TheMouseForLess Resort Reviews
TheMouseForLess members review Walt Disney World resorts.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Safari Reviews
WANYAMA SAFARI Review
Submitted By: Racquel (2004)
Also, a perk for AKL concierge guests, this is a new addition which debuted in November. As much as I enjoyed the Sunrise Safari, I probably wouldn't go out of my way to repeat it. This, however, so far exceeded my expectations - it was definitely one of the best things I have ever done at Walt Disney World, worth every penny of the $150, and I would do it again in a minute. This takes place at Animal Kingdom Lodge rather than at the park, and takes you to areas which are otherwise always off-limits to the public. They have made every effort to try and duplicate an actual African Safari, drawing on the advice of experienced safari-goers such as Lisle, who was one of our guides. Meeting in front of the hotel, a maximum of eight guests (there were seven of us) board a vehicle and head for the savannahs surrounding AKL. This was so cool; it was one of those safari trucks that has a roof which raises up and everyone gets to stand up and look outside. We spent a long time driving around the different areas behind the hotel. A bit in front of us, handlers were busy putting out special food (browse) to attract the animals. Consequently, we were surrounded by animals during the entire excursion. It was AMAZING. Many were nearly close enough to touch, looking in the truck, walking around and in front of us, pecking at the tires. One ostrich was particularly enamored of our truck and began exhibiting mating behavior on the road in front of us, ultimately lying down in front of the truck. We were told this is what they do when they're REALLY infatuated. I could have kicked myself for leaving my camera behind. After the Sunrise Safari and two days at Animal Kingdom park, I figured I had more than enough pictures of animals, not realizing that this time we would be within a few feet of most of the animals. Won't make that mistake again. Mike, our other guide, was standing right there with us and we were able to ask dozens of questions. With such a tiny group it was an astounding, intimate experience. Finally, as the sun began to set, Lisle told us that on an African safari, it would be time to stop and have sundowners. Although these wouldn't be alcoholic, it would give us a sense of a true safari. We pulled up near a small table waiting in a clearing and fruit drinks were poured and passed around. There were also traditional safari foods on offer: dried meat, fruits, and nuts, served from containers that I know as "tiffins," which are stacked, metal dishes with a wire carry handle, designed to keep out insects and animals. Meanwhile, Mike and gone behind the bushes to offer some special treats to the giraffes which had been trained to come up close to our location behind a high fence. This allowed everyone to have their pictures taken with giraffe backdrop! Then, on to our dinner at Jiko. I had eaten at Jiko last year, and was looking forward to a return visit. We were immediately greeted and seated together and the chef came out to describe our culinary "safari." As each course was served, he returned to describe the different dishes and answer questions. The wonderful thing about this meal, served family-style, was that so many choices were available. Rather than just choosing one appetizer, entree, dessert, etc. platters arrived with six types of appetizers, three or four of their most popular entrees, a half a dozen different desserts. We were also served several different South African wines during the meal. For those of you unfamiliar with this restaurant which specializes in South African cuisine, it also boasts the largest collection of South African wines in North America. It would have cost much more than $150 just to order all the things on the menu that showed up on our table. After dinner, we were all presented with a small black box, tied with a gold cord, containing a variety of small cookies to take with us. We also were handed a print of the picture taken with the giraffes, in a paper Animal Kingdom frame. I cannot say enough about this wonderful activity. Much like Cirque du Soleil, it is worth giving up the cost of a day or two in the parks to participate in this unique program.
WANYAMA SAFARI Review
Submitted By: Andrea
My husband and I went to WDW this weekend to celebrate our first anniversary (we were married at WDW - so we thought it would be nice to go back!).
We did the sunrise safari and went to Victoria and Alberts. They were both wonderful and I would highly recommend both if you get the chance. I’m not going to do a specific trip report, but would be happy to answer any questions you have about these 2 events.
However, I am going to post a trip report on the Wanyama or sunset safari at AKL. We were lucky enough to be on the maiden excursion and I have to say that it was absolutely wonderful. Like the sunrise safari, you need to stay at the concierge level at AKL to be able to participate. Also, it was a bit pricey at $150 per person but this included an all you can eat (including South African wines) at Jiko and some amazing picture opportunities. I think that this will be a very popular event at AKL. In retrospect, the price was well worth the experience.
We started out by getting a welcome letter and bag that included our Wanyama safari pins (attached to a hemp Boab tree). The letter said that we needed to meet outside by valet parking the next afternoon at 4 pm (the safari starts about 2 hours prior to sunset, so this will change throughout the year).
The next day, we put our pins on and met Joe, our guide, outside the front of the hotel. Joe is actually the animal curator at AKL and was there before any of the animals or the hotel was there.
The rest of our group showed up and we got into a special safari vehicle. It actually looked like a smallish version of a VW van, but its roof was on a hydraulic lift so that we were all able to stand up and see the animals and take pictures.
We started out in the savannah nearest the pool and got to see all of the animals up close. The keepers were putting food out for the animals and our truck went right near them. THe animals were a little wary of our group, but were still curious (and hungry enough) to stay close by. We got to see the buildings where the animals are kept and got to learn a lot about the savannah and hotel construction.
The driver was very conscious of getting us to see the animals and of getting great pictures. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the tons of giraffe pictures I was able to take, but I kept on taking them anyway!
From there we went to the largest savannah at the back of the hotel near Arusha rock. Again, we drove around the trails and got to see amazing views of the hotel. The animals were very active during this time and they were all posing very nicely.
We then went to the sunset savannah area and visited with the boy giraffes and the ostrich. I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but the 3 safaris have different animals (for example, there are 10 giraffe’s total at the lodge - they don’t mix them and the boys are in the sunset savannah). Again, we got to spend some great quality time with the animals and take some great pictures and video.
We then went to the back of the savannah and had a “sundowner”. We all got out of the truck and had some sunset juice (made by Jiko especially for the safari participants), some dried fruit and some jerky. This is a traditional way to end a safari in Africa. The keepers put some food in feeders right by the table so that the giraffes were standing right behind us. We then got a souvenir photo of our party along with the giraffes - they turned out great.
In all, we were probably in the savannahs a total of 1-1.5 hours. I could have stayed out there all day, but I knew that we had dinner at Jiko awaiting us.
We got back into the van and headed back to the lodge. We headed down to Jiko and had a wonderful meal with our safari group (the maximum size group the safari can accommodate is 8, but we only had 7). We had a menu of african dips and breads, appetizers including duck and pork firecrackers with hoisin sauce, lentil pastillas with sweet and sour sauce, maize tamales with herb and white truffle oil and cinnamon spiced beef roles with vegetable banana dip. For entrees we had oak roasted filet with mac and cheese and red wine sauce, chermoula basted and roasted chicken with mash potatoes, olives, roasted garlic, preserved lemons and harissa, and pan seared monkfish with vegetables of the moment and tomato beurre blanc. Finally we had an amazing dessert platter. There were 2 south african wines served throughout dinner and a dessert wine. Everything was served family style. The food was amazing. I understand that the menu will change frequently, so you may or may not have the same menu.
I would highly recommend doing this safari. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get some very personal time with the animals and the staff. We were able to ask any questions we wanted to and enjoy some great company as well.
It was funny driving around the savannahs, we had guests yelling off the balconies asking how they could get to do it, too. As I mentioned, I think its only a matter of time before this becomes super popular. Right now they only do it 3 days a week, but are hoping as word gets out and it gets more popular to add more days.
Also, you are asked not able to touch the animals or get out of the truck at any time. Be sure to take a bathroom break before hand...
In all, I can't say enough positive things about this experience. We're planning on going back in Jan to try and do it again. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to answer them.