Memoirs of a Former Disney Castmember: Living in Harambe, Part 1

Hamjambo!

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As you cross the colonial bridge over the rushing river and enter Old Town Harambe, you immediately spot the giant tree that marks the entrance to the Harambe Wildlife Reserve and our touring company of choice: Kilimanjaro Safaris. The giant tree holding our welcoming sign in place is a boabab called Mzee Mbuyu, which means “Old Man” in Swahili. Inside the office and around the corner you can hear the office phone ringing. Now where has the front desk service person gone?

Oh well. You are well rested from your night at the Tusker House hotel and you already have your safari hat, your boots, and your binoculars from Mombasa Marketplace.  Your partner just picked up your camera and spotting guide from the film shack, and the warden said the truck is already waiting for you at the departure. Just head on aboard, throw your luggage in the back, and get ready for the wildest two week safari of your life!

What I just described was the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – my assigned post while I interned at Walt Disney World during the 2012 Disney College Program.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom – or DAK, which cast members call it – I was an American foreign exchange student , come to learn about conservation at  the coastal East African village Harambe. During my “semester abroad” I took excited adventurers on two week safaris through the jungles and savannahs of wild Africa .During our expedition we planned to spend the night at the Tumbili Tented Camps and enjoy breakfast while gazing  at white rhinos across the Kifaru Plains from the Kujikwa Tembo Lodge, but we always ran into the same roadblock: poachers!

Poachers – those fiendish thieves of the serenghetti – had a habit of ruining every safari. Their corrupted desire for tusks and horns was insatiable and we were frequently radioed by the Game Reserve Warden Wilson Mutua about intruders just past the Magadi Gate.

Fortunately, we were always able to save the day and rescue whatever helpless animals the poachers nabbed. Unfortunately, however, our two week expeditions were always cut short – due to this unforeseeable event – and we were mandated to return our guests to the nearest Warden’s post, which was a short trek from the Gorilla Falls research station.

This was the most enjoyable job  of my life. Pictures, videos, and posts cannot accurately describe the feelings of euphoria from spending so many months in the bush. The beat of the drum, the hum of the safari trucks, the laughter of my guests, the smiles of my fellow safari guides, the breeze  atop Savannah Overlook hill, the anxiety crossing that collapsing bridge, and even the smell of flamingoes at that curiously-shaped island. I loved it all.

A few weeks after my program ended I found this video online  made by a former safari guide. Check it out:

Working as a safari guide was truly a rewarding experience, yet there were certain parts of my job that I did not enjoy all the time. As you can imagine, any job (even ones at the most magical place on earth) has certain aspects that are less desirable than others.  Can you imagine what it’s like?

Check out my next post to discover my adventures as a safari guide!

 

 

“What you see with your eyes, you value with your heart” – Warden Wilson Mutua (Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park)

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