Lions and Tigers and Naan, Oh My!

Time for the last of my 5 Disney favorites. I had a really tough time deciding what to talk about for my last item. I was tempted to go with Raglan Road as one of my very favorite dining experiences, but then there's also favorite character meal. I was equally tempted to talk about Early Morning Magic because I absolutely adore the optional ability to gain some "quieter" park time, even if it does cost a bit more, but I'm holding out for the Toy Story EMM before I pick a favorite there. Then there's my favorite resort but I've gushed about Animal Kingdom Lodge more than once. The truth is Nicolette and I have far more than 5 Disney favorites, and in fact, Disney itself is a big favorite of ours - the brand, the parks, the resorts...

So what's taking the last of my honors? True to my love of the lesser noticed things, I'm going with Dining with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa. If you've never heard of it, that's not unusual. There are many experiences at Disney that although not by any means secret, most guests have no idea exist. Shameless plug: That's where Nicolette and I come into your planning. ;) Anyhoo ... This 1 3/4 hour lunch is only offered on Wednesdays and Sundays and is not dining plan eligible. However, the price is fairly comparable to a regular meal at Sanaa, and $5 of your cost goes to their conservation fund (the price has likely changed but should be around $39).

For this experience, you'll be one of a max of 12 guests of one of Disney's animal specialists. While s/he regales you with information and stories from the savanna just outside the huge windows, you'll enjoy a 4-course tasting menu announced and described by the chef himself. You'll enjoy full Indian-style bread service, different types of salads (I loved the watermelon one!), slow-cooked meats, and a small trio of decadent desserts. Vegans and vegetarians can be accommodated and kids can choose from child-size portions of the adult fare or select familiar favorites from the kids' menu (yep, chicken nuggets are an option). Likewise, if you're an adult who loves the idea but isn't adventurous on the food front, you too can request an adult-sized portion from the kids menu. ;) I think the menu is worth trying though. Although food at Sanaa is generally on the spicy side (sometimes VERY spicy), your meal will come with a wide range of spiciness and the chef will indicate what has the least and most heat. When we were there, the butter chicken was part of the main entree (it may still be but can't say for sure) and it's not very spicy at all. The desserts in particular were excellent during our visit.

Aside from sharing information, the animal specialist will also answer questions so it's completely interactive. S/he gets her meal to go so you'll get the specialist's full attention while you dine. After the meal, you'll be able to either get up close with one of the small animals on the savanna or watch another specialist/trainer interacting with the animals as you walk outside to a nearby lookout location. This portion is weather dependent since a cold snap in winter, for instance, could send these animals indoors or lightning would prevent guests from heading outside.

Kids over the age of 8 are welcome. Kids under 8 would probably get bored unless they're zoologists in the making. ;) Sanaa is located in Kidani Village. If you've got an animal lover in your family, this would be a unique and fun surprise extra!

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