the world’s largest habitats
So here are Nine Magical Facts about Kilimanjaro Safari:
(1) WALT’S ANIMAL VISION… Originally, Walt Disney wanted to use real animals in the Jungle Cruise attractions, but they feared that real life elephants, crocodiles, hippos and more would be hard to control. The live animal idea was scrapped in favor of animatronics, which is what you see today. However, Imagineers decided to realize Walt’s vision on the Safari, using live animals for everyone to see.
(2) THOSE MEAN POACHERS… In the beginning, the Safari storyline was set around rescuing two elephants — Big Red and Little Red — from poachers, which including an ending where we’d see a slaughtered Big Red, but we were there in time to save Little Red. As you can imagine, this dark ending gave Disney much negative feedback, so the storyline became about rescuing Little Red before poachers could get him. (Some of the longtime fans will remember the call of “SIMBA ONE! SIMBA ONE!”). Eventually, even that storyline was scrapped with the opening of the Zebra area in 2012, so Disney could focus on just the animals, feeling the Safari told a great enough story already.
(3) THE SIZE OF IT ALL… Kilimanjaro Safari is the largest attraction in all of Disney World, covering over 110 acres. By comparison, the entire Magic Kingdom is only 107 acres! Over 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt were moved to help plant over 2 million plants, trees, grasses and other native foliage.
(4) BAOBAB MAGIC… That big upside tree is called a Baobab tree, and you go right past it as you enter the “savannah”. But it’s Disney magic that brings it to you — a real baobab tree of that size would likely be over 1,000 years old and there is no way to transplant them… so Disney Imagineers made one. The one you see in the safari actually has a number of hidden cameras in it… (however, there is a real Baobab tree sitting right outside of Tusker House!)
(5) ROAM IF YOU WANT TO… The animals on Kilimanjaro Safari look as if they are roaming all over the land, and to some extent, that is true — I’ve actually been in a Jeep, halted for 10 minutes because a rhino was just standing in the middle of the road, in the way. However, all around you are hidden fences, gates, grass covered moats and other barriers to keep animals from going free or from wandering into other enclosures. The elephant area is 6 acres, surrounded by a moat, while Pride Rock, which holds the lions, has strategic placed rocks and barriers (including a 21 foot wide and 18 foot deep moat) around it.
(6) NOT YOUR AVERAGE JEEP… Ever wonder about the vehicles themselves? They were custom built by GMC and run around $100,000 per vehicle (or the cost of a family of four at Cinderella’s Royal Table… I kid… I kid… sort of…). Though you board from a platform straight in, you are actually sitting 8 feet above ground level. To give you a more authentic journey, the seats are mounted to give you a much more bouncy ride (if you want less bounce, go to the front – more bounce, head to the back)
(7) ANIMALS… Among the animals you will encounter… Lions, Cheetahs, Ostriches, Flamingos, Elephants, Okapis, Gazelles, Rhinos, Antelopes, Wildebeests, Giraffes, Crocodiles, and many birds. The collection contains at least 8 of the world’s most endangered species.
(8) TIME FOR BED… So, do the animals just roam free at night? Nope. Every night they are brought in to rest, to feed, and even sometimes for medical care. Each animal has its own sound that it’s been trained to respond to — triangles, chimes, cowbells, horns, duck calls, whistles and more. When the animals come in, other Cast Members go out into the Safari and replace grass, plants, and more vegetation, as well as remove the thousands of pounds of manure left by many animals (which is then used for fertilizer for the grounds)
(9) WHEN TO GO… The best time to ride the Safari? In the morning. Mid-morning. Or afternoon. Or go at night. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get all of these answers. So my suggestion is one of two things — either go in the morning, before it gets too blazin’ hot (10ish or so?) or go in the early evening, maybe 4 or 5ish.