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Walt Disney World Beyond the Parks: Wanyama Safari
What is it Exactly?
So, what exactly is the Wanyama Safari? This is a very special experience that is available exclusively at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, reserved for guests at the lodge or over at Kidani Village. Wanyama means sunset and that is exactly what this is: a safari ride at sunset.
This is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Sure you can do Kilimanjaro Safari over at the park, but there is no guarantee that you will see all of the animals, and there is most defiantly no guarantee that they will get this close to you. Of course these are the exact same animals that guests at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village, but there is something different about seeing the animals up close.
In short; the Wanyama Safari is a 4 hour experience that allows guests to see animals up close and experience the flavors of African cuisine. If you have an animal lover in your group or are a little on the adventurous side this is something you may want to consider for your next trip.
I will start by saying that my family looked forward to this more than anything else about this trip. My mother had been wanting to do this for years. We picked a day that we were not going to be at the parks because we didn't want to have to leave the parks early and miss out on the fun there.
We met with our group at the entrance to Jiko a little before 4. The directions said to be there at 3:45 sharp, but nearly everyone was there around 3:30. The safari is designed for up to 12 people, so if you have less than 12 people in your group you might be paired with other families. Though there is always the chance that you could luck out and be on your own. As there were only 4 of us we knew there was going to be at least one other family, and in fact there ended up being two.
The evening started off with a lunch reception. Which we didn't even know they were going to do, and that is saying something since we did our research before we booked. The food was very good. There was an iced red tea that had a very nice flavor to it. All of the food was delicious, some of it even had a little bit of a kick. The chef himself came out and explained what everything was and served our food. There was a sausage sandwich, savory trail mix, and many other sweet and savory snack items.
I would like to point out that the driver was not 'hunting down' the animals and harassing them. They nearly drove around on the path, and if there were animals there they would stop for a while. The animals were free to go as they wanted, and some stayed near the truck while other chose to walk away.
Once everyone has had their fill at the reception you meet your guide for your safari. The team consists of two animal keeps at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The more senior keeper will be in the truck with you sharing information about the collection and what they are doing to help with conservation efforts.
I cannot say enough good things about this experience. You load into a truck outside of Animal Kingdom Lodge and the truck then starts with the holding areas for the animals outside of Kidani Village. At first we were a little nervous that we would be seeing all the animals from behind a fence, but it was a magical moment when the tuck went through the gate to the first savannah. We could immediately see giraffes, several of them. Then our truck turned towards them and we were less than three feet from their largest male giraffe. We stayed next to hm for several minutes as our guide talked about him, the training they do with giraffes, and how the wild population of giraffes is waning.
The entire safari was like this. Animals would walk in front of the truck and you would wait for them to move. A keep went a head of us for the last hour and would place food near the paths and the animals would just flock next to the truck. It was amazing, to see animals roaming freely was a majestic sight. At one point we just watched the wildebeests run, and I do mean run. The animals were exhibiting normal behaviors and didn't even seem to mind that we were there.
The safari itself is only supposed to last for two and a half hours, but I know ours was longer. There were only two negative experiences the entire ride. One: it got a little cold and windy the last half hour. I was kind of glad when it was over because we could get out of the wind. Two: The sun had set too far for me to get good pictures. I'm sure I could have gotten good pictures if I had turned on my flash, but no one else was using their's so I didn't know if I was allowed. I was also too chicken to ask, so this was the point when I finally sat down. (I had been standing nearly the entire ride, going from side to side to get pictures.)
Dinner at Jiko
I would like to start by saying Jiko is a restaurant that we would have never eaten at if it wasn't for this experience. Not because of the food or anything like that, it is just a very expensive restaurant. It is one of the few restaurants on Disney property that has a dress code. That being said had we not been on the safari no one in my group would have been dressed appropriately.
I won't even lie I was a little excited when I found out that dinner include a tasting of their collection of South African wine. I had been saving up so that I could try a glass, so hearing that I was going to get some 'for free' just made my day.
Dinner started off with our waiter introducing himself and explaining how the evening would go. They brought out a fancy bean dish to start off and it was paired with a fruity cocktail. For those under 21 or simply not drinking, like the rest of my group, they offered the same drink just without the alcohol. My mother said the juice was very good, and I enjoyed my cocktail. I did feel that it was a little strong, I didn't even finish it.
They then poured a glass of white wine. And I do mean a glass. A tasting of wine is just one ounce, but this was a full six ounce glass. I was more than a little surprised. With the wine they brought different kinds of bread and spreads. I tried all of them. I enjoyed all of them. A word of advice, when your waiter warns that something has a kick to it, he means it. With the bread they also borough different finger foods, all very exotic and flavorful. This was the only glass of wine that I finished. It was smooth and crisp and every bit refreshing as I would expect from a white wine. It was my favorite wine of the night.
Next came the main course. With this they poured a red wine, which I did find to be a little drier than I normally like. I honestly couldn't drink much of it because I was a little tipsy. There was so much food on our table it wasn't even funny. We had grouper, which I forgot to ask if it was sustainably caught so I did feel a little bad about eating it, we had steak, and chicken. All of the meat was flavorful and juicy. The sides were good as well; there was a pepper dish, different kinds of greens, mac n cheese, rice, and potatoes. Overall we ate a lot. There was more than enough for the entire group to eat.
Dessert bought yet another wine, this time a sweet rose. I don't know if it was because I was really full or still a little tipsy but I did not particularly care for this wine. I felt it was very sweet and fruity, almost too sweet for our desserts. Surprisingly dessert was not my favorite part of the meal. I was so full from all the earlier food that I felt like I was trying to finish. I did try all of it, and it was good. But, none of it was anything I would order again for myself.
Would you try the Wanyama Safari?
Lets Talk Price
Alright, we have avoided this topic long enough. Chances are if you are reading this you are familiar with Disney and know that it can be fairly pricy. At a cool $190 per person this experience is not cheap. I know that is quite a pretty penny. But let's stop and think about it for a second. Not only are you getting an up close experience with the animals on the different safaris you are talking with an expert on these animals. In addition to that you are getting a full dinner at one of the more expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World, with wine on top of that. I estimated that the alcohol alone at dinner cost around $40 a person. (granted I was the only one in my group to take advantage of it, but if everyone in your group did....) Then lets map out dinner, I would estimate that it was at least $70 per person in food. That for the appetizers, entrée, and dessert.
If you are keeping up with me and doing the math at home we are already at $110 per person, just with dinner. The reception could probably be priced out at around $15 a person. That now brings up to $125 in food alone. Wow. That means that the safari itself is only around $65! That's not bad considering you are out there for over two hours.
So in reality you are getting a lot of bang for your buck, its just a really expensive evening overall. What I did think was nice is that they added the tip onto the final bill, so when you get it at the end of the night there is no math for you. Which is probably a good thing if you did drink the full cocktail and all three glasses of wine.
I didn't ask what the final price was for the evening but my parents did say that it was lower than they thought. As DVC members perhaps they got a discount? I think it is worth asking about, as my parents can't remember if they did or not.
I would do this again in a heartbeat! I haven't been able to stop talking about. I'm planning a trip with some friends to celebrate their graduation in a few years and our trip is very budget friendly, except for this. We are all animal professionals and this is considered a must do for us. We want to do it all; the animals, the food, the wine, the experience to talk with an animal professional.
I do recommend this for everyone. Outside of going to Africa, which would be considerably more expensive, when are you ever going to get this experience? If it is in your budget I say do it! Even if it means you have to share a meal or two for the rest of the trip, I think it is worth it.