Our journey began with a quick walk through Harambe met with the envious glances of the other park guests all wondering what we were getting to do.
Before we knew it, we were off the beaten path and on the Pangani Forest trail. You are immediately struck by how the outside world all but vanishes, the sudden stillness, and you totally forget that 5 minutes before you were amid the hustle and bustle of Animal Kingdom. Our guides were enthusiastic and knowledgeable. As it turned out, Jenny, one of our two guides was until recently from Sacramento, which is located 90 miles east of me. It truly is a small world after all.
Each trip is tailored to the needs of the individual group, in our case ranging from children to a couple in their seventies and of course my own limited mobility challenges. Even with our diverse group, they managed to find a happy medium of not too fast, but not too slow. Along the path, we were educated on the history of Animal Kingdom as well as the animals we would be seeing up ahead.
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 river below with your new found friends smiling up to greet you.
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.
Next up it was time to get up close and personal with the Nile Crocodiles. 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.
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 would not 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!
After a leisurely 45-minute lunch, it was time to complete the last leg of our journey.
Once again, we boarded our truck and were led through the area where many of the big cats roamed.
Disney is so meticulous in their camouflage techniques that unless they had been pointed out to us, they would have been undetectable. Animals are separated from one another by almost invisible fences, rocks, and moats.