Dumela! Over the last few weeks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has been welcoming back cultural representatives from various countries across Sub-Saharan Africa who are once again connecting guests to the magic of this one-of-a-kind resort for the first time since before the pandemic.
As part of our special one-year Disney International Program, these cast members help create authentic experiences and immerse guests in the diversity of their home countries through a combination of cultural and conservation focused activities available at the resort.
Along with playing an important role in our storytelling at Walt Disney World Resort, the cultural representatives at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge support Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment team by inspiring guests of all ages to care for animals and the world we share.
Here are just a few ways you can connect with this special group of cast members and learn more about their personal stories:
Immerse Yourself in the Music of the Savanna
With their warm smiles and passion for creating magical experiences, these beloved cultural representatives bring so much light and joy to the resort. To celebrate their highly anticipated return, I had the pleasure of joining our Walt Disney World Ambassador, Ali Manion, in an exciting activity to learn more about the role of music in African culture.
Check out the video below for a closer look at how the resort lobby came alive with music and dancing.
Visit Savanna Overlooks to Observe and Appreciate Wildlife
While some participants are eager to begin their first Disney International Program and others have been longing to return to create even more distinctly-Disney magic, all share an energetic excitement to interact with guests and cast from across the globe. Be sure to visit one of the four savanna overlooks across Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge during your stay and meet some of the cultural representatives who can share first-hand knowledge about some of the over 200 hoofed animals and birds who call the Lodge home.
“I’m so happy to be back at this beautiful place where I can share so much about where I come from, which is something I’m passionate about,” said Ntandoyenkosi Mngomezulu, a participant on her second program who will be working as a savanna guide at the resort. You can find Ntandoyenkosi sharing some of her immense knowledge of the beautiful flamingos in one of many interactive animal activities. “I get to teach guests more about wildlife behavior and conservation, two other subjects I’m passionate about, so it’s really fun to get to do what I love.”
Discover the Natural Wonders and Diversity of Sub-Saharan Africa
In addition to teaching guests on the savanna, cultural representatives are available to greet guests as they enter the lobby and share insight into everything the resort has to offer while also exchanging information about their home countries.
“Did you know South Africa is the only country in Africa that borders six other countries, and we have 11 official languages?” Naledi Nala, a returning participant, excitedly asked me during the welcome back celebration. “I love sharing everything I can about South Africa with our guests who have an interest in listening and learning,” she said. “I can’t wait for everybody to come to Animal Kingdom Lodge and experience the warm welcome of South Africa and African cultural reps.”
From learning about the role of music in African culture (maybe even trying out an instrument yourself) to learning about animal behaviors and different ecosystems of regions across Africa, there are plenty of ways you can discover the natural wonders, wildlife, and cultural diversity these cultural representatives have to share.
“For me, having these cast members here feels like we’re bringing the heart of the Lodge experience back,” said Jordan “Baz” Baszner, an education manager at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge who has worked closely with cultural representatives for many years. “It’s amazing how excited the guests are to join them in these activities, and I’m inspired by the positive impact they’ve been making for guests and fellow cast members in less than a week since their return,” he shared.
We are all so excited for you to meet these cast members and learn more about the diverse countries they represent!
Are you interested in learning more about Disney Programs? Check out disneyprograms.com where you can apply today.