Kilimanjaro Safaris is one of Animal Kingdom’s most popular rides and a unique Disney World experience, taking you on a journey to see some of Africa’s amazing wildlife. With so many different areas and animals on the safari, it can be hard to see them all in one ride. Choosing the right time of day will give you the best chance to see as many animals as possible.
This really is one of the most unique and entertaining rides Disney World has to offer. That’s why it’s high on my list of 110 Disney World Must Do’s.
What is the best time to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris?
The best time to go on Kilimanjaro Safaris is first thing in the morning or right at sundown. Certain animals are more active during specific times of the day or even at night, so choosing a time close to sunrise or sunset is best for animal activity with enough sunlight for you to comfortably see.
I’ve been on Kilimanjaro Safaris more times than I can count. The beauty of the ride is that it’s always a different experience. There are just so many species of animals running around inside the preserve that it’s impossible to predict exactly where they’ll be at any given time. The large size of the preserve also factors in to the unpredictability.
P.S. – We also have a big list of Animal Kingdom tips and secrets. It’s extremely helpful for planning and getting the most out of your trip.
It’s worth noting that Central Florida gets very, very hot, especially during summer afternoons. Many animals will take this hottest time of day as an opportunity to relax and escape the sun. On the flip side, some animals are simply more likely to make their way to the water during the hottest hours.
It’s almost impossible to pinpoint the perfect time to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, but from my personal experience, your safest bet will usually be early or late in the day. My best advice would be to enjoy the ride at several different times. You’ll be surprised at how different one safari ride can be from another.
All that said, don’t stress yourself too much over timing. There may be “optimal” times to enjoy the ride, but there isn’t a “bad” time. These animals are accustomed to people and many drivers will tell you that the animals will often “show off” for the tour. You’ll get to see plenty of action no matter what time of day you choose to ride.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Tips
- Ride first thing in the morning: A morning ride is good for two reasons. First, the animals tend to be a little bit more active early in the morning. Second, you’ll avoid peak wait times. Kilimanjaro Safaris is very popular and wait times are often very high from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM.
- Ride right at sunset: A sunset ride is great for seeing animals. Many of the animals start moving around a little more as the sun starts to go down. This time of day strikes a nice balance between active animals and enough daylight for good visibility.
- Ride late at night: Even though the darkness can limit your overall visibility, nighttime is one of my favorite times to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. It’s worth noting that nighttime rides are only available with special tours, which makes it even more exciting. Many areas of the preserve are partially lit, so it’s not like you’re going to be totally blind. This is often the best time to see more activity from the lions and other somewhat nocturnal species.
- Don’t avoid the rain: With Kilimanjaro Safaris, rain is usually your friend. Most of the animals love the rain and become far more active when it’s raining. So don’t avoid Animal Kingdom just because it’s raining. The Safaris’ trucks have large roofs, so don’t worry too much about getting wet. If you want to stay totally dry and comfortable, simply come equipped with some good rain gear. (Click to see some of our rain gear recommendations)
- Sit on the left side of the truck: Many of the best areas on the safari will be seen off the left side of the truck. You can’t always control where you end up, so don’t worry about it too much if you can’t get to the left side. But if you can, try to put yourself in a position to slide all the way to the left side of the truck. Keep in mind that you’ll be entering your truck row from the right side of the vehicle.
- Don’t forget your camera: If there is a Disney World ride that’s especially awesome for photography, it’s Kilimanjaro Safaris. Make sure to bring a good camera, like the ones we recommend in our Disney World Gear Guide. There are so many cool opportunities to get interesting, unique shots during the ride. A camera with a good zoom lens and image stabilization will be a big help to you while you try to capture the perfect moments.
Kilimanjaro Safaris Highlights
- Lions: It’s not surprising that the lions are the most popular part of Kilimanjaro Safaris. The problem is that, like most cats, they sleep a lot. Rides during the early morning, dusk, and especially nighttime will give you the best chance to see the lions up and about.
- Elephants: In my experience, seeing the elephants is usually the most hit or miss part of the ride. Sometimes they are all right out in the open. Other times they are nowhere to be found. They are one of the most interesting animals in the preserve and it’s fun to watch them play in the water.
- Giraffes: The giraffes are one of the least timid animals on the preserve. They’re also one of the most reliable species on the ride. You’ll almost always see a big group of giraffes interacting with each other, often very close to the truck.
- Cheetahs: The cheetah enclosure has a fairly heavy amount of foliage, making it somewhat difficult to see the cheetahs if they aren’t walking around. If the cheetahs are up and about, they’re usually pacing around in the front of the exhibit and you shouldn’t have a problem spotting them.
- Black and white rhinos: The rhinos are one of the most interesting animals in the more “open” part of the safari. The areas they inhabit allow you to get a better view than many of the other popular animals. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a chance at seeing a rhino extremely close to the truck.
- Hippos: You’ll see the hippos early on in the ride. They’re most often sitting still in the water, but it’s really cool to see them when they are walking around outside of the water.
- Ostriches: The ostrich is one of the more comical animals running around in the open part of the safari. I’ve been on the ride a number of times where an ostrich came very close to the truck for and gave everyone a show.