Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wild Africa Trek allows park visitors to explore parts of the Pagani Forest and African savannah that were previously off-limits to park guests. Each group, led by a duo of experienced Animal Kingdom guides, will hike a rough and rocky path along the Pagani Forest Exploration Trail, cross a rope bridge spanning the Safi River, and enjoy a private safari and gourmet meal in the savannah. No other experience at the Animal Kingdom allows guests to enjoy such up close and personal encounters with the awe-inspiring wild animals of Africa’s forests and grasslands.
The Adventure Begins
The experience begins at the Outfitter’s Post, where guests are briefed on the upcoming adventure, outfitted with safety harnesses, and given a delicious blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juices to energize them for their hike. From there, the group ventures forth into the Pagani Forest where they enjoy outstanding up-close views of Western Lowland Gorillas.
After hiking through the habitat of these impressive primates, the tour stops at a hippopotamus habitat in the Safi River to take a closer look at these massive mammals. For the first time, the harnesses will come into play, as each guest walks out to the very edge of the steep river bank while anchored to a safety line. With nothing but air between you and the hippos, you will enjoy an unobstructed view of the world’s third largest land mammal. During most tours, an animal keeper will be present at the habitat to provide expert information on the animals.
A Bridge Over Crocodiles
The tour will then cross the Safi River by means of narrow footbridge. This bridge has been designed to appear old and rickety, but that is just the artistry of Disney at work – in reality the bridge is perfectly safe! Not only is the bridge itself secure, but guests are also attached to a cable above by means of their harness, and safety netting surrounds the bridge in case anyone should lose their footing. This illusion is part of the fun, but the crocodiles lashing about in the river below are no illusion. From the middle of the river participants may look out at the jungle treetops and down into the crocodile habitat while suspended in mid-air. It’s no surprise that this is one of the highlights of the trek for many guests.
After crossing the Safi, the tour emerges from the forest for the safari portion of the adventure on the open savannah. Aboard a special safari truck, guests have the chance to view numerous species that make their home on the African grasslands. While this safari covers much of the same ground as the standard Kilimanjaro Safari – free with admission to the Animal Kingdom – the Wild Africa Trek is able to travel off-road as well as stop to view animals for long periods of time rather than just speed by them. This gives participants the chance to truly observe and enjoy these animals.
Breakfast or lunch is waiting for each tour group as it arrives at the private savannah overlook. Here, participants have 30 minutes to enjoy an exceptional meal while spotting the many species that roam within sight of the savannah platform. After lunch the safari continues until the end of the three-hour program. Giraffes, rhinos, wildebeest, elephants and lions are some of the marquee species that participants may spot during this final stage of their adventure.
Part of what gives this trek its VIP feel is that fact that tour groups are limited to twelve people. In 2010, the Animal Kingdom hosted around 9.7 million guests. To break it down even further, that averages out to over 26,000 guests per day. When you consider that each Wild Africa Trek takes three hours, it becomes clear that very few of those 26,000 guests will get the opportunity to join this unique experience. Understandably, therefore, reservations are absolutely required, and it is best to make them well in advance to be able to select the day and time that will work best for you. Even without these logistical constraints, reservations would be a good idea. The Wild Africa Trek will be a huge part of your Animal Kingdom experience, and you will be planning the rest of your visit around this adventure.
The Wild Africa Trek is by no means grueling, but it does require that guest be ambulatory, and able to walk for the duration of the three-hour tour. The hike through the Pagani Forests takes participants up and down some moderate hills, and the path itself is far from smooth – rocks, tree roots, and encroaching vegetation force everyone to stay on their toes. Those with a moderate level of fitness will definitely enjoy the experience more than perennial couch potatoes. Participants must be at least eight years of age, and, for safety reasons, may not be over 310 pounds.
Forget Your Camera – Please
Disney does not permit participants to carry backpacks or cameras with them during the Wild Africa Trek, unless the camera can clip to the safety harness. However, Disney has thought of everything and you don’t really need your camera. In fact, it may be best to leave it behind so that you can focus on enjoying the experience. Why? A Disney photographer is a part of each and every tour group to capture the experience, and a PhotoPass CD of these images is included in the price of the tour. Disney mails a copy of this CD to all the participants within days of their experience. Most guests find this to be a terrific feature of the Wild Africa Trek, as it frees them from the distraction of trying to capture every sight on camera and allows them to enjoy the experience in the moment.
Sounds Great – What Does It Cost?
The current cost of the Wild Africa tour is $189 per person, although prices can vary with the seaon. In addition to the guided trek and PhotoPass CD, the price of the tour also includes a metal water bottle, binoculars for the group to share during the safari section of the trip, and either lunch or breakfast on the savannah platform, depending on the time of day. The meals are beautifully prepared, and the chefs can accommodate guests with dietary restrictions. The safari truck is covered, and participants will be provided with a poncho in the event of rain. Participants are also outfitted with headphones, to better hear the information presented by their tour guides as they trek through the jungle.
In a Disney World where so many things are artificial, few experiences are as genuine or as genuinely exciting as the Wild Africa Trek. For guests who choose to join this tour, the Trek will be an unforgettable piece of their Disney World vacation.