Kilimanjaro Safaris Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Kilimanjaro Safaris Opened On: April 22, 1998
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Location: Kilimanjaro Safaris is located straight in the back of the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The FastPass+ line is located just to the right of the main entrance in between the standby entrance and the walkway down to the train over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
For standby, proceed ahead and to the left. If you’re participating in the Wild Africa Trek, the check-in location is ahead on the right.
Extra Magic Hours: Kilimanjaro Safaris may be included in morning Extra Magic Hour, but typically isn’t. Double check your date at DisneyWorld.com here by changing the date on the right and seeing if the operating hours include EMH.
Ride Length: 20 minutes.
Type: Safari ride.
Similar To: Unique in its scope and scale.
Scary Factor: Low.
The animals look like they could stroll right up to the vehicles, but there are cleverly camouflaged barriers protecting both the animals and passengers.
Occasionally, a giraffe or other smaller animal may actually approach the vehicle, but guests are never in harm’s way.
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 animals native to Africa.
There are a great number of animals that you may see during the ride. This includes black and white rhinoceroses, cheetahs, flamingos, lions, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, crocodiles, antelopes, and more.
The problem you may run into 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.
Disney did away with the Wilson narration in 2013, and the ride narration instead focuses on educational aspects rather than trying to catch imaginary poachers. I liked the Wilson narration, which provided some purpose to the ride.
Still, the animals continue to steal the show.
The Safari vehicles only stop for a few moments throughout the ride, so make sure you have your camera ready. Or, better yet, keep the phone in your pocket and enjoy the ride.
Nighttime Safari: Disney made a big push to market “Animal Kingdom at Night” running up to the debut of Rivers of Light a few years ago. A big part of those plans included a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Unfortunately, it proved difficult to see many of the animals in the dark. Disney also didn’t alter the script, so there were sections during the ride where no animals would be visible for several minutes.
Disney didn’t want to use a lot of artificial lighting, as it might confuse the animals’ internal clocks.
There were usually a couple of highlights during each ride, but this is about as good of a view as you could expect. At least 70% of the animals didn’t appear at all, instead heading backstage at their usual time.
Now, Kilimanjaro Safaris typically closes an hour or more before the rest of the Park. Double check your Times Guide for the day’s closing time. If the ride’s hours are officially 9am to 8pm, then you can get in line to ride right up until 7:59pm. Sunset remains a pretty time of day to ride. With FastPass+, try to get in line right around the time the sun is scheduled to set and hope for pretty pink and orange hues up above.
Where to Sit: Each row seats three to six people, with four people placed into most rows.
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. Otherwise, the driver’s/left side of the vehicle seems to offer the best overall view. You’ll have a better look at the hippos, lions, rhinos, cheetahs, crocodiles, and flamingos. Those sitting on the other side may have a better view of the wildebeests, giraffes, and a coupe of other animals. If you have back or neck problems, request a front row seat, where it’s less bumpy. You may be surprised by how much you get tossed around in the very back row, despite the slow speed of the vehicle. It’s all part of the show!
FastPass+: Yes, Kilimanjaro Safaris is a high priority. Guests may initially select either of the two Pandora rides – Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey. Guests then make two selections from the rest of the options. Kilimanjaro Safaris will typically save more time than any other attraction outside of Pandora. Expedition Everest is the other top priority.
What You Miss Using FastPass+: Virtually nothing other than the wait. There are a couple birds and other animals in the queue that you might pass quickly. It shouldn’t be a big deal as there are more interesting animals on the safari ride itself.
Total Average Experience Time with FastPass+: 40 minutes.
4th FastPass+ Availability: Not as good as you might expect. While Kilimanjaro Safaris distributes an incredible number of FastPass+ experiences each hour, the ride is routinely unavailable as a FastPass+ option on the day before a given date. Fortunately, Safaris does become available as others cancel their existing reservations. Cancellations/changes are more common with the high number available. Persistently Refresh the My Disney Experience app or website and you should see return times come up frequently on the day of your visit. I like to use a 4th or 5th FastPass+ to re-ride.
Expect to Wait:
When To Go: Before 9:30am or in the last hour of operation will result in the shortest wait. Plan on using FastPass+ between at least 10am and 5pm most days.
But I Heard the Animals are Most Active First Thing in the Morning: This old wives’ tale is one the more common pieces of advice that you’ll hear. It’s probably not entirely true.
This photo of the lions cuddling, which almost never happens, was taken at 4:10pm in March. In a few hundred rides, I’ve only seen anything like it one other time.
The reality is that you can have “good” and “bad” safaris at any time of day. It still makes a lot of sense to ride Safaris early because of low waits, but an early arrival doesn’t guarantee better views of the animals. You might plan on one early ride, and then a second ride later in the day. That will make it more likely that you’ll see the majority of the animals.
Size Matters: The Wildlife Reserve is so large that you could easily fit the entire Magic Kingdom inside of it.
Commentary: Kilimanjaro Safaris is an absolute must-see – perhaps more so than any other attraction at any other Walt Disney World Park. My only complaint is that it’s too short.