Jambo everyone and greetings from Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World. I was invited by Disney to explore the vegan options at Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night.
The Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night adventure is a progressive, all-you-care-to-enjoy dinner held throughout three distinct Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park locations with nods to Disney’s The Lion King and a story tied to “The Big Five”.
“The Big Five” references the five African animals which conservationists have the highest concern for due to poaching. These five include the African Elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo.
What’s Vegan at Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night in Animal Kingdom
Your evening will begin at the Harambe Train Station in Africa where you’re officially checked in for the event. The event itself runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with check-in starting around 5:45 p.m. This is the spot where you’ll receive your Circle of Flavors Guide Book as well as your boarding pass for the Wildlife Express Train to the next location, Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – Harambe Train Station
The Harambe Train Station is where the event reception takes place. This brief thirty minute precursor features live music, light snacks and specialty beverages.
Guests 21 and up are greeted with the Harambellini which is a fun take on the classic Bellini. This one is a blend of POG Juice (pineapple, orange, guava) and Graham Beck Brut Rose, a vegan sparkling South African blend of pinot noir and chardonnay. You could also request the sparkling rose on its own.
Other non-alcoholic beverage options include water, iced tea and something dubbed a Kitamu Cooler which is a mixture of mango and pineapple with a hint of chipotle pepper.
You’ll also have access to a bar at all three dining locations throughout the evening serving Bud Light and Tusker Lager which are both vegan friendly beers, along with four South African wines (two whites and two reds) which include Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc, Cederberg Bukketraube, Cederberg Merlot Shiraz and Painted Wolf The Den Pinotage.
There are two vegan snack options at the reception. The first is Bread and Hummus featuring Pomegranate Molasses Focaccia with Peppadew Hummus and Smoked Olive Oil.
This is the same bread that is served inside Tiffins restaurant here at the Animal Kingdom theme park. I loved this offering and ate three servings of it.
The other offering is one that needs to be modified. It’s the kid’s option but anything goes here. Adults can order the children’s option and vice versa.
What you have here is the Charcutamatata Ndogo which was basically grapes and cheese cubes. The cheese was popped on top of the grapes so I just threw it away. A chef offered to run and get me some grapes without cheese, but I declined. If you’ve got a serious dairy allergy this would be a nice gesture if cross contamination is an issue for you.
After about thirty minutes at the Harambe Train Station we boarded the Wildlife Express train and headed to our second location, the Rafiki’s Planet Watch train station.
I felt a little naughty bringing my wine and snacks onto the train but a cast member assured me it was fine.
The ride from Harambe to Conservation Station is quite relaxing. We had an entire car to ourselves and the train’s speed was significantly slower than it moves during normal operation which gave my girlfriend Katie and I time to chat and take photos.
Katie is gluten intolerant and she was shocked at how many options were available to her. You can see her gluten-free review over on Fairytale Foodie.
Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – Rafiki’s Planet Watch Train Station
The second stop on our “Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night” tour led us to the Conservation Station Train Depot where more sips and light bites were served.
There were two more full service bars here with the same beer and wine options available at the Harambe Station. In addition, the Rafiki’s Planet Watch Train Station had two signature specialty adult beverages.
The Wanjohl’s Dawa was was a refreshing blend of tequila, pineapple, mango and and ancho chili. A sort of African Safari Margarita if you will.
The second option was the Chief’s Shandy, a blend of lemonade with Tusker Lager.
Non-alcoholic beverage options included water, iced tea, Odwalla Lemonade and a delightful drink dubbed the Duara Refresher which was a mix of passion fruit purée, mint, simple syrup, lime juice and ginger beer.
The vegan food option was something called Kachumbari which was a refreshing, lightly dressed salad of tomato, citrus segments, cucumber, micro greens and sweetie drops.
Both Timon and Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King were there interacting with guests and taking photos. There was even a PhotoPass photographer on hand to capture the moment.
The most unique experience had to have been the 360° virtual reality safari.
This experience was filmed inside the lion habitat at the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna. After you don your VR headset, you’re placed right in the midst of a pride of lions. This was literally unlike anything I have ever experienced before at the Walt Disney World Resort.
After we’d spent about forty five minutes or so at the Rafiki’s Planet Watch Train Station we were invited to board the Wildlife Express (at our leisure) for a return trip to the Harambe Train Station where were were escorted to our third and final stop of the night…the Harambe Market.
Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – Harambe Market
The Harambe Market location was where the majority of the food (and yes drink) options were. Guests had four objectives here:
- SAVOR – Taste authentic African flavors while dining around five unique food stations inspired by the “Big Five” animals.
- INDULGE – Enjoy courtyard stations featuring ice pops, popcorn and delectable desserts.
- CELEBRATE – Dance along with African musicians while partaking in the street fest celebration.
- ENGAGE – Children and adults alike were invited to learn more about their favorite Big Five animals and participate in a bead craft activity.
As mentioned before, the Harambe Market was home to five unique food stations inspired by the Big Five animals: the African Elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo.
And much like their animal counterparts, vegan options were available at the herbivore stations represented by the Cape buffalo, rhinoceros and African elephant (which is actually the world’s largest herbivore). The carnivore stations represented by the lion and leopard did not have plant based options.
VEGAN OPTIONS AT HARAMBE MARKET – THE RHINOCEROS
The award for most vegan options at one station goes to the Rhinoceros. There were three dishes here.
Did you know? White rhinos in Uganda are no longer extinct? In 2006, two white rhinos born at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park traveled from Florida to Africa in the first ever reintroduction of white rhinos from the United States to Uganda.
First up are the Potato and Pea Samosas with pickled veggies and tamarind sauce.
These little nuggets are the same things that are served to you at Trails End Restaurant in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground when dining at the buffet as a vegan. I’d describe them as tiny hot pocket style pies with a savory vegetable filling.
Addictive! Once you pop you can’t stop.
Next on the menu is the Vegetable Curry. This one starts with a base of white basmati rice and is topped with roasted seasonal vegetables.
This curry was pretty mild and the dish itself was quite comforting.
The third item was Vegan Bunny Chow. This item is featured on the kid’s menu at Tiffins restaurant inside the theme park. I’ve ordered it there before with no shame. It’s THAT good.
What is bunny chow you ask? Well it’s kind of like a vegan sloppy joe. The filling is composed of Impossible Foods “meat’, potatoes, tomato and chakalaka which is onion, red pepper, garlic and seasoning. And the vegan bun it is served inside of is pillowy soft.
The next spot on our gastronomical adventure brings us to The Cape Buffalo station.
VEGAN OPTIONS AT HARAMBE MARKET – THE CAPE BUFFALO
Did you know? The Disney conservation fund supports projects in various countries throughout Africa in an effort to promote the sustainable use of natural resources and preservation of habitat, protecting areas that Cape buffalo call home.
There are two options at this station one of which can be modified vegan and another that is completely vegan as is.
First are the Kofta Fritters. These deep-fried, savory pillows of dough are made from vegetables and chickpea flour. They are served with pickled carrots, pomegranate pearls and a tamarind-molasses sauce.
The kofta are very similar to the samosas in that they are addictive. Once you pop, you can’t stop.
The other option that will need to be modified is the Cape Malay Curry. This one starts with a base of basmati rice and is topped with Cape Malay green coconut curry and cauliflower. Omit the shrimp to make it vegan.
I absolutely love green curry and this one had a nice kick to it.
The third stop on our herbivore journey is to visit The African Elephant.
VEGAN OPTIONS AT HARAMBE MARKET – THE AFRICAN ELEPHANT
Did you know? Elephants do not like bees. Together with the conservation organization “Save the Elephants”, Disney is working to improve human-elephant relationships. Because honey bees are a natural deterrent to elephants, beehive fences are constructed around the perimeter of small farms to provide crop protection. This in turn keeps elephants from stampeding across farmer’s crops.
The one and only option here is something that has to be modified. Order the Grilled Sweet Corn. Skip the citrus aioli and farmer’s cheese. There’s even Tajin, which is a chili lime salt, to spice it up a bit if you’re into that sort of thing.
Now on to the sweets!
There are four vegan as-is sweet treats to choose from at the Harambe Market. Choose? Who am I kidding? You can have them all. It’s included in the price.
First up is my favorite dessert of the night. This is a Banana Cupcake with dark chocolate frosting. Omg good!
The second option is the Passion Fruit Tapioca topped with citrus segments.
You will need to ask someone at the dessert station to get both of these options for you from the back of the house as they are not on display for other guests without dietary restrictions.
Next up is a station serving vegan Paletas, which are basically fruit juice on a stick. The flavor the evening I attended the event was strawberry.
Last but not least is an option from the Chakula Treat Shaved Ice station. Flavors here include watermelon, mango and piña colada.
This is the Asante Slushy with watermelon and mango flavors. It looked exactly like a sunset.
And speaking of sunset, the nine o’clock hour was drawing near and the tables started to become vacant as guests began heading back out into Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night – The Wrap Up
The wrap up… Some things I noticed as a vegan experiencing “Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night”…
Boy were there a lot of options!
Is it worth the price? I’d like to think of it as a mini food and wine festival inside the Animal Kingdom theme park… but with unlimited food and beverage options included in the price. Speaking of pricing. Adults are $125 and children (3 to 9) are $99. Theme park admission is not included in the event pricing.
You could easily drop $125 eating and drinking your way around an Epcot festival, if an Epcot festival had this many vegan options.
There were chefs at every food station waiting to help guests with special dietary needs and you could speak with them directly. My girlfriend Katie, who was dining with me, is gluten intolerant and she had several options to choose from. We both kept commenting to each other how safe we felt with all of the offerings that we had experienced.
The menu options offered at the dining locations often did not match the options listed in the commemorative guide we were handed out upon check in, which actually ended up being a good thing. There were more vegan options than I anticipated going in.
The event was at half capacity the night we attended. 100 or so guests were in attendance. Maximum capacity is around 200 guests. Even at capacity I don’t think that we would have felt cramped, crowded or the effects of standing in very long lines to get food. The ability to board the train in your own time kept guests flowing at a nice leisurely pace where we didn’t feel crowded at all throughout the night.
Oh and bonus! There was a departure gift given out at the end of the night. A lovely stemless wine glass inscribed with the event name.
My thoughts on “Circle of Flavors: Harambe at Night” in Animal Kingdom….GO! And please take me with you. I’d love to experience it all over again!
The event takes place from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. on select Wednesday nights from now through August 26th, 2020. To purchase tickets visit Disney.com.
Disney provided me with admission to this special event for the purpose of this review. They did not provide me with theme park admission. I am an Annual Passholder. As always all opinions are my own.
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