Disney's Animal Kingdom

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The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.

So on our first full day in Disney World we decided to visit the Animal Kingdom.  Our hotel was just outside of Disney grounds so we took a shuttle from there to the main transportation center and another shuttle from there to the Animal Kingdom.  I was happy we made the choice to visit here first.  We didn't really know what to expect from the experience.  Would it be like a zoo?  Are there big rides and all that?  We had done a bit of reading up in advance, but still we weren't quite prepared. 

I am, and my parents are, really into nature and the first thing you see when you walk in is a jungle setting...and I mean they really go all out...full of lush vegetation and exotic animals.  Of course, my sister and her family aren't quite as big into looking at every detail and trying to find every bird and lizard and furry critter that crawls by.

The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
  It was cool though, we were prepared to adapt to a schedule of activities that would make us all happy.  My dad's guide said head straight for the Kilimanjaro Safaris, so that's where we went.  It paid off too, because the lines later in the day were stupid long.  We got on the ride that morning in 20 minutes or so.  It is a "safari" type ride in a big 20-30 passenger military-style transport truck.  They guide you along and point out the different animals that are spotted along the way.  Most of the animals are free to roam over several hundred acres (except for the hippos, crocs, and lions) so it is no guarantee to see everything.  There is a pretty diverse array of the bigger and more famous animals.

I guess I shouldn't take the time to walk through every thing we did that day, but I will hit the highlights for anyone who would potentially visit and use this as a reference.

Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life Garden
  If you do like nature, this is a cool park.  And like all Disney parks, the attention to detail is what really makes the experience special.  On the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride they created a setting that really provoked your imagination to believe that you were in Africa.  The animals were all healthy looking, so that really says something for the caretaking, but the savannah area looked as close to what I've seen on the tv as a place in Florida could potentially get. 

Other fantastic details:  the museum-like/Nepalese temple setting of the Expedition Everest (best ride in the park), or the carvings and architecture of buildings and walls in the Maharajah Jungle Trek, to the sound, visual, and physical effects of the "Its Tough to be a Bug" 3D movie inside the immaculately carved "Tree of Life" which adorns the center of the park.

A giraffe figure in "The Tree of Life" at Animal Kingom in Disney World.

The smells and music emitting from the cafes and restaurants seemed as authentic as I could imagine and paralleled well with the segue from the African region to the Asian.

The best rides here:  Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We rode both twice.  I can't speak for Kali River Rapids as it is a ride that gets you wet and we were not prepared to deal with the wet clothes for hours and the temperature of the day.  Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek are walking tours of an African and Asian (respectively) jungle setting with really nice enclosures for such large animals as gorillas and tigers, as well as aviaries, aquariums, and reptile houses.  My parents and I spent as much time as we were allowed in each of these areas until my neice and nephew's attitudes evolved to the point that we knew it was time to move on.

Nile Crocodiles at the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride in Animal Kingdom.

There is also an area called Dinoland USA, which features a carnival type attraction for kids to win prizes, as well as Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR.  The last two are rides, but not quite roller coasters.  PW spins and twists you around on a fairly short ride that was fun for all of us.  We even almost got my mom on this ride, though she bailed at the last minute.  DINOSAUR is a super jerky, twisty, shaky moon vehicle type ride where you are supposed to try to capture this one species of dinosaur before the big asteroid hits and destroys them all.  Its really loud and dark with lots of roaring and explosions.  This was the first real ride for the kids and they both covered their ears and closed their eyes.  We finally toughened them up after a few rides on Everest.

This is a breed of African cattle with the most massive horns I have ever seen.

At the end of the night we found ourselves rushing, even running, to make the last showing of Festival of the Lion King.  The show turned out to be pretty spectacular and well worth the effort.  There was pyrotechnics to make things exciting, but it also included lots of well known songs and acrobatics from familiar characters found in the Lion King movie.

By the time we were ready to leave we had stood in many a line, and traversed the park several times.  My feet were sore, my legs were tired and I was out like a light when I hit the pillow in our room.  I felt like that and I'm in pretty good shape at 30.  I couldn't imagine my 60 something parents or my 40 something sister and cuñado taking care for middleschool kidz running all about.

An African Elephant on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride at Animal Kingdom.
  Besides, this was just our first day of 5....I guess I hadn't trained hard enough for Disney World!  ;)

IceTea says:
I'd like to go there too
Posted on: Apr 14, 2008
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The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdoms Tree of Life Gard…
Animal Kingdom's Tree of Life Gar…
A giraffe figure in The Tree of L…
A giraffe figure in "The Tree of …
Nile Crocodiles at the Kilimanjaro…
Nile Crocodiles at the Kilimanjar…
This is a breed of African cattle …
This is a breed of African cattle…
An African Elephant on the Kiliman…
An African Elephant on the Kilima…
A giraffe along the Kilimanjaro Sa…
A giraffe along the Kilimanjaro S…
An Impala on Kilimanjaro Safaris a…
An Impala on Kilimanjaro Safaris …
One of the thousands of beautiful …
One of the thousands of beautiful…
The closest relative to a giraffe.…
The closest relative to a giraffe…
Kingfisher on the Pangani Forest E…
Kingfisher on the Pangani Forest …
A giraffe in a parade at Animal Ki…
A giraffe in a parade at Animal K…
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photo by: Reephboy