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The Wild Africa Trek, in Disney World's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

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Wild Animal Trek, hippos. Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.

Guests perch on a cliff for great views of the hippos. SEE MORE PHOTOS of the Wild Africa Trek.

Photo © Teresa Plowright.
-- Find out about this premium tour, and see photos too.

Where It's At
Disney's Animal Kingdom is a theme park like no other, and its marquis attraction is the Kilimanjaro Safaris jeep ride through the "Harambe Wildlife Reserve", a 100-acre African savannah where guests see  hippos, rhinos, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, elephants, and even lions and cheetahs. The Wild Africa Trek is a private three-hour tour that offers special viewing experiences and also takes visitors into exclusive areas. Kids must be at least 9 years old to participate in this tour.

Guests pay a substantial price for this tour, but many reviews say that it's "well worth the price". The Wild Africa Trek is one of a number of special tours and premium experiences at Disney World, including backstage tours, VIP tours, and Halloween and Christmas parties with exclusive access to popular rides as well as special themed activities.

A few points to note:
  • The tour has a maximum of 12 people
  • The group is accompanied by two guides throughout (and other cast members appear during the tour)
  • A highlight is a relaxing stop at a "safari camp" viewing pavilion where an safari-style meal is served
Starting Out
Check-in for the Wild Africa Trek takes place at a stand near the Tusker House restaurant in Animal Kingdom. (Use the restroom at the restaurant now!) A short walk brings the group to an area with lockers where guests are obliged to leave virtually everything, to minimize the risk that any object may go astray and then be eaten by or otherwise cause harm to an animal. Each guest gets a headset to use to hear the guide, and everyone is also fitted with a harness, as during certain points of the tour they'll be "clipped in" with a carabineer for safety. Finally, each guest receives a metal water bottle with the Wild Africa Trek logo on it, nicely filled up with cold drinking water.

Trek Highlights
The group sets off into the "Harambe Wildlife Reserve" and soon turns onto a private trail that leads to a spot above the pools where the hippos live. These hippos can also be viewed from the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris jeep ride, but here, however, the tour guests have a unique vantage point, especially when their harness is clipped to a rail so they can venture to the edge of a cliff and look down at the hippos. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and it's a sure bet you'll learn something new about hippopotamuses.

The next main experience is crossing over a narrow rope bridge that's strung across a gorge -- a lovely part of the theme park that's exclusively accessed by tour guests. (One quibble: a fair bit of time is spent waiting for each person in the tour to cross the bridge.) Next, after passing some crocodiles, guests board a safari truck with two rows of benches facing each other, and with several pairs of binoculars available. For some portions of the tour, the truck passes through the same areas as the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris jeep ride and guests see the same giraffes, elephants, rhinos, etc. However, the private tour allows for spontaneous stops and the chance to ask questions of the knowledgeable guides. As you'd expect with Disney, our guides were friendly, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic -- both guides loved their jobs, and it showed.

A highlight of the tour, somewhat surprisingly, was lunch at a "safari camp", an open-air thatch-roofed pavilion on a raised viewing deck. (Good to know: there are washrooms here.) An African-style light meal was served in tiffin carriers and was beautifully presented and delicious as well. Then followed some time to relax, in this strikingly peaceful and beautiful setting: we all marvelled how the rest of the theme park seemed hundreds of miles away. It literally felt like being in another land completely.

Throughout the tour, a photographer has been taking pictures of animals and guests, and guests get a CD full of photographs as part of their tour.

*Always check destination websites for updates, latest prices, etc.!

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary experiences for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.

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