Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (With Lots of Photos)
In this article, we visit Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This article includes photos of the safari including the wildlife you’ll encounter.
“Come see nature in its wildlife on the Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.” That sounds like one of the quotes you might find in the Harambe area of the park.
Unfortunately, most of us haven’t had a chance to take a “real life” safari. For many, Kilimanjaro Safaris is the closest opportunity we’ll ever have to enjoy such an experience.
This attraction represents everything I love about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Imagineers took an exotic real-life experience, scaled it down, and made it available for people like you and I to experience when we visit the park.
I’m willing to bet this popular attraction has inspired more than a few guests to bite the bullet and plan a trip to Africa. There’s truly nothing like it. Well, not in Florida anyway.
Here are a few quick reference details for the safari ride at Animal Kingdom.
|Kilimanjaro Safaris||Animal Kingdom|
Disney Height Requirement:
Disney Genie+ Eligible
Seats Per Vehicle:
4-5 per row of the safari vehicle
Rider Switch at Disney:
Try to do it at least twice! No two
safaris are alike.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Review
Kilimanjaro Safaris is located in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After you cross the bridge between Discovery Island and Africa, you’ll continue straight toward the back of the park.
Shortly after, you’ll run into the entrance for stand-by passengers. On this afternoon, the wait for Safaris was only 20 minutes.
Anseparate Lightning Lane entrance sits to the right. Those who purchase Genie+ can elect to use one of their experiences here.
A few photography tips are posted in the queue:
- It is not possible to stop the vehicle for photographs.
- Have your camera ready, animals might appear at any moment.
- Please be considerate and do not block the view of others whilst snapping photographs.
Additionally, there are a few other tips your safari driver will likely share.
- For best results, have your camera set to a sports mode setting or comparable.
- If you have a zoom lens, consider using it for long-range shots.m.
Here is a look at the loading area for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
At least 34 species of animals call the Harambe Wildlife Reserve home. When you board the safari vehicle and take your seat, you might notice a sign above.
This sign will help identify some of the animals you might encounter. Below we see a safari vehicle entering the reserve ahead of us.
After entering the reserve, one of the first animals you’ll usually see is an Okapi. An Okapi is a beautiful animal that appears to resemble a zebra at first glance.
However, the Okapi is part of the giraffe family. For a closer look at an Okapi, make sure to visit Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail after you finish the safari or at some point in your day.
Gorilla Fall’s entrance is on the immediate right when you exit the vehicle at the end of Kilimajaro Safaris. It’s a gorgeous trail full of animal encounters and unique scenery. Obviously, gorillas are involved.
After passing the Okapi, the Bongo is one of the first animals you will likely see on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Here is a look at one that was close to our vehicle.
Black Rhinoceros are usually out toward the beginning of the attraction.
These rhinoceros are on the endangered species list. Unfortunately, they are hunted and poached for their horns.
The most distinguishable difference between the black and the white rhino is their hooked lips. It is said that there are approximately 5000 left in the world.
After passing the rhinoceros, you’ll enter into the waters of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Hopefully, you’ll get to see a bloat, which is a group of hippos.
Additionally, you might see a few vultures in this area. They are probably sunbathing if you see them like this with their wings spread out. That helps keep their feathers healthy.
However, don’t get too distracted with the vultures. There might be a hippopatamus doing a little sunbathing too.
From time to time, baby animals are born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to see several.
Below is a picture of a baby hippo named Augustus. He was born a few years back and when old enough he was moved to another zoo.
Right past the hippo area, there’s an area on the left-hand side where you can look down and see Nile crocodiles. They are pretty large, and it is rare to see them moving.
Next, you’ll pass a Baobob tree and the driver will provide a spiel about how it grows upside down. While this is happening, you’ll come out into a large, open savanna.
Here you will find a variety of animals grazing the plains, including giraffes. Often the views are stunning.
Below is the Springbok, my favorite animal on the safari! These little guys are adorable, but don’t let their genteel looks deceive you.
Springboks can reach speeds up to 55 miles per hour. Not only that, they do this thing called pronking.
I’ve only seen them in action once on the safari, and it was amazing. Everyone, including our driver, was blown away.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is home to so many different animals.
Make sure to look all around. Some animals are easy to see, while others are hiding in plain sight.
Check out the massive horns on these Ankole cattle. Fortunately, they aren’t as heavy as they look. Per the safari driver, their similar to honey combs.
When you reach the savanaa, one of the first things you’ll see in an enclosure on the left-hand side. Sometimes hyenas are out in the area.
However, most of the time we see African Painted Dogs. They are usually napping in their den.
Occasionally, you might see a few awake. But from my experience, those times are few and far between.
As you curve your way around the savanna, you’ll see various animals coexisting. When a good number of animals are present, these are some of the best views you’ll see.
Lately, there have been quite a few zebra.
At Kilimanjaro Safaris, the giraffes are Masai giraffes. Several babies were born over the past few months. Did you know that they are up and walking within minutes?
If you would like to see Reticulated Giraffes, you might visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. They have both Masai and Reticulated Giraffes on the resort’s savannas.
Related: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Review
Giraffes are known for taking care of each other. It is not uncommon to see them form a group. These groups are called towers.
Here is one of the babies looking out onto the savanna.
Sometimes, they walk right up to your vehicle.
If you don’t see any on the main portion of the savanna, don’t worry. Often, they are all grouped together in this area ahead on the left.
After passing the main giraffe area, you will likely see a lone male elephant.
Male elephants tend to hang out alone, separately from the rest of the herd.
Across the way, you might catch a glimpse of the Mandrills at play. They are on the left-hand side and can be challenging to spot. For example, there are two in the picture below.
Unfortunately, on the safari’s I’ve been on lately, the drivers rarely mention them. Meanwhile, I’m breaking my neck to see if they’re out so I can yell, “Hey, is that a Mandrill?”
Nobody puts the Mandrills in a corner.
Up ahead, you’ll catch up with the rest of the elephant herd.
Usually, there are 4-5 elephants around the water. Below, you can see Stella, the youngest of the herd.
Having the opportunity to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom so often has been a special blessing in my life. I know so many of the babies and have watched them begin to grow up over the past few years.
One of the things that’s not always mentioned on the safari ride is that most of the animals have formal names. I understand how it would be tough to keep them straight. But knowing a few of them and being able to recognize them on the safari feels kind of surreal sometimes.
As you pass the elephants, you will see a watering hole of sorts for the flamingoes. Look closely and you might notice the island is a hidden Mickey.
From time to time, you might see a few newborn flamingoes at the watering hole. You can tell which ones they are because they are covered in grey feathers. When I took these photos, these babies were less than a week old.
After passing the Mickey-shaped island, there are usually some rhinoceros roaming.
One day, a pair of them walked alonside side our vehicle. They were so close, it felt like I could have reached out and touched them.
But of course, that would be very dangerous, and they are so large I couldn’t imagine!
Sometimes when it’s been raining, you might see them wallowing in the mud. Seriously who doesn’t enjoy a little time at the spa?
Next, you’ll come across a large fenced area in the trees. This is where the cheetah’s are located. They are, in my opinion, the most difficult animal to see on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Usually, the cheetahs are lying around in the shade. So look for a pile of spotted fur.
From time to time, you might see one walking around. This would be a good opportunity to use that zoom lens. So far this is the best photo I’ve taken of a cheetah.
After the cheetahs, you’ll approach the lions den, where you’ll get to see–lions. Unfortunately, they’ll probably be sleeping. It’s what they do.
Sometimes you might see a lioness perched high on her rock overlooking the kingdom.
But most of the time, you will see them sleeping. Lions are nocturnal animals. So your best bet for seeing them active is to take a safari later in the day.
Often in the evening, they begin to make a unique noise. So if you have the opportunity and the safari is open later, I’d ride it once during the day and then again before dark.
Here’s the one time I took my zoom lens. I know it’s worth it, but it’s so heavy.
After you pass the lions, there are a few more small encounters. You might see a family of warthogs or more grazing animals. Often, you’ll see rhinoceros and zebra in the area.
A couple of ostriches are usually out and about.
Like this one.
At the very end of Kilimanjaro Safaris, you might see one of the newer animals, Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
Okay, I use the words “usually” and “might” a lot in this article. But the truth is these particular animals are usually in these areas. However, don’t expect to see every one of them on one go around.
For example, I’ve passed the lions den many times without seeing any lions at all. Most of the photos used in this article were take over hundreds of rides.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about this attraction.
How long is Kilimanjaro Safaris?
Disney’s website notes that a safari ride is approximately 18 minutes. That timing is a pretty accurate average with a few exceptions.
Those exceptions are the activity of the wild animals on your safari. For instance, you will stop and wait if an animal walks out in the road.
There have been times I’ve been on a safari that lasted as long as 30 minutes due to animals blocking the road. This is their habitat, and we are only visitors. So the safari drivers will wait on the animals to naturally move out of the way.
What is the best time to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris?
I’m not too fond of this question because I know the popular answer is early in the morning or later in the evening when it cools off a bit. So yes, animals might typically be more active at these times.
My answer, though, is anytime! These animals are not getting paid to put on a show. They aren’t slacking off in the heat of the day. Every single safari experience is unique and different.
The saying “No two safaris are alike!” is true.
Additionally, one of my favorite times to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris is during a light rain shower. Waits drop and some of the animals are a little more active than normal.
Should we ride Kilimanjaro Safaris at night?
When and if Kilimanjaro Safaris is available in the evening, I would definitely take advantage of it. As mentioned above, the evening is one of the best times to see the lions active.
However, I would always ride the safari at least once during the daytime. Then ride it a second time in the evening.
You aren’t going to see near as much the darker it gets. However, there is staging with the lighting in areas to help. It’s a completely different and unique experience.
Should you use Lightning Lane to ride Kilimanjaros Safaris?
Yes and no! It depends on what time you plan to ride the safari and how crowded the park is on the day of your visit.
If you’re there during a high crowd time, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of Genie+ and use Lightning Lane for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
However, if you don’t purchase the Genie+ upgrade, I recommend riding the safari as early as possible. Then get in line again later in the day when wait times tend to drop.
When it rains, the wait times for Kilimanjaro Safaris drop significantly. However, during inclement weather, the attraction and queue close.
Additional Animal Experiences at Kilimanjaro Safaris
In addition to Kilimanjaro Safaris there are a few other animal experiences related to the safari. These options are all an extra-cost.
- Caring For Giants provides a more up-close experiences with the elephants. Disney has more details for this tour here on their site.
- Up Close with Rhinos is a similar experience, only with rhinos.
- If you want to go all out and spend a couple of hours on safari, you might elect to book the Wild Africa Trek here.
Whatever you decide, I’m sure you will have an excellent day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Have fun on Kilimanjaro Safaris!
For more planning articles, try the list of attractions at Animal Kingdom. Some of our favorites include:
- Na’vi River Journey in Pandora
- Expedition Everest Roller-Coaster
- Adventurer’s Outpost (Meet Disney Pals)
- Finding Nemo Musical at Animal Kingdom
Additionally, if you’re planning a stay at the Walt Disney World Resort, you might enjoy browsing our Disney World Resort Reviews. For resorts near the Animal Kingdom, try these:
- Disney’s Kidani Village Review
- Coronado Springs Resort Review
- Gran Destino Tower Review
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Review
Off-property options nearby include:
- Orange Lake Resort Review (Kissimmee)
- Fairfield Inn and Suites at Flamingo Crossings
- Residence Inn by Marriott Flamingo Crossings
In the comments:
Have you ridden Kilimanjaro Safaris before? What animal do you hope to see? Share your thoughts about this attraction below in the comments.
How is social distancing being handled on the vehicles?
Hi, One row per group and there are plastic dividers hanging between each open air row.
Excellent article too.✌❤😷