Starlight Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Last night I had the honor of participating in the return of the Starlight Safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World. There are 2 safaris every night and advanced reservations are required. You can reserve your safari using this link, it’s $89 per person (AP & DVC discounts do apply), and you must be at least 8 years old to participate. You check-in with the Safari staff (beside the Valet parking desk) outside the lobby at Kidani Village and load onto the truck where you will be given night vision goggles and a CM from AKL savanna’s care team is your guide for the roughly 1 hour tour. You are in an open-air vehicle and the tour occurs rain or shine, subject to change as these are wild animals you’re viewing, their comfort and protection, along with your safety, are always priority.
Here’s what I learned:
There are 6 savannas at AKL and we were able to view 2 of them, Sunset Savanna and Arusha Savanna. Each savanna is home to various hoofed and winged animals who are cared for 24 hours a day just like those at Animal Kingdom. Every animal spends 22 hours a day on the savannas so it is very likely to spot them from the viewing areas around the lobbies and pools at Jambo House and Kidani Village. Reticulated giraffe are located on both savannas and Masai giraffe are at Kilimanjaro Safaris inside the theme park.
The two hours they are not on the savanna the animals are inside their barns or holding areas either training, being fed their pelleted diets, or having check-ups with the vets. Every animal is trained to participate in their own healthcare and have learned visual, audio, and even smell queues to know when it’s their turn to head to the barn! If you want to see more about this you can check out the documentary on Disney+ about Animal Kingdom and the animal care team there!
Another smaller savanna is called Pembe and it is only viewable from Kidani Village rooms and the Kidani pool overlook. This is home to a lot of the smaller animals and an area called “Little Pembe” that is usually home to animals who are retiring (a lot older in age.)
Sunset Savanna is the largest with 2 driving loops between Kidani and Jambo house, here is where you can currently find one of the newest animals, Zarina! She is a baby, Heartman’s Mountain, Zebra born here at AKL during Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary; hence her name which in Swahili means The Golden One.
The entertainment team at Walt Disney World created a special way to reduced noise for the animals here at AKL as the fireworks from Magic Kingdom can be heard and slightly seen from the savannas. We learned that thankfully because of this the animals are not afraid of the noise, especially the ones who are born here at AKL, the noise has been their for their whole life.
A few facts I learned about Animal Kingdom Lodge are that it is home to the largest collection of African art outside of Africa! And if you haven’t noticed, rooms start on the second floor! This is for the protection and comfort of the animals. If you take the 8:30pm Safari like I did there is still some natural light that allows for a few photos without use of the night vision goggles, but as the night becomes darker the artificial light created by Imagineers simulates the light of a full moon. One more cool fact is that all of the animal waste (and food waste from resorts, parks, etc.) is taken to anaerobic digesters where it is turned into fuel to run the buses you use and see all around Disney property.
The Arusha savanna is only viewable from Jambo House and two of its residents include a pair of giraffe named Gemma and Rory.
This is a very cool and intimate experience with some of the animals here at Walt Disney World, my group only had 12 individuals so I will assume that all safaris are the same number of guests.
Is this an experience you would consider doing for yourself or with your family? Let us know in the comments!