Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Wanyama Safari & Dinner

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Background Information: To be honest I do not recall where I first learned about the Wanyama Safari & Dinner but I do know that this happened just a couple of weeks prior to my trip. For those of you like me who had never heard of this before, it is a very unique experience which is available only to the guests of Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas. I believe that it used to be limited to those staying on the Concierge/Club level but it is now open to all those staying at the AKL resort. So anyway, this consists of a semi-private (they limit it to a maximum of 12 guests) safari-style guided tour of the savannas which surround the lodge and villas followed by a multi-course dinner with wine at the resort’s signature restaurant, Jiko. Since I was already thinking about spending one night at Animal Kingdom Lodge in order to have dinner at Jiko followed by an early breakfast the next morning at Boma, I decided to see if by chance they had any openings for the safari on Oct. 22nd (the night which I had in mind for my one night stay). To do this I called the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Itinerary Planning Office at 407-938-4755 and was happy to find that they did have availability on that night. The reservation required a credit card guarantee with a 48 hour cancellation policy. But in my excitement at being able to book this, I completely forgot to ask a very important question…How much does this cost? :eek: In the research that I had done prior to calling, I had read that the cost was $190.64. However, all of the information seemed to be at least a few years old so I figured, like all things at Disney World, the price had increased. I also wasn’t sure if the $190 included tax and tip, as their posted prices for special events often don’t. So I took a chance and budgeted for the safari and dinner to cost around $250. This will come into play at the end of my review. ;)

Now picking up where I left off with my last review, which was at Epcot’s Tutto Gusto. The Italian Food & Wine Pairing lunch lasted a little more than 2 1/2 hours, so I left Tutto Gusto at around 2:45. I had been told when I reserved the Wanyama Safari that I should check in between 3:15 and 3:30 at Jiko. So I had 30 – 45 minutes to get from Epcot’s Italy pavilion (one of the farthest points from the park’s front entrance) to Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I made a spur of the moment decision not to make the long hike to the front of the park and take a chance on quickly getting a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. In addition to the possibility of a long wait for the bus, I was also afraid that the bus might first stop at Kidani Village, which would further delay my arrival at Jambo House where Jiko is located. So instead I exited the park from the International Gateway and walked to the Beach Club where I immediately got a cab to take me directly to Jambo House. I reached the check in desk for Jiko at about 3:25 so I was happy with my decision. :thumbsup2

I will be dividing my review of the Wanyama Safari experience into 3 parts – Welcome Reception, Safari, and the Jiko Dinner.

Part 1 – Wanyama Safari Welcome Reception

Most of the reviews that I read regarding this experience were older and did not include this Welcome Reception, which leads me to believe that this is a fairly recent addition. Our tour group consisted of myself and three others (a couple from New Jersey and their friend). They were all very nice so once again I lucked out with the “dining with complete strangers” thing. We were taken into the Jiko Wine Room (which I had heard about but had never been seated there during my previous visits to Jiko). I’m sorry but I completely forgot to take any photos of the room. Instead, my target was the lovely spread of food and beverages that awaited us on a large table in the middle of the room. I tried to take photos as quickly as possible, as the other tour guests seemed hungry and anxious to dig in…unlike me, who was still incredibly full from my 5 course lunch which had just ended an hour ago! :guilty: In my hurry though, I didn’t take the time to adjust my camera settings, etc in order to take better pictures so I apologize that these photos are not that great. But anyway, hopefully you will get a general idea of what was served at this reception.

Let’s begin with the beverages…

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The two choices were water and Organic Rooibos Iced Tea, along with some locally produced honey for sweetening. We were told that rooibos comes from the rugged slopes of the Western Cape Mountains in South Africa. Also that this famous red bush tea is caffeine free and tastes like a light Ceylon black tea.

Next up were these three snacks…

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Tropical Fruit Chewy Granola Bars and White Chocolate Scones with Cranberries and Pistachios

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African-spiced Trail Mix

Then there were these sweet treats that looked delicious…

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Kenyan Coffee Mousse Tarts

And last, the chef was carving for us…

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House-made Pork and Beef Boerwors Sausage

Which was accompanied by these three sauces/dips…

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Harissa, Cucumber Raita, and Mango Sambal

Despite the fact that everything looked great, I knew that if I had any chance of being hungry again by dinner time I needed to refrain from partaking of this. Well, that almost worked…almost. ;)When I approached the chef to attempt a close-up shot of the sausage, he misunderstood my intentions and handed me a small plate with two pieces of olive bread and a few slices of the sausage. Not wanting to insult the chef who would be preparing my dinner, I politely accepted the plate of food. Oh, but to make matters worse, I also added a small spoonful of each of the sauces/dips to my plate… :laughing:

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Yes, I am a glutton for punishment…or maybe just a glutton?? :lmao: But I swear to you that I only had a nibble of each of the items on my plate, just enough to make me regret that I was too full to eat it all as it was very tasty. Also, about this time is when we were told that once we boarded the safari vehicle for our 1 1/2 – 2 hour tour we would not be able to stop for a potty break. Therefore, I decided that this would not be a good time to test the limits of my stomach capacity. ;)

Though I was unable to fully appreciate the food and beverages which were provided to us at this Welcome Reception, I was very impressed by the number of different things offered and the beautiful way that they were presented. As further evidence of this beauty, here are a few photos of the African-themed items which adorned the buffet table…

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Part 2 – The Safari

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At a few minutes before 4:00 our two guides arrived at the Jiko Wine Room to introduce themselves and lead us outside to the hotel’s main entrance where our safari vehicle awaited us…

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Once we had boarded, we set off on our tour of the savannas which surround Animal Kingdom Lodge resort…

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Animal Kingdom Lodge is made up of two buildings, Kidani Village and Jambo house and there are four savannas surrounding the Lodge: Sunset, Arusha, Uzima and the newest one, Pembe (not listed on the above map). Each of these savannas is the home to different animals and birds, with the exception of the Reticulated Giraffes, which were in all three of the savannas we toured. Our safari began with the Sunset savanna, which is located over on the Kidani Village side of the resort. We reached the savanna by passing through a “backstage” barn area and our guide told us about the animals which are housed there. I always find these “behind the scenes” areas and information very interesting. Once we had entered the savanna, we were quickly greeted by this curious ostrich, who came within arm’s reach of our vehicle…

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I don’t recall exactly what this hoofed animal was so I’ll go with a white antelope…

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Next we were able to see the beautiful Kidani building from an animal’s point of view…

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Then we came across the first of many giraffes that we saw during our safari…

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I’ll warn you now that I took many giraffe photos, as they are my favorite of all the animals and birds on the AKL savannas. I was thrilled when we got “up close and personal” with this beautiful giraffe…

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And then another giraffe…

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But even more beautiful than a giraffe eating, is a giraffe on the move…

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Ok, you are probably ready to see something other than giraffes now, right? Like maybe this Marabou stork…

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Some Ankole Cattle…

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Next is my, “One of these things is not like the others” photo…

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Let’s see, what else? Oh yes, this couple having a “not so private” dinner for two…

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And this zebra seemed to have misplaced his stripes… ;)

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Not sure what this poor animal is, but he has broken off one of his horns. Ouch, that had to have hurt!…

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And then the lyrics to “Home on the Range” come to mind when you see all the antelope that were playing…

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Thomson’s Gazelle

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Kudu (not sure if Greater or Lesser?)

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Common Eland

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Roan Antelope

“And the skies are not cloudy all day.”…

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So in conclusion, the safari was an awesome experience and one that I would recommend to any animal lovers out there. If you enjoy the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom, I can almost guarantee that you will love this one. Our guide was a great combination of entertaining and informative. He told us some interesting stories which gave us an idea of the individual personalities of some of the animals we were seeing. And the best part for me was being able to take photos without a zoom lens or without the vehicle moving. :thumbsup2

But the experience does not end here…if you are a foodie, the best was yet to come.

 

Wanyama Safari Part 3 – The Dinner at Jiko

Following our nearly 2 hour long tour through the various savannas which surround the Animal Kingdom Lodge we disembarked from our safari vehicle at Jambo House and were led by our tour guide to the resort’s signature restaurant.

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And for those who might be interested, I took photos of Jiko’s regular and Kids menus (as of Oct. 22, 2014)…

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Now on to our dinner. We were seated at one of the four-top tables not far from the window…

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…which soon was filled with food.

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But first, let’s take a look at the special Wanyama Safari dinner menu…

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Our server soon came to our table to introduce himself and I immediately recognized him. He was the same server that we had during my last dinner at Jiko in April. Although he was friendly and amusing, I remembered that he was somewhat lacking in attentiveness. After almost having the same bad server at Yachtsman Steakhouse at my first dinner the night before and now this happening on my second night, I was starting to get a case of bad server deja vu. And for those of you who read my last dining report, you know why I began to question my plan to dine at Flying Fish Café right about now. ;)

Ok, now for the food. We were first given an amuse bouche which was not listed on the menu…

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Blue Cheese Cheesecake topped with honey

This was really, really tasty. I love the combination of the salty blue cheese with the sweet honey. We also started with a cocktail, a Jiko Sunriser with Parrot Bay Rum and Banana Liqueur along with orange, pineapple, and cranberry juices. I really like fruity cocktails and had enjoyed this one during a previous visit to Jiko so I was happy that this was included in our Safari dinner.

Next a basket of three breads was served…

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This included Khobz, Poppy Seed Lavash, and my favorite, House-made Naan…

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The breads were accompanied by an assortment of four dips…

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My favorite of these was the Kalamata Hummus (the tan one) which was made from mashed chickpeas blended with a sesame seed paste, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and kalamata olives.

For our next course we were each given our own plate with a sample of three of the appetizers which are listed on Jiko’s regular menu…

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From left to right: Inguday Tibs in Brik, Jiko Salad, and Crispy Duck “Bobotie” Roll

These were accompanied by our choice of two Graham Beck wines, one a white (Chenin Blanc) and the other a red (Cabernet Sauvignon). I generally prefer white wines so I chose the Chenin Blanc and I enjoyed it with both this course and the next one.

As for the appetizers, two of these were new to me but I had seen them on the menu previously and had wanted to try them. The first is the Jiko salad which consisted of summer greens (mostly frisee), watermelon, blueberries, caviar limes, smoked almonds, feta cheese, and lime-date vinaigrette. Since I’m not a fan of frisee, I didn’t really care for the greens part of the salad but I did enjoy the feta cheese and watermelon. All in all though, it was my least favorite of the three. The duck bobotie roll was pretty good. I probably wouldn’t order it again, but I’m glad that my curiosity was finally satisfied. Now the third sample on our plate is one of my favorite Disney World appetizers. The Inguday Tibs in Brik remind me of spanakopita, only even better in my opinion. In addition to the usual spinach and cheese, the tibs in brik also have mushrooms.

Here is photo of the full-size portion of the Inguday Tibs in Brik appetizer that was taken during a previous visit to Jiko…

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Next came a huge onslaught of food, beginning with us each receiving a sampler plate containing three of Jiko’s popular entrees…

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From left and moving clockwise: Botswana-style “Seswaa” Beef Short Rib, Maize-crusted Monkfish with Tomato-Butter Sauce, and Harissa Chicken and Saffron Broth.

I’ll start with my least favorite, which was the chicken. Although this was moist and juicy, I found it a little boring flavor-wise. It was by no means bad though, just not as good as the other two entrees. Regarding the short rib, this was something I had had before but didn’t like. I have a very low tolerance for fatty meat and unfortunately I ran into this problem when I had the short rib at Jiko a few years ago. Thankfully it was not a problem this time. The meat was tender and flavorful and all of my dining companions said it was their favorite of the three entrees. Though I enjoyed it very much and would consider ordering the short rib again, my favorite was the fish. This was a mild tasting white fish with a very good maize (or cornmeal) crust. I had the full-size portion of this entree (pictured below) the last time I dined at Jiko (April 2014) and enjoyed it. It will be a difficult decision between having this again and giving the short rib another try on my next visit to Jiko.

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Now for the side dishes, of which there were six. These were served family-style in bowls which were passed around the table. I didn’t taste or get a photo of at least two of these, the vegetables of moment and the vegetable confit. I was beginning to get full by this time so had to pass on a few of these…I chose to skip the veggies! ;) And speaking of veggies, I also didn’t have any of the organic pole beans but at least I took a photo…

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The other three sides I did try, as you can see from my plate…

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Again I’ll start with my least favorite, the Ancient Grain Pilaf…

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This was ok, nothing special.

However, the other two side dishes were great…

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The famous Jiko Macaroni & Cheese and Spoon Bread Souffle

The Macaroni & Cheese used to be served with Jiko’s Filet, however that changed about three or four years ago. But that didn’t stop guests from requesting it so they placed it on the Kids’ menu in order to accommodate the many fans of their mac & cheese. Although the spoon bread was very good too, I believe that the macaroni & cheese was the unanimous favorite side dish at our table.

And that just leaves our desserts, which again we were each served a sampler platter of three of Jiko’s desserts.

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From left to right: Malva Pudding, Avocado Custard Cake with Blood, and Ghanaian Chocolate and Kenyan Coffee Pot de Creme Tart

Ok, let’s switch it up this time and start with the best…

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Ghanaian Chocolate and Kenyan Coffee Pot de Creme

This was delicious and though I was quite full by this time, I could not stop myself from eating all of this. My three dining companions were equally enamored with this dessert and we all agreed that it was by far the best dessert of the three.

Now for the other two…

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Malva Pudding with Toasted Meringue, Lemon Curd, and Wild Strawberries & Avocado Custard Cake with Blood Orange Sorbet

My tablemates seemed to like the Malva Pudding but for me it was just okay. It had a spongy texture that I didn’t care for, plus I’m not really a fan of lemon curd. As for the Avocado Custard Cake, we all agreed that this looked much better than it tasted. Actually this dessert had very little taste, which was disappointing considering how beautiful it looked.

That completed our meal, however there were two surprises yet to come…one good and one not so good. First the good surprise. We were each given a bag full of goodies to take home…

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Our server then asked how the checks were to be divided. The couple was treating their friend, so we told him that only my check needed to be separate. When he returned with the two checks, I took a look at mine and saw the total of $380!!! As you may recall, I had forgotten to inquire as to the current price of the Wanyama Safari when I reserved it but the most recent information I found said the price was $190. Figuring this information might be outdated, I had budgeted as much as $250 for the safari. So as you can imagine, I immediately broke out into a cold sweat. As my mind began to frantically run through the plans for the remainder of my trip in an attempt to figure out what I was going to have to forfeit due to my stupid mistake, it was interrupted by four wonderful words, “Our bill is wrong.” Yes, our server had me picking up the tab for their lady friend, so actually my bill was supposed to be only $190 (which included both tax and gratuity). So with that crisis averted and my bill corrected, I left feeling quite happy with my decision to do the Wanyama Safari and satisfied that I had gotten my money’s worth.

 

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