Back in February, Disney posted on its blog that Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safaris will be getting an update some time in spring of 2012. The updates mentioned additional space for the zebras and removal of the Audio-Animatronics “Little Red” elephant and the items related to the poachers camp.
Whenever we are at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we try to get in a morning, as well as an evening ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris. On the morning of Sunday April 29th 2012, we noticed one cast member with a “I’m Celebrating… Wilson’s retirement” button while we were in line, which reminded us of the Disney announcement about the safari update. The morning safari was not much different, but we did notice that the termite mounds had recently been renovated. Basically a fresh coat of paint that looked like it was left over from the Big Thunder Mountain renovation.
Later in the day we went back to catch the last safari of the day at about 7PM. Sitting in the front row, we asked our cast member driver Ryan about “Wilson’s retirement”. Ryan said this was the very last time he would be running the safari under the poaching theme but gave no indication of what would be changing the next day. As we passed “Little Red” we said our good bye’s and made sure to come back to the park the next day to see and hear the changes.
When we returned on April 30th, we found no changes to the queue. Wilson is still in the elephant poaching movie playing as you wait in line. At this point we don’t know if this will stay or go or be updated.
The first thing we noticed as we boarded the bus and left for our trip was that it is now a “Photo Safari” not a “2 Week Safari”. We only did one safari that day, but without the Warden interaction, our driver just talked more about the animals and their surroundings in general. Unfortunately the “wobbly” bridge was (as usual) not working and “repairing it with duct tape” seems to be the only new thing to say about that. The broken gate near the end is still there, but no real comment was made about it. The wooded area beyond the gate has been cleared a bit and there is some fresh sod down, no doubt in preparation for the eventual zebras. The geysers are still working, but the poacher’s campsite was gone and a (probably temporary) fence was up in its place.
Little Red and the trucks were also completely gone. When we got to that point in our trip, our driver asked if anyone had any questions. Either we had a bus full of newbies or it was still too early in the morning, but no one had a comment about the missing baby elephant. Again we sat close to the driver. We mentioned that we knew what was missing and our driver responded “Then this is as awkward for you as it is for me.”
At the end of the “Photo Safari” we asked our driver about the timeframe for completion. He seemed to think that it will be another year and a half until the zebra’s are fully integrated into the safari route, which is very different than the fall of 2012 mentioned on the Disney Blog.
We’re not sure what other changes are scheduled to be made at this time or if it is now just a slow wait for the grass to grow. Hopefully there will be more to report when we are back down there in early June! If you have any updates, please let us know in the comments!