Kilimanjaro Safaris is a safari attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Resort property in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It simulates an open-sided safari ride through the savanna of East Africa.
The ride originally begins as a two-week safari aboard Simba 1 through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve in Harambe, East Africa. It is 800 square miles (2,100 km) of natural terrain, including Ituri forest, wetlands of the Safi River valley and the open bush country of the Serengeti Savanna. During most of the ride people view the common African animals including elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelope, gazelles, crocodiles, monkeys, hippos, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, ostriches, rhinos, storks, pelicans, flamingos, impalas, wildebeests, and okapis. The tour guide points out animals and provides entertainment. During the journey, the driver is in radio contact with reserve warden Wilson Matua, who is flying over the reserve on his daily routine. It all takes a turn when poachers are spotted in the reserve, and it’s up to Simba 1 and the guests, with support from the air and other rangers, to stop them.
This attraction was thought up by Greg Hill Who did not continue to work for Disney because he refused to shave his beard. Greg Hill had the idea of using real animals for an attraction. Kilimanjaro Safaris typically operates until sundown. However, during the holiday season of 1998, the safaris were continued at night and dubbed Kilimanjaro Night Safaris. Though many animals were asleep, or unable to be seen at night, the attraction had a completely different script and storyline. This “new” attraction featured additional animal sounds, reflectors hidden in the foliage to resemble animals’ eyes, and an actual African dance troup, who performed around a bonfire in the area normally occupied by the attraction’s elephants. Kilimanjaro Night Safaris only ran during that initial holiday season. After this time, it was deemed that the additional costs, plus the fact that animal visibility was poor (eliciting many guest complaints), made Night Safaris unfeasible to continue regularly.
In 2004, much of the savanna’s drainage system had to be replaced. The attraction remained open during the rehab, with green tarps covering the construction sites to keep the animals out.
In 2007-9, the trucks were extended with an extra row of seating, allowing for more capacity. Also, the safari script/story, along with the Wilson/Jobson story has significantly changed. There is less of a story about “Little Red”, and more about the animals in the Reserve and the need to find a lost elephant at the end. This led to a somewhat confused plot in which guests are searching for a lost “mother elephant” and eventually find her baby which, according to the story, had already been safe the whole time.
The ride originally featured a cast member in the role of a gun-toting reserve warden who captured the poachers and saved Big Red and Little Red. This element of the attraction was eventually eliminated. During Cast Previews of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there was a “Dark Ending” in which the safari vehicle encountered the slaughtered corpse of Big Red. This scene proved too shocking for families and children, and thus was eventually changed to give the attraction a happier ending.
Long before the safari or even Walt Disney World opened, Walt Disney wanted to use real African animals for the river attraction Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. However, due to several reasons, Audio-Animatronics replicas were placed instead.
In July of 2010 it was announced that guests will soon be able to go on “guided treks” around the savannah. This will include areas that are not part of the regular ride experience.
- The attraction features custom-built GMC trucks riding washed-out, rutted roads and a bridge that tilts. The roadbed is actually constructed of dark brown-colored concrete embedded with permanent tire ruts.
- The flamingo island is a huge Hidden Mickey.
- Between each ecosystem are both chain road sensors and bars to prevent animals from venturing between sections. The vehicles drive directly on these obstacles.