Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Disney Wanyama Safari Review

Thanks to Disney's Armed Forces Salute, Francis and I were able to spend a full week at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a deluxe resort with an African theme. There are two buildings, Kidani Village and Jambo House, surrounded by savanna. We stayed at Jambo House, and thanks to a very nice cast member, we were upgraded to a savanna view room. It is super cool that the animals of the savanna have pretty set routines, and we saw giraffes outside our balcony around 4pm every day.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fantastic hotel with some of the best restaurants on Disney property. Two of the most popular are Jiko: The Cooking Place and Boma: Flavors of Africa. We at breakfast at Boma one day and it was a nice mix of American breakfast foods, as well as a carving station and several African specialties. Breakfast pick of Boma: goat cheese and chive scrambled eggs. The chocolates are a "celebration" gift.

Sanaa is another restaurant on the property that does not get a lot of attention, but is kind of a hidden gem. You can usually get in without a reservation far in advance, and there are many windows that look out over the savanna. Sanaa's menu is African with Indian flavors, and there are many tandoori, masala, and curry dishes (and a glossary on the menu). Pick of dinner at Sanna: the spicy steak with tomato chutney, and this banana kulfi sundae:

As I said, we got a room upgrade, which was lovely, but you have plenty of opportunities to view the animals all over the property. There are floor to ceiling windows at regular intervals along the hotel corridors that look out on the savannas, plenty of seating areas with binoculars, and a central viewing area at both Kidani Village and Jambo House staffed by savanna guides who are actually from Africa and can tell you all about living with these animals. That's one of my favorite things about Disney - they employ people who can truly represent their country and culture.

Since we got such a good deal on the room, our one major splurge of our honeymoon was the Wayama Safari. This is a private tour only available to guests staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. You get to go out on the savannas with two of the animal specialists for 2-3 hours, take a bunch of pictures and learn about the animals, and then have a 4 course dinner with wine at Jiko: The Cooking Place. Our safari included 4 other couples, and the safari is never more than 12 people.

Here's something fun we learned: All the ostriches on the property are female, so that means no baby ostriches. However, they do lay eggs, and they are saved for education and craft projects. My Googling turns up many projects over the years, including Christmas ornaments, Easter Egg decorating, and staff contests, all to raise money for Disney's Worldwide Conservation Fund. A portion of the proceeds from the Wayama Safari also go toward the Conservation Fund.

Disney borrows and loans out animals just like any other zoo, and has staff who are in charge of the "studbook" for certain breeds. This is kind of like a family tree that lets zoos keep track of breeding. One of these giraffes is about to go to another zoo, and the other is keeping her company.

Gratuitous zebra. Animal Kingdom Lodge has mountain zebras and common zebras. I am 98% certain this is a common zebra. Mountain zebras are more grey.

So let's talk about dinner at Jiko! It would have been really gauche to take pictures of every course when we were dining family style with 8 strangers, but here is the menu. Family style means you get to have a little of everything on the menu.

 A fun note about the wines: a couple of our dining companions mention that they had participated in the Wednesday wine tasting at Jiko, and the sommelier was telling them about how big a presence Disney is in the South African wine market. When you figure that Jiko and Sanaa have dozens of South African wines on their menu, plus Jambo House has the Victoria Falls Lounge and both gift shops sell wine, you can just imagine how much Disney must import! I must say, I am wishing I brought home a bottle of The Den Chenin Blanc.

Everyone got their own plate of tiny desserts. Plus you get a gift bag at the end with the menu, cookies, seasoning and a recipe for Jiko scented rice, and a Wayama Safari pin! If you know anything about Disney pin trading, you know this is a Big Deal. If you are planning a trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can make a reservation for the Wanyama Safari on the website. Expect to pay approximately $175 per person.


  1. I didn't know they had real animals. I seriously thought they were all animatronic.

  2. Thats what Animal Kingdom is all about! The Animals....its like a Glorified Zoo....Disney Style!