Kilimanjaro Safaris

From The Mickey Wiki: Your Walt Disney World Encyclopedia!
Jump to: navigation, search
Kilimanjaro Safaris
The Entrance Sign for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Land Africa
Theme African Safari
Opening date April 22, 1998
Ride duration 22:00 minutes
Disney Genie + Yes

Kilimanjaro Safaris is an attraction located in the Africa section of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Attraction History

The concept for Kilimanjaro Safari actually began when Walt Disney started planning Disneyland in the 1950s. Walt originally envisioned the Jungle Cruise with premise that real animals would be featured in the ride. Eventually, experts convinced Walt that real animals would be too unpredictable to use in the attraction and Audio Animatronic animals were used instead [1]. When Disney Imagineers began planning their newest park, Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1989, however, they decided that an attraction using real animals was now a possibility. Taking inspiration from this idea, they designed Kilimanjaro Safaris with the idea that it would be the "E ticket" attraction that the park needed.

Imagineer Joe Rhode oversaw the creation of the Safaris, and in July of 1990 he and other Imagineers went to Kenya and Tanzania to study the wildlife there [1]. After their trip, Imagineers decided that besides just showcasing the animals on the safari, the attraction would also need a story. Disney CEO Michael Eisner demanded that Disney's Animal Kingdom should promote the idea of conservation [1]. To stay clear of any political problems, Imagineers set the Safaris in the fictional village of Harambe (which is Swahili for "working together") [1]. Like real villages in Eastern Africa, Harambe is themed to serve as a gateway for guests into the African Savannah.

The corpse of Big Red was removed from the attraction prior to opening.

In order to get the environment right for the animals, Disney planters asked for two growing seasons prior to the animals' arrival [1]. With the foliage being planted in the spring of 1996, Disney began collecting trees from all around the country [1]. Furthermore, Imagineers had to determine what animals were going to be showcased in the exhibit. To do this, Imagineers evaluated how active the animals would be, how easily they could be moved backstage, whether they could interact with other animals, and what they would eat.

After the animals were selected, Disney needed to figure out how much space the animals needed and how they could be contained in their area. Moats, water features, electric fences, "ha-has", and wires and chains were placed on the ground in order to keep animals within their area. In order to make the animals more visible to guests on the safari, Disney implemented "tricks" to encourage the animals to stay in certain spots [1]. Hidden food, air condition rocks, cooling and warming waters, and cool breezes are all used to keep animals within view [2]. During Kilimanjaro Safaris' development, Disney also decided that they did not want to acquire the animals for the park from their natural habitats. Instead, they were brought in from other zoos or reputable breeders [2]. Finally, backstage, state of the art animal homes were constructed to shelter the animals when they were not "on stage" [3].

The original story that Imagineers created for Kilimanjaro Safaris, involved guests racing after poachers while trying to rescue a mother and child elephant named Big Red and Little Red [4]. In the original plans for the attraction, guests would be involved in a high speed chase for the last third of the ride. Along the way, they would pass the bloodied corpse of Big Red who was killed by poachers for her tusks. This was done in order to stress the conservation message that Michael Eisner had championed for the park. Unfortunately, Cast Member previews proved that the sight of the dead elephant was too much for kids (and some adults) [4]. After receiving a lot of complaints, Imagineers removed the elephant and instead implied Big Red's death in the script. The elephant corpse was no longer a part of the attraction when it opened on April 22, 1998 [4].

Changes Since Opening

Zebras were added to the Kilimanjaro Safaris in 2012

During the holiday season of 1998, Disney decided to allow the safaris to remain open at night [5]. The "new" attraction, known as Kilimanjaro Night Safaris featured animal sounds, reflectors meant to represent animal eyes, and an African dance troupe who performed around a bonfire [5]. Following the holiday season however, it was decided that the attraction would be discontinued due to guest complaints about not being able to see the animals, as well as the additional costs of keeping the attraction open. [5]

In February of 2012, Disney announced that beginning in the fall, the Little Red story would no longer be featured in the attraction [6]. On April 29th, the Little Red Audio Animatronic was removed, and construction began on the attractions final scene [7]. On October 23, 2012, Plains Zebras were added to the attraction [8]and all mentions of Little Red or the poachers were now completely removed. Four months after their addition, the Plains Zebras were removed from the attraction due to “acclimation issues” and replaced with the addax [9]. The zebras were subsequently returned in June 2013 [10].

In May of 2013 Disney announced that a nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris would begin running in the future [11]. As part of this new experience, in 2015 Disney announced that spotted hyenas and African wild dogs are expected to be added to the attraction [12] which was given a opening date of spring 2016. At this time, Disney announced that the nighttime version of the attraction would be called Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris [13]. The Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris began running in May of 2016 [14].

Attraction Plot

Lions resting on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Photo by elpinto007

After boarding their safari vehicle called Simba One, guests embark into the African wilderness. The first scene in the Safari is the Ukungu Forest. Here, guests can see the bongo and the okapi, two animals which are difficult to find in the wild. As the tour continues on, guests come across a watering hole, where black rhinoceros can be found. Further ahead, guests pass by the Safari River where two water holes can be seen. The first hole features a couple of male hippopotami, whereas the female hippos populate the second hole. As the Simba One passes by the second pool, the vehicle tips towards the water, showcasing the rough terrain that guests are riding on. Also located on the Safari River are crocodiles, which guests can see before the pass over the Senkell Bridge and enter the Ndege Hills.

On top of the hills, guests are shown the baobab or "upside-down tree". These trees produce fruit which is known as monkey bread, and their large trunks are used to store water. As guests descend down the Ndege Hills, they can see the African Savannah in front of them. The Savannah features the Thompson Gazelle and the Ankole cattle. Further on, guests see giraffes and Mandrills, one of the largest species of monkeys in the world. Other animals that can be found in the Savannah include elephants, ostriches, white rhinoceros, cheetahs and finally lions. After passing the lions, guests can see the attraction’s newest animal the Plains Zebra, before arriving at the unloading area.

Former Ending

The original ending of Kilimanjaro Safaris took guests on a high speed chase after poachers. As guests progressed to the elephant section of the safari, Mr. Wilson (the Safari's warden) warned guests that poachers may be present. When guests reached the back gate of the safari, they could see that it had apparently been broken into, and that the elephant Big Red and her son Little Red were missing. As the driver of the vehicle chased after the poachers, guests were actually shot at by the villains, and it became clear that Big Red had been killed. After narrowly avoiding erupting geysers, guests found out that the poachers had been captured by the preserves' authorities. Here, guests could finally see Little Red, back in the protection of the preserve.

List of Animals

An Okapi eating on Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Animals that can be found on Kilimanjaro Safaris include:

  • Addax
  • African Wild Dog
  • Ankole Cattle
  • Black Rhinoceros
  • Bongo
  • Bontebok
  • Cheetah
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Eland
  • Elephant
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Helmeted Guineafowl
  • Hippopotamus
  • Lion
  • Mandrill
  • Masai Giraffe
  • Nile Crocodile
  • Northern Pintail Duck
  • Okapi
  • Ostrich
  • Pink-backed Pelican
  • Reticulated Giraffe
  • Red-billed Duck
  • Sable Antelope
  • Saddle-Billed Stork
  • Scimitar-horned Oryx
  • Spotted Hyenas
  • Springbok
  • Stanley Crane
  • Thomson's Gazelle
  • Warthog
  • White-breasted Cormorant
  • White-faced Tree Duck
  • White Rhinoceros
  • Yelled-billed Duck
  • Yellow-backed Duiker
  • Yellow-billed Stork
  • Plains Zebra

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • Throughout the attraction, guests will see black vultures which are native to Florida. The vultures are not mentioned by the tour guides because they are not supposed to be in the attraction [15].
  • The queue for the Kilimanjaro Safaris was inspired by the Mbuyu Camp's check in on the Selous Reserve in Southern Tanzania. This camp was visited by Joe Rohde and his team when they first went to Africa to research [16].
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris is the largest attraction ever created by Disney [17].
  • The Kilimanjaro Safari ride vehicles are based on the ones used in South Africa's Krueger National Park [18]
  • The entire Magic Kingdom could fit inside Kilimanjaro Safaris [19].
  • To create Kilimanjaro Safaris, Imagineers had to move 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt [20].
  • Imagineers had to place over 2.3 million plants when creating Kilimanjaro Safaris [21].
  • Zebras were found on the attraction’s savannah when Kilimanjaro Safaris first opened. The animals are now featured at the end of the attraction [22].
  • According to Imagineer Joe Rohde at one time there was a bloody zebra carcass that was used as a carnivore drinker (an object for the animals to drink out of). The drinker was removed due to numerous complaints from guests who thought the carcass was real [23].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6
  2. 2.0 2.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2
  16. This information was shared by Joe Rohde on his Instagram account
  18. This information was shred by Joe Rohde on his Instagram account