Animal Kingdom

December, 2007

— Animal Kingdom Lodge

We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (see photo #1, at left). The lobby is beautifully decorated, with an attention to detail that is typical of Disney. Here is a statue that combines many elements of African bird life. The entire Lodge is similarly decorated. One of the great advantages of staying at the Lodge is the view from each room's balcony, which overlook several savannas which are home to a variety of African wildlife. It was always interesting to watch the animals feeding and moving about the savanna.

Our favorite restaurant in all of Walt Disney World was Jiko, located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food was innovative and interesting, and always delicious. The prices are also high, but we were on a prepaid dining plan so it cost us nothing extra to eat here. We ate at Jiko 3 times. Every dish was delightful, and we never had anything we didn't enjoy. Highly recommended.

— Africa

The Animal Kingdom park is divided into two main parts, Africa and Asia. There are other areas, like Dinoland and Camp Minnie-Mickey, which we did not explore. The big attraction in Africa is the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. This ride takes up as much space as all of the Magic Kingdom. It is effectively a very large, drive-through zoo — with a story line. Disney has solved the very difficult problem of providing the animals with a large, diverse environment in which to roam, while still providing visitors with a good view of the animals. They use a variety of tricks, based on the animal's behaviors, to do this. The ride is a real treat, and the lines can be very long. As the ride is in non-stop motion, Jim chose not to take any photos.

Next door to the Safari ride is the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a walk-through zoo with a variety of African animals that you can see in their natural habitats (photo #2). Our favorites were the gorillas and the meerkats. Here is another photo of a meerkat. One nice feature of the trails is that you can take as much or little time as you like. There are a lot of little details to see if you want to take the time to see them.

— Asia

During our visit to the Animal Kingdom, we signed up for two backstage tours. The "Backstage Safari" included a tour through the animal care facilities where the animals live during the evenings. We had a chance to talk to the caretakers and see how the animals are housed, fed, and treated medically. We also had a special ride on the Kilamanjaro Safari, without the storyline. The second tour, "Wild by Design" took us through the park with a guide who pointed out some of the methods the Imagineers use to set the stage for visitors. For example, these brass pots hanging from the rafters help to create the feeling of an Asian village.

A great treat in Asia is the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It is a walking tour through the ruins of an ancient Maharajahs palace (photo #3), with wild animals prowling around the grounds. The entire Trek is filled with beautiful details that help to create a sense of place and time.

Throughout the Animal Kingdom are animals and plants that make this an exquisite zoo. Here are a Komodo Dragon and a banana tree, both from Asia. We lived for several years in southeast Asia, and saw thousands of banana trees. We never saw a banana blossom as perfect as this one, in the middle of Walt Disney World in Florida. We don't know how they do it!