Day 11: Backstage Safari at Animal Kingdom
Today was our Animal Kingdom Day—including our first time on Backstage Safari! We got up bright and early to be there in time for rope drop so we could see some of the park before our tour. Today’s update is jammy packed with photos, so… hope ya like animals!
For once we took our time at rope drop, stopping to look at the animals at the front of the park and talk to the handlers who are there to distract you from the Dash to Everest.
THEN we dashed to Everest. We got FASTPASSES and also rode it twice in a row!
After that, Patrick traded some pins and we meandered over to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
We waited in line for the safari for about 5 minutes, but it was moving too slow. So we decided to skip it and wander around while we waited for the reservation at Tusker House I’d made using my iPhone while we stood in line!
OK, maybe that was too many close-ups of a flower with a butterfly on it…
Tusker House is not exactly my favorite place to eat, what with its being a buffet and all, but the pickings in Animal Kingdom are slim and the theming is great. Plus, Patrick had never had more than a glance inside, so it was fun because it was new for him.
As usual, I made sure to document every anonymous platter of food, but somehow I overlooked their signs, so… you’ll have to make it up!
Oh wait—here’s a sign!
After lunch we went to the meeting spot for Backstage Safari, which I can’t remember where it was. I think it was toward the front of the park. Our guide got us all fixed up with earphones and then took us backstage to get on an air-conditioned mini bus that took us from place to place—essential at the park with the biggest backstage area at Disney World. Unfortunately, because we were backstage most of the time, we weren’t allowed to take pictures. But I will show you the private safari we got to go on.
I liked our guide immediately. She was so sharp, so knowledgeable, so friendly and a great instructor. As we started the drive to our first tour stop, she pointed out and explained everything we saw backstage, and she even addressed some of the rumors about the addition of an Australia “land” in some of the unused space. (Of course now we all know how THAT turned out…)
I was very excited when our guide said she was being trained to lead the Wild Africa Trek, which was still in the planning stages at the time. We didn’t end up getting her when we did that tour for our anniversary a few months later, but our guides were just as good.
Our first stop was the kitchen where they prepare all the animal food, which was really cool till they showed us the frozen dead bunnies. After that I was kinda traumatized and just wanted to get to the next part. Next they bused us to the ginormous giraffe enclosure, where we got to stand in the blazing sun and peep through the bars at a giraffe and her baby. We also got to go inside the barn where she sleeps at night. I think maybe the giraffe replaced the white rhino on the tour, who you used to get to pet. Giraffes are apparently not as pettable…
From there we went to the bird house and met a zoologist who told us all about the birds there while one of our tourmates nearly passed out (and there weren’t even frozen dead bunnies!). Our guide and her assistant were all over the situation, and the girl eventually decided to spend the rest of the tour sitting in the air-conditioned minibus. From there we went to the elephant enclosure, which was HUGE! We got to see inside where they go at night, and we learned about two female elephants who have become BFFs and always have to sleep next to each other at night—awwwwwww!
I’m not sure where in the tour our private safari was, so I’m putting it here. Our guide sat up front and took over narrating from the driver, giving us extra tidbits about all the animals we saw (none of which I can remember now—sorry!!!).
This part was a bit like what we eventually experienced on the Wild Africa Trek, but we didn’t get to linger as long at the stops as they let you on the trek. Hence the blurry photos…
Along the way we got to see the future site of the outpost where you get snacks and make bathroom breaks during the Wild Africa Trek.
Our last stop was the veterinary lab out at Rifiki’s Planet Watch. Thankfully for squeamish me, there was no surgery going on at the time. After our tour, we were put in a conference room with some salty snacks to watch two videos and fill out a post-tour survey. We also learned a little bit more about Wild Africa Trek and were each given a plastic mug that said Backstage Safari on it. Of course we gave the tour glowing reviews—I was only disappointed not to have any animal interaction at all. I just wanted to pet something… a lizard, a bug—anything!
At the end of the tour we were released into Rafiki’s Planet Watch, one of my least favorite areas of the park. They were having an owl demonstration, though, so we stayed for that and got to meet the owl after!
Then it was back on the train to the rest of the park. Actually, we did score a couple shots of backstage for you along the way!
We only had about half an hour left before closing, so we went off in search of more animals, with a quick stop to shoot a spot where weddings have been known to occur at Animal Kingdom…
While we were wandering, I decided to ask about the Picnic in the Park program they launched to great fanfare a couple of years ago but which seems to have disappeared without a trace recently. Turns out there’s one trace, a cold case full of sandwiches at the Beastly Bazaar gift shop.
I really loved the idea of this program—it’s a shame we never got to try it before they deep-sixed all the hot food.
When you’re among the last to leave the park, Disney really rolls out the red carpet… a carpet that points you directly toward the exit, that is!
Back to the Beach Club, where we had a little break and got spiffed up for our dinner date with the Roots at Artist Point.
Geez, we must’ve been super-early for dinner—this is a whole lotta lobby pix!
We were really eager to get to spend some quality, non-photography time with Nathensey to hear all about their *real* safari to *real* Africa that summer to shoot their friends’ wedding. We also wanted to introduce them to one of our favorite restaurants at WDW—Artist Point.
The buffalo was a bit too charred for my taste but otherwise quite good. The macaroni and cheese was dry—what’s up with THAT?
We had a great time, even though the food wasn’t quite up to the usual Artist Point standard (maybe cuz it was Monday night and the head chef wasn’t in the kitchen?). Also, we had a good chuckle over the way the server, when asked for elaboration on certain dishes, would read us the menu descriptions verbatim as if that answered our questions.
After dinner we all went back to the Beach Club for dessert at Beaches and Cream. Jensey and I must’ve taken a powder along the way…
At Beaches & Cream we filled our tummies with all kinds of deliciousness and talked each other’s ears off until none of us could keep our eyes open anymore—the best way to end a Disney day!