2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom

January 11, 2010, 12:39 PM · What would have happened had Walt Disney actually used real animals for his Disneyland Jungle Cruise, instead of the animatronics that logistics forced him to use?

More than 40 years after the Jungle Cruise's debut, we finally got a look at a live Disney safari, with the opening of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom in 1998. Kilimanjaro Safaris joins the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament as the 12th seed in the Best Themed Ride bracket.

Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Hop aboard the Simba 1 for your two-week safari through Africa's Harambe Wildlife Reserve. If you're lucky, you'll see a wide variety of lions, hippos, giraffes and other African wildlife on your tour.

But, this being a theme park, something goes terribly wrong and you'll soon be on the trail of poachers, trying to stop the killers and save a baby elephant at the same time.

Kilimanjaro Safaris turns out to be a 20-minute drive around the savannah and other wildlife areas of Disney's Animal Kingdom, guided by your driver. Every trip's a bit different, given the unpredictability of live animals - especially ones that prefer to spend the day snoozing.

With live animals commanding more respect than animatronics, Disney's ditched the yuk-yuk corniness of the Jungle Cruise for a more respectful tone here, adding a pro-conservation message with its pursuit of those poachers. (Though this element of the story has been played down over the years.) Here's a two-part YouTube video of a trip through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve:

How will Kilimanjaro Safaris fare against readers' other favorite themed rides? We'll find out in March, when voting begins in the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament. In the meantime, please share your thoughts about Kilimanjaro Safaris, in the comments.

Replies (8)

January 11, 2010 at 12:47 PM · This is always a fun ride. Just being able to see so many different animals at one time makes the normal trek around a zoo so boring. Plus since the animals are moving around, you may not see them all in a single pass, so it adds to the re-ride-ability of this attractions.

Let me also give a shout out to the cast members who operate this attraction. There is SO much information that they have to know. With so many animals out there, knowing what they look like and knowing so much about each of them, keeping an eye out for where they like to chill out, and drive a big truck all at the same time takes a lot of skill and hard work to put on a good show.

January 11, 2010 at 1:23 PM · Anybody who follows the NCAA basketball tourney knows that a 12 seed has beaten a 5 seed in the each of the past couple of years. Kilimanjaro has a chance to do that here. This ride is truly unique and always entertaining, you never know what you will see. Being around live animals ,and sometimes really close to them, is thrilling. Kilimanjaro is just awesome and the 5 seed here is in trouble.
January 11, 2010 at 4:55 PM · This ride is almost perfect (I'd give it a 9-Outstanding), and only makes this category even tougher. Great selections so far.

If they'd just lose the cheesy poacher storyline, and perhaps juice up the queue with some animal facts/footage, then this could be the best ride at Animal Kingdom.

January 11, 2010 at 9:56 PM · Has everything a solid ride needs: Sights, roughness, and probably the best reride value!
January 12, 2010 at 3:47 AM · This attraction is the one that renders the Jungle Cruise obsolete. However, I second Josh's comment: lose the canned storyline and let the live animals speak for themselves (hee hee). KS is a great attraction once you block out all the chatter!
January 12, 2010 at 10:18 AM · I am curious to know who is higher than KS? Its a pretty hefty ride and makes a trip to AK worthwhile,but what could be so much better than this?
January 12, 2010 at 6:47 PM · After going on an African safari and then this ride the following year makes me realize how horribly themed it is. The use of baobobs all over the place is completely false. Although you may see all these animals together, they are never found that close together. Also most of the lions in Africa have been captured and are kept in very large (1 square mile) pens for use in hunting, they never are lying down either. Disney trying to be educational is an epic fail. The names of the animals aren't specif at all. They label a "southern greater kudu" as kudu and a "plains zebra" just zebra.
January 13, 2010 at 5:00 AM · This really is an excellent attraction. I just wish I could get there early enough to get the most out of it.
You have to ride early before the animals , naturally, take their siestas but I never seem to make it much before 11:00 am.

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