Walt Disney World offers a number of “Backstage” tours to guests. For example, “Keys to the Kingdom” takes you behind the scenes at the Magic Kingdom. “Undiscovered Future World” shares secrets of Epcot’s designing and planning. At “Backstage Magic” you’ll travel to, and learn about, all four of the Disney Theme Parks. There are many other options; some geared towards adults, some towards kids, and many that the whole family can enjoy. For a full list of what is offered, click here and scroll to where it says “Unique Tours: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/enchanting-extras-collection/#/drawer=drawerUniqueAccess
I have been lucky enough to have gone on a number of backstage tours at Walt Disney World, and one of my favorites is the Wild Africa Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.
This tour can be a bit strenuous, but not overly so. To participate and enjoy the experience you should:
- Have physical stamina
- Be ok with heights
- Weigh between 45 and 300 lbs. wearing the gear Disney supplies you with
- Have the ability to walk up small hills and climb over a rope bridge
- Wear closed-toe shoes with a back strap or hiking boots; no sandals or flip flops.
Some of that may sound a bit intimidating, but as long as you are in ok physical shape, you will be fine. There is not a tremendous amount of walking or many hills. However, if you are scared of heights or suffer from vertigo, I would skip this tour. The rope bridge on the tour is very high up, and although it’s completely safe, it appears to be rickety. It also can sway a bit if it’s windy. Additionally, there are other parts of the tour where you are up high looking down.
You meet up for this tour at the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari, where you will first get to know your tour guides. I have done this tour twice, and both times the Cast Members who were the guides were great, welcoming, and ready to answer all of our questions. The tour accepts up to 12 guests; some tours fill up, others do not, it’s the luck of the draw. If you have your own group of 12, you can have your own “private” experience.
Once you check-in, one of the guides will assign you a locker for your personal belongings. A camera is all that you can take along with you on the trek. Your camera will be kept safe, as it is tied to a vest you wear on the tour. If you are holding the camera and drop it, you won’t lose it, as it’s connected to the vest. There is a pocket in the vest to store the camera when you are not using it. You’re also provided with a metal refillable water bottle (which you keep afterward as a souvenir), and there is cold water provided so you can fill your bottle prior to the trek.
Your guide will help you put the vest on properly and hook everything up. He or she will also provide you with a nametag and a “conservation hero” pin. One of the many nice things about Wild Africa Trek is part of the money you pay goes towards wild animal conservation—and you can choose the animal your portion goes to.
The tour begins with a short walk through the Pangani Forest Trail in Africa. The guides explain what guests see as they walk along, and they welcome your questions. We reached an area where guests on the tour are instructed to attach our vests via a carabiner to a rope above us and follow the guides onto a high ledge. If you have been on the Kilimanjaro Safari, you have probably seen the hippos along the way. The ledge we were on was across the water from where the safari trucks drive. The guides threw lettuce in the water to get the hippos to come closer to us. We were able to get an amazing close-up view of the hippos, and it was a great photo op as well. We learned a lot, too, as the guides told us many interesting facts about hippopotamuses.
Now it was time for the rope bridge! Guests go over one at a time. I love things like that, the feeling of danger, but knowing it’s completely safe is fun for me. Guests are hooked onto a line above via a carabiner and rope; it truly is safe. But not everyone is comfortable crossing a swaying rope bridge, no matter how safe it may be. Everyone made it over, but some people looked a little nervous while they are crossing.
When we reached the other side, we arrived at a spot where there were crocodiles. Similar to the hippos I mentioned above, we were tethered to our carabiners via a rope above us, and we took pictures and learned about crocs. As with the hippos, the same crocodiles you would see on the Kilimanjaro Safari, but the tour is across the water from the road the truck uses, you are MUCH closer to the crocs on this tour.
Next, we were met by a driver with an open-back truck, and our guides instructed us to board. The driver took us to many of the same areas that you would see on the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction, but rather than just slowing down the truck pulled off the main road and stopped completely in many spots. Unlike the Kilimanjaro Safari, guests on the tour are able to stand up, take their time, and get some clear and close up pictures of the animals.
All through the tour the guides shared many interesting facts about the behavior of the animals we were viewing. One nice extra for this tour, included in the cost: The guides take pictures of the animals and of the tour guests, using an excellent quality camera. When the tour is done, you will get a link to the pictures, and you can save them and/or print them out. Both times I did this tour, the photos I got were excellent and plentiful, over 150 pictures each time!
The truck took us to an area set aside for lunch, which also had that had restrooms for those in need. It looked rustic, but of course, it was “Disney rustic,” which meant it was very clean and well taken care of.
We dined at picnic tables, and I really liked the food, although it may be a bit exotic for some. If you like the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, you will like this food; if not…you may not be as fond of it.
Lunch consisted of two silver metal bowls, each with two layers and each containing different African foods. One bowl contained an edible flower, which I had never tried prior to the tour. It was crunchy, sort of like lettuce, and I liked it. The less adventurous guests did not eat their flowers, but of course, no one made them uncomfortable for opting out. Food can vary, but the last time I went, there was tandoori chicken, shrimp, ham, fruit salad, hummus sandwiches, and pita bread with dip. The shrimp was spicy; the rest of the food was not. While we ate, we were able to watch elephants in their area across from us.
While we ate, we were able to watch elephants in their area across from us.
After lunch the tour continued with the truck driving through more areas of the safari, with lots of stopping for pictures and to hear more about the animals. I could hardly believe three hours have passed, and it was time for the tour to end. We all said our goodbyes, and we were given a slip of paper with information to access the photos the guides took.
In total, the experience was three hours long, including lunch. I was very pleased with this tour. The photo ops are amazing, and the pictures you receive that the guides take are fantastic. It’s wonderful to be able to take in the sights and sounds at a leisurely pace. It is truly educational AND fun. The cost varies according to season; you can get more info here https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/animal-kingdom/wild-africa-trek-midday/ or phone 407-WDW-PLAY for more info. There is a 15% discount offered for DVC members most times of the year, inquire when you book.