Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Orlando, Florida

Jocelyn Murray May 30, 2013 No Comments

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What has over 1,700 animals, exciting rides and attractions, live entertainment, interactive games and activities, restaurants, shops and more? Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando Florida! This 500-acre conservation-themed park ranks among the world’s top ten most visited amusement parks.  It is also the world’s largest Disney theme park, and is organized into seven themed areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand USA.

 

Notable Attractions 

Tree of Life 

Tree of Life Disney Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life rises from the center of the park

All of the park’s themed areas surround the Tree of Life which is located on Discovery Island. This sculpted centerpiece symbolizes the park’s conservation message and rises over 44 meters tall by 15 meters wide. It features over 300 animals carved into its trunk, roots and branches. Children enjoy trying to spot the variety of the animals showcased in this iconic masterpiece, which include a bear, lion, hippopotamus, dolphin, lemur, tortoise and much more.

The beautiful artwork of the Tree of Life reminds onlookers of the interconnectedness of our diverse world, and the circle of life that brings us all together.  It can be admired by strolling along the self-guided trails that spread out over Discovery Island with natural allure among lush vegetation, tranquil pools, and rustic paths that lead to many animal sightings whose exhibits blend effortlessly with the beautiful surroundings of the park.

 

Tyrannosaures Rex Skeleton of “Sue”

For those with an interest in prehistoric life, a visit to DinoLand USA offers a face-to-face encounter with the 67 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton of “Sue” in all her primeval magnificence. This T-Rex was originally discovered in 1990, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The actual skeleton of Sue remains on permanent display at The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Guests can marvel at Sue’s imposing majesty which stands over 13 feet tall and 40 feet long, imagining what it might have been like to face such a daunting predator in the flesh, back in the Late Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs ruled the planet.

 

Dinosaur Ride

Dinosaur Ride Animal Kingdom

The atrium before the dinosaur ride houses the skeleton of a Carnotaurus, along with lots of informative displays

While in DinoLand USA, guests can climb aboard a “time rover” and travel back to prehistory on the ride Dinosaur, where they will be given an exciting tour of a land ruled by these prehistoric beasts. Even while waiting in line one can learn all sorts of dinosaur facts that are displayed along the octagonal atrium with its vaulted ceiling and simulated rock walls, complete with replicated bone fragments, ammonites and other fossils embedded into the surrounding walls that reveal several layers of rock stratum from the various time periods in history, such as the Triassic, Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. The setting is a wonderful prelude to the ride that follows, and helps build anticipation for this exciting ride. This Dinosaur ride is most suitable for older children and adults who enjoy the thrills and fantastic effects of a simulated extinct land brought to life in Disney’s own magical way.

 

Maharajah Jungle Trek

One of my personal favorite attractions is the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Guests can walk through lush trails and view the splendid ruins of an ancient palace where exotic animals rule. This mystical forest offers a close-up view of Asian tigers, Komodo Dragons, gibbons, pythons, bats, birds and more. Wandering through the lush vegetation and canopy of trees that boarder the rustic trails gives one the feeling of what it might be like to visit such a jungle. There are footbridges, sparkling waterfalls, and magnificent ruins that blend into an idyllic setting that is simply delightful to explore.

 

Komodo Dragons

Komodo Dragons Animal Kingdom

Komodo Dragons are the largest lizards in the world

The Komodo Dragons are the world’s largest lizards and grow up to 12 feet long, 250 pounds, and live an average life spanning 20-25 years. These amazing reptiles use their sense of smell to hunt for prey. They launch an attack using their sharp, serrated teeth and powerful claws to incapacitate an animal before feeding. Its saliva is highly toxic with venom that is steeped in over 50 strains of bacteria. So even if the beast’s initial attack is not fatal, the fast-spreading infection that ensues from its bite most certainly is lethal. Think of it as a secret deadly weapon, and one which you would not wish to experience.

 

Tigers

Tigers Animal Kingdom

Tigers are the reigning monarchs of this realm

The tigers are my favorite with their natural grace and elegance. These big cats are the reigning monarchs of this temple. It is fun to watch them stroll through their spacious life-like habitats or just stretch out and lounge beneath the dappled light that filters down through the trees, bamboo and foliage that grow in abundance.

 

Gorillas

Gorillas Animal Kingdom Disney World

Primates, like this gorilla, and Humans have more than a 99% genetic similarity

The gorillas are intriguing also, as one cannot help making comparisons to our own human species. There are many similarities and can almost remind us of ourselves as they observe us from the comfort of their exhibits with as much interest as we observe them.

 

Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest

Kali River Rapids and Expedition Everest

Prepare to get soaked on the Kali River Rapids ride

Some of the fun rides in this part of the park include the Kali River Rapids which takes guests through the Chakranadi River on an exciting whitewater raft ride that can leave them soaked. There is also the high-speed train ride Expedition Everest through the misty mountain of Everest.

 

Kilimanjaro Safaris

Visitors can see animals galore on the Kilimanjaro Safaris expedition where they will ride on open-air vehicles through the savanna where rhinos, gazelles, giraffes, lions and elephants roam the beautiful open terrain. There are many exhibits throughout the park’s themed areas with all kinds of animals to delight guests of all ages, including the giant anteater, Galapagos tortoises, lemurs, tamarins, gorillas, hippos, and lots more.

 

Affection Section

Children will love the Affection Section where they can get up-close to see such domestic animals as goats, sheep, cows, llamas, chickens, pigs, donkeys and more. Kids can feed, pet and brush the animals in this outdoor petting zoo located in the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area of the park.

 

A Park for the Whole Family

Okapi Disney World Animal Kingdom

This curious looking creature–called an Okapi–looks like a zebra-deer hybrid, but is actually related to the giraffe

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of exhibits, rides, tours, behind-the-scenes animal encounters, exciting live entertainment including stage shows, parades, character experiences, fireworks and more. Like other Disney parks, it too accepts the FASTPASS service that can cut the long waits out of those attractions for which it is used. There are plenty of restaurants and dining options for hungry visitors, as well as fun shops for browsing and buying souvenirs.

But what makes Disney’s Animal Kingdom most memorable—standing in a class of its own and apart from the traditional zoos around the country—is the marvelous blending of nature, the animal world, and the magical world of Disney. It is an exciting integration of human imagination, and nature’s own infinite and splendid creations, with the animals that have captured our attentions and enchanted us throughout time. A visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom leaves guests with a greater appreciation for our diverse natural world, and our own humble place within its realm.

 

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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