DAK’s 20th Anniversary Part 2: A Path Less Traveled Tour
For this part of my DAK20 / Party for the Planet set of reviews, I take a look at a special tour that is being offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom exclusively for the 20th Anniversary of the park. In A Path Less Traveled, guests are treated to a variety of exclusive experiences at the park, for a cost of $59 per person.
Comprising a full day in the park, the tour is actually divided into three sections:
Backstage at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
The first part of the tour, guests check in at 10am near the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris for a 10:30am kickoff. Once checked in, the larger group is divided into 3 or 4 smaller groups, comprising of about 15 people each and each with their own tour guide. From there, each group rides the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and heads backstage for a tour of a few areas backstage, including the areas where the meals for all of the animals at WDW are prepared; the veterinary hospital and science unit; an area dedicated to the precursor to Animal Kingdom, Discovery Island; and a purple martins habitat. I have always wanted to know what went on behind the scenes at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and this tour was exactly that. Highlights for me was seeing memorabilia from Discovery Island, a place that I remember going to as a child with my grandparents; getting to see the inner workings of the veterinary hospital; and learning about the purple martins and how they depend on man-made housing to survive.
This part of the tour ends at the entrance to Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which gives guests a chance to explore the park side of the area before heading back on the train. I took the time to say hi to Rafiki and Doc McStuffins, who do regular Meet & Greets in this section.
For this part of the backstage access and opportunity to see behind the scenes, it was well worth the price of the tour. However, there was more.
Caring for Giants
The second part of this tour includes a later-in-the-day time slot for the already popular Caring for Giants tour. In this tour, guests are brought backstage to the elephant enclosure on the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction. There, elephant handlers and cultural representatives from African countries talk about the elephants in the WDW herd, their hierarchy, some history about them, and their conservation in the wild. It was a great experience for me. I loved being so much closer to the elephants than I usually am on the safari. We got to spend almost an hour visiting with the handlers and elephants. Seeing the newest baby born there, Stella, from a non-moving vehicle was awesome.
NOTE: When booking this tour, I was under the impression that cameras would not be able to be used during the tour. While that was true to for the entirety of the first part of the tour and for most of this part of the tour, the actual time spending with the elephants backstage was allowed. I did not bring my good camera with me because of my impressions, and I regret it. I will probably do just the Caring for Giants tour again in order to get pics with my good camera and lenses. However, this trip I had to make due with my cell phone. While not as good as a decent camera, especially at these distances, I still liked what pics I could get.
Considering that this tour as a standalone tour costs $30, for it to have been added to this tour makes this tour, to me at least, a value-added incentive.
After this part of the tour, we were offered a snack, which we pre-determined in the morning. Of course I got a Mickey Pretzel with cheese, as well as a bottle of Coca-Cola. Though nothing really exclusive or “special”, it’s about a $10 snack that’s included in part of the ticket price…. so BONUS!
VIP Seating for Rivers of Light
The final part of this tour is a VIP seat for Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s nighttime show, Rivers of Light. Now, while I am not a big fan of this show, seeing it from literally one of the best seats in the stadium did make me appreciate it a bit more than when I saw it from General Seating. To be fair, I don’t think I will see it again unless it is from this seating again.
NOTE: Again, this would have been a great time for my good camera, but since I did not bring it with me to the park for the day, I got as best as I could with my iPhone as far as pics go.
I would like to point out that the CMs at the check-in area for this tour were very accommodating in regards to guests that had conflicting FastPass + reservations. I had an Expedition Everest FP+ booked for around the same time as my Caring for Giants tour. Since it was going to be tight, they issues me a “No Strings Attached” pass for Everest. This allowed me to still ride Everest that day, as well as try to reschedule that FP+ allocation, which I was able to do. This is policy to do for any ride except for the two rides in Pandora, from what I was told.
Overall, this was a great tour, and I am thankful to the team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for offering it during the 20th Anniversary Celebration. I feel that this tour could be a fun permanent addition to the offerings at this park, or at least a version of it. For the cost of the tour, you get a lot, in my opinion. The biggest downside was the encompassing of the entire day to do every aspect of the tour. For me, however, I was able to utilize mobile ordering for my Quick Service lunch at Suli’i Canteen in Pandora and the FastPass + system to ride a bunch of rides and enjoy the rest of the park on my downtime. I kept myself busy, and actually enjoyed spending the full day in the park, which is something that I have never done before.
Unfortunately, this tour has already ended, but I was informed during it that, if it is a popular tour, a version of it can see itself back in the future.
Stay tuned for the last part of my review of DAK20 / Party for the Planet, where I take a look at some of the special things introduced on Earth Day for Party for the Planet 2018, which ran through May 5th, as well as a look at the new UP themed bird show which opened up on Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s 20th Anniversary.
Feature Editor for DisKingdom.com and PopVinyls.com.
Living in the NYC area, Travis has grown up loving a multitude of things, from Disney to Broadway to the fine arts… and beyond. He is the Press Reporter for such events like the NY Toy Fair and New York Comic Con. Additionally, he is also an amateur puppeteer, toy collector, avid movie goer, and carries his camera around wherever he goes.