Opened: April 22, 1998
Location: Africa, in the very back of the area.
Extra Magic Hours: Morning
FASTPASS: Yes. FASTPASSes usually have return times earlier than Expedition Everest, making Expedition Everest the priority in most scenarios. When Animal Kingdom is recommended and the overall crowd level is a 5 or lower, FASTPASS return times are usually just 40 to 60 minutes out, which isn’t bad for a headlining attraction like this.
Type: Safari simulator
Similar To: Unique
Scary Factor: Low. The animals look like they could stroll right up to the vehicles, but there are cleverly camouflaged barriers and drops protecting both the animals and passengers.
When To Go: Kilimanjaro Safaris ordinarily sees the second or third longest waits at Animal Kingdom. You’ll either want to ride before 10am or save it for the last hour that it’s operating. Check your Times Guide to see when the last Safari departs because it may be earlier than the rest of the Animal Kingdom. If you’re unable to ride during one or both of those times, then FASTPASS is a good choice.
Expect to Wait: Waits between 30 and 50 minutes are common in the afternoon.
Length: 20 minutes
What to Expect: You will board a 32-passenger open-air Safari Truck and take a trip through the 100-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve. It’s basically a simulated, shortened safari through lifelike savannas populated with rare animals. There are a great number of animals that you may see during the ride, including black and white rhinoceroses, cheetahs, flamingos, lions, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, crocodiles, antelopes, and more. The problem is that the animals aren’t always “out” and your viewing may be limited by the time of day and simple “luck of the draw.” The Safari follows a loose story about missing elephants and poachers and there will be a live guide to narrate and answer questions during the Safari. The Safari vehicles only stop for a few moments throughout the ride so make sure you have your camera or binoculars ready.
Where to Sit: Those sitting on the ends of the rows will have the best views. If you have a photographer in the family, make sure they sit on the end. There isn’t necessarily a better side of the truck to sit on. I’ve been on the ride more than 50 times and there’s always several instances each ride where I’ve said (usually inside my brain), “I wish I was sitting on the other side to get a better look at that.” With that said, the driver’s side seems to offer the best view overall. You’ll have a better look at the hippos, lions, cheetahs, crocodiles, and flamingos. Those sitting on the right side may have a better view of the elephants, wildebeests, and giraffess. If given the choice for one Safari, I would sit on the left side near the front, where the ride isn’t as bumpy. It’s easier to take pictures. The front row of the truck is less bumpy. If you have back or neck problems, request a front row. I prefer the back row because you’ll be able to turn around and take pictures with no one in the foreground.
Depressing Ending, Anyone? Before the ride opened to the public, there was a version of the story where Big Red, the elephant you’re so desperately trying to rescue, actually ends up dying at the end of the ride and riders gazed upon its blood carcass before returning to the platform. As one might imagine, animals tragically dying was deemed too upsetting to visitors and the story was changed.
Another Update: Little Red, the animatronic baby elephant seen during the final scene, appeared for the last time on April 29th. He will be replaced by additional savanna areas featuring multiple species of zebras.
Size Matters: The Wildlife Reserve is so large that you could easily fit the entire Magic Kingdom Theme Park inside of it.
Commentary: Kilimanjaro Safaris is the headlining ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and my personal favorite attraction at Walt Disney World. Everyone should enjoy it, from preschoolers to thrill ride enthusiasts. My only complaint, which you will probably share, is that the ride is much too short.