One of the most ambitious and beloved attractions at Animal Kingdom is Kilimanjaro Safaris. Chances are when you board the safari truck you have expectations as to the animals you’re going to see. But, the animal behavior can be unpredictable. I spent years working in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, including a brief stint as a safari driver. Here are my four tips for spotting animals on Kilimanjaro Safaris.
- Follow the truck’s nose first, then look to the side
- Don’t forget to look behind you
- During a transition area look ahead of the driver
- When the trucks ahead stop, that’s an indication of an animal on the path
The ride path of Kilimanjaro Safaris has a brilliant design. While Disney cannot control animal behaviors there’s lots of encouragement in the design. And the ride path is designed, just like any ride’s track, to direct your view in certain ways. But Kilimanjaro Safaris is taken a step further in that the driver’s view is directed first, then the guests’.
The safari trucks are indeed free roaming. Not only are the drivers responsible for keeping the guests safe, they are also responsible for looking out for all the animals and calling them out to the guests. As the driver follows the road there are twists and turns which helps the driver see the area around them, but also ahead of them so they can get ready to call out animals to the guests just before the guest can see them.
If you want to get ahead of the game, look ahead like the driver does. If you’re seated where you can see out the windshield, take a look. Or, if the windshield isn’t possible, follow the nose of the truck. This is the way to see animals ahead of the truck instead of waiting until they are called out to you and would most likely be on one side of the truck or the other.
If you’re seated near the back of the truck, don’t forget to look behind you. This is especially helpful if the animals are roaming around. Sometimes you can see an animal cross the path after the truck has passed by.
There are a few transition scenes along the ride. You start off in a forest, then transition to the river, then transition to the Serengeti grasslands, then the elephant habitat, and so on. Between each major area there is a transition where usually you won’t see animals. This is another great opportunity to look ahead or behind you.
Sometimes your safari driver will slow down the truck or even stop it. Unless they’ve called out an animal near the truck chances are there is an animal up ahead near another truck near the ride path. If your truck slows down or stops, look ahead, past the truck’s nose to see if you can spot any animals near the path.
In general you can spot animals in the shade on a hot day, or near water too. This goes for throughout the park, not just the safari. In the morning you’ll usually see lots of food out in the animal habitats to encourage the animals to come out in guest view. At the end of the day you’ll often see animals walking around as they head back to the care area for the night.
The most important tip of all is to be aware and be patient. Mother Nature has her own, slower rhythm than we do.
Are you a fan of Disney’s Animal Kingdom? What tips would you add to this list?
First published February 3, 2021. Updated September 13, 2021.