A Walk on the Wild Side
Animal Kingdom's Wild Africa Trek
Are you looking for the ultimate in animal experiences? Does your heart skip a beat just thinking about getting up close and personal with hippos, crocodiles and the exotic animals that inhabit Animal Kingdom? This was me-always wanting to take an African Safari but never getting closer than the Jungle Cruise until last March when I went on the adventure of a lifetime-the Wild Africa Trek. My day started bright an early on a beautiful sunny morning as I was allowed entry to Animal Kingdom before the park opened. Wandering through the Park with no one else present is an amazing experience all on its own. Once crossing the path into Africa, I headed to check in at the Dawa Bar located behind Tusker House. As soon as everyone that would make up our safari had checked in, we were on our way up the path to meet our guides, be outfitted in our safari gear complete with water bottles and given our first task of the day-the practice rope bridge. Now let me just say that crossing over a rope bridge 6 feet off the ground in no way prepares you mentally for the two suspension bridges we would travel over later in our trek. Once our training was completed, we were treated to "jungle juice", sunscreen and bug spray, filled up our water bottles and were off to embark on our trek of a lifetime.
Before we knew it we were at our first of two "tether over cliff" spots of the day, the Hippo habitat. Your vest allows you to be tethered to a track, which is fun in itself. Once secured, you are able to literally "hang" out as far as you dare over the exhibit right up to the very edge. At the hippo pool we were fortunate enough to be met by a naturalist doing an internship with Disney,who along with our guides, educated us on the hippos both here at Animal Kingdom and in the wild. We all had many, many questions which they answered with ease and in great depth. They also explained that the hippo off on his own was the lone male hippo and to keep the peace, had to be separated from the female hippos of the group. I wonder what he thought about being all alone with nothing but the birds for companions. From our view, he certainly didn't seem to mind the tranquility of his own private beach, or his bird massage.
Although we probably would have been content to spend the rest of the day here, it was soon time good bye to our naturalist and we were on our way to the next part of our adventure, the crocodile habitat. Once again we were tethered to a track so we were able to lean out as far as we dared. Unlike the cuddly hippos, most of us were slightly more cautious approaching the edge to catch our first glimpse of these powerful creatures, especially once we found out that they were only 10 feet below us. Within moments of arriving at our vantage point, we quickly had a demonstration of what happens when one of the crocodiles invaded the "personal space bubble" of another. Yes, you guessed it-these were two of the males trying to prove their dominance in the group. By stark contrast, over on the next rock, it was just another day of meeting up for a morning nap and yes, if you guessed that these were the females, you'd be correct again. Can you imagine the conversation they might have been having as the boys battled it out? One of the many things we learned about these amazing creatures is that while it appeared that the crocodiles were "smiling" at us, keeping their mouths open was actually part of their natural cooling system. Our guides also joked with us that while we were tethered, it was still possible for us to slip over the edge if we ventured out too far and while the tether wouldn't necessarily save us, it would make it easier for them to remove our remains from the croc pit so it wouldn't scare the next group of adventurers!
Now that we had survived the hippos and the crocodiles, it was time to put our courage to the test-the suspension bridges. Would we make it across these wobbly, swinging pieces of tattered rope and rotting boards? Stay tuned next week to Part Two of my Walk on the Wild Side.
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