Disney's Animal Kingdom offers numerous tours where you get to experience the animals in new and fun ways. One that I've experienced is the Caring for Giants Tour, where you view the Kilimanjaro Safaris elephants from a special lookout. I enjoyed it so much that I ended up doing the tour twice — so keep reading if you want to find out why!
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a great attraction, but lets face it, it's incredibly difficult to get that perfect elephant photo as you jolt from left to right navigating the rough terrain. The struggle is real. So if you're fed up with failed attempts and dreaming to see the animals with your feet firmly on flat ground, then this tour could be for you.
Lasting 60 minutes and at $30 per person, it is one of the cheaper tours that Disney runs. Currently, the experience is offered at numerous times throughout the day — 9:30 am, 10:00 am, 10:30 am, 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, 1:00 pm, 1:30 pm, 3:00 pm, 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm — so you have plenty of choices to fit it around your plans for the day. It's also worth noting that you have to be at least 4 years old to participate.
You can book the tour by giving the reservations number a call, (407) 939-7529, or by visiting any of the concierge booking desks situated across the resort. I booked my tour by walking up to the Curiosity Animal Tours desk located just outside the standby entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris. I managed to get onto a tour that was leaving in less than 30 minutes time, so it was super easy to grab a space. I was travelling solo that day, but the tour still wasn't fully booked by the time we left.
You check in 15 minutes before, back at the tours desk where you sign your life away, and they give you your snazzy name tag to wear. To keep on theme, the paper is actually 85% made from elephant poop.
It's important to note that there are no bathroom breaks on the tour or places to get water, so it's best to prepare yourself beforehand. They do offer bug spray.
Once the group was all together, our guide introduced herself and proceeded to take us to where few have ventured before, through an elusive backstage door. In order to preserve the magic, we had been told not to take photos until instructed due to being in a backstage area. It was pretty cool being able to see the backs of the floating mountains in Pandora and the building that the Festival of the Lion King show takes place in. Our guide even pointed out a hidden Mickey that can only be viewed from backstage!
We got into a mini van that was waiting to take us to the elephant viewing location, and another cast member took over. While driving, she interacted with us by giving facts about our surroundings and the elephants; we even had a little quiz about Animal Kingdom, which was fun.
As we got closer to the lookout, we began to see the backstage paddocks that the elephants live in when not onstage, and this again was cool, especially if you're interested in how the parks operate when not on show. After about five minutes, we arrived and walked up to the viewing area. We were then greeted by an Animal Specialist who was going to give us the main portion of the tour.
The viewing area is split into two sections which overlook the elephant enclosure of Kilimanjaro Safaris but from the opposite side. For those eagle-eyed safari goers, you may have noticed the cleverly disguised lookout while on the attraction. We were encouraged to take as many photos as we wanted, so we were all snapping away as the cast member gave an informal talk about the elephants. All the photos in this article are ones I took while on the experience.
We learnt a lot of fun things about the animals and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions. It was great getting to see baby Stella playing around, and the cast member was very knowledgeable.
As part of the tour, a Cultural Representative from Africa joined us who shared her firsthand experiences of the elephants, which was really interesting. The main focus of her talk was to highlight the importance of conservation and how humans who live within the elephants' wild habitats have adapted their farming methods in order to help both humans and elephants live in harmony.
After about 45 minutes of amazing elephant views and interesting facts, we were given a Disney Conservation Fund button. This is the same button you get when you make a donation at any point throughout the park. We then caught the mini van back to the pickup location and the cast member escorted us to where we began.
Overall, this was a fantastic tour which I thoroughly recommend for any elephant lover or those looking to enhance their visit to Animal Kingdom. If you're wanting to do something a bit different that won't break the bank next time you visit the park, then this is the tour for you. I'd say that the $30 price tag is definitely worth it, as when else are you going to be able to get this close to elephants without traveling to Africa?
If you're wondering when best to book the tour, I'd say that it's likely the animals will be more active earlier in the day, before it gets too hot. Also, there's always the risk of the usual Orlando thunderstorm in the summer months by selecting an afternoon tour. However, the cast member did say to us that the best time to do Caring for Giants is actually while it's raining, as the elephants are most active playing around in all the puddles. Although I'd imagine that if there's thunder in the area it's likely the tour would be cancelled, so that's something to keep in mind.
If you're thinking this is going to be a long and substantial tour, then this doesn't reach the dizzying heights of the Wild Africa Trek or various other backstage tours. This is more about getting to view the elephants closer and learning about them and the conservation efforts. What's even better, is that the entire $30 goes towards the Disney Conservation Fund to help protect these gentle giants!
I wouldn't hesitate to do the tour again!
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