Warning – long post, photo heavy.
This morning we were up bright and early as we were booked onto the 8.45 Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom and we did not want to be late. I’ve been looking at this backstage tour for a while and have read loads about it while trying to decide whether or not to do it. It’s not cheap but it looked and sounded amazing so yesterday we went to concierge and booked it.
We got a taste of how the other half lives when we strolled down to the front of the resort and asked them to get us a taxi. Can you believe it’s the first time we’ve used a taxi in Florida? Usually we either have a car or use the Disney transportation but this morning as our tour started before park opening we thought we’d splurge.
We got to Animal Kingdom nice and early and checked in with the guide at the front of the park. After we’d gone through a few questions we were sent up to the back of the park – BY OURSELVES. Oh yes, and we had pretty much an empty park. Have you ever seen a view of the Tree of Life like this before?
Not a soul but us. So peaceful.
We really enjoyed our walk up to Africa. Our meeting point was by Tusker House and we were met by another guide. We had to fill in a waiver form which indemnified Disney against us getting insect bites, broken bones, getting eaten by crocs etc. The usual stuff. We met the other people on our trek. There can be up to 12 but we were lucky and only had 7 so had more time at each area and had more photos taken. The guides have a camera and are constantly taking photos of the animals and of us. At the main areas they posed us in front of the animals and they made sure to get lots of photos. They’ll be uploaded to the internet for us to access and download in a day or so.
Before we could start our trek we had to empty our pockets and leave our bags behind. Even our Magic Bands had to be removed. They provide lockers in a secure area and all we were allowed to take were our cameras, hats and sunglasses. We were fitted out with vests and straps and given water bottles that are ours to keep. We also were fitted with ear pieces and receivers. Once all our straps had been checked and our earpieces were working we set off down the Pangani trail.
It was great going down there with information coming through the earpiece, especially as the park was only just open so it was still quiet. Just before we got to the gorilla bridge we veered off down a special path and we were then ‘off road’. The path was rough and we had to watch for tree roots and branches so it was quite an adventure. It wasn’t too arduous a walk but you did need to be reasonably fit. We came out above the Hippos and were then tethered to a rail, after our straps were checked, so we could go out and look down on them. We had two more guides meet us there who were hippo experts and they fed them while answering questions.
We could see the Safari trucks going past on the other side. Some of the people on the Safari seemed more interested in us than in the hippos. I think I would have been curious what seven people were doing hanging over the edge if I didn’t know though.
From the hippo area we walked through the trees a bit further and then came to some wooden stairs up to a platform. Then we were given instructions on how we were going to be tethered for the next part and some more safety instructions. Our straps were checked again and one at a time, we were off again. On this.
And then on this.
Notice the hungry-looking Nile Crocodiles beneath the second bridge? Yeah. So did I.
Those who know me, will know that bridges are just a little bit out of my comfort zone but I felt happy enough that I’d be able to do these. They’re narrow enough that I could hold each side while walking. I was tethered from above. The bridges look old and decrepit but when you look closely, they’re made from steel cables. You have to take quite big steps to get across some of those gaps but there is mesh all along the bottom to catch you if you miss. And I did find that I was concentrating so hard on stepping onto the planks that I forgot to worry about how high I was or the slight sway of the bridge. I actually loved it up there. And that’s from someone who is allegedly scared of heights.
After our Indiana Jones style adventure we were taken round the corner and tethered again so we could be dangled just above the crocs. We got some smashing photos of them and were again given lots of interesting info from our guides.
After we’d finished there we had a group photo taken to prove we’d all survived the experience so far.
We then walked a short distance to our truck where we were allowed to remove our vests and straps. It was getting quite warm so although they were quite comfortable it was nice to get rid of them. We boarded our truck and set off down the Safari trail. We pulled over at several places where we were allowed to stand up and take photos. We watched the giraffes for quite a while. There was a very young one that was being cute especially when his mom joined him.
We also spent a fair bit of time enjoying the elephants. There’s a youngster there too. Actually we were told that there are a record number of young this year which shows that the animals are comfortable in their surroundings. We were given lots of conservation information on the tour and I especially liked hearing about the elephant fences. They use bees as elephants don’t like them and stay away from the villages if they have bee hives around them. The villagers can also sell the honey.
We then drove round and up to the Boma which is where we were having our meal. The food is prepared at Tusker House but can only be sampled on the Trek. It was delicious. You’re given a tin which you open to find three small tins on the top layer with an edible orchid. On the bottom layer are another three tins. I’ve spread them out so you can see them all here.
You’ll notice the lack of edible orchid in the photo. I ate it before taking the shot. I was hungry and also curious about what an orchid tasted like. (tasty) On the right is Brie and dried apricots, yoghurt with granola/dried fruit, fresh fruit. On the left is pita bread, pressed fig and almond, smoked salmon with cream cheese on veg (wasn’t paying attention to exactly what veg), and a dried meat possibly a prosciutto? It was all yummy and I ate the lot. There was also some Jungle juice (fruit juice) and water to fill our bottles with.
There were also restrooms.
We were able to take photos of the animals and scenery. We could see the giraffes and elephants and the flamingos. There was a boardwalk to the back from which we could see the rhino too and the lions in the distance.
The guides were there to take our photos if we wanted and we weren’t rushed at all. We had plenty of time to eat our meal and take in the view and relax a little. I think it may have been a bit more rushed with a larger group though. This is the inside of the Boma looking towards the flamingos.
We were given a ten minute warning of when we were leaving there so we could take any last minute photos and then we were off on the truck again. We drove around the normal Safari path again but detoured off a little to stop to see the rhinos close up. We also saw some ostrich who seemed very interested in us.
A little further round and we got quite a good view of the lions. Just as I turned my camera off, this chap decided to stand up and walk over to the other side of the rock and I just missed him but I did get a shot of him before he went for his five second stroll.
Ah, that’s the life, eh? From the lions, we drove back to base and were walked back to our lockers to get our stuff returned. We were given a special Trek conservation badge and the details of how to get our photos. I cannot wait to see them. Some of the money we paid for the tour will go to a conservation project and we were given the choice of which one our money went to which I thought was a nice touch. I chose big cats. I hope that chap above appreciates that.
This was a three hour tour and was absolutely amazing. I loved every minute of it. We were with a lovely group of people which helped. Everyone was being very considerate of each other when it came to the best spots for taking photos. The guides were fantastic. Very friendly and very knowledgeable. It was worth every cent and I’m seriously considering doing it again next year.
If you made it all the way to the end of this extra long post – well done and thank you for reading 🙂
Edited to add that the photos are now online and I’ve just added a couple of them in to the post. There are some fabulous shots in there. Lots of candids as well as the posed ones.