Eight Hours in Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom Through the Eyes of an Adult
It has been awhile since I visited the Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. I have visited several times as a kid, then as a young adult and now someone a bit older but still find it fascinating. And in all my visits, I'm still not able to see everything. This article is about the attractions that the adult will still enjoy in Animal Kingdom.
Each theme park in Disney World has an iconic feature, and for Animal Kingdom, that would be the Tree of Life, this massive and brilliantly green artificial tree that you would see once you get past the entrance. Everyone practically takes a picture in front of this Tree.
Of the four parks of Walt Disney World, Animal Kingdom is the one with the shortest hours. Because of that, planning is important. Once you get past the entrance you should know where to go. My first recommendation is to go to Kilimanjaro Safaris in the Africa section of the Kingdom, where you enter the village of Harambe, as your first activity of the morning. The reason you want to ride the safari attraction is that you will be able to catch the animals while they are still awake and active. If you wait until the afternoon, the animals will be napping and it won't be as much fun seeing them. You also want to go early because this attraction is one of the most popular and you can avoid the long lines if you go early in the morning. The town of Harambe is made to look like an East African village and it's pretty realistic from what someone told me.
The Kilimanjaro Safaris is a ride that goes into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. I was very fortunate to arrive early enough in the morning so that the lines weren't too bad. The best part of the safari ride is that I was able to see so many animals that morning. According to the safari guide, the wildlife reserve aims to mimic the landscape of East Africa so you get to see a lot of baobob trees with their thick, chunky trunks and limbs. I was also surprised to see a lot of giant ant mounds but I guess that's a good sign that the ants are thriving because they are food for a lot of the animals. I was able to see okapi, elephants, warthogs, a sleepy lion (already), jaguar, crocodiles, and the rare white rhinoceros. Now, Disney wants to give you an educational experience, so our ride was interrupted because poachers were stealing the young. Of course, at the end of the ride, the poachers were caught (it's all make believe by the way) and our tour was over. At the end of the safari, we walked out and saw an enclosure where I saw a massive male gorilla. Apparently we were near Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
One of the best features of Animal Kingdom is that each area has an exploration trail that encourages the visitor to watch animals in their natural habitat. The Pangani Trail showcases all the flora, fauna, and select animals of East Africa. You see meerkats, okapi, all sorts of colorful birds, trees, and so forth. What I found most entertaining was watching a family of gorillas. The family had a baby gorilla who was playful and was playing with one of the older female guerillas. I of course have no pictures. I ran out of juice from my rechargeable batteries rendering my camera useless. Always, always, always have back-up batteries with you to avoid this problem. I did manage to buy some rechargeable batteries but it was too late by then.
After you finish your trail, you'll probably be hungry. I had lunch at Tamu Tamu refreshments where you can choose from a select number of sandwiches and pasta. Afterwards I was headed for the show, Festival of the Lion King.
Festival of the Lion King
The Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows and one of the most popular in the Kingdom. It's located in Camp Minnie-Mickey area of the Kingdom. The show is full of songs from the Lion King movie and lasts approximately 30 minutes. During the show you'll see a mix of live performers, animatronic animal figures, acrobats, dancers and even flamethrowers. It's awesome and of course, you can see the video but it can't capture the live experience. You'll want to line up early because it's very popular and so that you can have your pick of the seats inside the theater.
Festival of the Lion King 2
Festival of the Lion King 3
Finding Nemo - The Musical
Believe it or not, after the Festival of the Lion King I had to hightail it to DinoLand, USA in order to catch the last showing of Finding Nemo -- The Musical. The show adopted the style of the Broadway version of The Lion King in that it uses a mix of puppetry and live actors to tell the story of Finding Nemo. It has a lot of cute songs and lasts 45 minutes.
After the show, the attraction that I like is Dinosaur. It's not a thrill ride per se but it's a fun ride where you get to go back in time and meet all the dinosaurs (which are animatronic) and it's quite stunning.
There was some time left to see "It's Tough to be a Bug" at Discovery Island. But before I went to the movie I had a snack at the Flame Tree Barbecue and enjoyed some succulent smoked barbecue ribs. The barbecue ribs weren't big just half a rack and that's about it, it didn't come with any sides.
"It's Tough to be a Bug" is a 3D movie which tells us the importance of bugs in our ecosystem. It's a lot of fun with plenty of special effects and a surprise at the end of the show.
Now if you're with kids, you'll probably want to attend more of the rides, but keep in mind to build in some rest time and to use the Fast Pass service because there'll be long lines everywhere (especially the summer). You have to be strategic and prioritize your activities. You and your family will enjoy it much better when you know where to go and what attractions you definitely want to see instead of meandering around the park.
Flights of Wonder in Asia. If you like birds, this is a cute show that showcases trained birds as they do some tricks for the audience.
Asia: The Kali River Rapids is a whitewater rafting ride where you get soaked, so be prepared. Expedition Everest is a high speed roller coaster ride through the mountains of Everest where you must watch out for the mythical Yeti.
DinoLand: The Primeval Whirl is a spinning coaster ride (I get dizzy, I don't like it but you might).
Trails: The Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia, the Habitat Habit! at Rafiki's Planet watch, and Discovery Island Trails at Discovery Island are all walking trails that allow you to see the animals up close.
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