Kilimanjaro Safaris is a safari attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Resort property in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It simulates an open-sided safari ride through the savanna of East Africa. The current story is a short photo safari aboard a safari vehicle through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve in Harambe, East Africa. It is 800 square miles (2,100 km2) of natural terrain, including Ituri forest, wetlands of the Safi River valley, and the open bush country of the Serengeti Savanna.
African animals on view include real live elephants, giraffes, antelopes, gazelles, crocodiles, monkeys, hippopotamuses, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, ostriches, rhinoceroses, storks, pelicans, flamingos, wildebeests, okapis and zebras. The game driver points out animals and provides entertainment.
Long before the safari or even Walt Disney World opened, Walt Disney wanted to use real African animals for the river attraction Jungle Cruise at Disneyland. However, for several reasons, Audio-Animatronics replicas were placed instead.
The ride originally featured a cast member in the role of a gun-toting reserve warden who captured the poachers and saved Big Red and Little Red. This element of the attraction was eventually eliminated. During Cast Previews of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there was a “Dark Ending” in which the safari vehicle encountered the slaughtered corpse of Big Red. This scene proved too shocking for families and children, and thus was eventually changed to give the attraction a happier ending.
Animal Kingdom’s premier zoological attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris offers an exceptionally realistic, albeit brief, imitation of an actual African photo safari. Thirty-two guests at a time board tall, open safari vehicles and are dispatched into a simulated African veldt habitat. Animals such as zebras, wildebeests, impalas, Thomson’s gazelles, giraffes, and even rhinos roam apparently free, while predators such as lions, as well as potentially dangerous large animals like hippos, are separated from both prey and guests by all-but-invisible, natural-appearing barriers. Although the animals have more than 100 acres of savanna, woodland, streams, and rocky hills to call home, careful placement of water holes, forage, and salt licks ensures that the critters are hanging out by the road when safari vehicles roll by.