Arguably, the highlight of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari, where you ride an oversized “jeep” through an engineered Africa, complete with noteworthy animals. We made a beeline for it, as the first ride in our Disney World adventure. Even though I usually don’t get excited about photographing animals, I found the exercise interesting, if only to take the challenge of finding and making good images quickly.
It’s also a way to fantasize that you’re at a once in a life time safari in Kenya, something that I probably won’t ever do — not only because of the resources involved — but because I don’t have a keen interest. As a ride at Disney, however, it’s sure worth the wait and fun for a casual wildlife photographer.
A long time ago, I was at San Diego’s Zoo Safari Park, and I was expecting Disney’s version to be similar. It wasn’t. San Diego’s was grander with views of an open plain that better aligns with my impressions of Africa. However, I really didn’t see many animals, particularly the predators, since most were sleeping in hidden spots.
Disney’s safari, while smaller, seems better engineered for maximum animal viewing and photography. On my one and only ride, I saw and captured more than I expected. Or maybe I was just lucky. The views were so good, my older son and I may have convinced my younger son that these are animatronic animals. They weren’t, of course, unless Disney had a breakthrough in robotic realism.
The ride was bumpy. Not necessarily for the normal riders but for photographers trying to frame those ideal shots. It does give a level of authenticity, better simulating the rough terrain that you might expect in a safari adventure. The Olympus 14-150mm lens was perfect for this, giving me a 28mm to 300mm zoom range. I sat on the left which seemed like the better side, and I only missed that perfect shot of giraffes that were better positioned on the right.
Here are the images I made. My favorite, up top with the elephant pulling down and eating off the branches.
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