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Five Things to Know About Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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Once you cross into Africa in the Animal Kingdom, you cannot help feeling that you’ve been transported to another continent. With interesting buildings, live entertainment, animals, eats, and even a train station, there’s plenty to explore on your safari in the largest of Animal Kingdom’s lands.

1. Harambe Village is an authentic gateway to many adventures.

You enter Africa through Harambe, a Disneyfied version of a current-day rural African town. What distinguishes Harambe is its understatement: although clearly rural, it has an authentic, lived-in feel. Of all the lands you can visit in the Animal Kingdom, Africa and Harambe offer the most “urban” environment, but they are still a far cry from the completely modern cities that can be found in the real-world Africa.

Think of Harambe as a town that’s welcoming you to Africa. (Harambe is Swahili for “let us all pull together.”) While the buildings in Harambe are architecturally simple and more idealized than the real thing, they’re certainly authentic. As you walk through the village, you’ll see nods to its “history” such as the walls of the ancient fort and canyons behind the Dawa Bar.

Inspired by the real island town Lamu off the east coast of Kenya, the Swahili-style structures tell the story of a village that has learned to benefit by conserving nearby natural resources and become a tourist destination. The buildings have been adapted to accommodate the tourist trade by including a bar, a restaurant, and other necessary facilities.

The village also serves as your entrance to the African veldt habitat which you can tour on Kilimanjaro Safaris. The queue for the attraction is next to a baobab tree that acts as a visual “wienie,” the carrot on the stick that draws you visually and physically forward, much like Cinderella Castle on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. The roof over the entrance was woven by thirteen thatchers from Zululand in South Africa. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.

Speaking of Kilimanjaro Safaris …

2. You can tour the veldt and get up close with the animals.

The main attraction in Africa is Kilimanjaro Safaris. For 20+ minutes, you ride in specially built jeep-like vehicles through 110 acres. This Harambe Wildlife Reserve is home to 34 different species of animals, including elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos, lions, and more. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot most of them.

But there’s more to Africa than the safari. Near to the safari entrance is the  Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail,  a self-guided walking tour. The gorillas are the stars, but for my money, the birds are every bit as fascinating.

Want to get up close and personal with animals? There are four different guided tours you can book in advance, for a price. You check in for all of them at the Curiosity Animal Tours kiosk across from the safari entrance.

  • Caring for Giants is an hour-long experience that takes you as close as 80 to 100 feet away from the elephants who live here.
  • Savor the Savanna is a private tour of areas you cannot see here any other way – plus food and refreshing adult beverages are included.
  • Up Close with Rhinos also lasts 60 minutes, but here the featured animal is – you guessed it – these armored unicorns.
  • Wild Africa Trek is a 3-hour walking tour through an open savanna that ends with some African-inspired snacks.

Lastly, between Harambe Market and the Kilimanjaro Safaris, you can board the Wildlife Express Train to ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where the Conservation Station, petting zoo and some environmental exhibits await.

3. There’s plenty of entertainment, not just the flora and fauna.

One big draw in Africa is the live-action stage production of the Festival of the Lion King. Staged inside the Harambe Theatre, it’s located behind and to the left of the Tusker House restaurant. (And the production quality is excellent.)

Posters and signs present the Festival of the Lion King from a Harambe resident’s perspective.

That’s a major attraction, but the streets of the Harambe village are alive with performances as well. Among them are the Harambe Village Acrobats and the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe.

And then there are the flotillas. Floating along on the Discovery River are favorite characters, including Goofy and Pluto, Scrooge McDuck, Pocahontas, and even Russell and Dug from Up. Viewing a flotilla depends on your timing and location along the river, but what a great surprise when one comes into view!

4. Eats, treats, and a nice boutique.

In Harambe Village, you’ll have your choice of snack stands, Quick Service stops, and a full-serve experience.

Grab a breakfast biscuit or croissant and specialty coffee at the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery, right across from the Mombasa Marketplace. Looking for fresh fruit and juice? In addition to hot dogs, pretzels and corn on the cob, Harambe Fruit Market has a great selection. Tamu Tamu Refreshments has a great selection of options at breakfast, but the star here is the Dole Whip in various iterations that’s offered later in the day, including adult drinks made with rum or hard cider.

For more substantial fare, the Quick Service Harambe Market offers a terrific selection of African-inspired dishes for lunch and dinner. Disney Imagineers modeled Harambe’s marketplace setting after a typical real-life market in an African nation during the 1960s colonial eras, so the food and atmosphere are great. But if you take the time to look at some of the posters, as you eat, you’ll see the Disney touch at work.

Tusker House Restaurant is the Table Service location and the only character meal in Animal Kingdom. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they offer a prix fixe buffet menu and you can meet Safari Mickey and others. There’s often last-minute availability, so check the Walk-Up Waitlist if you’re inspired to eat here as you tour.

See Mickey & Friends in Safari Gear at Tusker House

Zuri’s Sweets Shop is filled with typical Disney treats, but there are some African finds, too. It’s connected to Mombasa Marketplace, where you’ll find Kilimanjaro Safaris souvenirs and apparel, but also items made by African artisans.

Finally, the Dawa Bar near Tusker House serves cocktails you can enjoy in a great sitting area. It’s a nice stop to relax while you’re waiting for a meal at Tusker House, or just on its own.

5. The secrets of Africa.

⭐ One of the largest hidden Mickeys at Disney World can be viewed while riding Kilimanjaro Safaris. The flamingo habitat is designed as a pond with a small island – an island in the shape of the huge Mickey.

⭐ While over at Harambe Market, you’ll find a not-so-hidden picture of Mickey on the wall. Underneath are the words, “Fichwa! Fellow”. “Fichwa” is Swahili for “hidden,” reminding you that there are Mickeys hidden throughout Animal Kingdom (and all of Disney World).

⭐ A few steps away is a gate decorated with metal cutouts of Simba and Nala from the Lion King. Above them are the words, “Unaweza kuhisi upendo usiku wa leo” which translates to, “Can you feel the love tonight?” in Swahili.

⭐ Tucked in back at Harambe Market is the “You Are Most Beautiful” wall, a popular spot for taking pix for your social posts.

⭐ Inside Tusker House, on your way to the restrooms, look up to see a sign on the wall reading, “Jorodi’s masks and beads.” Underneath is a sign “earrings.” This is a salute to imaginer Joe Rohde, a creative force behind the creation of Animal Kingdom, who wears a large dangling earring on his left ear.

The Bottom Line.

Harambe Village is much more than a hallway to get to Kilimanjaro Safaris and Festival of the Lion King. There’s so much more to enjoy that we recommend you leave a little time to take it in. The amazing architectural details, the street performers, the cuisine, and even the sitting areas are worthy of your attention. The village is alive with activity and the atmosphere created by Imagineers is immersive. While you may never travel across the ocean, Harambe Village and this land of Africa give you at least a tiny peek into the wonders the African continent holds.

Have you visited Africa in Animal Kingdom? What was your favorite thing to do or see? Let us know in the comments.

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Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs lives in Wisconsin where he retired as Editorial Director for a well-known catalog company. He and his wife Cristie have four children, seven grandchildren and a cocker spaniel named Penny the Dog. They’ve visited Walt Disney World regularly since 1992.

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