Wild Africa Trek – Lunch and the end of our Trek

Safari Camp & Lunch

After two hours we were ready for a break. The break comes at a custom built safari camp that sits at the highest point on the savannah. Our safari truck pulled up to a gate that was opened and then closed behind us (have to protect us from the animals).  We pulled up next to a platform, a ramp was lowered and we walked right off the truck and into the camp. Disney’s immaculate bathrooms are directly in front us and to the left is a covered eating area with tables and chairs for us 12 hungry trekkers.

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The Safari Camp, the setting for lunch and relaxation.

In the photo you may notice the canopy of a safari truck at the right just in front of the enclosed part of the camp. The enclosed area houses the well themed and decorated bathrooms. To the left is the covered eating area. In this photo you can see a few trekkers still sitting at the tables. If you have done Kilimanjaro Safaris in the last 18 months you will have noticed this camp and may have wondered what it is.

Remember we said this camp is at the highest part of the savannah? Nick was so taken with the view he forgot to take photos! The view is really that spectacular. You have a view down across the savannah and a different view directly into the elephant habitat. You can literally see all that we had already seen. It was like a scene from a movie. Even when you’re on the Wild Africa Trek, you’re limited to what you see at one time. At Safari Camp, you can stand a the various viewing areas (or sit in a comfy seat) and scan all around the savannah. This was beyond our expectations! However, if we had stopped to think through the location of the Safari Camp, we should have realized  that the views would be excellent.

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When we finally took our seats for lunch, nick remembered he was photographing this experience to share.

The table was covered in a nice checked cloth and there were binoculars supplied on each table. Although the chairs were not very comfortable, you won’t find yourself sitting too long because of all the great views of the animals. Disney’s thorough and fantastic theming continues in the eating area (as you might guess from looking at nick’s photo, we’re staring up at all the “things” and “details” up there).

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Details, details, details … Got to hand it to those Imagineers

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The support posts were thoroughly decorated with carvings, beads, and iron nails. Nora seems to remember something about iron-nails having protective symbolism in African (and cargo) cultures.

As with most buildings at Disney, a whole article could be written about the back story and decoration of our safari camp. Even in such a simple structure, Disney does detail most excellently. But you are not reading about architecture, are you?

We had noticed that there was a large cooler on our safari truck; the guides soon had it unloaded and began to bring things around to us. Most of the internet reports for the Wild Africa Trek are not as detailed as we are (just our nature), so we didn’t know ahead of time if our lunch would be brought in by other Disney Cast Members or how it was going to get to us. Lunch was with us all the time! Depending on the time of day for your Wild Africa Trek, your “snack” will be more breakfast or lunch oriented. But how good will the food be when you’ve been toting it in a cooler across the savannah and it needs to serve 12 hungry trekkers?

How good? Excellent! The guides served everyone “frunch” (fruit juice in small tin camp cups) and passed out our lunch “camp tins.” These are actually stainless steel lunch boxes (very ingenious). Our guides show us how to open these containers and tell us about our “snack”.

The lunch boxes are called “tiffins,” the style originated in British India. They can keep food warm for 2 to 3 hours; still in use in some parts of Asia and Africa. Nora recalls that in some larger cities here in the U.S., you can get lunches delivered at your office in tiffins; the food delivery service picks up the tiffins when they deliver the next days meals (she’s positive that this happens in southeast Asia and India). They’re sort of like bento boxes in that everything is nice and neat and compact.

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The first level has an edible orchid, melon balls (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and a pineapple ball), air-dried beef and proscuitto together, and curried chicken salad*.

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The lower level consisted of sun-dried tomato hummus with small pita rounds, tandoori barbecued shrimp, and smoked salmon roll with jicama slaw.

Yes, Disney call this a snack! We aren’t big eaters and so all four of us felt this served as a full meal! Plus, it was absolutely fabulous! The top two choices from our group were the curried chicken salad and the sun-dried tomato hummus. We aren’t uniformly curry lovers, one half of 2 and nora like curry, but the curried chicken salad was enjoyed by all. The other half of K2 doesn’t particularly LOVE hummus, although we haven’t found a hummus yet that we don’t like; she ate every bit of hers.

Chef Joe Karnath and his team at Tusker House provide the food. Nora found the recipe for the Curried Chicken Salad online…

Curried Chicken Salad

Serves 2

1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 ripe mango, diced
3/4 cup red grapes

Fill a large, shallow pan with water. Bring to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add chicken. Simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool. Cut into 1/4-inch dice and refrigerate until cold.

Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, onion, lime juice, curry powder, honey, ginger, pepper and remaining half-teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add chilled chicken and stir to combine. Fold in grapes and mango and serve immediately.

Note: If making in advance, combine chicken with sauce and refrigerate. Fold in grapes and mango a half-hour before serving.

As we said in our last post about the Wild Africa Trek, given the opportunity to have a meal served at the safari camp again, we’d jump at it. The food was quite tasty and a nice blend of hearty & light offerings. Can’t you just imagine (or fantasize about) enjoying a meal served here by Sanaa or Jiko? Okay… maybe you can’t because you haven’t experienced the views.

Another Suggestion for Walt Disney World if you’re listening — a special experience during Food & Wine or just a special experience for Tables in Wonderland — a meal at the Safari Camp, and focus on showcasing the foods from Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Kidani Village — don’t muck it up by moving away from the theme of the environment!

Our tour guides didn’t sit down to eat with us, this was a bit unexpected because on the other longer tours we’ve taken (Holiday D-Lights and Backstage Magic part I, II, and III), our guides have always eaten with us. This wasn’t the case with Chris and Lauren, they just kept moving about, “What were they doing?” Animal spotting! During lunch Chris came from down a wooden walkway and announced that there was ANOTHER VIEWING AREA down the walkway. They had set-up two spotting scopes and hung several pair of binoculars around for our use.

Even though we were excited to see what our guides had spotted for us to see…we were full. In fact, the weather was absolutely perfect, full sun and about 75 F. So at least for nora and nick, we might have enjoyed joining the wildebeest for a nap.

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Wildebeest napping and lounging in the shade (seen from Safari Camp).

But no time for a siesta, there are animals to see. We soon joined the rest of the trekkers on the back viewing area. To the left we walked out to the end where we were across from where the white rhinos hang out. Yes, the view was superb.

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“White” rhino, it’s rumored that their name comes not from their color but because their mouths are wide and “wide” sounded like “white” in the local dialects.

After some time observing the rhinos, we went back to the center of the viewing platform. It was then that we realized just how high this point is on the savannah. We were looking straight across at the lion habitat! Yes, on the Wild Africa Trek you can see the lions at the height where they perch. On the regular safari you are looking up to try to catch a glimpse. This is why the guides had set-up and focused the spotting scopes. Although the lions were not active, the male was sleeping directly across from us. Looking through the scope you felt like he was sleeping at the end of your reach. Nick took a photo but he uses a”point and shoot” so there was no long range zoom. You will however get an idea of where we are standing if you are familiar with Kilimanjaro Safari.

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Mr Lion has the life, lazing and sleeping all day.

Many of the trekkers had returned to the eating area, so we walked back there to enjoy the savannah view a while longer. To our delight a few giraffes had come up the hill near our camp. Chris told us that the hollowed out tree is a water tank for the giraffes so they come here often.

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nora never gets tired of looking at the giraffes

Soon Chris was talking in a excited voice. We mentioned in an earlier post that we had a surprise during lunch. Chris explained about “giraffe necking.” In the wild, the male giraffes swing their necks and hit each other. This is how they fight for dominance and how many male giraffes die. We were watching two male giraffes neck. Chris indicated that this is very, very rare at Animal Kingdom. The giraffes are well cared for and are very docile. He went on to say that they were being very gentle and likely were playing as much as anything since in the wild necking involves very violent swings. It did appear they were playing as the movements were more like puppies wrestling and nipping. The photo does not do the actions justice but hopefully it will help.

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Necking giraffes

We spent a bit more time looking across the savannah and also at the elephant habitat. Soon our guides had cleaned up from lunch and stowed the cooler on the truck. Sadly it was time to move on…

We were nearing the end of our three hour Wild Africa Trek and this part was more like the standard Kilamanjaro Safari. The next animals we encountered were the mandrill monkeys.

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Male Mandrill Monkey

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Younger mandrill monkeys playing

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Rhinos, they were right below where the Safari Camp sits. The reddish color is because they like to roll in the red clay that the animal caretakers put out for them.

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Next, the leopards that seem to always be sleeping (big cats nap during the day to conserve energy). One was sort of watching the area; they must be very well fed.

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As we rounded the next bend yet another rhino. K2 remarked, “that is a lot of Georgia red clay on that big hide.” Indeed it was…

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All too soon we were at the lion habitat. Craning up to get a photo we are reminded what a great view of the lion’s we had just a short while ago at the safari camp.

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The obligatory wart hogs were just down the way…

Someone asked Chris about the ostrich egss. “Are they real?” Well, some are and some aren’t but the ostriches don’t know they are fake. (Chris never said if any we see on the safari are real.) Soon we actually see an ostrich sitting on the eggs – a first for us.

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Nesting ostrich

And just like that, we had finished our Wild Africa Trek. We were not disappointed in what we had seen but we we’re pretty disappointed it was ending. This trek left us wanting to see more…

If you have been following along, you know that our guides are not good at counting so they use photos to make sure all trekkers are accounted for. When we reached our lockers to retrieve all our personal belongings, our guides Chris and Lauren, asked another guide to take the last photo. What did we think?

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The group gave the Wild Africa Trek two-thumbs-up!

Now we are not good at counting either, so help us out. We only see 10 trekkers and we left with 12. We actually lost 2! So please, when you are on safari keep a look out for two lost trekkers. Maybe they liked it so much they hiked back to the safari camp to live? We wish we would have thought of this. The safari camp Disney created for the Wild Africa Trek is perfect (because of the views they provided). Hopefully Disney will come up with additional ways to take money from guest pockets by offering a breakfast/sunrise event here or maybe a sunset/dinner event? Hey, if they do, we’ll sign up – for both! However we think sunrise here would be a fantastic experience, I’ll set my alarm for 4:30…

The Big Questions & Wrap Up

  1. Was the experience worth the price? — Yes, not only was it a fabulous experience (the best backstage tour we’ve done) but it was a very “full” experience.
    • Why do we say it’s the “best”? The other backstage tours we’ve done were handled by the Disney Institute and guides were from DI. This backstage tour is NOT a DI-tour, it’s a tour done by Animal Kingdom Cast Members. We believe that the difference is obvious – the guides in all incarnations were very invested and involved in making our experience truly magical and in imparting their love for Animal Kingdom and the wildlife.
    • It was a “full” experience because there were various experiences well-knitted together. Walking, riding, watching, learning, crossing bridges, eating, drinking, and lots of educational information.
    • Included in the Wild Africa Trek are guides taking photos throughout the experience. The CD is mailed to you after you return home and it contains many photos. Our CD contained many photos of us and K2, photos of other trekkers, and some stock photos. Keep in mind that while the trek is going on, you can’t take photos of yourselves. About 50% of the photos in the four posts about the Wild Africa Trek are from Disney (we didn’t copyright these, it’s illegal for us to do so). Our point… the value of these photos could be worth the price of the tour; especially, if like us, you rarely get photos of yourselves experiences things at WDW.  It truly is like having your own private photographer and on safari to boot. Disney did a great job with this.
  2. Did we feel rushed or hurried? — Not really, there was a pace to keep on the walking trails (but that’s to be expected), but our time in the safari truck and our time at the Safari Camp did not feel rushed or hurried.
  3. Did we learn a lot? — Somewhat… being geeky-nerds to begin with, some of the information we already knew; we learned enough to stay interested (a good plus for WDW-geeks) and we really enjoyed how the educational experiences were basically seamlessly interwoven into the Trek.

A “Plus” for our readers & K2

[you do know what a “plus” is, don’t you?]

Because K2 likes to walk as do we; the four of us walked both the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. We enjoyed showing K2 around since we enjoy these walks so much. We did not spot most of our favorite birds but we did have a surprise that seems appropriate to share with our review of Wild Africa Trek.

One of our favorite stops is observing the gorillas. We will often spend 20 minutes or so when they are active just watching their behavior. Since we are both fairly well trained in the sciences, watching the gorillas really reminds us of high school and college biology. In addition Nora is a huge Jane Goodall fan. Although Jane studied chimps much of what we “think” we see with the gorillas we relate to what we have read and heard from Jane Goodall. (Sidenote: we went to a Jane Goodall lecture in the early 1990s; Nora is that big of a fan. Part of the reason she went into sciences was because as a little girl she wanted to either live in Africa and drive a Rover and watch animals, or she was going to be “Hawkeye Pierce”.)

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One of the large adult male silverbacks was moving around quite a bit when we stopped.

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Soon he walked up to a tree and sat down with his back to us.

This is not unusual. We don’t spend a lot of time visiting the gorilla habitat when all we seem to see are “backsides.” But today this very large male scaled the tree! Yes, we know gorillas can climb… (duh). However, during all our visits we had not seen one climb or seen one in a tree.

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Mr Gorilla still has his back mostly turned, but now he’s up a tree!

For us this was a true “plus” to our Wild Africa Trek.

Slow down and look around. You never know what may be a “plus” for you.

nora & nick

 

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