Nuggets of Wisdom

Monday, January 4, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Disney World Attractions (#10)

#10: Kilimanjaro Safaris

Animal Kingdom is my least favorite of the Disney Parks. That’s why this item is so low on the list. In fact, I originally wasn’t even going to include an Animal Kingdom attraction at all.

Don’t get me wrong: Animal Kingdom is an interesting park, but I wouldn’t recommend it as one that you would want to re-visit like the other three parks. If you ride all of its attractions, you would have seen the entire park halfway through the day. Then you're going to use your Park Hopper Pass to go and visit a better Disney Park.

Sure, the animals are a great draw, especially if you’re an animal lover, but you can go to a zoo for the same experience. Heck, you can drive all the way to Tampa and visit Busch Gardens for the same experience—and that park has more rides!

And that’s probably the park’s greatest weakness: there aren’t that many great rides to draw people in. They didn’t even have a roller coaster until 2006 when they opened Expedition Everest. It’s a great roller coaster, and perhaps the greatest one in any of the Disney Parks. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve only ridden it once, so I can’t include it on this list.

The only other ride I’ve enjoyed is “Dinosaur: Countdown To Extinction.” That’s also a great ride, but not one that I would call memorable. In fact, the only thing “memorable” about it is how much of a rip-off it is of Jurassic Park.

Other than those two rides, what does this park have to offer? A generic water rapids ride? A generic 3-D show? Generic carnival rides?

Perhaps the saddest thing is that, despite Disney having plenty of movies starring animals, there are few attractions based on those movies. There’s a Lion King show. There used to be a Tarzan show, before it was changed to a Finding Nemo show (which I heard is pretty good). But there’s nothing based on The Jungle Book or Brother Bear or, heck, even Bambi. In fact, their next attraction is going to be based on Avatar, and that’s not even a Disney property!

What I’m trying to get as is that, for me, there’s really nothing that spectacular about Animal Kingdom. However, if there was one attraction that I would mention, it would be its claim to fame: Kilimanjaro Safaris.

The Kilimanjaro Safaris are exactly what they sound like: a safari through a replica of the African savanna. Guests ride on all-terrain trucks through 110-acres of grasslands, wetlands, and jungle brush to see a variety of African animals in replicas of their natural habitat.

True to Disney itself, the attraction has a story element involving poachers that have allegedly been scavenging the area and hunting the elephants. Guests go on a wild ride as they hunt down the poachers and rescue the kidnapped baby elephant.

On the surface, the ride sounds like the Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom, but if anything, the ride is exactly what Walt Disney himself wanted the Jungle Cruise to be like. When Disney was planning the Jungle Cruise, he initially wanted to use real live animals, but as animals were unpredictable, audio-animatronic animals were used instead.

Thanks to the sheer space of the Animal Kingdom, Kilimanjaro Safaris was able to replicate an African wildlife reserve with real life animals that guests can have an up-close and personal view of from within their ride vehicles. Not only do the animals get up close to the vehicle, they sometimes end up blocking the path, which can sound like an inconvenience, if not a fun one.

And when I talk about the "sheer space" of Animal Kingdom, I mean it's really, really huge! The ride is the largest in any of the parks. In fact, the entire Magic Kingdom could fit within the ride area itself!

Kilimanjaro Safaris are the closest thing that many Americans will probably get to partaking on an authentic African Safari, and the real animals are quite the pleasant departure from the rigid audio-animatronic animals of the Jungle Cruise. (Plus there’s no Skipper cracking corny one-liners—take that as a plus or minus if you will!)

Some pointers: if you want a good view of the animals, be sure to get a seat close to the edges rather than the middle. Otherwise, you’ll only get a view of the back of another tourists head. Also, if you really want a “wild ride”, take a seat in the back—otherwise, take a seat up front.

Animal Kingdom may not be my favorite Disney Park, but the Kilimanjaro Safaris sure make any visit to it worthwhile. (Well, that and Expedition Everest!)