Animal Kingdom, the newest of the Disney parks, embodies to me what Disney is all about. It combines the stage presence and attention to detail that the Disney parks have become famous for, and adds the element of live animals. The result is a thrilling experience that no zoo can top.
We arrived promptly at 7:45 am for the 8:00 early Magic Hours opening, but unlike Magic Kingdom there was no big opening number. Just a large crowd gathered in the park that took off like horses out of the gates at 9:00 am, sprinting to the three main attractions: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest.
Jeremy and I ran to the back of the park to Africa, and were on the first jeep heading out on safari.
It was amazing! Definitely a must-do.
Our reservation wasn't until 11:30, so had ample time to explore the park and make some friends.
By the time lunch rolled around, we were starving and eager to eat. So we ambled back into the African Village of Harambe and checked in at the Tusker house.
*Fun fact: Disney hired real African artisans and architects to come over and help make Harambe as authentic as possible, down to every last detail!*
There was a bit of a line for the reservation check in, but they did a good job at moving through it quickly. Once I gave them my name they told us to have a seat in a little outdoor area and wait for them to call us, which happened 10 minutes after our scheduled time. Not too bad!
This is the main room when they bring you into the restaurant. It has a great atmosphere, it's very colorful and sunny, and the buffet circumferences the entire back of the room. The one in the middle is the dessert buffet.
We were seated in a medium-sized dining room off of the main buffet room. Disney does a good job at organizing large crowds and making your dining experience seem intimate, rather than overcrowded. Our waiter came over right away and took our drink orders, and then we were off to the buffet!
It's difficult to load your plate with delicious food while attempting to take decent pictures, so I rushed the photography a bit. Sorry!
Though the buffet had a distinct African theme, even the pickiest of eaters could find something that they liked. Jeremy and I enjoyed the kids buffet as well, which had yummy mac n' cheese and corn dog nuggets!
Also included but not pictured:
- Rotisserie chicken
- Peri-peri marinated baked salmon (no clue what peri-peri is, but it tasted great)
- Saffron-infused root vegetables
- Pearl couscous with sweet basil
- Freshly sliced pork and roast beef
- Curried chicken
- and about a million other things
This was my plate. It's extremely hard to try a little bit of everything and still arrange your plate attractively for pictures. I didn't even try.
Once we had sampled everything (some of our favorites: curry chicken, pearl couscous, salmon, mashed potatoes, corn dog nuggets) we headed over to the dessert buffet. Now, I did all my research and read the menus, and something really caught my eye and drove me to make this reservation: banana bread pudding with white chocolate sauce.
It's all of my favorite desserts rolled into one! And to my dismay, they also rolled some walnuts into it, which I'm allergic to.
So I drooled while Jeremy ate it, watching every forkful disappear into his mouth like a wide-eyed puppy waiting for a crumb to fall to the floor. He said it was great. That jerk.
Here's my dessert plate, with a spiced carrot cake in front, a delicious chocolate volcano cake on the right and two strawberry mousses in chocolate cups with chocolate straws. Scrumptious, but no banana bread pudding.
Overall, this turned out to be one of our favorite restaurants of the whole vacation. The theming was immersive and fun, the food was delicious and plentiful, and the waiters were friendly. The only problem we had was trying to eat everything!
Feeling rejuvenated and content, we headed off back into the park to enjoy the rest of the wonderful day!