Description of Kilimanjaro Safaris
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a popular, 30-minute-long African-style safari ride that is located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Guests board a safari vehicle and journey into the 110-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve, where they can view exotic African wildlife in their natural habitat. One of the largest guest experiences ever undertaken by Walt Disney Imagineering, Kilimanjaro Safaris immerses guests in the diverse, rich environment of the savanna, bringing them up-close and personal with over 30 species of African wildlife, including the free-roaming elephant, rhinoceros, giraffe and much more.
History and Inspiration
Kilimanjaro Safaris was inspired by a previous version of the ride, The Wildlife Adventure, located in Africa USA in Boca Raton, Florida, a now-defunct theme park. The Wildlife Adventure featured a large dry savanna set within striking natural beauty, where guests could observe and enjoy up-close wildlife encounters with exotic animals within a large, open wildlife refuge. By the time Disney Imagineers discovered the park, it was in a state of disrepair, with deteriorating structures and aged, overgrown landscapes.
Drawing upon the original park’s African safari theme, Walt Disney World Imagineers spent two years renovating and expanding the attraction, creating a sprawling 110-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve populated by over 30 species of African wildlife — many of which were rescued from other natural habitats or relocated from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Length of the Ride
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a half-hour journey through 26 miles of a simulated savanna and brush. The ride’s length and depth depend on several factors, including the guide’s interpretation of the experience, the number of animals seen up-close, and the presence of other guests.
Generally the wait time in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris is about 10 – 20 minutes to board the attraction, and another 30 minutes for the actual ride. The wait time can vary greatly depending on the crowds. Guests should plan on spending a minimum of 45 minutes at Kilimanjaro Safaris.
What to Expect on the Ride
The attraction starts with a narration as guests enter the open-air transport. Once embarked, the vehicles take guests on a simulated tour of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, where they may get within striking distance of exotic African wildlife such as the zebra, giraffe, antelope, wildebeest, hyrax, wart hog and flamingo. Every safari is a bit different, reflecting an ever-changing environment with new animals and stories.
Guests will also experience dramatic drops, sharp turns, exciting vistas and a brush with the native predators. All along the way, a trained naturalist helps guests learn about the awe-inspiring animals and the wondrous world of the African savanna.
Tips for Maximizing the Experience
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Kilimanjaro Safari experience:
• Arrive early in the morning or in the late afternoon–right before the park closes–to maximize the chance of spotting animals in their active habitats.
• The park often posts records of animals that have been seen on each ride in the form of “wildlife sightings”. Use these records to determine when animals have been spotted and try to board the ride during that time.
• Be patient– animals do not always show up when expected.
• Bring binoculars for a better view of the animals.
• If possible, visit the park when it is less crowded, as this will provide a more enjoyable and intimate experience with the wildlife.
Conservation and Education
Kilimanjaro Safaris provides guests the opportunity to learn about and observe wildlife in the natural environment, while also providing education on issues such as conservation and habitat preservation. Walt Disney World has been involved in wildlife conservation and habitat preservation initiatives for over 30 years and continues to actively participate in worldwide conservation efforts.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a great way to experience and understand the importance of African wildlife, while contributing to its conservation. By partaking in a ride on the safari, guests are helping to support Walt Disney World’s efforts to protect endangered and threatened species, as a portion of the admission fee goes back into this important cause.
Living with Wildlife
The Harambe Wildlife Reserve is home to a wide variety of African animals, but living among them are also several species of birds. These birds are specially trained to live in harmony with the other wildlife, creating a harmonious atmosphere that is both educational and peaceful. Guests may be lucky enough to spot some of the resident birds, such as the black crowned night heron, the marabou stork, and the crowned crane.
For guests who are interested in learning more about living with wildlife, Disney offers an interactive exhibit in the Harambe Village, located near the entrance of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Here, guests can explore the area’s biodiversity and learn more about the various species of animals found in the reserve.
Popularity and Influence
Kilimanjaro Safaris has quickly become one of the most popular attractions at Disney World, with millions of guests experiencing the ride each year. This influence has extended beyond the theme park borders, inspiring other independent African-style safari rides worldwide, such as Busch Gardens’ Safari Off Road Adventure in Tampa and the San Diego Zoo Safari.
Kilimanjaro Safaris has also made a lasting impression on the theme park industry as a whole, forming the foundation for the extremely popular Disney ‘Adventure’ series that debuted in 1994 at Animal Kingdom and has since been reinvented in different versions at each of Disney’s four US theme parks.
Thanks to the vision of the Imagineers, Kilimanjaro Safaris has bridged the gap between thrill-seeking and conservation-minded travelers alike. Technology has played a large role in making the ride more immersive and realistic, with audio-animatronics, large projection screens, wind and water effects, and animatronic animals adding to the experience.
In 2004, Disney announced the addition of the Expedition Everest roller coaster to the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, giving guests the chance to journey even deeper into the African wilderness. With this new addition, guests can now experience the thrill of witnessing a majestic giraffe grazing, elephants ambling and a cheetah in full sprint, just moments before racing through the treacherous mountain pass known as Expedition Everest.
Positive Impact on the Environment
Kilimanjaro Safaris has had a positive impact on the environment, both in terms of creating a space for wildlife natural habitat and in terms of creating awareness and encouraging education about the importance of conservation.
Guests on the ride are exposed to countless species of wildlife, from hippos and crocodiles to estegos and okapi, making them aware of the immense variety of animals and habitats in Africa. Not only does Kilimanjaro Safaris provide an educational experience for visitors, but it also allows people to gain firsthand knowledge and experience of African wildlife.
This firsthand experience is especially important in an era where less and less people have the opportunity to make the journey to Africa and experience wild animals in their natural environment. By raising awareness of African wildlife, Kilimanjaro Safaris helps to fight against poaching and promotes conservation efforts both in Africa and around the world.
The safety of both the animals and the guests is taken very seriously, so each vehicle is equipped with special safety measures, including reinforced bars, special braking systems and off-road lighting. The guides hired to operate the tour vehicles are also highly trained and experienced with the terrain, animals and safety protocols.
The smaller carriages reduce the potential for stressing a group of animals, and wildlife sightings are designed to occur from a safe distance that does not disturb the animals. In addition, a “veterinarian-team” is always on stand-by for any medical emergency that may arise.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a unique experience that helps guests develop a greater understanding and appreciation of African wildlife and its habitats. It is an unforgettable experience that allows visitors to get up-close and personal with some of the world’s most magnificent animals in a safe and controlled setting.
The realistic environment, thrilling drop-offs, tight turns and expert narration pair with breathtaking views of the savanna and its wildlife to create a truly memorable adventure. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or a conservation-minded traveler, there’s no doubt that Kilimanjaro Safaris is an experience you’ll remember for years to come.