Do you like adventure, but not too much?
I vividly remember flying through the tree canopy in Costa Rica, the wind in my face as my body was suspended from a harness with carabiners attached to airline cable, careening 200′ to the next platform. As I neared the station, I noticed that the cable that was holding this whole operation together was secured with duct tape. I’m sure there was some other reinforcement as well, but seriously. Duct tape?
While we waited on the platform 100′ in the air for our turn on the next zip-line, Brian and I speculated about the safety standards of the Costa Rican adventure tourism industry. We leaned less on the railings, and stayed closer to the tree trunks from that point on. I guess a little real danger adds to the fun eh? That experience remains one of my all-time favorites of my life – danger and all.
Imagine my excitement when I was offered a chance to experience Wild Africa Trek while I was at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! After zip-lining in the Monteverde cloud forest and rafting multiple class fives on the Pacaure in Costa Rica, I jumped up and down at the chance to have an adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Trust Disney to remove any chance of actual danger, but they did a great job of immersing us in the experience so it felt adventurous!
My excitement grew as I read the requirements:
We have to wear a harness? Awesome.
We can only carry things that are attached to us? It must be dangerous.
Sign a release of liability waiver? So cool, I’m there.
We set off early in the morning, and could barely contain our excitement as we walked through the temporarily deserted Harambe village in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. I’m so glad I had that chance to see the village before it was completely full of people later in the day! It really felt like we were in a different country.
We harnessed-up, went through several safety checks, one last bathroom run (no bathrooms would be available for the first 2/3 of the trek!), and we were off.
Our tour guides did a great job of getting us in the story of the trek. Building in back-story to the interpretive graphics throughout the public side of the exhibits, they explained that we were exploring a wildlife sanctuary attached to a conservation school. Coming from a zoo as I do, I asked if they had some specific African animals that I knew lived in that part of Africa. I wasn’t trying to get them to break character, I was genuinely curious. I said, “Do you have any African Painted Dogs?” and our guide answered, “I haven’t seen any of them at the sanctuary, although I’ve heard there are some near here.” Well played, madam. I changed the nature of my questions from that point on, because I of course like a good story! “How many elephants tend to be at the sanctuary at any given time?” instead of, “How many elephants do you have?” See, I can play along!
Want to know the really cool part about the Trek, and what makes it affordable? You get a PhotoPass CD! I’m not sure of the actual cost of the Trek, as I believe it’s dependent on the number of people in your party and what time of year you go. The website says to call for rates. At the time we went, it was about $200. But the PhotoPass CD is $150 ($100 if you buy it in advance), so really the cost of the Trek is $50-100. Totally worth it, in my opinion. I was skeptical about the need for a PhotoPass CD before we went, but after experiencing it, I’d never go without it!
Here’s some of the Wild Africa Trek adventure…
I took the opportunity to
grill interview as many of the moms as I could. In between harnessing up, wildlife viewing, and learning from the “Wardens,” I asked some of the most successful bloggers around how they got started, and what they love about this crazy social media world. Here are Molly @MyGOMOM, Valerie @ADisneyFamly & Amy @ResourcefulMommy, on the precipice overlooking the hippos.
The first 1/3 or so of the Trek was spent walking through the “wildlands” in between animal exhibits. Along the way, we encountered animal biofacts (skulls, traces of scratching on trees, scat, etc) in between seeing the animals.
Two big suspension rope bridges took us over a bog full of giant crocodiles.
For the middle section of the Trek, we boarded a safari jeep-like-vehicle and toured the Savannah.
We were handed binoculars, and the vehicle stopped often so we could take in the wildlife and get some great photos.
Disney has done a BRILLIANT job of obscuring any containment barriers or animal care facilities. It really appeared to be one large open space, with all the animals having ready access to each other. It was inspiring from an exhibit-design standpoint. Sorry, zoo geek keeps coming out.
At this point, we were on the same road as the regular visitors. Riding the Kilimanjaro Safari is available to anyone visiting Animal Kingdom – it just tends to fill up, so you need a FastPass if it’s a busy day.
Finally, we arrived at a beautiful pavilion where we were served an exquisitely crafted and exotic snack. Everything was delicious, and the presentation made it all the more special. The meal you are served depends on the time of your tour, it could be breakfast or lunch or a hearty snack.
During the last leg of the trip, our guides told us about critical conservation issues facing some of the endangered animals at the Sanctuary. We were all given mancala stones, and asked to vote with our stones on which animal would get a portion of the proceeds from our tour. I chose white rhinos because I know how critically endangered they are. I really appreciate that Disney included the conservation messages in the tour, and the moms were all talking about it long after the tour.
I loved spending time at Animal Kingdom, and I highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek. It’s a fun and inspirational adventure that I won’t forget. I look forward to going back when the kids are older (you have to be at least 8 years old). It’s certainly more affordable than an actual trip to Africa… which I’d also like to do, by the way!
Yours in adventure,
PS: all of the photos in this post are from the PhotoPass CD that I received as part of the Wild Africa Trek package, except the first group shot, which was sent to me by my now-friend Cathi from Planes, Trains & Taxicabs.
Disclosure: I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and this Wild Africa Trek. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.