All my dreams the night before was all about the tour even though I didn’t really know what to expect. My husband and I had planned the Trek months before our vacation, and the kids were completely in the dark. We got up early for our pre-park tour (which was also great because we were allowed to wander around Disney’s Animal Kingdom before the general public got in!) and headed straight for the park.

We were greeted by one of the guides dressed in his safety equipment, and the kids quickly figured out we were up to something. The guide gave us a brief rundown of what we would be experiencing before sending us on our way to get our gear. After storing our belongings in lockers, we each were fitted with a safety vest and harness, and our cameras and glasses were all secured to our vests. We were also supplied with a water bottle to help stay hydrated during the 3 hour trek.

We had two wonderful guides to accompany our small group (tour groups are limited to 12 people, so you get to know your guides and fellow adventurers!) who were able to tell us about the animals we encountered, habitats, and Disney’s conservation programs. Andy and Bryn were very friendly, excited for the adventure with our group, and they got to know each of us (and remembered all our names!) very quickly. They were also pretty funny, and I think everyone in our group enjoyed their company. They also had a camera to take beautiful photos of all the wildlife we encountered as well as making sure there were plenty of photos of all of us on the adventure. (All the photos – over 200 of them! - are included in the package!)

We started in an aviary and through the research center at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve before taking a private dirt path up a gently sloping hill. At the top, we met a guide who was a hippo expert and could talk with us about the hippos’ habitat, behavior and interactions with other hippos in the reserve, and answer any questions we had. We stood just feet above two large male hippos while they were treated to lettuce which provided a great close-up view of my favorite creatures. As we were enjoying our experience so close to these magnificent animals, the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles passed by in the distance for a brief glance at the hippos before moving on. We were definitely enjoying a VIP tour!

Next, we had to carefully cross two rope bridges over huge crocodiles to get to another vantage point where we could really get some more close-up looks with our crocodile expert guide. The rope bridges were what I was worried about with my youngest, not sure if he would be able to make the cross over alone. Silly me – this ended up being his favorite part!

On to a private vehicle where we were able to drive through the savanna and make stops along the way when we observed animals. (The Safari vehicles did not share these special look-out areas, so we were free to park and stand up to look around and get great photos). We drove to a private outdoor patio overlooking the savanna where we could watch elephants while we were treated to a delicious African-inspired morning snack. This was another thing I was not sure my kids would take to, but they both loved the foods and juice prepared for our group which included fruit salad, prosciutto and cheese, dried fruit, yogurt, salmon roulade, and more. It was all packaged beautifully and included an edible flower which adorned the tasty treats.

We were driving back through the savannah when my son asked if we were almost done. Our guide responded that we were nearly done, thinking he’d perhaps had enough. “I don’t want it to end yet!” was his reply.

In our group, there were adventurers from 11 to the well-retired. We had two families (ours with younger children and another with an older child), newlyweds, and two sisters who met at Disney before heading back to their own home states. We all had fun joking and chatting together.

The Wild Animal Trek was a splurge treat for us, but it was the highlight of our trip. We met wonderful people, got to see areas of the reserve that the average person doesn’t get to see, we got very close to some amazing and dangerous animals, and we enjoyed our time adventuring as a family. It was absolutely a special experience that our family will remember forever.

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist