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Having just been on an African safari with my family, I wasn’t expecting much from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  And it would take more than greetings of jambo from the kente cloth clad Disney cast to make me a believer.

As soon as I stepped inside the lobby, with its thatched ceilings and African artifacts, I was reminded of the South African safari lodge where my family and I stayed just a few short weeks before.  However, when I exited the lobby and walked outside into a virtual African savanna that all my fears and doubts were allayed. I was surprised to see a Thompson’s gazelle leap by, as graceful as a ballerina. Then delighted when I spotted a kudu, an animal from the antelope family that we saw in South Africa, nicknamed “Mickey Mouse” by my daughters because of its large, round ears. Seeing a reticulated giraffe, almost close enough to touch, alarmed me slightly. Hakuna Mata.  He was much more interested in nibbling leaves from an 8-foot tall tree than stealing kisses from me.

Board a safari vehicle and experience the 43-acre Wanyama Safari with a guided tour that features more than 30 species of wildlife as well as flora and fauna indigenous to Africa. The Wanyama Safari experience is followed by dinner at Jiko, the resort’s signature restaurant that specializes in South African cuisine.  The restaurant also boasts the largest South African wine selection in America, including Graham Beck Brut NV Western Cape, South Africa, Sparkling Wine, chosen as the official sparkling wine for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and by the Obamas to celebrate their election success in 2008.

I raise my glass and propose a toast to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the wonderful world of Disney.

Note: Disney provided free accommodations, meals and theme park tickets to the TravelingMom.com bloggers.