Whenever we visit Walt Disney World, my son insists on spending a lot of time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Expedition Everest roller coaster is his favorite ride, but he enjoys seeing the animals just as much and usually rides the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction several times. When I heard about the new Savor the Savanna tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I knew that my son would love it and booked tickets for our family.
The Savor the Savanna tour is a premium experience where you take a private safari vehicle on a two-hour expedition through Disney’s wildlife reserve. The tour includes a stop at a special viewing area where you dine on African-inspired tapas and regional beer and wine. When we took the tour in October, it had only been offered for a few months and there was one tour offered per day. Disney times the tour so that you arrive at the viewing area around that magic hour when the sun begins to set and the light is perfect for photos (we began the tour around 6 pm).
The Savor the Savanna tour departs from the side of the Kilimanjaro Safaris entrance. There is a little area where you check in and then can enjoy some snacks, water, and juice while you wait for the tour to depart. Before departing, the tour guide hands out binoculars to anyone who wants a closer view of the wildlife.
Disney limits the group to a maximum of 12 people. Your group gets a private safari vehicle, which is a big truck with bench seating in the back (that is partially enclosed with wood rails). There are no seatbelts and the truck bounces around a lot, which is likely why you need to be 8-years or older to participate in this adventure.
The Savor the Savanna tour starts by taking the same route as the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction. The big difference is that your safari vehicle can pull over to the side and stop for a while, whereas the regular safari vehicles have to constantly move along the route. At one point, we stopped for 10 – 15 minutes to watch the giraffes and an animal caretaker came by to answer questions about the animals.
When you go on the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction, the Cast Members stick to the “story” and talk about the animals as if you were actually traveling through the African savanna. On the Savor the Savanna tour, the Cast Members talk about the animals in real terms, like you would expect at a zoo. They talk about what it takes to feed and care for the animals and give some insights about what goes on behind the scenes. We heard some interesting stories about the animals that were born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and learned about the unique behaviors of each species.
About halfway through the experience we made our way to the viewing area, where they served the tapas and drinks. The viewing area was much nicer than I had expected. It had clean restrooms, several educational pieces (things like a skeleton of an elephant foot, ostrich eggs, snake skins), and a large deck for viewing the wildlife.
A gross, but actually pretty neat, surprise was holding the animal dung samples they had in the display cabinet. The dung was coated in plastic, so you didn’t actually get poo on your hands. But you could clearly see what was in a giant elephant dropping. You could also hold a handful of gazelle droppings if that is your thing. I think Disney did a really nice job with the educational elements at the viewing area. The guides were knowledgeable about each item and they were unique enough to pique the curiosity of my 8-year-old.
When I booked the tour, they warned me that the food might be exotic and let me know that PB&J lunchables would be available if my son didn’t like the tapas. We found that the food was tasty and not overly exotic. My son ate nearly everything and there was plenty for everyone (including dessert). The friendly Disney Cast Members served the food and played bartender for the wine and beer. When they weren’t refilling drinks, the Cast Members shared animal trivia facts and answered our random questions about the animals.
I usually feel like I am being nickel and dimed when I visit a Disney theme park, but the Savor the Savanna tour was the first time where I felt like we were getting a special experience that was worth the money. They didn’t set a limit on the drinks. You can have as many alcoholic beverages as you want during the hour or so that we spent at the viewing area. The Cast Members take photos of you throughout the tour and the images are provided to you free of charge (you download them from a website a few days later). At the end of the tour, you receive some bamboo coasters with the Animal Kingdom logo and a souvenir button. Disney also makes a donation on your behalf to a wildlife fund that helps protect the animals you saw. All-in-all, the safari felt like a VIP experience and not like your usual Disney adventure where every element is an upcharge.
After about an hour, we left the viewing area and continued along the rest of the safari route. Whenever our safari vehicle stopped, we could get up to take photos. We usually stopped for 5 minutes at a time, which was plenty of time to take some nice photos of the animals. On the regular safari, it can be difficult to take photos because the vehicles move quickly and are bouncing around. On this tour, we had the luxury of time which allowed us to take some really nice photos.
Disney prices can always change, but we paid $169 per person when we took the Savor the Savanna tour. You need to book the tour in advance by calling 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) and you also need to buy theme park admission separately. It isn’t a cheap experience but it is a lot of fun if you are willing to splurge for a special adventure.
When I saw the smile on my son’s face, I was glad that I had booked this premium safari. The Cast Members do a wonderful job and make you feel like a VIP every step of the way. If someone in your family is crazy about animals, the Savor the Savanna tour is one experience that you will want to check out.