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Five Things to Know About Kali River Rapids

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Kali River Rapids is a whitewater raft ride through a lush Asian rainforest. As you whisk along, you’ll see how irresponsible logging disrupts habitats. And, you may get soaked! To learn more, read on. Or, to float down to the nuts and bolts, here’s your shortcut.

1. You’ll queue up to float down.

The first part of the queue is outdoors, and winds through a jungle setting. The pathway is green, peaceful, and beautiful. After a while, you’ll come to an ancient Southeast Asian temple.

This is one of the most striking and visually interesting environments at any Disney attraction, so take a bit of time as you pass through. Look at the details: the fountain, the idols surrounded by offerings, statues, native prayer flags, and hand-painted murals. Most of the statues and decorations are authentic and were created in Asia.

Next are the offices of the fictional Kali Rapids Expeditions, also packed with details. Pay attention to the radio to hear a warning about illegal logging that sets up the ride’s backstory. The temple and offices are partially enclosed; you’ll move outdoors again to head to the loading platform. Approaching the boarding area, listen for the sound of chainsaws humming in the background.

2. You’ll raft down the river.

As your raft leaves the dock, you’ll ride up a slow-moving lift hill. First-time riders may think this is setting them up for a big drop – but it doesn’t. There’s a small dip to set the raft on its way down the “river.”

Your craft then free-floats along with the current, bumping and bobbing down the river. You pass through a logging site where the lush forest lies in ruins, tree trunks askew and smoke curling up from fires. Then comes the 20-foot drop down a slope – creating a huge splash over your raft.

While the river has been relatively calm up to this point, you’re in real rapids now. You spin along as the river winds through a small cave and under a bridge. And because the river is fairly wide, with various currents, eddies, and obstacles, each trip is different and exciting. Then you’re back at the dock.

The raft will spin in the water, so you’ll be facing backwards or sideways at times. There are some sharp turns and sudden drops, as well as bumpy and jerky movements.

3. How wet you will (or won’t) get?

A sign near the queue entrance reads: “You WILL get wet. You may even get soaked.” You’re advised to bring a waterproof poncho, extra clothes, and maybe even a towel to dry off.

So how wet are we talking? All the warnings want you to know: you’ll get wet. And you almost certainly will. But most riders will get off having been sprinkled a bit here and there, without any serious soaking. One to three people in each raft will get drenched to the bone. Pro tip: water swirls around the bottom of the raft at a couple of points in the ride; keep your feet on the circular footrest that goes around the middle of the raft and not directly on the floor to avoid getting your sneakers soaked.

Our take: while getting soaked may sound great if you’re visiting during the hot summer months, it can still make the rest of your day uncomfortable. If you’re visiting during the cooler months, it definitely will. (Note: Disney does sometimes make adjustments to the water levels etc. so that everyone is mostly getting sprinkled. But you shouldn’t rely on this being true when you ride.)

Kali River Rapids does offer free lockers for your use before boarding. Located to the left of the entrance near the restrooms, you can store your stuff for two hours on a first-come, first-served basis. Use the lockers, and either have a plan to enjoy being soaked, or prepare to make sure it doesn’t happen.

4. A history of the river’s run

Kali River Rapids was a latecomer to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The park opened April 22, 1998, but KRR didn’t open until March 18, 1999, nearly a year later.

In the early planning stages, the name for this ride was “Tiger Rapids Run.” The thinking was that live animals – like tigers – would be featured along the river. When that proved impractical, the Imagineers saw the opportunity to highlight the effects and dangers of deforestation, in keeping with the park’s conservation theme. The name was then changed to Kali River Rapids. Kali is the Hindu goddess of death and rebirth, symbolizing the dual nature of the destruction that must come before new beginnings.

Lead Imagineer Joe Rohde and his staff toured many parts of Asia while planning, and took their inspiration from the Chakranadi River in India. The authentic artifacts and knickknacks which you can see in the queue were brought back from these research trips!

For its first several years, Kali River Rapids had a fire effect. Imagineers pumped in the smell of smoke and fire to enhance the danger of illegal logging. When it worked right, fire effects occurred at certain points along the river. Over the years, the fire effects became difficult to maintain. They were discontinued, but you still see smoke rising from the devastation along the area of deforestation.

5. The Nuts and Bolts.

Kali River Rapids is located in the Asia section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park next to the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Since Kali River Rapids is an outdoor water attraction, it may close in inclement weather. Reminder: you will get wet and may get soaked. Plan accordingly.

The large circular raft vehicles seat up to 12 guests in six groups of two in high-backed seats. Each pair has an armrest on either side, and the seats have individual fabric lap belts. The center of the raft comprises a circular bar for guests to rest their feet on and another at the top providing a hand hold during the ride.

To board, guests must take a small step from a moving walkway to the raft, then a small step down into the raft, and then move to their seat. Guests must transfer from a wheelchair or ECV to ride. Service animals are not permitted on this attraction. And guests must be at least 38 inches tall to ride; like all attractions with height requirements Kali River Rapids offers Rider Switch. For safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure. Expectant mothers should not ride.

Kali River Rapids is not open for Early Theme Park Entry or Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. If desired, you can secure a Lightning Lane via Genie+. Kali River Rapids is hugely popular on hot summer days; when the temperature soars ride before 11 a.m. or during the last hour the park is open to avoid long lines.

The Bottom Line.

Many guests believe this main part of the experience is way too short. And to be honest, as far as raft rides go, it’s not very wild. But what makes Kali River Rapids different from other theme park raft rides is Disney’s attention to visual detail. You’ll pass through a dense rainforest, past waterfalls, temple ruins, and bamboo thickets, and not just down a concrete chute. More importantly, you’ll seen the devastation caused by greedy loggers and the effects it has on the environment.

The whole attraction lasts about 10 minutes, but your time on the water is less than 4 minutes. Overall, guests give Kali River Rapids 4 stars out of five, but a common complaint is that the 4 minutes on the water wasn’t worth the 75 minutes in line. Be smart: ride when lines are shorter to get the best experience of this ride.

Have you been down the Kali River? What did you think? 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.

One thought on “Five Things to Know About Kali River Rapids

  • Great tips on when to ride. For riders, there is sometimes a surprise at the end of the journey before you return to the station. Guests above may hold your wetness fate in their fingers as they can trigger a squirt of water!


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