I recently took the Caring for Giants tour at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park. This tour takes you as close as possible to the African elephants that reside on the savanna you experience during the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction. I was not hosted or invited by the Walt Disney Travel Company to take this tour, I paid my own way. As such, I feel no obligation to inflate the experience or refrain from my honest opinion of it. With that out of the way, here's what I thought. Wow, that sounds ominous, but I promise-I'm just making a disclaimer! First, you should know the Caring for Giants tour can be booked up to 180 days in advance, but we walked up and booked it the same morning we took the tour. There happened to be two spots left on the second tour of the day. You can chat with a booking agent at the kiosk just outside of the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction queue. However, if after you read this blog and decide you really WANT to take the tour, book as soon as possible. If you've been following along with us here at Get Down to Disness, you probably already know I am a tour junkie! I love going behind the scenes, learning all kinds of neat facts and seeing how things work. Those peeks behind the magic curtain don't ruin anything for me, in fact it makes me appreciate the world of Disney even more so! Check out my review of the DestiNations Discovered tour here. While you do technically go behind the scenes during this tour, it really isn't all that much. Sure, they walk you behind one of the walls into a CAST MEMBERS ONLY area, which is pretty cool, but you are really only seeing a parking lot and the back of Pandora. While the Cast Member escorting you to your tour vehicle points out some interesting facts about the buildings you see, it's not full of juicy details. It's just not that kind of tour. Once in your ride vehicle, most of the view is behind the scenes vegetation and natural area. You do see the outside of the pens that shelter the elephants, but don't get closer to those than a glance as you pass by. Speaking of Cast Members, on the Caring for Giants tour, you'll encounter a staggering SIX different ones! First, you'll be escorted to your vehicle by one person. Inside your vehicle are two Cast Members, the informational/on foot part of the tour is handled by two additional Cast Members and finally a sixth escorts you back on stage. I loved this element of the tour because I truly enjoy chatting it up with Disney folks and typically they have the A-Team working these tours, so no Grumpys to put a damper on the magic. Once you arrive at the elephant area, you are greeted by a Cast Member that teaches you all about the elephants you are going to see. What their names are, how they are related, what their temperament is like, etc. You'll learn about their social networks, hear some stories of their unique personalities and take some photos. You are about 50 yards (half a football field) away from the elephants. I have to admit it's kind of cool watching the ride vehicles from the Kilimanjaro Safari go by while you are "backstage". After this Cast Member has finished telling us about the specific elephants at Animal Kingdom, a second conservation specialists Cast Member explains all about where they are from and all the measures both countries are taking to protect them from becoming endangered. Really interesting stuff -the kind that could get your kid excused from school a few days for your Disney vacation. (wink wink) ;)
The Caring for Giants Tour is about an hour long and costs $30 per person at the time this blog post was written. They do offer discounts though for Annual Passholders, Disney Visa Card holders and DVC (Disney Vacation Club) Members! We got a 15% DVC Member discount. But is it worth around thirty bucks? It depends. I would not recommend this tour for everyone. Not that it isn't suitable for all ages, or that it isn't interesting, but for the fact that Animal Kingdom theme park already has so much to offer (included with price of admission) without having to pay a premium for a tour. In truth, we got about as close to the elephants on this tour as we did to a gorilla on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail. It's not a get up close and touch the elephants experience-it can't be for your safety- and there is no guarantee the elephants will cooperate and let you see them-it's nature-not animatronics. We were able to get wonderful photos of the elephants because we were standing still vs. moving in the ride vehicle on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, but you aren't much closer to them-as you can see in the photo below. If photos of elephants are what you are after, you could potentially get some great shots!
I fit into this category and I truly enjoyed the experience! It was 100% worth it to us! Anytime I can go somewhere with no crowd, no wait and get an insider's look-I'm all over it! Plus, we met two incredible fun and sweet Cast Members, Esther and Frank that added a little pixie dust to our day just because they were fun people!
There really isn't much to "spoil" about this tour. It's pretty "what you see is what you get" however, there is something VERY unique about the name tags they give you...I'll keep that under my hat for now. If you want to know the secret, comment below! If you don't want to know the secret, don't read the comments! Are you looking to plan a Walt Disney World Resort vacation and want to learn more about unique tours and offerings? Let us help! Send us an email or fill out this quote form and tell us a little bit about the Magical Disney adventure you are looking to have. Our Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations to Travel are out of this world!