Embark on a Wild Expedition: Ultimate Guide to Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney Animal Kingdom!

Are you ready to take a virtual ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

On April 22, 1998, former Disney Company CEO, Michael Eisner uttered this dedication speech below when opening Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Welcome to a kingdom of animals…real, ancient and imagined. A kingdom ruled by lions, dinsaurs, and dragons; a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival; a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder, gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama, and learn.”

Themed to nature and animal conservation, Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World has been educating and bringing awareness of the natural experiences and importance of our role in helping wildlife for over 25 years now.

One of the big draws for the park is Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you board an African safari truck and explore the savannah, witnessing firsthand the beauty of African wildlife.

For some, this is the closest they will get to experiencing these creatures. It is truly an endearing and unforgettable experience.

Today, I will give you everything you would want to and need to know about this amazing Disney attraction.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris at a Glance:

  • You will hop on board the attraction for a thrilling safari adventure
  • The original storyline included rescuing a mother elephant and her baby from poachers – Big Red and Little Red
  • You will spot animals such as lions, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, zebra, hippos and more!
  • The ride is located in the middle of the Africa Section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Strollers are not allowed on the safari vehicle (there is a designated area to park it nearby)
  • The wait times can range from 30 minutes to an hour on average.
  • There is no Single Rider Line but the option for Lightning Lane is available.

Keep reading to get everything you need to know about this fun Disney attraction!

How did Kililmajaro safaris come to be?

To discuss the history of Kilimanjaro Safaris, we have to go back beyond even Walt Disney World’s grand opening.

We have to first look at Jungle Cruise in Disneyland. Walt had envisioned actual African animals within the attraction.

But for very obvious reasons, they went the audio animatronic route instead.

But with many Disney ideas that hit the ground in the Imagineering room, they tend to come back in some way, shape or form. This attraction is a prime example.

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What to Expect on Kilimanjaro Safaris

Here you will hop on board the attraction for a thrilling safari experience as you journey through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve in Harambe, East Africa.

While cruising through the large savannah, you’ll learn about the different animals as your tour guide shares fun facts and keeps things entertaining.

Animal Kingdom African Kilimanjaro Safari with Momma and baby giraffe

What I really love about this attraction is that you’ll feel as if the animals are right next to you (which can be possible at certain moments of your expedition).

But don’t worry – there are sneaky fences and barriers in place to keep everyone safe and sound. Especially when you’re riding past crocodiles and lions.

Original Storyline

On the original version of the ride, the safari truck, known as “Simba-1,” used to have a scripted part where a habitat warden and a scientist would ask for help in rescuing a mother elephant and her baby from poachers – Big Red and Little Red.

The poachers were once caught by a Cast Member at gunpoint (wild, I know!) along with Wilson, but this part of the ride was later changed to just scaring off the poachers during a chase.

New Storyline

The safari script and story for this attraction underwent significant alterations.

Years later, Disney tweaked it to shift away from the “Little Red and Big Red” plot-line.

They wanted the focus to go back towards the animals in the reserve and the mission to locate a missing elephant at the conclusion.

As guest began to experience the newer version, this change resulted in a bit of a confusing storyline, as they embarked on a quest to find a lost “mother elephant” only to discover her baby, who, as per the tale, had been safe all along.

I understood the changes but my time on the ride always left me wondering why there were certain setups along the way that had no description from the tour guide.

When you go on the attraction now, you’ll just see remnants of the former storyline that look more like ride decor at this point.

More Changes to Come

In 2004, they had to switch out a lot of the savanna’s drainage system, but the ride was still up and running while they fixed it.

Then, on February 10, 2012, they said they were getting rid of the “Little Red” part of the ride and putting in a cool zebra exhibit instead. You can check out the full story here.

The place used to have Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras, but they had to be taken out four months later because they were having trouble getting used to the new environment.

Apparently, the zebras were quarreling, nibbling at cars or each other, blocking the road, or causing problems with their mating habits. They were later swapped out with addax antelope.

Fun Fact: Animal Kingdom has more than 100 acres of savanna, forest, rivers, and rocky hills that you’ll enjoy on the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction.

Is Kilimanjaro Safaris the same every time?

Not at all! You will get a different experience every time due to the nature of the wildlife, as well as the time of day.

What is the current experience like?

Once you board your safari vehicle, you will enter the wildlife reserve. Right off the bat, have your phone cameras ready!

  • You start off in the forest spotting the Okapi.
  • Next stop is the watering hole where you might spot some cool animals like the stork, bongo, kudu, and black rhinos.
  • Then, you’ll cross a river where the hippos hang out over a shaky bridge.
  • Beneath the bridge, you might spot some crocs (scary but fun)!
  • When you enter the savanna you’ll encounter zebras, hyennas, giraffes, and more (don’t be surprise if they get close to your truck).
  • You’ll then spot signs of elephants nearby.
  • After that, you’ll pass by some monkeys.
  • Once you reach the red clay pits, you’ll be delighted to witness the magnificent elephants and their adorable babies.
  • Keep an eye out for pink flamingos chilling by a watering hole as you go.
  • Next up are the lions! (be sure to grab an evening ride when they’re the most active)
  • Be sure to look out for warthogs, ostrich eggs, cheetahs and antelopes.
  • Don’t miss the group of goats at the new campsite towards the end of the ride.

On one of my expeditions, the giraffe was hungry and had lunch in front of a tree that was right in the path. I had to sit there for 45 minutes until the giraffe was done!

Fun Fact: The vehicles on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride seat 32 guests and are environmentally safe with propane-fueled engines.

Animals on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom

Here is a list of the African wildlife you may come across during your safari and please note that this list can change at anytime:

  • Addax
  • African bush elephant
  • African wild dog
  • Ankole cattle
  • Black crowned crane (seen in the queue)
  • Black rhinoceros
  • Blue wildebeest
  • Bongo
  • Bontebok
  • Cheetah
  • Common eland
  • The Common ostrich
  • Common warthog
  • Greater flamingo
  • Greater kudu
  • Hartmann’s mountain zebra
  • Hippopotamus
  • Lion
  • Mandrill
  • Masai giraffe
  • Nigerian dwarf goat
  • Nile crocodile
  • Nyala
  • Okapi
  • Pink-backed pelican
  • Sable antelope
  • Saddle-billed stork
  • Scimitar oryx
  • Spotted hyena
  • Springbok
  • Waterbuck
  • White rhinoceros

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What to Know Before You Go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Now that you know what to expect on this Animal Kingdom attraction, let’s go through a few questions that you may have.

Where is Kilimanjaro Safaris located?

The ride is located in the middle of the Africa Section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Just keep going towards the very back of the park.

How do you ride the Safari ride at Animal Kingdom?

Kilimanjaro Safaris has a standby line, and the wait varies depending on the time of year you visit and time of day you go.

The wait times can range from 30 minutes to an hour on average. There is no Single Rider Line but the option for Lightning Lane is available.

Is Child Swap available?

Rider Switch isn’t available for this attraction. Children are available to ride with the party, but it is recommended that they sit in the middle of the row.

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Is the queue outdoors?

The queue is outdoors but it is covered. It also isn’t interactive, but there are facts about animals along the queue that you can read up on as you go.

Will I get Motion Sickness on Kilimanjaro Safaris?

It is possible depending on the person. The ride doesn’t have seatbelts, but it does have doors to keep you inside the vehicle.

With that being said, it does get VERY bumpy when riding over the terrain. Remember, its an African safari!

Is it accessibility friendly?

There are wheelchair accessible safari vehicles with ramps for you to use.

If you are using an electric wheelchair or ECV, you will have to transfer to a manual wheelchair to board.

Accessibility guests and their companions will be seated right behind the driver in row 1. ECVs and Wheelchairs are parked with strollers and will be in this area when you return.

The vehicles can only hold one wheelchair at a time however so bear this in mind. Other accessibility tools such as captioning and assistive listening are available.

Service animals are also allowed but with caution. So do keep that in mind.

Are strollers allowed?

Strollers are not allowed on the safari vehicle. There is a designated area to park it nearby.

Can I do a private safari tour at Animal Kingdom?

For an extra fee, you can do a variety of safari type tours that are subject to price changes and availability. They can be found here.

Is Kilimanjaro Safaris free?

The Kilimanjaro safaris attraction is included with the price of your admission to Animal Kingdom so no worries just enjoy!

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My Final Thoughts

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is truly an underrated crown jewel at Walt Disney World Resort.

There is plenty to admire in the beauty of the wildlife, especially when you experience the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction.

This is one ride that you cannot miss when you go! As mentioned, I recommend that you do it the first thing in the morning when you visit the park as the wait tends to be on the longer side.

Theme Park Travel Guide to Kilimanjaro's Safaris Ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
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Have you gone on the Kilimanjaro Safari experience before and if so, what animals did you see? Let us know in the comments section below.

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

About the Contributors

Hoop Dee Doo Revue NikkyJ Dinner Show Disney World. Author bio of theme park expert Nikida Metellus.

About the Author

My name is Nikky. I’m a wife, a mother, a pharmacist turned theme park blogger, USA Today 10Best Contributor, and a writer who loves ALL things amusement park related!

Traveling alone to the parks has changed my life and I want to show how you can create your own solo theme park memories.

Connect with me on Instagram!

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

About the Author

Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.

She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.

She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.

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