Animal Kingdom is the best Walt Disney World Park
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However, I found that first day a bit disappointing. I’ll write about it in a separate post, but I just didn’t feel the “wow” factor that I had heard so much about.
Animal Kingdom changed that though. It made me fall in love with the Disney experience. It is truly magical.
The Tree of Life
The centrepiece of the entire park is the magnificent Tree of Life. This incredible and real-looking tree has hundreds of animals craved into it.
The roots of this tree also sprawl out over the park giving you something to explore as you walk around.
We spent a long time just looking at this tree and taking it in turns to point out all the different animals you can see. Every time you look at it more jump out at you.
As we were stood looking at it the first time, a group of parrots flew over and my jaw dropped. It was incredible! Turns out they were part of a display, but it was beautiful to see.
Characters roaming the parks
One of the main things that had me instantly hooked on Animal Kingdom was the fact that there were so many characters walking around.
I had felt in Magic Kingdom that you had to hunt out the characters more or wait for them to show up in a parade or a show. But at Animal Kingdom, we meet Di’vine straightaway and then saw Kevin from Up! Wandering around.
It is also possible to see more of character just walking around, as they are visible in huts and shelters, which gives you more of a taster of what you might get if you queue up.
Festival of the Lion King
The first item on our agenda that day was to see the Festival of the Lion King, which is a show all about the film.
Given the popularity of the movie, I knew that this show would be great. Plus, the kids love the film and know the characters so it was a must-see.
It did not disappoint. With singing, dancing, characters, acrobats, fire, audience participation and more, it truly was a celebration of the show.
Emily and Alice were gasping clapping and singing along with everything that was going on. We all thought that it was brilliant.
Finding Nemo Musical
Next stop on that first day was to see Finding Nemo: The Musical. I am a huge fan of Finding Nemo and musical so I had high hopes for this too.
In true Disney style once again they gave us on outstanding shows. With puppets for the main characters, light effects, bubbles and some catchy new tunes, we were enthralled.
The show covers the original story and the puppets are brilliantly brought to life by the performance artists which are as much a part of the show.
One of my favourite parts of the Animal Kingdom experience is the Wilderness Explorers trail. Based on the Scout-esque group from the film Up, this is an educational way for children (and adults) learn more about animals and the world.
You are given a book by the first Wilderness Explorer that you meet and you go to the locations on the map to meet other Wilderness Explorers. They will then show you something cool, ask you to do a task then you’ll earn a sticker to put in your book.
We did the whole thing over the two days that we visited and graduated to Senior Wilderness Explorers. We got extra special badges for this.
On our journey to graduation though, we saw scorpions glow, spoke to people from Africa and Asia about their cultures, hunted for animals in the trees, pieced together dinosaur bones and learnt why flamingos stand on one leg.
Emily and I were totally hooked on getting the next badge, completing the challenges and earning our lofty status. It is a simple yet rewarding activity. We loved it!
Visiting the animals
I can’t talk about how great Animal Kingdom is without talking about the animals. They are part of the magic of the place.
There are so many animals to see here and some animals that I had not seen before. The majority of the animals are kept to the extremes of the park where it is quieter, but still easily accessible.
We walked the Gorilla Falls trek and saw, well, gorillas, exotic birds and my favourites hippos. I was mesmerised watching them swim in the water. They were so elegant for such big creatures.
On our second visit, we walked the Maharajah Jungle Trek to see tigers, monkeys, bats and a Komodo dragon. What I thought was the tail of the Komodo dragon turned out to be its head. We had a giggle.
We also booked ourselves on to the Kilimanjaro day safari. It was A-MA-ZING! I have never seen those animals so close before.
Our truck drove past giraffes, antelope, elephants, lions and we even had to stop for awhile because there was a rhino right next to us. I’m talking about a meter away.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can get that close to those animals so it was a real privilege.
When we went back to Animal Kingdom for our second visit, we wanted to explore more of Pandora. This section of the park is based on the world from the movie Avatar.
Disney has created a world that truly feels like you are on an alien planet. There are waterfalls and large rocks suspended in the air. At night, there are plants that light up and glowing footprints.
To get the most out of this area, we booked a trip on the Na’vi River Journey ride. This little boat ride takes you along a waterway where you get to see the flora and fauna from Pandora come to life.
Both our kids were wide-eyed as we travelled along. The pointed out the animals walking around in the shadows and the plants that came to life.
Rivers of Light
We concluded our visits to Animal Kingdom by staying to watch the Rivers of Light evening show. It was a real treat, as it was the latest we had stayed at a park until that point.
Using huge jets of water, projectors and pyrotechnics, Animal Kingdom put on a true spectacle showcasing our relationship to the world around us, with a few of our favourite animal characters thrown in.
The kids were fidgeting as we waited for the show to start, but as soon as the lights dimmed and the music started they were hooked.
It is a stunning show and I recommend that anyone visiting Animal Kingdom stays to watch it. You will be pleased that you did.
The perfect mix
What I love most about Animal Kingdom is that it is the perfect mix of entertainment and education. You feel leave feeling satisfied. It is the perfect place for young kids.
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