When in Africa, you have to go on safari right? I drag myself away from the totally fascinating gorillas and follow David over to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
We have learned that Animal Kingdom is the largest of the Disney Parks world wide at 500 acres. One quarter of that is the Harambe Wildlife Reserve through which our safari is traveling. The entire Magic Kingdom could fit within the area of the Harambe Wildlife reserve. It is the largest attraction in all of the Disney parks with regard to area covered.
To create this sanctuary, Disney moved over 1.5 million cubic yards of dirt and placed 2.3 million trees, bushes and plants. 2.3 Million trees, bushes and plants, really? Wow!
We hop in our buggy and away we go with what turns out to be the best guide we’ve ever had on this tour we’ve done several times before. What makes a good guide? She’s not bored with having done this 10000 times before, she is loud enough to be heard but doesn’t sound like she’s shouting, she spots the animals, knows the animals, gives intereresting information and stories about them and she doesn’t talk too fast to be clearly understood. She’s the first female driver I’ve had and she’s great.
We are lucky that we are in the front row which is a less bumpy ride and it’s easier to take pictures.
In front of each of the bench seats is a panel with the pictures and names of all the animals we might see on the safari. But unfortunately I almost never have a chance to look at it. We are too busy looking at the surroundings. She’s pointing out the animals so fast we are lucky to see them let alone get pictures and, as you can imagine on safari, the ride is bumpy. Just less so in the front seat.
The ride is bumpy because the road is bumpy. It goes through floods and ruts and down into bottoms and over rickety bridges.
The first animal we spot is the Okapi which are found in Zaire Africa. Okapis are sometimes thought of as relatives of the zebra due to their striped markings on their front legs and hind quarters and legs, however they are actually related to the Giraffe. Their tongue is long enough to lick their own eyes! They are bashful creatures and their markings allow them to hide in the tropical forests.
Earlier in the day on the Jungle Trek we saw this interesting comparison of the Okapi and the Giraffe.
Nearby we spot a feamle Greater Kudu a woodland antelope found throuhout eastern and southern Africa.
A pair of Bongos are inhabiting the forest. The Bongo is a large species of antelope that inhabits the jungles and forests of Eastern, Western and Central Africa. They are the largest forest-dwelling antelope species and one of the most distinctive, with a chestnut coloured coat and long horns that spiral as high as 3 feet in males.
How about this guy? He’s a saddle billed stork. Love his beak. He’s a huge bird regularly becoming 5’ tall with a wing span of between 8 and 9 feet. I guess I could look him in the eye.
The reserve has several lovely waterfalls.
The Ankole-watusi or ankole longhorn cattle share an area with the Giraffes. The cattle are real show stoppers and are an ancient native African breed. They can easily trace their ancestry back 6000 years. That’s astounding.
Look at those horns. Talk about distinctive. They are up to 8’ from tip to tip and are used for defense and cooling by honecombs of blood vessels.
The giraffes and the cattle seem to get a long just fine. I’m pretty sure this pair is accessing either some food or a salt lick placed high in this scag.
Look at that little one. Isn’t he darling?
Yes it’s true, I love giraffes. Maybe it’s the envy of the vertically challenged!
Before we move on, here is another jeep buggy coming along the trail by the cattle.
The pile of dirt in the front is a termite mound. It’s not real but sure looks it. I find it amazing that both Wildebeests and Springboks are antelopes. They look nothing alike.
Wildebeest are also called gnus. They inhabit the plains and open woodlands of parts of Africa south of the Sahara. Their yearly long-distance migration seems timed to coincide with the annual pattern of rainfall and grass growth. At the end of the wet season, the wildebeest migrate to dry-season areas in response to a lack of surface drinking water. When the rainy season begins again months later, animals quickly move back to their wet-season ranges. If they have enough contiguous open land, they often travel in huge herds. Of course there is the problem. The necessary large connected landscapes are disappearing with human demands on the land. A major threat comes from migration barriers, such as fences and roads. Thus populations of these animals are decreasing rapidly.
Such interesting faces with the tan forehead the dark lower face..
Springboks are the National Animal of South Africa and their Rugby team is named for them. They live in southern Africa, from south-western Angola, through Namibia, central and south-western Botswana to the western parts of South Africa.
I think they are darling with their tiny horns. I couldn’t get any pictures of the adults so I took the one on the right from the internet since their horns are so cool. African animals have really unique horns.
No need to explain these amazing animals. They are the largest land animals on the planet. An adult male elephant can weigh up to 14,000 pounds and stand 11 feet tall. African elephants can be found in over 37 countries of sub-Saharan Africa. They are able to live in a variety of habitats, from dense forests to wet marshes to open and closed savannas—even arid deserts.
They are among the world’s most intelligent, social and sensitive animals with extraordinary empathy and self awareness.
Other than people, elephants are one of the only animals known to mourn the passing of another member of their species. Elephants encountering a dead elephant have been observed lingering for hours to smell a fallen friend, often lifting the bones and carrying them around.
I once read that the large ears of African elephants are shaped like the continent of Africa, especially the one on their left. Those ears are pretty handy too. Elephants can lower their body temperature by 10 degrees simply by flapping their ears. Blood vessels on the back of their ears are cooled by the flapping, sending cooler blood through the rest of the body. Wish I had a personal cooling system like that. But then I don’t live in Africa. The Universe is amazing in its designs.
As with Gorillas, Disney Conservation Fund has contributed millions of dollars to Elephant research and conservation since 1995. In Kenya, elephants were getting in trouble by raiding local crops. Research scientists from Disney’s Animal Kingdom park worked with the DCF to help the conservation group Save the Elephants find a solution and discovered that elephants are afraid of African honey bees, so together they began building Beehive Fences to protect local farms. These low-cost, eco-friendly fences were effective in protecting both crops and elephants, and the resulting honey provided a new source of income for impoverished communities. I really do believe there are win-win solutions like this for most of life’s problems if we would only spend our time and energy on discovering them.
Of course the crop raiding results from habitat loss. A large amount of territory is required to provide the mount of food an elephant needs daily. Lack of food is becoming a threat for elephants as is the continuing ivory trade. Even though an international ban on ivorybegan in 1989, poachers continue to kill elephants for their tusks, which are used to produce ivory artifacts and jewelry for the global black market. It is estimated that 96 African elephants are killed every day by criminals and crime syndicates.
Disney’s partnership with Save the Elephants is helpling with this problem as well. Together they developed “hi-tech “alarm collars” that use GPS and motion-sensor technology to track elephants—first at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and now in Africa. This “wearable technology” will support anti-poaching efforts in Kenya, providing an early-warning system for ground forces defending the animals. The collars can also be used to locate a wild elephant in distress and to provide long-term data on elephant behaviors that will help scientists plan for the species’ long-term survival.”
On we go past an island shaped like Mickey’s head, I wasn’t at an angle to be able to get the shape. It’s one of those “hidden Mickeys” throughout Disney World. There is even a book you can buy about Hidden Mickeys. There must be thousands. The flamingos are all around the island today. I had no idea flamingos were native to Africa.
Boy are we lucky today. Look who is sitting on a rock as we drive by. The cheetah is also known as the hunting leopard whose home is mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. The cheetah is the fastest land animal with an average hunting speed of a 40 mph during a sprint interspersed with a few short bursts of speed, when the animal can clock 70 mph. Another amazing and beautiful animal. I am so thrilled to be able to see this elegant looking cheetah even if he wishes to ignore us. Love his tail going up the tree.
Thanks to the internet for these pictures of what we didn’t see. Maybe next time he’ll look our way.
We pass the rhino and I’m again on the wrong side of the jeep. This is my best picture but at least we can sort of see his snout. Unfortunately I can’t tell if this is a white Rhino or a Black Rhino, Disney World has both. I didn’t catch it if our driver told us and when I looked it up I found that the main difference is in the shape of their mouths. Black rhinos developed a pointed lip which they use to pick fruit from branches and select leaves from twigs; white rhinos have a flat, wide lip to graze on grasses. Who knew?? Despite their names, they are both gray in color.
Rhinos are actually nearing extinction and are still being poached in large numbers for their horns. It’s just so sad. According to Wiki, there are two subspecies of white rhino, the southern white rhinoceros, with an estimated 20,000 wild-living animals as of 2015 and the much rarer northern white rhinoceros. The northern subspecies has very few remaining, with only three confirmed individuals left (two females Fatu, 15 and Najin, 25 and one male Sudan, 42), all in captivity. Apparently the white rhinos here are the southern white.
The black rhino is native to eastern and southern Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Civil and other wars have destroyed habitat and along with horrendous poaching cause the massive decrease in the black rhino population. The black rhino is also critically endangered, which is the highest classification for a species on the brink. Three subspecies, one including the western black rhinoceros, were declared extinct in 2011.
This is so sad. How can we be so cruel?
Next we come to the queen of beasts who is resting. Do you see her? Not surprising that she’s sleeping. Lions are nocturnal, sleeping 20 hours a day and using the cover of night to hunt. Lions’ day vision is similar to ours in that we both have great depth perception, but their night vision is 6 times more powerful!
Lions are territorial animals. The hunting ground for a pride of lions is typically 8 square miles. Habitat loss created by droughts, soil erosion, overgrazing and especially human expansion is causing lion populations in the wild to decline in alarming numbers. As human populations grow in Africa, people push farther into lion country. For many of these people, livestock is their livelihood, their source of food and money. Losing a single goat or cow to a lion attack can be devastating to a family. As a result, people often kill lions to protect their livestock or in retaliation for livestock losses.,
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) currently lists the lion species as “vulnerable” which is one step away from “endangered”. Current estimates of the African lion population range from 20,000 to 30,000—a 90% decline from their estimated population just three decades ago.
Seems funny that Lions are often called “King of the Jungle” but they don’t live in jungles or rainforests, but rather in desert habitats, dry forests, and grasslands.
As you might expect, Disney has a Lion outreach program. In east Africa the DCF supports the Maasailand Lion Conservation Program that helps local people patrol 885,000 acres of lion habitat, scientifically monitor lion populations, learn about lion conservation in primary school and install lion-resistant enclosures to protect livestock
Disney’s support for this high-impact conservation program has dramatically reduced lion attacks on livestock in the region. No lions have been killed at ranches fortified with these walls! Meanwhile profits from Disneynature’s inspiring “African Cats” documentary helped create safety corridors for lions to travel from one protected wildlife area to another. I am just more and more impressed with Disney’s Conservation Fund.
We’re pretty familiar with wild pigs since they seem to be all over the southeast destroying every habitat. Ours are previously domestic pigs gone feral with bristly skin. But they look nothing like this Common Wharthog, Africa’s wild pig. Wharthog tusks can be from 10 to 25” long. They remain fairly common and widespread in open and semiopen habitats, even in quite arid regions, in sub-Saharan Africa
I thought the size of this ostrich was pretty apparent as it was just beside the truck which had come out to mark where its eggs were on the ground. We saw the huge eggs but again I was on the wrong side to get a picture of how large they are. Next time I would sit on the side with the driver if I could.
I am sure learning a lot. I thought Ostriches were in Australia but they are native to Africa too. Guess I’d better look back at the maps of Pangea to see if they were once connected land masses.
That is one mighty big bird. Ostriches are the largest and heaviest living bird. They cannot fly but the sure can run. With its powerful legs, the ostrich can sprint in short bursts up to 43 mph and can maintain a steady speed of 31 mph. Guess we don’t want to try to race them.
The last animal we see before heading back past a waterfall to leave our safari is the scimitar-horned oryx. This is a really sad story.
To begin with oryx are a genus of, you guessed it, antelope. Africa has a such a lare number of different types of antelope. The scimitar oryx species has been extinct in the wild since 2000. It formerly inhabited all of North Africa. It stands a little more than 3.3 ft at the shoulder. The males weigh 310–460 lb.
The scimitar oryx formed herds of mixed sexes of up to 70 members, usually guided by the bulls. They inhabited semideserts and deserts and were adapted to live in the extreme heat, with their efficient cooling mechanism and very low requirement of water.
The scimitar oryx was once widespread in northern Africa. Its decline began as a result of climate change, and later it was hunted extensively for its spiral horns. Today, it is bred in captivity in special reserves in Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal. I am told the unicorn myth may have originated from sightings of a scimitar oryx with a broken horn. Sadly, both the Scimitar and the unicorn are extinct in the wild.
It is late afternoon as we walk back through the village on our way to the final performance of the day for the Lion King Musical show.
Although you can easily get fast passes to the show, I’m not sure how it would be beneficial since the venue is very large. Perhaps you would have better seats? But the venue is round and we’ve always had a good seat by just showing up. As we wait I find this pretty little cat who lets me take her picture.
Whether you are familiar with the movie or not, this is a spectacular show. The singers, dancers, acrobats, jugglers, costumes and animatronics are all fantastic.
The ballet and the bird costumes of these two dancers are among the most beautiful I’ve seen.
They fly both on the ground and in the air.
The show is a must do at Animal Kingdom.
Our day is done.
We bid farewell to the village.
And to the mountain as we leave the park after a jam packed day that only Disney can provide.
You are never too old to enjoy Disney World.