Disney’s Wild Africa Trek…..the real story

I’m one of the “friends” who went into the wilds of Africa with Tracy and her husband Bill. My daredevil crew consisted of myself (Regina), my hubby Gary and my daughter Caitlin.

This all started with yours truly. I heard about this new tour and suggested we see what it was all about. After I booked it, I made the mistake of looking at the video. SAY WHAT???!! THERE’S A ROPE BRIDGE???!!! I am going to die. Laugh all you want but in the waiver there it is; Disney’s not responsible if you fall, trip, stumble, break a bone or croak.

 I signed my life away and next I’m asked to step on the “magic square.” Hey wait a minute!! I’m a weight watcher’s dropout and I know exactly what that is, it’s a scale!! No one other than “magic square” man can see what I weigh, but sir, if you read this, I can assure you the extra 50 pounds is from the sweatshirt I had on.

 I’m handed a stunning mesh vest that looks like something from a medieval torture chamber. It has all sorts of straps and clips dangling from it. There’s a bungee type cord that’s anchored in the center of the back with a clip that attaches in the front. I’m asked my name and it’s written on the top of my very own keepsake water bottle. While trying to cram it into the pocket it has to fit in, I smear the writing and am henceforth known as “Smudge-ina.”

Next we’re told to unclip something and re-clip it around our thighs so we’re harnessed into the vest. After 5 minutes of pulling on this and tightening that, I still can’t get it right. One of the guides asked if it would be okay if he could help me get it tight enough. As the poor guy is down there, no doubt considering a career change, I just had to say it: “I’ll bet this wasn’t in the job description, was it?”

They start us off on a practice rope bridge. The first thing I notice is there are some big gaps between some of the slats. Hmm…that waiver is starting to have a lot more relevance.

We now embark on what I refer to as “the walk of shame.” Yes, there we are, strapped and harnessed into our spiffy vests and strolling right through Harambe, aka the busiest part of the Animal Kingdom. We’re getting just as many looks as the chick I saw earlier who was wearing fishnet pantyhose over her flag themed denim shorts.

We walk through the gorilla section and I’m watching the visitors watching us watching the apes. Thankfully, we’re finally taken off the pavement and into the “wild.”

As luck would have it, we come across a researcher working with the hippos!! (Yes, I was gullible enough to think this was some amazing coincidence.) We’re clipped onto a metal safety bar so we can get a closer look. It really was a fantastic encounter. The researcher is tossing chunks of fresh fruit to the hippo. After he chomps on one treat, he opens his enormous mouth waiting for another. It was just like watching a king-size baby bird. Hippos have the biggest, pinkest tongues!

Wait!! What’s this! Our guide is told the road is washed out and we need to take another route. Well, it did rain the day before so maybe; just maybe, we don’t have to go across the dreaded rope bridge. WRONG!! This was the shtick they use to get you on it and once again I was stupid enough to believe it.

Finally, the part I’m dreading has arrived. We climb up the steps and there it is, not one but two, count ‘em, two rope bridges. My bungee vest clip is attached to an overhead safety line and off I go.

Hard to believe, but I’ve gone my whole life without crossing a rope bridge. I’m guessing they all have honkin’ huge gaps between some of the slats, a few of which resemble broken planks. So, not only am I wishing I did some leg stretches in preparation for this, I’m standing on what feels like toothpicks over a pit of crocodiles. (There is netting under the slats in case you miss, but I really didn’t want to test it out.)

HEY!!! I MADE IT!! Just call me Smudge-ina, Queen of the Jungle!! I’m ready to be clipped onto the crocodile overlook. Heck, I’m ready to wrestle one of those bad boys.

At this point, we’ve been trekking for close to two hours. I’m very happy to hear we can remove the vests so I unclip, unzip and get into the truck that’s waiting for us. We’re driven into the regular safari route, but with a big difference. We stop several times so we can move around (within the truck) and take pix.

We’re driven to a beautiful overlook with tables, chairs, binoculars for us to use and phew!!  Bathrooms!!

When I booked the tour, I was asked about food allergies and let them know there are certain things Caitlin can’t eat. I was impressed when I was asked who had the allergies and we were assured that none of the items had tree nuts, strawberries or celery. The food comes in two tiers of tins and is absolutely delish.

We’re driven through the final leg of the safari and return to “civilization”. We’re given our photopass cards and the code for the complimentary photo CD. They tell us that it will take about a week for them to be in the system. In other words, they want to make sure you’re home before you see the pix of yourself tripping over roots and looking like an extra from a Crocodile Dundee movie.

For myself (I normally don’t do heights) and my daughter (not a fan of crocs, the real thing and the shoes), it was a once in a lifetime experience. Still, we were very happy we did it. It was unique, we both conquered some real fears we each have and we fell in love with that big goofy hippo.  As for my hubby, just call him Gorilla Gary. He’s ready to trek again.

This is Smudge-ina the Safari Queen signing out!!

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