Caring for Giants is a 60-minute behind-the-scenes experience offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Currently, the tour is scheduled ten times daily, starting at 9:30am, 10am, 10:30am, 11am, 12:30pm, 1pm, 1:30pm, 3pm: 3:30pm, and 4pm.
The tour costs $30/person, all of the proceeds of which go to Disney’s Conservation Fund. It can be booked at the “Animal Tours” kiosk in front of Kilimanjaro Safaris or at a variety of other Guest Services/Concierge locations all across property. It’s also available to book by calling the usual number, 407-939-7529 (407-WDW-Play). Discounts in the vicinity of 10% are available to Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members.
You can verify the tour times and the rest of the information presented here on the official DisneyWorld.com tour page. While it’s unlikely that every tour on a particular date will fill to capacity, calling in advance will obviously guarantee a spot. It’s not uncommon for tours to depart with just one or two small groups.
There’s a 2-day cancellation window, so if the weather looks horrific or the likelihood that a gaggle of bloggers will be present increases, there is a mechanism to recoup your cost.
You’re asked to arrive at least 15 minutes before your tour is scheduled to sign your life away and retrieve your name tag. If you turn said name tag over, you’ll see that the paper is made out of 85% elephant dung. As we’ll learn later, elephants don’t have particularly good digestive systems, which means the majority of their poop remains undigested plant matter, which is why you’ll sometimes see other animals scouring through it. Hey, we don’t all have extra snack credits. The ten elephants that call Kilimanjaro Safaris their home produce more than 1,500 pounds of poop every day. And that’s without having Pizzafari for lunch.
About 40 minutes of the hour-long experience are spent at the elephant viewing platform, which means there’s about ten minutes of walking/transit time on either side. The tour begins with a short walk behind Tusker House and Festival of the Lion King, where you’ll see an assortment of cast members lounging about or otherwise performing their duties. If the thought of seeing a chef walking by with his arms full of bananas or watching some of the Lion King performers sneak onto the stage through a side door seems like it will ruin your life, then you’ll either want to stick to watching It’s Tough To Be A Bug or request a blindfold before the walk over. If you’re particularly mouthy about the situation then you might even luck into a concussion and forget everything anyway. But it’s pretty short-lived – nobody is trying to actively convince you that Avatar isn’t real. After the 3ish minute walk, a van will transport you the 7ish minutes to the loading platform. During the drive, you’ll see some of the backstage areas that house the animals along with some other elements that enhance Kilimanjaro Safaris, particularly after darkness descends.
The elevated viewing platform is located up a short ramp on the opposite side of where you would typically ride by on your Safari vehicle.
The viewing platform is split up into two sections. We spent 20 minutes occupying the first area with the company of an Animal Specialist, who provided a brief introduction to what we were looking at, in addition to offering to answer any questions that a quick Google search can’t.
You can click any image to pull up a larger version – here with Baby Stella towards the left and a baby giraffe over to the right, in addition to a couple more elephants and giraffes in frame.
It was a lot of fun to watch the various personalities of the elephants come through.
And it was a hoot watching them interact with the giraffes nearby. This one is trying to climb the rocks to go play with her new friend up top. The Animal Specialist said she hadn’t seen that behavior before, but tried to assure us that there was no way the elephant would be able get a good enough grip to thrust herself over the top.
I considered running out to lend a hand.
Rafiki, the matriarch of the herd, is the largest of the females.
Which means she can grab some of the tastier branches and leaves that the other elephants can’t reach.
Much like me being able to pick out all of the best produce at the grocery store.
At least as long as the giraffes don’t grab the goodies first. I wonder if humans will evolve faster fingers so that we can refresh FP+ availability more quickly. Maybe only if you have some Disney blogs.
A few more pictures from this side:
At this point, one of the elephants had grabbed a rather large stick and was playing keep-away from the others by trotting over to the other side of area.
“Oh, it’s on!”
You may not be able to tell, but there is an extra set of legs down there.
And a trunk!
Going for the fake out when you pretend to quit!
And boom! Stella with the steal! She then immediately flipped the stick on top of her head.
And walked it over for some private chow time. Maybe you’ll end up being the lucky benefactor of a shiny new name tag.
This is also where we met Natty, our cultural representative from Botswana, who introduced us to the relationships between elephants and humans in Africa and elsewhere:
Caring for Giants is a low-key tour that’s centered on the enjoyment of watching the elephants interact with each other and their environment. It was a great opportunity to take some pictures, learn about the animals, and take in some of the subtle sights and sounds that you’ll never pick up from a 10-second stop on Kilimanjaro Safaris. The backstage portion “feels” like more of a necessity than anything – you “literally” have to drive out to the viewing platform, but most people should appreciate seeing some of the pieces that make the on-stage elements work.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
Like most things, “it depends.” The tour puts you about a hundred feet away from around eight elephants for about 40 minutes with the opportunity to ask specialists as many or as few questions as you’d like. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the elephants go about their day while trying to angle for a few photos, but you could just as easily stand there bored out of your mind if you’re incapable of looking on with wonderment at the world’s largest land mammals trying to keep sticks away from each other.
If you made it this far in the review, then I can say with some certainty that you’ll love Caring for Giants. If you’re in and out of Animal Kingdom in an hour because you “did everything,” then waiting in the single rider line at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster may be a better expenditure of your time. On the other hand, the fact that your money is going straight into helping these beautiful, severely-threatened animals might help tip the scale away from the roller coasters. Just for an hour.
As far as when to book the tour, the standard advice is “earlier is better” because the “animals are more active.” That may or may not be true – these pictures are from the 4pm tour and I can’t imagine the elephants being much more active or much more visible. With one day to visit Animal Kingdom, most people will probably want to select an afternoon tour time, which allows you to hit the priority attractions during the first couple hours of operation when wait times are shorter and crowds lower. And if most people are keying in on earlier tours, you’re more likely to have the place to yourself in the afternoon. But if the attractions are a lower priority then you may elect to book an earlier visit.
I was impressed with what I saw and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the tour.