Lunch with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC with Lisa & Andy

This experience took place on Wednesday, May 13, 2014

This is our third time to do the Lunch with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa and each time the experience has been very different. Not only have we had a different Animal Specialist each time, we’ve had different companions each time. This time Lisa & Andy came with us… they’ve read our reviews of the first and second time we did this, so they knew a little about what to expect.

We met Lisa & Andy in the Sanaa Lounge since we were a bit early. After our first Lunch with an Animal Specialist (only 4 guests), I keep hoping that we’ll luck out and there will be just “us” (whoever the “us” is made up of), when we checked in, we learned that there would be 7 other guests joining us – I avoided groaning out loud because maybe, just maybe, we’d get a little lucky and there wouldn’t be any kids.

Turns out that the other 7 guests were a group of college students from South Carolina taking a Maymester course (good, all adults). They were good lunch companions, asking questions and taking part in things without monopolizing the conversation.

Dana, the manager

Dana, the manager

Chef David Njorge

Chef David Njorge

Chef David briefly talked about the food we’d be enjoying. The goan curry (seafood curry) was from the Goa region, this area was settled by Portuguese and as such the food is influenced by vinegars, wines, piri peppers, and coconut… also, a meal is incomplete without seafood.

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Maggie, our Animal Specialist

Maggie has been at Disney World for 10 years, the first 9+ years were spent at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and she’s been at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for a year. She started out as pre-vet in college, but she realized that it was the animals that really interested her, not the medicine. So, she changed to a biology major. Maggie has always wanted to work with animals, when she started at Animal Kingdom, she was a conservation teacher; then she did a traineeship to become a zookeeper. Working at Disney World is different from working anywhere else.

Interesting tid bits from lunch (not food, things about animals):

  • How do you know it’s a Hartsman Mountain Zebra? They have a dew lap
  • Most animals in captivity are not “wild” anymore, very few animals have been taken from the wild and put into zoos since the 1970s
  • When Disney donated rhinos to a safari park in Uganda, they crate trained the rhinos (much like dogs are crate trained) to make transport easier + their usual vet went with them + other handlers/trainers the rhinos were familiar with AND they flew on Delta airlines!
  • The male giraffe on Sunset Savannah is in special training for blood draws, they treat him with special food
  • The birds on the savannas have the posterior part of one wing removed to prevent them from flying, the removal is done when they’re chicks – alternatives are to remove pin feathers on a regular basis or to trim their wings on a regular basis; this surgery is less stressful over the life of the birds
  • There’s an African Goose named Colonel – he’s in love with two female native geese (as in Florida natives)
  • Maggie’s special enrichment pal is Alfred the Abyssian Hornbill
  • A female giraffe from Animal Kingdom Lodge went to Animal Kingdom Theme Park to breed, she’ll be coming back when she’s pregnant
  • Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge have 26 full-time animal keepers, 4 zoological managers, 4 part-time keepers, 9 on-staff vets (1 pure research, 1 solely pathology, 7 spread out over Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Living Seas, the Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness, and wildlife)

On to the food!

Sanaa Bread Service

Sanaa Bread Service

The bread service was pretty much the same as always: breads = naan, onion kulcha, and pappadums and sauces were the same nine as before. What was different was the presentation. They’ve had a platter made that hold the sauces in a semi-circle wrapping around the breads. It seems to be easier for the servers but it wasn’t very easy to share two platters amongst 12 people – (1) there wasn’t much table space and everything felt massively crowded and (2) because of the positioning of the sauces/spreads, it wasn’t very easy to get to the ones that we wanted. The bread service was good and we enjoyed it quite a bit (maybe too much! They kept bringing more bread and more sauce throughout the meal).

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Trio of salads

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Watermelon Salad – the melon wasn’t the ripest or best, the seasonings seemed a bit different, we didn’t really like this as much as we have in the past

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Tomato Salad – I thought this was particularly good, there was some sort of pesto flavors and the tomatoes were flavorful (not always a given)

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Chickpea Salad – it wasn’t served COLD like it usually is, that really helped the flavors, could see diced spicy peppers in this but it wasn’t hot

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Entree course with basmati rice

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Butter Chicken – this was very good, of course it was, loads of butter and cream will make just about anything tender and tasty (not very challenging taste or texture, Nick says it was definitely for a child’s palate)

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Seafood Goan Curry – the fish was the best part, the shrimp were overcooked, there wasn’t any spice or heat that we detected (it was bland)

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Dessert Trio: Chocolate Mousse, Banana Cheesecake, and Strawberry Kofi

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the Tanzian Chocoalte Mousse was decorated with white chocolate butterflies

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the chocolate mousse was okay, nothing really exciting but good

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I didn’t care for the banana cheesecake, it had a strong artificial flavor; I much preferred the chai cream that we had on our previous experiences

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Nick thought that the Strawberry Kofi was the best dessert – there was mica powder in the sauce, making it a little glittery

The food wasn’t as amazingly good as we thought it was the first time we did this special experience. Maybe they’ve tamed down the menu to suit children and the non-adventurous eaters… Bring back the real stuff! Don’t get rid of the garlic pickle though! That was unanimously liked by our group – I need to get the recipe…

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