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7 Hidden Secrets In Africa At Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom

Of the four theme parks in Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is by far the largest and a favorite of many guests. With a focus on the celebration of nature and the environment and experiences and attractions designed to showcase its beauty, the park features serval distinct areas. The Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom contains the fictional village of Harambe where guests can sing along to favorite songs from The Lion King, go on an exotic safari, learn about conservation, and dine with Mickey and friends. Part of what makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Africa so amazing is the incredible attention to detail. From architecture and local signs to artwork and traditional décor, guests feel as though they are really in an African village. Amongst all of the details are plenty of hidden secrets for guests to also discover and enjoy. Here are seven hidden secrets in Africa in Walt Disney World.

7. A Familiar Face

Scattered throughout Harambe are tons of posters advertising local businesses and services. Featured on several of the posters is Captain Bob who offers locals and tourists balloon rides over the nearby Harambe Reserve for bird’s eye views of the safari and animals. If guests find Captain Bob to be familiar, it is because he is based upon a real person. Imagineer Joe Rhode was one of the most influential people involved in the building of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and he is regularly active in talking about the park and thinking of new ways to expand and improve it.

6. A Lost Friend 

Kilimanjaro Safaris is the flagship attraction of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it takes guests on a two week safari in the fictional Harambe Reserve. Those who embark on safari are treated to up close and personal encounters with animals such as elephants, cheetahs, lions, and giraffes. When the attraction originally opened, there was a storyline woven in that featured the daring rescue of baby elephant Little Red from poachers. As guests moved through the queue, there was a video featuring Warden Wilson who introduced guests to the beautiful reserve. Wilson could then be heard throughout the attraction via the safari vehicle’s radio and he helped guests find Little Red in time. While the storyline no longer is featured in the attraction today, guests who are moving through the queue can still spot Warden Wilson in the video occasionally talking about the reserve.

5. Special Trees

One of the most memorable moments of Kilimanjaro Safaris is when the attraction vehicle rounds a bend and guests are treated to their first view of the sweeping African savannah. The savannah is so lush and beautiful that guests feel as though they are actually in Africa on safari. Part of what makes the savannah so realistic is the landscaping including brush and exotic trees. While the trees look like African acacias they are actually a tree that is more common in North America! The trees on the savannah are oaks which are trimmed in a specific way to mimic acacias.

4. Cool Cats

A highlight for many guests who ride Kilimanjaro Safaris is viewing the majestic lions. The wild cats reside in an area of the Harambe Reserve which features prominent tall rock formations which are both shaded and in direct sun. Since the Florida sun is so strong and temperatures can be very high, the lions at first would spend their days sleeping out of the view of guests to remain cool. Imagineers were able to come up with a unique solution to both make the lions more comfortable and allows the guests better glimpses of them. Several of the rocks featured in the formation have cooling elements to entice the lions to lay on them and stay cool in the view of guests.

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3. A Poster Tribute

Many of the posters scattered throughout the village of Harambe might seem like normal advertisements but they pay tribute to various individuals who were involved with the creation of the park like Joe Rhode mentioned above. The Imagineer who was responsible for planning the various landscapes and beautiful plant life of Harambe was John Shields. Shields’ name can be found in the village on a poster also advertising hot air balloon trips which offer sweeping views of the beauty of Africa.

2. Architectural Details

Another great sign that honors an individual involved in the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom pays direct tribute to the person’s job title. Ahmad Jafari was the lead architect who helped create the layout and feel of the village of Harambe. A sly reference to him can be found on a sign featured on a building that is being remodeled. The sign declares that MJAFARI is the architectural restoration company restoring the building and is a subtle nod to the work that Jafari contributed.

1. An Old Title

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail allows guests to step away from the hustle and bustle of Harambe and explore exotic walking paths at their own leisurely pace. Featuring many different animals to observe, the trail’s main focus is on gorillas who live in a massive hilly enclosure for guests to enjoy. When the trail was first opened, it was originally titled Gorilla Falls and then the named changed to Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. Disney then made the switch back to the current name, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. The current name makes more sense to guests since gorillas are the primary focus on the trail.

About Caitlin Kane

Caitlin Kane first started visiting Walt Disney World when she was two years old, and despite spending most of that trip quarantined with the chicken pox she managed to fall in love with the place. Visiting WDW every year since, she especially loves learning all about the history and small details of the parks and eating/drinking her way through the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival each fall. When she's not in Disney, Caitlin lives in New York and spends her time counting down the days to her next trip.