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Secrets of a Kilimanjaro Safaris Driver at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Avoiding the residents

Kilimanjaro SafarisMany riders on Kilimanjaro Safaris will have experienced pauses in the experience, during which the truck comes to a halt. Amy remembers: "When animals stand directly in the ride path, drivers simply have to stop and wait them out. Obviously, these types of delays can cause a disappointing back up for guests stuck in trucks without an exciting view." "All the vehicles stay a certain distance from one another, so when you can see the truck ahead of you stopped, you'll stop as well at a good distance. You never stack up right on top of each other. You'd usually stop because you visually saw another vehicle stopped before you'd hear a call on the radio because all kinds of things can slow you down for a few minutes." "We'd usually just wait out an animal that was in the way. The exception was an animal that was just parked right in the way and refusing to move. If it didn't get out of the way after several minutes you could call for animal services to come take care of it and they would lure it away." "We could drive pretty close to the animals so long as they didn't sit directly in the path. So most of the time we would just scoot on by and speed up or slow down a little bit here and there to avoid them."

Spotting the animals

How do Kilimanjaro Safaris drivers make sure the animals are visible in the vast landscape? "Sometimes you can't," says Amy. "The lions are notoriously difficult to spot. Transplants from a cooler environment, the big cats had a difficult time transitioning to Florida. The spot where the lions now lay is the location of an air conditioning vent."

The pros

Amy's favorite aspect of the role was commentating on the safari for guests: "I love spieling, so talking about the animals was my favorite part of working at KSR. After I memorized the basic spiel, my trainer gave me some extra fact cards that I would memorize as well so I could insert interesting little tidbits into the spiel when appropriate. Every safari is different and you never know what animals you’ll see or what they’ll be doing, so you have lots of opportunities to customize the experience for the guests."

"If you happen to hear someone close behind you talking about their favorite animal, you can try and toss in a few extra facts about it to give them a better experience. It's also great to have the opportunity to really see all the animals at their best at one point or another. Many guests have to suffer through a poor view of the lions because they like to lounge around in the cooler spots. When you make enough rounds of the safari, though, you’ll have the opportunity to see them when they’re sitting up, moving around, and looking really spectacular."

The cons

Not all aspects of the role were quite so enjoyable, however: "Animal Kingdom is probably the hottest park on property. It tends to feel much warmer there than it will in other parks because of all the lush foliage. There’s a lot of humidity down there among the dense plant life and you can really feel it. Working through a sweltering day was probably one of the least enjoyable parts of being at KSR, particularly because the attraction doesn’t have any indoor positions."

The less glamorous animals

Guests aren't only interested in spotting lions or elephants while they are on their safari: "One of the funniest things I experienced working at KSR was the particular animals that guests would react to. Many times you would be looking at a pool of hippos and hear all the guests shouting 'Look! A duck! There’s a DUCK!' We couldn’t keep them out, of course, so native wildlife like that would get in, but it was amazing to me that people would look right past the amazing creatures we have from across the world and lose their minds over the same birds you’ll see wandering absolutely everywhere in the parks." Thanks to Amy for sharing her memories with us. If you'd like to learn more about Cast Members' roles and experiences at Walt Disney World, sign up now to be notified when Creating the Magic: Life as a Disney Cast Member is released.

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There are 13 comments.

I think it's sad they took out the message about poaching. So many people don't realize how many animals are killed and are on their way to extinction. It was a good lesson. Children are most impressionable and they are the ones to carry on the care and love for animals and their environment.

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When we went on our honeymoon, I had known about how they had taken out the whole poaching aspect, but we did get a CM who I think must have missed that whole thing. He mentioned once or twice about poaching, saying something like "we gotta watch out for poachers in these parts". It was kind of neat to hear a call out to the old ways that some other visitors may not have picked up on :)

This is my favorite ride in all the parks. I wish they had not changed the bridge! People also need to learn about poaching.

They still have the bridge that moves side to side. It isn't always operating, but I've been on it recently when did. So, it's hit or miss.

i was there last week and took my friend who has never been on the ride and when I was expecting the one part to happen I told her to hold tight to her phone because the exciting bumpy part was coming. She looked at me when it was done and said it was the same. I was disappointed that the part was gone for good.

Just to clarify- this article is obviously a little old and should be updated. On the current Safari attraction drivers are constantly talking about conservation and the need to help protect animals in Africa and here at home. The "poaching" part was taken out of what we say so that guests could have more time taking pictures of the animals as it is a Photo Safari above all else. Yes, the bridge does work and we know if it is going to tilt when we get to that part. Disney's Animal Kingdom is focused on raising awareness of the plights of the animals around the world who are being hunted even today. For example: the Bongos that are on the reserve are two of the Bongos on reservations around the world. They were hunted to near extinction by poachers for their horns. Conservation efforts and reserves such as KSR are the only reason that Bongos even exist today. While Safari is a great ride as far as being an attraction, keep in mind that it's also educational and meant to teach, raise awareness and let you, the guests, take pictures of animals you might never have had a chance to see in your lifetime.

Thanks Elizabeth. Just to clarify - this article will be updated at some stage, although I think most of Amy's recollections are accurate (of course, things have moved on in the time since she left Disney).

Yep . . . bridge definitely moves!

The first time my husband and I got to experience this attraction, we got held up by a giraffe. The giraffe actually stuck his head in the truck, and we all got to have an "up close and personal" encounter. As I recall, he also tried to pull the pin out of the door lock. :) It was a great experience, and a treasured memory. We ride every time we go now.

We go to see a baby being born one year and when we went back 2 years later they pointed out the young animal. It was the one we had seen being born a couple years before. It was awesome. It was one of the deer like animals. I'm blanking on what it was.

On one of our trips we were held up by a animal that had stopped in front of another vehicle ahead of us. We could see that. Then we got a little boot from one of the large antlered animals who thought we should be moving along. He trotted off after that, probably because we were all laughing.

Great Blog,Nick. When will you be doing an article on african safaris? We would love to contribute :-)

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