“Jambo everyone! And welcome to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas; a true African paradise.” You will probably hear these words from a Disney cast member as you enter one of the highest rated resorts on Disney property. The Animal Kingdom Villas provides guests with a truly unique opportunity, so rare you maybe hard-pressed to find it anywhere else on the planet. The resort is surrounded by several African savannas with animals you would find in the African continent. In fact, most guest rooms have balconies that overlook these stunning savannas.
In 2004, “The Travel Channel” rated Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas the number one family resort in North America. With good reason. There are many unique family activities you can experience at this resort. One of the best is the Sunrise Safari where you can board an open savanna-like vehicle and journey through the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park before it opens. This experience is so unique it can only be reserved by guests staying in the Kilimanjaro club level at the resort. Because only club level guests can reserve this adventure it is not a crowded experience; rather, it is more laid-back and relaxed.
Our family recently had the opportunity to experience the Sunrise Safari. As you would imagine the Sunrise Safari begins early in the morning at 6:45AM before the sun even rises. Our group was instructed to meet at the Kilimanjaro club lounge to begin our safari adventure. Coffee and a variety of juices were provided to start our morning. Because we would be entering through the backstage of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park our ticket media (park admission) was scanned in the club lounge before we departed.
Our group was escorted down to the resort’s main lobby where we met our safari guide. We were very fortunate to have Greg Peccie, the head animal curator of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, as our safari guide. He explained to us what our safari experience would entail.
Afterwards, we were escorted outside to the front of the resort where a Disney motor coach awaited. Because we were not entering the park during normal operating hours our bags were checked prior to boarding the motor coach by Disney security. We departed the resort and headed backstage to the Animal Kingdom theme park.
We were dropped off backstage and entered the theme park near the Harambe African village. As we walked through the queue line of the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction it was obvious the park was still closed to other guests. We boarded our safari vehicle and began our journey.
So, what makes the Sunrise Safari different than the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction you ask? First of all unlike the regular safari, you make stops along the way to observe the animals. This provides for great viewing and photo opportunities of the animals. If you have a young daughter like mine, she will love to take photos of the animals while they are so close. Additionally, because it’s early in the morning and a bit cooler than usual the animals are more active. We even experienced some animals walking near our safari vehicle.
The Sunrise Safari is not a rushed experience. The regular safari takes about 20 minutes, while the Sunrise Safari takes approximately 45 minutes. The extra time is appreciated because your family gets to ask the safari guide any questions along the way.
At the end of the safari, we disembarked our vehicle and were escorted to the Pizzafari restaurant where we were treated to a private breakfast. Each table is reserved with your family’s name and number of guests displayed on a name tent. The head chef came out and explained what foods were on the breakfast buffet and asked us if anyone had any food allergies. A nice touch considering food allergies are more common today.
If this wasn’t enough, our safari guide, Greg, walked around to each table. We had the opportunity to ask him questions about the animals and their care. Our daughter, Anna took a different approach and asked “How does Disney keep bugs out of the theme parks?” Greg chuckled and replied “I can assure you there are bugs in the parks, and Disney really doesn’t do much to keep them out of the theme parks.”
After our breakfast had ended, we were allowed to enjoy the rest of our day at the Animal Kingdom. It was 9:00AM and the park had just opened. We took the opportunity to ride Expedition Everest, one of Disney World’s signature attractions, with a very short line.
Our family gives the Sunrise Safari two thumbs up for family fun. It is a bit pricey, but offers such a unique, exclusive, and private experience making it worth the price.
Here are some fast facts about the Sunrise Safari:
Can only be reserved by Kilimanjaro club level guests
Cost: Adults $58.58 & Children 3 – 9 $29.29 tax included (Park admission not included)
Duration: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total capacity of the safari is 50 guests
Photos or video are not allowed backstage at the Animal Kingdom park
Return transportation to the Animal Kingdom Villas is not part of the Sunrise Safari. Regular Disney transportation (motor coach) is recommended
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