I pack up my equipment and double check to make sure my bags are secured. The trek to the safari is a long one. Between the drive, security, and crowds I am not sure how long this journey will take. Despite that, I push on. It is October which should mean cooler temperatures. Out here, that doesn’t matter. The sun beats down on me making me sweat despite the fact that it is only 9 am. When I finally make it to my safari vehicle I relax. From here, it is smooth sailing.
Kilimanjaro safari is my favorite thing to do at Animal Kingdom. Whether I am alone, with friends, camera in hand, or just enjoying the views it always puts a smile on my face. This specific trip is my first time venturing out here since Covid shut down the parks. The safari vehicles have dividers between each seat and there is only one group of people per bench. Having to share a bench with a stranger was honestly the worst part about solo trips and now I get the whole thing to myself. The line for Kilimanjaro didn’t feel any longer than usual despite not being able to sit smaller groups together. I arrived at the park at 9:20 and walked straight back to the safari. The line was to the bridge when I got in it and in less than 40 minutes I was on Simba 1.
I don’t typically head down the Gorilla Falls trail because I prefer the Tigers. However, I specifically came out to take photos of the animals so I figured I would hop on this trail too. I am not sure if I just go to DAK on really slow days or what but typically the trails aren’t packed and people wander around at a leisurely pace. When I went out there were a decent amount of people creating lines to see different parts of the trail. I have never seen this happen. Typically, people look at the animals and move on. Sometimes when the tigers are being playful people will stand there for a couple of minutes but most people don’t linger.
Now, there are cast members placed along the trail policing how long each family views the animals which somehow creates a longer line and congested area than when people are allowed to freely roam. I personally didn’t enjoy this because I enjoy hanging out in one area to watch the animals and take photos. I make sure that I am respectful of people who are there on vacation. If someone walks into the area I am at, I will step back and make sure the family can spend as much time as they want looking at the animals. When they leave, I hop back into place until the next family comes up. I have helped families figure out where the animals are hiding and when little ones say they still can’t see it I have pulled up an image on my camera to show them where the animal is sitting and then they can typically find it in the exhibit once they know exactly where they are supposed to be looking.
This particular trip I was able to take one photo of the gorilla sitting and eating before a cast member asked us all to move down one dot. At the next dot I got another single photo before being asked to move down. While it doesn’t particularly bother me because I can go out anytime I want, the span of 30 seconds I was able to view the gorillas would have been upsetting if I was here on vacation with kids who were looking forward to seeing the animals.
Overall, I still love going to Disney in this weird Covid world we currently live in. The cast members are still cheerful, kids are still making their parents pull out their hair, and the overall atmosphere is still very Disney. As a photographer exploring the parks, I just need to lower my expectations in comparison to pre-covid adventures. However, at Epcot the crowds seem to be less during the week which makes for great photo opportunities!
Looking for more photos from Animal Kingdom? Check out the Animal Kingdom Photo Album here.