Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


Yesterday we ventured over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for the day. The timing was good, it was the warmest day this week and the park was open for extended hours for resort guests so we were able to make a day of it without feeling rushed.

I mentioned earlier that Epcot is my favorite park here at Walt Disney World, but I no longer think that’s the case. Animal Kingdom takes top billing for me now. There are a number of reasons for this: there are no french fries available (to maintain the safety of the animals), which keeps me a little healthier, I love the layout of the park and the whole jungle theme (it doesn’t feel like a theme park, it feels like you’re in a really busy place in the woods) and most importantly, I think there are some very valuable lessons to be learned amongst all the fun and animals and games and such and even if only 10% of the visitors ‘get it’ after they leave the park then the world will be a better place.

I love animals. I have always loved animals. I’d work with animals but I can’t fathom to see an animal hurt and I’m really bad at biology so that was never an option for me. And while I don’t enjoy a zoo, I really enjoy the way that the animals appear to be living at the Animal Kingdom. They seem happy. There are no monkeys behind bars in an abnormally small cage throwing their poop. There are no guests trying to feed the monkeys a neon coloured circus peanut. Instead there are seemingly authentic and large, expansive areas where the animals are spending much of their daylight hours doing things that make them content. Yes, they are probably sick of hearing every caravan that goes through on a safari playing the same tape over and over and over again, but the area is big enough that they can hide behind some rocks or turn their back and not partake in the showbiz angle of their life if they don’t have to.

The folks at Animal Kingdom say that they train their animals to come in and out at night and such through natural behaviour. Not once did I see an elephant in a hula skirt trying to dance on their back legs to “Surfin’ U.S.A.” What I did see were some beautiful birds at the “Flights of Wonder” show doing some great things but more importantly, just being birds.

Each time we visit the Animal Kingdom we always take the train ride over to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where they have exhibits on conservation and an area where you can mingle amongst the gentler animals and visit with them. Earl had a conference call for work so I went in alone and had a nice chat with a couple of animals. When the animals aren’t in the mood to chat with the guests they can hide under a pavilion out of reach. Several goats went in and out while I was in there. One sniffed through my pockets to see if I had any goodies in there. I also made a goal to do something constructive with an area of the backyard this year. I have a couple of bird feeders already; I need to do something more to give back to the folks that are living in the woods around the house.

It wouldn’t be a theme park without at least a couple of rides, so later in the day we rode Exhibition Everest. We actually rode it twice. As we were approaching the “standby” line three very nice looking ladies gave us their FastPass tickets for an hour later, so we waited the 60 minutes in standby and then got in the FastPass lane and rode again two minutes later. Exhibition Everest is a very impressive roller coaster and I HIGHLY recommend that you ride it. It’s not so violent that you’re going to feel sick afterwards but it will boost your pulse rate for a bit and it’s a really good time. The first time I rode, a young girl from the ‘single riders’ line joined me and she told me it was her seventh time riding that day. She was a pro, didn’t scream once (I might have screamed once or twice but I didn’t sound like her) and impressively wrapped her Minnie Mouse ears around her leg to hold them in place whilst we were whipped around the ride.

All in all yesterday was my favourite day thus far here at Disney. I’d be content to go back again today, but there is one more park for us to visit.