Wild Africa Trek – Intro and Start of Trek

The Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of the newest tours at Walt Disney World. The first tours were offered on January 16, 2011. The Trek lasts 3 hours and is led by knowledgeable tour guides who also serve as your personal photographers. You get a backcountry view of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve with walking on fern and vine covered paths, crossing two rope bridges, getting “up close” with the hippos and crocodiles, “over-landing” the savannah on custom safari trucks and lunching at a private safari camp on the savannah.

Wild Africa Trek is offered several times a day with a limit of 12 trekkers per safari. Pricing varies with low season rates currently at $189 per person plus taxes. You must also pay admission to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are a number of restrictions as this is a back-country trek.

  • Wear closed-toe shoes with a backstrap, or hiking boots. Skirts/dresses are not recommended.
  • Weigh at least 45 pounds and no more than 310 pounds.
  • Be at least 48 inches tall.
  • Be at least 8 years old.
  • Be in general good health, and ambulatory, with sufficient stamina. Pregnant women should not attempt the Trek.

We have been excited to try this new backstage tour. So when K2 contacted us in August about doing something together at Thanksgiving, this is one of the three options we suggested. After a few emails, we agreed to do the Wild Animal Trek on Thanksgiving Day. We booked the 11:45 Trek knowing we could have a late/leisurely breakfast before heading over to Animal Kingdom. In late October we were contacted by Disney saying the 11:45 Trek was cancelled due to a lack of interest. The “latest” opening for four trekkers was at 10:15.

Check-in for the Wild African Trek is at a new “podium” directly behind the Dawa Bar. We were to check in at 10 for our 10:15 Trek. When we arrived I saw that there was also check-in for the 11:45 Trek. I asked about this and was told it was added on Monday as all spots were sold out and Disney had been getting calls for people wanting to do the Trek. I was a bit disappointed that Disney did not contact us and offer to switch us back to the time we had originally booked. I wonder if their reservation system could have flagged our reservation so they would know? I doubt it as Disney’s reservation systems seem sorely lacking.

Nosy Nora found out at check-in that the guides were HOPING to be able to leave after the 10:15 Tour was over, so that they could spend more of Thanksgiving Day with family & friends. The demand was so great that they had to “re-add” the later times; so they didn’t get to go home early…

As with all Disney tours, you sign a waiver agreeing that no matter what happens, it ain’t Disney’s fault. Plus, if Disney has any images of you that they want to use for publicity they can. What choice do you have? If you don’t sign the waiver, you don’t go. After signing away our rights to Disney we were led to a gate that goes off into the woods to the gear shack and test bridge.

This is the only tour where Disney is serious about the restrictions. Lockers are provided for your belongings; if it can’t be securely attached to the vest or go around your neck, then you have to leave it behind. Everyone is weighed and checked before you get your harness. However, only the cast member and person being weighed can see the scale. Here we are weighed in…

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You can see harnesses hanging on the rack. Next you get helped into your harness and get a water bottle. Early on these water bottles had no logos; now they have a logo and say Wild African Trek. With the cost of this tour I wish Disney would opt for a quality water bottle. Of our four, one leaked badly as there is no true seal and it is very cheaply made. We each guessed that Disney may be paying anywhere from 25 cents to maybe a dollar for these. (Come on man!) In the next photo the cast member is writing names on the bottoms so you don’t mix them up. There is water cooler behind the guide where you fill your bottle. Be careful though – there is no bathroom for the first 2 hours!

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The guide here is Chris, one of tour guides

Next we were offered juice as everyone walked across a test rope bridge. Since we were the last to arrive, most people were drinking juice and waiting for the guides near the test bridge.

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Test bridge, not nearly as high as the ones we’d cross later

One lady came off the bridge with her right index finger cut. A first aid kit was sent for. Good thing as nick cut his right index finger when crossing as well. It didn’t help that nick has a fear of heights and he was gripping the sides as he crossed. Soon there was a manager talking to us and getting more releases. I’ll give it to Disney, two people were inspecting the right “hand rope” before we left the area to find what had caused 2/12 people to get cut index fingers.

K2 is all geared up and ready to “trek”.

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As with all the Disney tours we have done you get a small radio and earpiece. I think these are a great idea. The tours I go on away from Disney do not use these and I always find it hard to hear the guides. At Disney you control the volume so you typically never miss a thing. So after our radio test we all headed back out the entrance and walked through the village leading to the Harame Wildlife Preserve. Because we will be among wild animals the guides suggest a photo “just in case” something might happen to any of us on the trek.

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We had a “full trek” with 12 trekkers. As we headed into Harambe we took the Pangani trail. Here you’ll see the “regular” views/animals but your guide can offer more details if you like. Don’t despair, you’ll not be on the paved path for long.

While on the path here is what we saw, not much, the Black and White Colobus monkeys.

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Soon we were at the gate that led us “backstage”. As we exited we were near the things that like holes…

This is the meerkat exhibit, it was off to our right as we started on the first trail. Behind the big rock structure that they like to stand on while on “look-out”… we saw kennels (like you use at home for your puppy when house training), we suppose that these are for the meerkats when they’re transported.

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and the deer thingies that stand on hind legs. The gate is just to the left of this observation area.

nora is fascinated by these deer — they have hips very similar to humans. Thus they can stand upright on their hind legs, very unusual.

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The trail is much narrower and overgrown than we expected. Disney did not “clean this up” to be a graded easy to manage path. They want you to feel like you are on a trek, albeit a short one. Very quickly we were at the hippo pool. We attached, via our harnesses, to a metal track that allowed us to stand and lean over the edge of the hippo pool. The two males are named Hans and Nacho. Hans really likes to eat so he hung out and ate lettuce and a guide who specializes in hippos joined us to give us loads more education. Nacho is not as food-dependent, so he isn’t likely to “pose” for guests when they’re handing out food. Nacho is the older, more dominant male. Typically, two males can’t cohabitate in the same area, but since Hans doesn’t challenge Nacho’s dominance, there aren’t any problems with the two of them being in close proximity… however, Nacho did treat us to a feces shower display.

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Hungry hungry hippo = Hans

Hans’ teeth appeared to be hinged so nora (being the scientist) asked about this. It turns out that there is so much looses skin in the hippos mouth that the teeth appear to be moving but it is caused by the loose skin.

K2 were curious just how hungry this hippo was…

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Okay, maybe he was happy with the lettuce and will not come after us. The guide says he can run up to 35 mph, much faster than we can run. Plus we are hooked to this metal rail and cannot run anyway!

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When you are standing looking over the hippo pool on the Wild Africa Trek you are on the opposite side of the pool from the safari trucks.

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We got to spend a decent amount of time here and the guides were willing to answer all questions and let us take our own photos. Soon though we off onto the trail again. Since these trails are not heavily used the guides have left markers so they know where to turn. Here our guide Lauren tells us more about the hippo’s skull and how much force it can exert.

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After a bit more trail walking we were soon at the rope bridges. But you must wait for the next post to learn if we all made it across the hippo pond and the crocodile pit safely. We don’t want to make these so long that you cannot read it all (well some of you complain that they are too long anyway!)

nora & nick

 

 

 

 

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