I thought maybe some of you would be interested in a review I wrote after taking the Wanyama Safari last August. Well, at least I hope it can be helpful in someone's planning It's kind of long, but I didn't want to leave anything out! Enjoy!
Staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge resort, we had the opportunity to go on a private safari-style tour of the three animal populated savannas called The Wanyama Safari. The safari was followed by a family style dinner at Jiko-The Cooking Place, one of Disney's Signature restaurants. I suggest booking this activity very early since it has a limited availability - only 12 or fewer people per night. Age restrictions are set at eight years and older, which seemed about right. Children younger than eight may get restless on the safari, as it lasts an hour and a half or longer (ours was two hours since there were so many active animals; more on that later), and most children will not have a palate for the food at Jiko, which serves authentic African fusion food. Again, this tour is only available to guests at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and you do not have to be staying club level.
On the day of our safari it was very rainy, including some pretty heavy thunderstorms in the morning. I was a little concerned about the weather, since the safari is obviously an outdoor tour, but we didn't receive any notification from the front desk of a cancellation. We learned that they will do the safari rain or shine, so come prepared if your safari night is a wet one! Meet up time for the safari was at 3:45pm down in the Lounge area of Jiko. The tour and dinner lasted all evening, so I would suggest not to having other plans for that night.
After checking in at Jiko, the tour started out in the front of the Lodge, where we loaded up into an impressively authentic looking safari truck, received many envious looks from people not on the safari, and met our two tour guides for the night. One drove the safari vehicle while the other stood with us answering questions and filling our brains with all sorts of animal and horticultural information. As an animal lover, this was really a treat!
Animal Kingdom Lodge is made up of two buildings, Kidani Village and Jambo house. We started out the safari over on the Kidani Village side, which is the building below that looks like a backwards "3".
(The entrance to the first safari area is right above the pool area seen in the upper left corner)
There are three savannas surrounding the Lodge: Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima. Each savanna surrounding the lodge is home to different animals, with the exception of the Reticulated Giraffes, which live in all three.
(Map of Jambo house. The three savanna locations are marked above)
Starting out, we entered the Sunset savanna area by bypassing a special barn area for the Okapi, which became my personal favorite on the safari, used to house two Okapi females who were potentially pregnant. Okapi have a hard time breeding in the wild as well as captivity, and since the zoologists at Disney prefer to take a "hands-off" approach to their animal's reproduction, the Okapi that could be pregnant are watched almost constantly. It was very interesting to see what Disney calls a "backstage" area, since guests rarely get the chance to see anything that is not "on stage".
The safari continued through the Sunset savanna, then onto the Arusha savanna, followed by the Uzima savanna. As I mentioned before, each area houses different species, which made it really interesting, because each savanna change made it feel like you were entering a different part of Africa. The guides knew a ton about all the animals we saw on a personal level, which was extremely interesting. I felt like I got to know all the giraffes by their names and distinct personalities. Even the Ostriches have their own names and background stories - like the alpha male who got kicked out of the Animal Kingdom theme park to retire at the Lodge because of a chasing incident involving another zoo keeper - yikes! We also learned that zebras are NOT friendly animals. The guides maintained a casual vibe throughout the tour, making the entire thing feel really intimate and allowing us to feel okay asking stupid questions.
At this point, the drizzle we had been enjoying turned into full on rain. Turns out, the animals love the rain because it is a welcome cool from the Florida heat. The animals were EVERYWHERE and very friendly. There were White-Bearded Wildebeests chasing each other (which had a scary resemblance to that one incident in The Lion King-thankfully, no lions live at the Lodge) and giraffes trying to join us in the truck. Seriously. On top of the rain helping us see lots of animals, they get fed right around the time of the safari and so naturally assumed we were there to feed them, too. Oh, I should mention that even though it was raining, we didn't get very wet since there is a roof over the truck. Well, I did get a little wet, but that was because I was hanging out of the vehicle for most of the safari!
We saw so many different animals, I had to look up a list of animals that live on the savanna. This is a list of all the types of animals I remember seeing up close: Anikole Cattle, Bongo, Blesbok, Eland, Grant's Zebra, Greater Kudu, Impala, Reticulated Giraffe, Thomson's Gazelle, Waterbuck, Red River Hogs and White-Bearded Wildebeest, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Blue Crane, East African Crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Marabou Stork, Ostrich, Pink-Backed Pelican, and Ruppel's Griffon Vulture...and there is a likely possibility that I am leaving some out.
Midway through the safari the guides switched, giving us the chance to hear different facts and learn about that guide's personal relationships with the different animals they work with. Our second guide had a special bond with the Red River Hogs. She told us they are actually very intelligent; they have their own sleeping areas, which they can identify by shapes on their doors, and they even let her brush their teeth!
It was really just awesome being able to see such a large variety of animals in a really intimate environment. I am a huge animal lover, so it was something that was made for me. Don't worry if you're not an animal lover, though, because I can guarantee you will enjoy yourself. It is really a one-of-a-kind experience to get up close to some really unique species and to learn some great things you won't hear at your local zoo.
Now, on to the second part of the tour: FOOD! As if the safari alone wasn't worth the price tag, we then got to eat far more than the price of both tour and meal at a gourmet dinner. After the safari was over, way too soon after only two hours, we were led directly to Jiko. The meal, which is actually more of a feast, is served family style with the rest of the members on the safari. I'm not going to lie, I was a little scared by that. Everyone seemed friendly on the safari, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to share a meal with people with whom I had only shared "ooohs" and "ahhhs" over animals. Thankfully, the servers and head chef at Jiko make you feel completely comfortable and help break the ice almost immediately. Before I knew it, we were all talking and sharing stories as we would at a family Thanksgiving dinner. I should have realized that we were all staying at Disney World together, which provides at least enough conversation for several days worth of meals.
(Main dining area of Jiko - from Disney.com)
The chef at Jiko became our personal chef for the night, coming to our table between courses, explaining in extreme detail what each dish is made from, as well as how it is made. For example, the red wine sauce served over the filet mignon takes FOUR DAYS to make. Let me tell you, four days of labor for that sauce is worth while. It was absolutely delicious.
Each course, Appetizers, Intermezzo, Entrees, and Desserts come out together, on large platter-sized plates. There is more than enough food for everyone to try everything more than once. I'm not kidding, I should have taken pictures! Each different dish comes with more than a serving size for each person, so you get to try EVERYTHING. For me, this was a dream come true. There are also wine parings throughout the meal, as well as a dessert wine after dessert. Kids under 21 are given their choice of non-alcoholic beverage with the meal, but there is no separate children's menu. They are able to accommodate any food allergies. One fellow safari member required a gluten-free menu, and they seemed to do a great job making her meal just as special and elaborate as ours.
The feast was amazing. So amazing, in fact, that we came back and ate there two additional times and ordered it up to our room a third. It is really hard to pick a favorite from such a large menu, but the Flatbread, Halibut, and Filet were especially amazing. The desserts were equally enjoyable and came out on individual plates for everyone, since trying to share those may have been dangerous!
I am so glad that I thought to take the menu from that night home with me so that I may share it with you:
(Don't worry, I didn't steal an actual menu, just a paper one as the menu changes daily)
I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who has the opportunity to do it. At $170 a person for adults and $80 for kids (though, Disney considers 10 an adult and 8 is the minimum age), I considered it a really, really good bargain, especially for Disney. If you are an animal lover or a foodie, you really cannot miss it. In fact, I will be taking this tour into consideration when I choose my resort next time I travel to Disney, since I can't wait to do it again!
If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or emailing me at .