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!

OK, nobody forget where we parked!

…Or what locker we used!

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.

"Hey, lemme outta here!"

THEN we dashed to Everest. We got FASTPASSES and also rode it twice in a row!

The track was damaged AGAIN! They really got get some yeti repellent or something…

I think this might be my favorite part! Lots to look at, plenty of anticipation…

After that, Patrick traded some pins and we meandered over to Kilimanjaro Safaris.

They should sell these…

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!

Patrick looooves the naked mole rats…


I dunno how Patrick was getting these shots—this one looks like he's leaning right over the little guy!

Aw, I love these guys… they're so goofy-lookin'!

I also love the area where the gorillas live—so lush!

What's better than a close-up of a flower…?

… A close-up of a flower with a BUTTERFLY on it!

OK, maybe that was too many close-ups of a flower with a butterfly on it…

This gorilla does not seem to know the meaning of the phrase "get my good side"…

Oh, we're back to this, are we?

I really really wish these treats tasted as good as they look!


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.

Too bad we couldn't use this… I think we gave it to some other guests. I hope we did!

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!

"Desserty thingies"

A classic African specialty, "peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches"

"Clammy cold cuts"


Oh wait—here’s a sign!

My own favorite indigenous dish, corn dog nuggets!


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.

Future home of Arco!

LION! Lionlionlionlion! I see a lion!


Ostrich: "What…? This IS my best side!"

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!

I guess you wouldn't really call this "meeting" the owl… more like "sitting in front of it as it completely ignores you…"

This mural is entitled "Mostly Animals You Won't See at Disney's Animal Kingdom"

Red panda!



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!

OoooOOOOoooh… backstage!!!

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…

Not involved with Animal Kingdom weddings…

Where are all the bats?

There's a bat!

Hmmm… this might be a tie with GorillaVille as my favorite spot in Animal Kingdom…

"NUTS to GorillaVille!"

"Where the H did my kid go…?"


Nice hat.


They call this "The Poop Zone"…

Disney should sell these in the gift shops too

"Down the hatch!"

Geez, are they EVER gonna finish building this place?

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.

So, readers who are at WDW right now, are they selling all the same Halloween merchandise this year?

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.


Loved the black sea salt on the butter!

I'm looking all over the menu from that night and can't find these anywhere, so they must've been a special… Pork Belly with Floppy Veggies, perhaps?

Smoky Portobello Soup with Roasted Shitakes and Chive Oil

, Buffalo Mozzarella Foam, and Organic Virgin Olive Oil”]

Char-grilled Buffalo Striploin Steak with Three-Cheese Mac, Cider-Glazed Brussels Sprouts, and Syrah Gastrique

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…

We'll use a representational shot for this part

Geez, guys, we weren't gone THAT long!!!

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!

Up Next: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Full Costume as Constance & Harrison Hightower!

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21 Responses
  • Jessica
    March 23, 2014

    So, I’m still stalking your trip reports…

    My comments here

    1) That buffet has naan and baklava? This might be the first buffet I’ve ever seen (except the $7 sushi buffet near my house whose sushi sucks- but, uh, seven bucks) that I could actually eat my money’s worth at. Then again, at Disney prices…that would be a lot of baklava…

    2) Red Pandas are my absolute favorite. The first time I took DH to a zoo with them I was SO excited, but he had never heard of them- and when we got to it, he said “uh, that’s a racoon, I was expecting a Panda.” I was so sad. I was even more sad at the San Diego zoo where the red panda’s are right across from the Giant Pandas, and the GPs have this gigantic line and no one looks at the RP. I spent some time reassuring it that it was better.

    • Carrie
      March 24, 2014

      Totally better! When we went to the SD zoo, I thought the arrangement was great because then you can spend as much time as you want with the Red Pandas while everyone else is waiting in line for the Giant Pandas.

  • Pinkgirl
    October 15, 2011

    Isn’t the wedding venue used for a photopass shoot with a couple of monkeys (whose character names really do escape me and I’m too lazy to go fetch DDs autograph book) I vaguely recall one of them may be a king and doesnt actually do autographs cos his hands are too big.

    • lurkyloo
      October 15, 2011

      Yes, I think it is! King Louie and…. uh… the other one!

  • Heather
    October 13, 2011

    For location alone, I’d have to say right up there. We spent the last day of our trip at Food & Wine so it allowed to get every last second in the park. Plus, you can’t beat getting shot out of a Pirate ship!

  • Heather
    October 13, 2011

    I feel the same way about buffets. You pay the big bucks and then feel compelled to plop everything under the sneeze guard on the plate. A Gloppy mess!

    BTW, had our first stay at Beach Club this weekend. I could see the big ball from our balcony! *Sigh*

    • lurkyloo
      October 13, 2011

      Oooh! Jealous! So where does Beach Club rank for you now among the Disney resorts?

  • Carla
    October 12, 2011

    Your guide for the Backstage Safari was one of our guides on the Wild Africa Trek, and she was great (but I can’t remember her name)! Disney trains them very well and/or they seem to really enjoy their jobs. Love the pics! Patrick is getting up there with the Roots in terms of good pictures!

    • lurkyloo
      October 12, 2011

      Hey, thanks! I’ll pass along the compliment!

  • Amanda
    October 11, 2011

    Hi! I really really love your blog. All of my friends and i read it.

    • lurkyloo
      October 11, 2011

      Well, thanks! I’m so glad you guys enjoy it!

  • Norma
    October 11, 2011

    Did you die a little on the inside too with the Avatar announcement?

    • lurkyloo
      October 11, 2011

      I did! And I died laughing at all the pithy comments about it on Twitter! And then Patrick sorta talked me into the idea, which he thinks is great because the only good thing about Avatar was the way the planet and all its creatures looked. He says there are some good opportunities to really make something interesting of Camp Minnie Mickey, so I guess I’ll hang in there and see if he’s right!

  • BorkBorkBork
    October 11, 2011

    I had no idea there was a statue of Cthulhu in Animal Kingdom! Awesome!

    I was there Sept 18-25 this year and didn’t see that purple Snow Queen shirt but the other stuff looked familiar. Can’t wait to read your next installment! Your costumes look amazing.

    • lurkyloo
      October 11, 2011

      Oooh! What’s Cthulhu?! (Yes, I’m too lazy to Google…)

      • BorkBorkBork
        October 12, 2011

        Cthulhu is a giant octopus-god from HP Lovecraft’s horror lit!

        • lurkyloo
          October 12, 2011

          Oooh! How very hip of Disney to put Cthulhu in Animal Kingdom… 😀

  • Elizabeth
    October 11, 2011

    Wow…I have LOADS of comments…lol!

    1) I think AK is the most beautiful park to photograph and I am going to have to spend some time there without my four year old niece in tow so I can really explore everything.

    2) That’s weird about them not letting you take photos backstage because I just did the Halloween 5K there on 10/1 and all I did was take photos while we were walking ..uh…I mean running!…yeah…running!…back there! LOL The most tragic thing I discovered backstage is that the back of Everest looks like a big building…WHAT?!? Truly amazing that you can’t see that AT ALL from any area guests are normally allowed to be…those clever Imagineers.

    3) You can never have too many photos of butterflies on flowers.

    4) Anyone else get the feeling that tiger is watching you? Even with his head facing the other way? (Nature is so cool.)

    5) “Mealie” cornbread does not sound apetizing…and I love cornbread.

    6) Am I the only one who thinks the Tree of Life is all trunk no leaves? It has always looked more like a shrub of life to me.

    7) Those shots of the Beach Club and Boardwalk area make me wish I were rich enough to stay there whenever I wanted.

    8) Some of that same Halloween merchandise is being sold this year, specifically those lanterns and the Minnie plush. But most of the rest of that looks different from this year’s offerings.

    9) I enjoy your trip reports and photos only infinitesimally less than actually going to these places myself!

    10) I used my dictionary to make sure I spelled “infinitesimally” right in Comment 9.

    • lurkyloo
      October 11, 2011

      😀 OK, 1) I am officially jealous that they let you take pix backstage when we couldn’t, 2) the tiger is definitely watching you, 3) the reason is that the Tree of Life is actually planted upside down and what we’re seeing are the roots, and 4) extra points for using the dictionary! 😉

  • Claire
    October 11, 2011

    i’m now really hungry, that’s not good for my diet which only started yesterday.

    • lurkyloo
      October 11, 2011

      Guess you’d better switch to the “see food” diet! 😀

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