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.
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.Tweet
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.
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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.