Sunrise Safari Tour At Animal Kingdom Disney World Review
The Sunrise Safari conducted near dawn at The Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World is a special behind the scenes tour only available to concierge level guests staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. This guided tour allows guests onto the same Kilimanjaro Safari ride that regular theme park attendees can experience on their trip to Animal Kingdom. The difference is that while during the day the ride lasts about 15 minutes, with limited time to stop for photos, the Sunrise Safari lasts between 45 minutes to an hour and is conducted by a knowledgeable animal handler, who have in-depth experience in the operations of Animal Kingdom and their animal and breeding programs and will go into great depth on how each area of the savannah was created and answer questions about the animals. Although a little on the expensive side, being guided through the recreated African safari by a dedicated member of the wildlife staff is a truly magical experience which any animal lover will savour.
When, Where and Who Are Able To Participate?
The Sunrise Safari is only run twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. The tour is only available to guests staying on the concierge level of The Animal Kingdom Lodge and unlike the majority of other behind the scenes tours at Walt Disney World, this tour is not included for free as part of the premium or platinum magic your way packages. Tour costs are $65 for adults and $29 for children, which includes bus transportation from the lodge to the theme park and a buffet breakfast at Pizzafari inside Animal Kingdom after the tour. All guests are required to have a valid entry ticket to the theme park for the day of the tour in addition to the cost of the tour.
The Morning Of The Tour and Getting To The Park
Guests are instructed to check into the tour before 7am. To do this, see the concierge desk on the top level of Animal Kingdom Lodge. Once checked in (and the obligatory cup of coffee from the concierge area), guests assemble in the main lobby or the hotel before being escorted to waiting Disney buses. Once on the bus, your tour guide will start the day's proceedings, giving an overview of what will be covered in the tour and explaining the different savannah's that have been created at Animal Kingdom Lodge and how and why these differ to the savannah created inside the Animal Kingdom park. The bus enters the park through a backstage secure gateway and then proceeds through the backstage areas of the park, allowing guests a tantalizing view behind the Disney magic.
The Sunrise Safari at Animal Kingdom
This is the same safari attraction at Animal Kingdom, except this time you got to ride it well before the park opened, without the story used to transform the safari into a 'ride' and the rush to get as many people a day through the attraction. With a dedicated tour guide to explain the settings, the history behind each area of the savannah that they had recreated and to answer any questions, it is a much more enjoyable and insightful look at these wonderful and majestic animals. Being early in the day and therefore much cooler, the animals as a whole tend to be far more active than they are during regular park opening hours and for that alone this tour is worth the price.
Some of the highlights were the rhinos, both the black and greys, the giraffes and the big cats. We learnt that the horns of the rhinos are actually made out of hair. Thick, course, matted hair all the same, but it's still just hair. It's heartbreaking to hear that the black rhino has been hunted near extinction by poachers wanting its horns, when its only hair and has no medicinal purposes.
The giraffes, even with them outside our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, are still beautiful. We spent some wonderful time watching a family of 3 eating together. The safari finished at 9am, right at park opening. It was a slightly surreal experience walking through an empty park as we headed to Pizzafari for breakfast but that was soon put to rest as the hordes rushed through the park just after opening. Breakfast was nice, slightly higher class then at Tuskers with a little more African choices which did make the breakfast feel a little more special.
The Sunrise Safari at Animal Kingdom was one of the highlights of our trip to Walt Disney World. As this is as close to a real African safari as I am going to get anytime soon, it was an eye opening example of how beautiful and special the African animals are and by listening to a Disney wildlife expert who has day to day experience in handling and looking after these animals, it shows just how much Disney cares about preserving these animals into the future with their breeding and exchange programs and just how good a job the Disney Imagineers have done in faithfully creating environments for these animals to thrive.