Animal Kingdom Archives

February 19, 2018

Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience - Animal Kingdom REVIEW

Deb's Digest Blog

Have you ever ridden the Kilimanjaro Safaris and wished that you weren't on such a huge truck and that you had an animal guide with you to answer all your questions and share interesting, sometimes amusing facts?

And have you thought about how nice it would be to just sit and watch the savanna "breathe?" And wouldn't it be nice to do just that while enjoying some African-inspired tapas and beverages?

Well, if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you should seriously consider signing up for Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience. It has been on my radar for a while now and when Disney Vacation Club announced a special 30 percent discount for the months of February and March, we said, "Let's book it!" The regular price without a discount is $169; AP and Disney Visa® card holders receive a 15 percent discount on most tours. (The usual discount for DVC members is also 15 percent.)

Our savanna time was 4 p.m. and we were requested to check in 15 minutes early. We went to where we thought the check-in was, at the Curiosity Animal Tours Kiosk in Disney's Animal Kingdom, just before you reach the Kilimanjaro Safari entrance. The folks there directed us just to the right of the standby entrance for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. The cast members were strict about not letting anyone in until exactly 4 p.m.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

At our designated time, we walked past the cast member with the sign to the check-in area. First up, sign the waiver. There was ice cold water and a special juice (orange, pineapple and mango) available while we waited for everyone to arrive.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Soon, all 10 of us (there is a limit of 12 per tour) followed our guide back into Animal Kingdom and around Rafiki's Planet Watch. At this point, we found our truck waiting for us.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

It is important to note that the ride on this vehicle is very rough! Rougher even than a regular Kilimanjaro Safaris vehicle. You are seated along the sides of the vehicle, so people who get motion or car sick may not do well. VERY IMPORTANT: You must stay seated until the guide tells you it is OK to stand. I have photos of the truck seating at the end of this blog.

For a while, we followed the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris route. Our guide pointed out animals and shared lots of stories and interesting facts.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

When we spotted animals, we gave a shout and if possible the truck stopped to allow photos.

We started out in the forest. When most people think of Africa they do not think of forests, they think of wide open plains. But Africa has several distinct types of habitat. The forest contains animals such as the Bongo.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

I sometimes wonder if the hippo pictured above ever moves... everyone seems to have the exact same photo of it!

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

One interesting tidbit is that there are special "water holes" for the animals to drink from.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Once in the biggest (east) savanna we pulled over and the cast member who works there came to talk to us. She had lots of details about the savanna itself and the animals. I just wish I could remember it all.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Just as we started to leave a giraffe came by to say hello.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We continued along our way and soon saw the "Boma" (in the west savanna), the next stop in our journey.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

The "Boma" is a viewing platform. It is used for various tours including the Wild Africa Trek. It is spacious, covered and has two restrooms available.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Our time here was relaxing, informative and downright enjoyable.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

You know you are someplace special when no one rushes to line up for beverages or food. We were all looking out over the savanna. I had flashbacks to the Lion King when Mufasa told Simba, "Look, Simba, everything the light touches is our kingdom."

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

This was the "savor" part of the experience -- lots of yummy snacks, shrimp, grapes, cheeses, nuts, prosciutto, edamame and desserts. There were choices of African beers and wines, as well as water and juice available.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We could see wildebeest (AKA gnu) in the distance. Nearby the giraffes were putting on a show. One of the younger giraffes was making a game of chasing the ducks that landed in the small pond. We watched the Kilimanjaro Safari trucks pass and the greater flamingos at the big Hidden Mickey watering hole. Looking out we could see the elephants.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

The guides were on hand to answer any questions we had and to share more information about the savanna and conservation. They explained the photos on the tables of the villagers in Africa building a "living fence" to keep the predators away from their livestock. This effort is aided by donations from Disney.

There is also another walkway and overlook. This one features a view of the majestic lions. We were fortunate to see Frankie (so called because of his Sinatra-like blue eyes) the rhino walk by.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

We spent at least a solid hour at the Boma. Once reloaded in the truck, we returned to the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris path and had one last awesome animal sighting.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom

Drop-off was at one of the regular Kilimanjaro Safaris stops. When the tour was over we were all given a rock. Disney donates a portion of the tour price (as they do with all Animal Kingdom tours) to conservation efforts for various animals/programs. Each tour participant places a rock in the marked area they want to support.

Kudos to the team of cast members: Morgan, Megan, Claire, Sarah, and everyone else (sorry, I can't recall all your names).

It was a wonderful experience and the four of us in my party highly recommend it, especially now with the Disney Vacation Club discount. We all agreed we would take the tour again.

Savor the Savanna Experience - Animal Kingdom


When I called to make reservations I was asked about food allergies. Once we arrived at the Boma one of the cast members asked those with allergies to identify themselves. She had responses for each person/allergy. It was nice to see things work as they should.

The particulars from Disney (the entire list is HERE):

For your safety, you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure; heart, back or neck problems; motion sickness or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure.

Expectant mothers should not participate.

Guests must be at least 8 years of age to participate in this experience.

Guests under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a participating adult (18 years of age or older).

This experience requires guests in ECVs to transfer into an available wheelchair to participate in the tour.

This excursion occurs rain or shine, with the exception of severe weather or lightning.

Valid theme park admission to Disney's Animal Kingdom park is also required and is not included in the price of this tour.

If you have taken any of Walt Disney World's special tours, please leave your comments to help other guests plan their vacations.

Guests must be at least 21 years of age or older to consume alcoholic beverages. Please keep a valid form of identification on hand at all times to verify your age.




October 13, 2017

Animal Kingdom Wandering

Deb's Digest Blog

I typically don't go to the parks much in the midst of the summer heat and humidity and so planned to visit Animal Kingdom yesterday, mostly to update menus. I had no idea I hadn't been there since right after Pandora opened! I checked for last-minute FastPasses before leaving home, but nothing was available. I wasn't surprised.

So here are some observations from my walk around the park yesterday, noting things I had not seen before. Perhaps you have... but these things are new to me.

After I parked and walked down to the tram area, I noticed that the name of each row has been repainted in much larger letters, much clearer than before. Yea! You will also notice better signage in the parking area as well.


I then noticed he new tram front vehicles. As you can see in the photo, they are now sporting bright new red and green driver and engine sections.


I went into the Rainforest Cafe to update our menus and as I exited out the side, I noticed this elephant fountain. It looked so inviting on the already hot and humid morning but alas, "Please do not climb on rocks".


Next stop, Pandora. As I mentioned, the last time I was in Animal Kingdom was for a media preview of Pandora. My how different it looks full of people.

Crossing the bridge (shortly after 9 a.m.) the first thing I saw was the "End of the Line" for the Na'vi River Journey. The Cast Member told me that neither ride had "opened yet", and the estimated wait time was currently 45 minutes.


I read after I returned home that either both rides open or neither does. Can someone clarify that for me please?

As I walked deeper into Pandora, the whole area was packed. Cast members had created lines and pathways with rope and it was kind of hard to get from here to there. I looked for a Wait Time for Flight of Passage but couldn't get anywhere near the entry point, for either ride, actually.

I wanted to wander around the area, but as I said, it was very crowded and hard to maneuver so I decided to head out. Here's a screen shot of Animal Kingdom wait times at 9:14 a.m.


I did manage to find one of the PhotoPass photographers and had this photo taken. It was in My Disney Experience a few hours later.


Next thing I know I am being told to head back out of the area and over to Harambe to get in line for Flight of Passage (not that I was going to get in line, but curious where I would end up). A very, very long line. Talking to the Cast Member at the end of the line, I was told the wait time was now three hours! Normally the Harambe area is for exiting Pandora, not entering, but the long lines and lack of space inside Pandora changes that during busy times.



Alrighty then, back to getting menu photos! By the time I reached Asia, I was feeling hungry. I was very happy to see that the Yak and Yeti Local Cafes serve breakfast.


I chose the Canadian Bacon English Muffin. A take on Egg McMuffin with an extra piece of Canadian Bacon, plus tater tots for $9.99. Ouch, but not surprised.


Checking My Disney Experience again for wait times now at 10:07 a.m.:


Ah... behold the infamous Coca Cola Rhino:


For those of you who do Mobile Ordering, the area to pick up your food is clearly marked. And if you can't find it, ask a Cast Member.


I made my way back to the front of the park and decided to forego a second loop around. It was getting quite crowded. But I did wander the Oasis and entrance area.


Ok, I have a question. I have been to Animal Kingdom countless times since it opened in 1998. Unless I have to be someplace, I always walk around the Oasis and Discovery Island areas. The Reeve's Muntjac has become almost as elusive to me as the Anteater. I think in all this time, I have only seen it once and it was under all the brush. Has anyone ever seen it out and about? And I think there are two, yes?


Ah ha! The Black Swan! Not always out and about, but on this day the pair were swimming and sunning.


Lastly, as I noted much better signage in the parking lot, there is also a great directional sign as you exit the park.


'Til next time, folks...

February 12, 2017

Update 2/12 - Rivers of Light Soft Openings

Deb's Digest Blog


Last night I attended the Rivers of Light show via Annual Pass wristbands. Folks started filtering in the seating area about 75 minutes prior to show time. Cast Members were directing guests where to sit.

The show began on time and then around the 9 minute mark it went dark and stopped. An announcement was made and we waited 5-10 minutes. Then another announcement said the show would restart in about 15-20 minutes. When it did restart, it did so from the very beginning.

As I said below, keep in mind this is a soft opening and not all effects may be working and the show may stop at any time and may or may not restart.


It was announced a few days ago that the long awaited nighttime show in Animal Kingdom, Rivers of Light, would officially debut February 17th.

That said, the show is currently in a soft opening phase. Soft opening is a term used by Disney when an attraction or show has not officially opened but is in the final testing stages. The show may or may not go on, depending.....

There is NO guarantee the soft opening will continue or that the process for obtaining wristbands will continue.

Yesterday, February 10th, FastPass+ for Rivers of Light appeared in My Disney Experience. Once word got out, it booked quickly.


Also yesterday, wristbands were being given out in Animal Kingdom for DVC and AP holders.


Today, February 11th, wristbands are being given out to AP and DVC folks for this evening's show. A little later in the morning, the FastPass+ appeared in My Disney Experience. You must have your entire party present for the wrist bands. Cast Members will put them on your wrist for you.

At least this morning, near the entrance to the Rainforest Cafe, 2 Cast Members were holding up signs, one for Annual Passholders and one for DVC. DVC members be sure to have your membership card with you.

So, if you want to see the show before it officially opens, either go to Animal Kingdom first thing in the morning to obtain a wristband, or keep checking your My Disney Experience account for possible day of FastPass+.

Please remember: There is NO guarantee the soft opening will continue or that this process for obtaining wristbands will continue.

May 6, 2016

Animal Kingdom Walk About - 5/5/16

Deb's Digest Blog

It was such a beautiful morning in Orlando, temps in the 60s, low humidity and blue skies! I had to go walking in Animal Kingdom! I arrived at the park about 8:35 am.

As I pulled up to the toll plaza I noticed the Preferred Parking Sign (additional $15 for resort guests or Annual Passholders, $35 for everyone else). Ever since they announced the preferred parking in March, I have never been told about it or asked if I wanted it at any park Toll Plaza. Same held true at Animal Kingdom.


I parked in Dinosaur 34 and had a clear view of the Preferred Parking area.. looked empty to me.


A frequent site these days as you walk into Animal Kingdom are the cranes working on Pandora: the World of AVATAR.


There was a decent crowd considering the park had not officially opened yet. The security check did extend back some. However, according to friend, by 10:00 ish, it was backed up to the gift shop.


I love wandering through the Oasis. I noticed that once again, the anteater was missing and the sign covered (as it has been for some time now). I did find an Animal Keeper in the area and inquired. She told me the anteater has been moved backstage so the construction noise doesn't bother it.


Wandering over to the Scarlet Macaws I was in for an unexpected treat. Two cast members were walking around the tree and placing special "browse" in the holes for the macaws. Then they returned to their cart and brought out the 2 birds. They gave them peanuts (in the shell) for a treat.


Coming up the hill I saw the Tree of Life... this never gets old!


From here I wandered over to Pizzafari and the blocked off area leading to AVATAR. On the right you can see Tiffin's restaurant being built.


My favorite Discovery Island Trails are closed and under some kind of construction. I hope the birds and animals will return. Missing the Galapagos Turtle, the African-crested Porcupines and the painted storks. Anyone know what's going on in this area?


Since I couldn't get a last minute, or actually any FP for the Safari, I headed to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. One Okapi was out grazing...


One Hippo was actually close to the viewing window :)


The Meerkats were hiding but the Zebras were out and about, including the camera shy baby.


Swung by the Harambe Market but it was too early for lunch.


Then it was off to Asia! The Caravan Stage and Flights of Wonder show are open again. I kept missing the start of the show but was told it is pretty much the same thing as always.


Here's a couple photos of the Rivers of Light seating areas:


Walking "deep" into Asia I noticed a sign has been added for the lantern festival:


Now in the Rivers of Light area, this is one of the gates that will allow folks to enter the seating area:


Walking further I found what appears to be the wheelchair seating area. I will say this area concerned me because it looked like you won't be able to sit in the wheelchair and see much of the show, unless you are tall. But, since it is closed, I couldn't walk into the section and actually see for myself. Hope I am wrong.


Here is another area a bit further down that might be wheelchair and/or standing room?


At the Upcountry Landing, Baloo and Louie have new signage since I saw them last.


Nice lunch at Flame Tree with friends from the west coast and soon it was time to head back home. Here is a panoramic view of the Discovery River and seating area for Rivers of Light.


As I walked back to my car, I again passed the Preferred parking area (1pm) wasn't but a couple cars inside, maybe.. hard to tell.


Here's an exclusive look at the Rivers of Light that I filmed during the April media event. It is from the middle of the show:

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the walk about.

February 7, 2015

Tree of Life New Roots, Bird and Animal Carvings!

Deb's Digest Blog


This morning some of the walls at Animal Kingdom were removed. Behold, there are new roots with bird and animal carvings from the Tree of Life! The entire area looks great and it is so nice to see the open spaces once again. I'll have more photos later, but for now, enjoy the new carvings in the video below.

August 20, 2013

Allergy Friendly Dining in Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

EDITOR'S NOTE: In 2015, the allergy free menu items were moved to the Discovery Island Kiosk, located on the right just past Pizzafari.

I think most of us with food allergies or special dietary concerns would agree that Walt Disney World is more accommodating than most places outside of Mouse World. Now, the folks at Walt Disney World have taken another step to reach out to those with concerns with more accessible information.

Animal Kingdom recently introduced a new kiosk that focuses on Allergy Dining Tips. When I first heard about it, I was quite excited. In addition to having a shellfish allergy, I am also a Type 1 insulin-pumping diabetic, which means I really have to watch what I eat.

So, I made a visit to Animal Kingdom to learn for myself. The kiosk is located to the right of the Tip Board toward Asia, just before the new Mickey and Minnie meet-and-greet location. At park opening, a cast member was standing outside the kiosk. Later in the day, I saw a different cast member inside.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Outside the kiosk is a display of various snacks that you can purchase right there -- many gluten-free and some vegetarian. I wonder how many folks see the Allergy Dining Tips sign and stop. While I was there, though, I only saw one family inquire about gluten-free options.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

If the words Allergy Dining Tips don't get your attention, perhaps the display of non-typical snacks will. In addition to the fresh fruit, there also are fresh gluten-free and vegan offerings from Downtown Disney's babycakes, packages of gluten-free rice chips, cookies, popcorn, and even beer.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

The cast member working at the kiosk was friendly, knowledgeable and eager to answer my questions. I asked if she was a dietician or had nutrition training, but she had not.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

At the kiosk, there is a huge binder for each section of Animal Kingdom. Inside it, each dining location has its own tab.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I decided to check out Flame Tree Barbecue, one of my favorite places to enjoy lunch. Usually I order the turkey sandwich on multigrain bread, sometimes with beans and sometimes with cole slaw, so those were the foods I checked out.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Each page is full of information, ingredients and food labels. (Who knew Disney used Ken's Dressings?)

To help you focus on your "need" there are small yellow boxes that highlight "wheat," "corn," "egg," "soy" and other allergens you may want to be aware of.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

You can see which products are used and exactly what the ingredients are, even for things like the "dry rub" Flame Tree uses.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

There also is a pamphlet you can take with you called "Allergy Friendly Dining Tips." Inside, three dining locations are highlighted with "allergy-friendly" notes to help guide your decision on what to eat.

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

Allergy Friendly Dining Tips Kiosk at Animal Kingdom

I applaud Disney World's Food and Beverage team for taking the next step in helping folks with food allergies and dietary needs enjoy their dining experiences in the park! As I said in the beginning, there are few regular places that go the extra mile like Disney does. (Try asking for a no-sugar-added or sugar-free dessert sometime!)

I was, however, disappointed to see how many times the words "high fructose corn syrup" jumped out at me. But perhaps that's a conversation for another day!

The one thing I really hoped for, as a diabetic, is to see the actual nutritional information. How many calories, carbs, grams of fat, fiber, etc. make up each item? I realize this is difficult to do for products made from scratch by Disney chefs, but for prepackaged items it would seem to be easy enough to include.

That said, I encourage those of you with allergy or dietary concerns to stop by the kiosk in Animal Kingdom and ask questions. Also let Guest Services know what you think of the information. If all goes well with this Animal Kingdom trial (no idea how long it will be here) the other parks will be getting similar kiosks, too.

Let me know what you think of the new allergy-friendly kiosk and share your experience if you are able to stop by.

(Click on any of the photos for a larger image.)

May 19, 2013

White Cheek Gibbon Baby at Animal Kingdom

Deb's Digest Blog

This is the second half of my Walk Around Animal Kingdom Blog and features the 2 month old White-cheeked gibbon!

If you missed part 1 CLICK HERE

White-cheeked gibbons typically produce a single offspring every two to three years after seven to eight months gestation. Following birth, infants are able to cling to their mothers, allowing the females complete range of motion as they move about the forest with their offspring.

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

The species is also distinguished by the changing characteristics of their fur which differs by gender and age. While nursing, babies typically maintain a light-brown or golden-colored fur that easily blends with their mother's coat. Once weaned around the age of one, babies' fur transitions to black. While the males maintain black fur for their entire lives, female gibbons will change back to golden fur between the ages of six and eight.

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons

Animal Kingdom White Cheek Gibbons


White Cheek Gibbon Baby Born 2010

Animal Kingdom Youngsters

May 16, 2013

Animal Kingdom Walk Around

Deb's Digest Blog

Friday I found myself in Animal Kingdom on a hot, but crystal clear blue sky day.

Animal Kingdom

I looked in the first viewing area and the Black Swan was out! Hadn't seen this swan in a while.

Animal Kingdom

Then over to Russell and Dug. I wanted to see if they'd give me the "dish" on the new Wilderness Explorer's Program coming to Animal Kingdom but, well see for yourself ...

The Creature Comforts sign looked all bright and pretty from a new paint job.

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Next stop, Dinoland U.S.A. and the Abdim Storks. "They migrate annually from southern Africa to central Africa. They are often referred to as "grasshopper birds" because they are frequently seen on top of termite mounds feasting on the insects"

Animal Kingdom Creature Comforts

Several were out and a couple were making quite a fuss on the left side of their habitat.

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

It took a few minutes, but I finally realized what the commotion was all about.

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

A Cast Member was in the area cleaning up when I realized in the far back of this habitat were two of the Asian Brown Tortoises having a feast.

Animal Kingdom Asian Brown Tortoises

Animal Kingdom Asian Brown Tortoises

I snapped a few bird photographs as I wandered around the park.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

But I really wanted to get to Asia and see if the 2 month old White Cheek Gibbon was visible!
Check back soon for photos and videos of the baby gibbon!

February 8, 2013

Animal Kingdom Walk Around


Yes, I admit, I love Animal Kingdom. Give me a choice of parks to roam on my own and that's where you'll find me. I am fascinated with the wildlife and love to photograph. And then, of course, there is that menu thing we do here at AllEars :) ( If you believe I have mislabeled any of the wildlife in this blog, please let me know!)

A few days ago I spent 2 consecutive mornings at Animal Kingdom. Both days were cool, 50s and 60s. The air was crisp and the park beautifully lit by the sunshine!

I like to stop by the Lemur area in Discovery Island Trails. This section is between the Cotton Top Tamarins and It's Tough to be a Bug. Parts of the view area right behind Doug and Russell's meet and greet area.

It is common to see the Ring-Tailed-Lemurs out (think King Julien from Madagascar) but very unusual to see the Collared Lemurs. In fact, I can probably count on one hand how many times I have seen the collared lemurs.

Always talk to the Cast Members in the viewing areas, even those on clean-up patrol. They can be very informative and helpful! On this day, the Cast Member at the Tamarins told me all the lemurs were out and that they were fed between 11-12 right now.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I found both collared lemurs awake and roaming around.


Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Ringed-Tailed Lemurs


Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

Animal Kingdom Collared Lemurs

I decided to walk the park counter-clockwise and headed to DinoLand USA. I'm not sure how long the Abdim Stork exhibit has been there, but I don't recall seeing it before.

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Animal Kingdom Abdim Stork

Deeper into Asia, the Siamangs were out enjoying the sunshine! They were having a great time in their habitat and also walking the "tight rope" from station to station.

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Animal Kingdom Siamang

Next up Maharajah Jungle Trek!

The Komodo Dragon was out the 2nd morning I was there.. too chilly the first morning. I believe it needs to be 65 degrees or warmer for the Komodo to be out.

Animal Kingdom Komodo Dragon

Animal Kingdom Komodo Dragon

The Saurus Cranes - largest crane in the world.

Animal Kingdom Saurus Cranes

The Banteng was enjoying the warmth from the sun.

Animal Kingdom Banteng

I bypassed the bat house and went into the Aviary.

So many birds were out - walking on the ground, flying above, chirping loudly! Remember to talk with the Cast Members! They will point out where the birds are and share interesting facts!

Nicobar Pigeon

Animal Kingdom Nicobar Pigeon

Pied Imperial Pigeon

Animal Kingdom Pied Imperial Pigeon

White Headed Buffalo Weaver

Animal Kingdom White Headed Buffalo Weaver

Zebra Finches

Animal Kingdom Zebra Finches

Golden Pheasant

Animal Kingdom Golden Pheasant

Animal Kingdom Golden Pheasant

As I left the Aviary and the Maharajah Jungle Trek I heard music and as I got closer, there was a crowd. The Bhangra DJ Dance Party was in full swing!

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

It was great fun and all guests, young and old got into the celebration. What a great idea for this part of Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

Animal Kingdom Bhangra DJ Dance Party

On my way out of Asia into Africa I saw Divine. Just LOVE to watch her.

Animal Kingdom Divine

Animal Kingdom Divine

Wandered into Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Aviary!

Golden Weavers - you'll see them fliting about really fast as they build their upside down nests.

Animal Kingdom Golden Weavers

Blue Bellied Roller

Animal Kingdom Blue Bellied Roller

Wattled Starling

Animal Kingdom

Great Blue Turaco

Animal Kingdom Great Blue Turaco

I hope you enjoyed walking through Animal Kingdom with me. What is your favorite thing to do in Animal Kingdom?

January 11, 2013

Pick-up an Animal Guide at Animal Kingdom

A couple months ago, Disney's Animal Kingdom began offering a one-page, double sided "Animal Guide" to help you locate birds and animals throughout the park.

You'll see it as you enter the park through the turnstyles, same display rack as the Times Guides and Park Maps.


There are several nice things about this guide:
** it is small (one page), lightweight, can be folded
** provides a small photo icon of each animal/bird under the location you can find it.
** provides a great learning tool for kids (and adults). See how many animals/birds you can spot during your visit.

If you need assistance finding one of these animals/birds, be sure to ask one of the Animal Guides in the parks. They wear green shirts!


To see the entire guide

I've included some photos at the bottom of this blog. See if you can spot any of the animals in the Discovery Island Trails portion.


Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Animal Kingdom Animals

Now you are ready to go explore Animal Kingdom!

August 18, 2012

Animal Kindgom Walk Around Tips and Tidbits

Deb Wills

The entrance is beautiful this time of year with flowering vines.

Animal Kingdom Entrance

Always pick up a times guide - not all areas of the park open at the same time and you can save yourself some steps.

Animal Kingdom Times Guides

But, not everything can be found in the times guide. I specifically looked for appearances by DiVine and none were on the guide. However over at the main Animal Kingdom Times Board, I found DiVine's hours under Hot Tips! It pays to double check!

I always love the view when you come out of the Oasis and enter Discovery Island, seeing the Tree of Life!

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

I had planned to walk around Camp Minnie-Mickey, but the times guide told me it wasn't opening until 10am. Just before you head into the Camp area, there is a Disney Vacation Club Kiosk area. Right behind it are 3 fun cut out frames for photo ops!

Animal Kingdom

These zebras looked great against the blue sky. I remember many of these pieces actually being painted on my very first visit to Animal Kingdom, during a Cast Preview.

Animal Kingdom

My goal today was to ride Kilimanjaro Safari at least twice to get a good idea what animals are out in the summer heat! First stop, FastPass! There are signs now on each machine reminding you to return during the one hour window on your FastPass (so pay attention).

Animal Kingdom FastPass Signs

I headed over to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail to see what was happening.

While I have seen signs like this along the trail before, I hadn't really stopped to read them.

Animal Kingdom Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Upon entering the aviary section, you can't help but notice all the activity from the Africa Golden Weaver birds! Their nests are built up-side-down to what we think they should be to keep predators away! Check out Photo Blogger Scott's great photo of these birds!

Animal Kingdom Africa Golden Weaver birds

A Hippopotamus enjoying the sun and the waterfall.

Animal Kingdom Hippopotamus

Soon I was in the Meercat Viewing area. When the park first opened, you could not only see Meercat's and Gerinuks here but also Dik-Diks, a very small antelope. The Dik-Diks were only in Animal Kingdom for a short time.

Today when I looked around the only critters to be found were the Meercats. And then a huge fence in the distance.

Animal Kingdom Meercat Viewing

Animal Kingdom Meercat Viewing

While the Cast Member stationed there didn't know for sure what was going on. She speculated that work was being done on the trees OR perhaps they would have a new animal viewing area soon.. she said the rumor was "lions". Now, I would have normally just thought that was pure rumor, but earlier in the day, a Cast Member told me that Animal Kingdom recently acquired 4 Lion Cubs - so who knows?! That same Cast Member also indicated that occasionally a cub could be found in the Lion section (although on my two trips, I didn't see any). Again - pure rumor - I really have no idea what is going on.

Many of the Gorillas were out and about including this female and also the 2 year old.

Animal Kingdom Gorillas

Animal Kingdom Gorillas

It was nearing time 10:30am for my Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass so I headed over to check the return times. FastPasses were being given out for 11:15, so I went back to the machines and got another one so I could ride, kinda of back to back.

Lots of animals and birds were out. I spotted over 20 during the ride.

Disney sets the scene of the savannah up beautifully with this first look as you turn the corner.

Animal Kingdom Kilimanjaro Safari

Lots of giraffes on both sides of the road. Animal Kingdom now has two kinds of giraffe, the Reticulated (which has been there since park opening) and the Masai. Can you tell which is which?

Animal Kingdom giraffe

Here is how.... Look closely at their patches.

The Masai giraffe has jagged edges along their patches.

Animal Kingdom Masai

The Reticulated giraffe's are smooth.

Animal Kingdom Reticulated

Ok, now look at them again :)

Animal Kingdom Giraffe

The elephants were having a great time with the water and throwing sand on their backs (for sunscreen - really!). Elephants of varying age were out too!

Animal Kingdom Elephants

A Cast Member in the KJS area had told me that there is a baby White Rhino sometimes out so to be sure and look for it. Unfortunately, I didn't see the baby Rhino.

Animal Kingdom White Rhino

We had a treat and got to see both the male and female lion walking around.

Animal Kingdom Lion

Near the end of the ride is the new area being prepared for the Zebra. The drivers have gotten the "story" about the new herd integration into their spiel. One even said the Zebras are expected in October. That goes along with "fall" time frame first reported.

Animal Kingdom Zebra area

When the first ride was over I only had 10 minutes to wait for my second ride. Just about all the same animals were out, some in different areas. I did see a Mandrill the 2nd time.

This time, the lions were sleeping. I could see the male, but the female was hard to spot.

Animal Kingdom Lions

While I miss the rickety old bridge bit during the ride, I really enjoy that the jeep is now able to spot, no matter how briefly, for photo ops.

One animal I did miss was the Thompson's Gazelle. I asked one of the Kilimanjaro Cast Members who told me they have been removed from Animal Kingdom and taken to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I'd love to have someone to talk to from Animal Kingdom about the animals.

Before leaving the park, I stopped by the Beastly Bazaar. This shop has been closed and will become a Character Meet and Greet. I asked 2 different Cast Members in the area what was going on in the store and neither had any information to share.

Animal Kingdom Beastly Bazaar

All too quickly, the heat started to get to me, so I headed out.

Animal Kingdom Exit

So,do you like "walk around" blogs like this one?

February 13, 2012

Animal Kingdom - The Storks of Discovery Island


I was recently in Animal Kingdom to walk some of the animal trails. One of my favorites is just outside of Africa and part of the Discovery Island Trails. Since the Saddle-billed stork viewing area is first, we will check out what's happening!

Little did I know what a treat I was in for special treat. A Cast Member came by and told me the storks are nesting - both the Saddle-billed and the Painted Stork.

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

No sooner had she left and 2 animal keepers came by and shared more information with me.

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

While the pair of Saddle-billed Storks have built a nest before, this is the biggest nest they have built and the first time the female has laid eggs, two as of now and could lay a third. The first egg was laid on 2/4 and the next one 2/7. The gestation period is about 30-35 days which means if the eggs are fertile, there will hopefully be a little baby or more in very early March. If this happens it will be the first baby Saddle-billed Storks at Animal Kingdom.

The photos may not show, but this nest is HUGE. The Cast Member said she had put a lot of nesting materials in the area yesterday and it was all gone today.

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

The female was on the nest and didn't move the whole time I was there. The male was very close by hanging out.

I did learn 2 ways to tell the difference between a male and female Saddle-Billed Stork. First, the males tend to be taller. But the main difference is their eye color. The females have yellow eyes and the males brown.

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

Saddle-billed Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

See if you can spot the differences next time you are walking the Discovery Island trails!

blue line

A bit further down the trail on the same side are the Painted Storks.

Painted Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

I had a harder time finding their nest. It is to the right side of the viewing area down near the water. This photo can help you find it. You'll have to look through the branches.

Painted Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

At times the storks would be standing on the nest looking at the eggs.

Painted Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

Other times one would sit on the eggs. Both groups were fascinating to watch.

Painted Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

Here's a viewing tip -- look for the colorful signs in each viewing area. You will learn what animal/bird you are viewing, where they live in the world and additional information. This is great for both kids and adults

Painted Stork Disney's Animal Kingdom

What is your favorite part of the Discovery Island Trails?

January 14, 2012

Animal Kingdom Walk Around


Thursday I went to Animal Kingdom. I really had wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. However my TouringPlan subscription reminded me it was Extra Magic Hour at MK and a park to avoid.

My second choice was Animal Kingdom which was not crowded at all! My main reason for visiting the park was to take menu photos to update AllEars.

Actually, the parks are not crowded right now. Most Marathon folks have headed home and there is a couple day lull before the 3 day weekend coming up.

I had a great spot in the parking lot, very unusual for me - second car in. Don't you always feel like you are at the end of the LONG row? I do, but today I lucked out.

Despite the low crowds the turnstiles to enter the park were a bit backed up.

Animal Kingdom

I enjoy walking through the Oasis checking out what animals and birds can be seen. There are a few different trails, so take time to explore. I love when there are Cast Members around to talk to about the various birds and animals. Today, a Cast Member was showing a skull from a Babirusa.

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

There is also a great little seating area off by the Baribusa area. Quiet and out of the way.

Animal Kingdom

I love seeing the Tree of Life as you come out of the Oasis. Today's blue sky made for a great photo!

Animal Kingdom

One thing I have noticed over the years is that artist or author park appearance are rarely announced in advance. A few years ago I was so excited to happen upon none other than Joe Rhode signing books in Animal Kingdom. His appearances at Animal Kingdom are VERY rare, but it always pays to ask at the "Times Board" and check out the stores yourself. There just might be an author or artist you would like to meet.

Animal Kingdom

Creature of habit, I generally start on the left side of Animal Kingdom and make my way around. Today, I decided to head right and begin in Dinoland USA.

Animal Kingdom

The longest wait I saw was for the photo op with Pluto and Goofy!

Animal Kingdom

There are lots of "dinosaurs" to be found in this part of the park so be sure to look all around, even up! This dinosaur can be found in Restaurantosaurus!

Animal Kingdom

A couple of dinosaurs can be seen on the Cretaceous Trail.

Animal Kingdom

There is also a nice quieter area with benches and shade. This would make a good spot while you are waiting for others to ride Dinosaur.

Animal Kingdom

A couple dinosaurs are also near the Dinosaur Fast Pass area!

Animal Kingdom

Next I wandered over to Primeval Whirl. Pretty much a walk on. There are 2 areas to measure height, this one is cute with the animal paw prints where a child should stand.

Animal Kingdom

Things were really quiet in the arcade game area. Just curious, do any of you play these games?

Animal Kingdom

Really short lines today for Expedition Everest as well, about 10 minutes when I went past around 10am. Also the single rider line was closed.

Animal Kingdom

I was glad to see the "test seats" still available for folks to see if they can transfer in from their wheelchair or if they will fit with the lap bar. It's nice and out of the way of the mainstream.

Animal Kingdom

The last thing I did was journey along the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Be sure to pick up a guide with info about the animals along the trail.

Animal Kingdom

You can also get a guide to the birds as well.

Animal Kingdom

The Komodo Dragon was out sunning himself. I didn't see the Tapir - come to think of it, it's been a long time since I saw her. Anyone see the Tapir recently?

I went through the bat area, there was lots of fruit hanging for them to eat.

A couple of the tigers were out. I had a nice chat with Cast Member Dennis about the Tigers. I've said it before but these Cast members are a wonderful resource of information about the animals and birds. Don't hesitate to ask questions and engage in a conversation.

Animal Kingdom

I left the park around 11:30am. You can see from the Times Board the waits were still pretty short!

Animal Kingdom

A beautiful morning in my favorite park.

November 23, 2011

First Inhabitants of Animal Kingdom


During the construction of Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World's Media Relations office sent out periodic updates to journalists. These were oversized full color newletters designed to acquaint the media with the newest theme park, Disney's Animal Kingdom.


The following photos were taken at Animal Kingdom but the names are unknown.

The very first inhabitants were two reticulated giraffes named Zari and Miles. At the time, Zari was a 1.5 year old female born at the Metro Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon. Miles was a 2 year old male from the St. Louis Zoological Park.


The next animals to move in were seven western lowland gorillas. The family group of 4 was led by silverback Gino, a young male Hasani, and two females Hope and Benga. A bachelor group also moved into Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (the original name of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail ) consisting of Zwadi, M'bizi and Chuma. These gorillas are endangered in the wild. All the gorillas, except Gino, came from 2 zoos in Chicago. Gino was born in the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands and arrived in 1980 to the Lincoln Park Zoo.


Two African elephants round out the first group of animals to call Animal Kingdom home; Thandi and Moyo from the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington.


March 30, 2011

Wandering Around Animal Kingdom

On my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I made sure to leave a morning to myself to wander around my favorite park. It was an overcast morning which turned out to be a great time to see some animals out and about. It's been several months since I walked around Animal Kingdom so some of what appears "different" to me may not be so new.

In the Oasis, the Spoonbills were very feisty - several were being extremely protective of the eggs they were nesting. There was a lot of bill snapping going on!

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The pastries at Kusafiri were very decorative and tempting!

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

I don't recall seeing the Paroon Shark-Catfish before. It was hard to get a good photograph.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

As I made my way into the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, some of the signage appeared to be refreshed!

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

I love the aviary here and also in the Maharajah Jungle Trek! The Taveta Golden Weavers were busy flitting about. Their opening to their nests are on the bottom, to help ward off intruders. They build a "shelf" inside so they have a place to rest.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

There were lots of meerkats out, don't think I have seen this many in quite some time.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

And in the same viewing area, the Gerenuks! Their necks can stretch really far!

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Many gorillas were out and about on this morning. I may have seen just about all of them. I actually found myself going back and forth between the two main viewing areas (the first that is enclosed with the floor-ceiling glass and the one over the wobbly bridge).

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

You can find the baby not too far from the mother.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Realizing I had spent over an hour on the trail, I headed over to Asia.

One of the Siamangs was having a ball swinging back and forth on the high wire.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Anyone up for a trip?

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Here is another of the signs that looked refreshed.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The Komodo Dragon was walking around on the rocks - usually I just see the dragon sunning!

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Tiger Forest coming up....

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The tigers were quite lazy and all but one was sleeping.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The Elds Deer like to hang out in the far left corner of their area. You can find them in the same viewing spot as the Black Buck, Sarus Crane and the Ox.

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

The Aviary ----

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Walt Disney World

I enjoyed my visit. Be sure to talk and ask questions of the animal keepers that are along the trails. They have lots of information to share. And, in the aviaries, they can usually point out a bird you may have missed.

October 7, 2008

West African Crowned Crane at Disney's Animal Kingdom

West African Crowned Crane

Whenever I am wandering around Animal Kingdom, I always try to look for new species or better yet, little babies. I've been pretty fortunate over the years to see a number of the park's offspring. I've seen baby elephants, giraffes, spoonbills, gibbons and this time a baby West African Crowned Crane.

It took asking several Cast Members before one was able to identify the bird for me. I had taken digital photos in the morning and then showed them to Cast Members during the day. When you have animal or bird questions, try to find a Cast Member in a green shirt. They are usually the ones who work with the animals. Although on the Pangani Forest Exploration and Maharajah Jungle Trek trails, the Cast Members will sometimes be in costume.

Animal Kingdom Signage for West African Crowned Crane

Here are some photos of the 6 week old male West African Crowned Crane. You can find him in the Discovery Island trails. He's various shades of brown. I was told he would develop his "crown" and turn colors as he gets older. The 2 adults were very close to him and seemed to be watching things very closely!

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

West African Crowned Crane

The sign in Discovery Island (photo above) says:
"We live in flocks of a hundred or more,
When not in the breeding season.
And Stamp on the ground with our feet as we walk,
It seems odd but we have good reason.

We stamp on the ground to make the bugs jump,
Then eat them before they fall.
At sunrise we haid the start of the day,
With a powerful trumpeting call."

The Field Guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park says this about the West African Crowned Crane: "Balearica pavonia - Highly social, pair off usually for life, assume joint responsibility with their mate for offspring".

You also may be able to find the West African Crowned Cranes during your Kilimajaro Safari Ride.

Additional information can be found at the following website:

Philadelphia Zoo

May 10, 2008

A Wild Decade - Animal Kingdom Turns 10!

On April 22, 2008 Animal Kingdom theme park proudly turned 10 years young!

Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

In conjuction with Walt Disney World and Animal Kingdom, the team hosted their 2nd anniversary event, A Wild Decade. You may recall these were the same folks that brought you Celebration 25 -honoring Epcot's 25 years in 2007.

Registration for the Wild Decade closed a few weeks prior at 400. Not too shabby considering the event was on a Tuesday!

Check-in began bright and early near the Animal Kingdom ticket booths. Then the lines to get into the park quickly developed.

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

A Wild Decade at Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary

Animal Kingdom offered just a few events to commemorate the birthday.
First, a Re-Dedication Ceremony at park opening, hosted by Erin Wallace, Joe Rohde and Jane Goodall.

Animal Kingdom Re-Dedication Ceremony with Erin Wallace, Joe Rohde and Jane Goodall

Animal Kingdoms 10th Anniversary Crowd awaiting Ceremony

After the ceremony, Animal Kingdom Vice President Val Bunting greeted guests at the Attraction Times board. The first photo is Adam Roth and Val. The next one is me with Val.

Adam Roth and Val Bunting

Deb Wills and Val Bunting

Then there was a very special opportunity to hear Joe Rohde speak in the Theatre in the Wild. He is quite the storyteller and it's easy to see why he is such a successful imagineer! His facial expressions really added to the talk.

Special thanks to Patty Cook, who I met at the talk, for the cool photographs of Joe.

We have the audio for listening.

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Joe Rohde talks about Animal Kingdom's Beginnings

Lastly, Joe was available for autographs and photographs from 1-2pm in the afternoon. Here is AllEars Team Member Linda Mac with Joe!

Joe Rohde and LindaMac

Soon it was time for the Wild Decade events to begin!

The Wild Decade had their first attraction meet of the day enjoying Finding Nemo the Musical. From there, it was on to Expedition Everest!

At 2pm, the now traditional History Walk took place. Prior to the walks beginning, there was a very special visit by Animal Kingdom Vice President Val Bunting. Not only did she speak with the Wild Decade group, she entertained a few questions from the crowd and then stayed on for photo ops and even some pin trading. I asked Val about future attractions and new animal species that may be coming to the park. She replied with the standard Disney answer... we're always looking at new opportunities.....etc etc! In otherwords, no special announcements on April 22nd!

Attendees were split into 2 groups for the History Walk, one led by John C and one by Tom Corless. I attended Tom's walk and really enjoyed it. I even learned a few new things that I can share with friends on our next adventure to the park!! To the WDWCelebrations Team - kudos on the history talk!!!

Tom Corliss History Walk of Animal Kingdom Asia

Tom Corliss History Walk of Animal Kingdom

Next, the folks at Animal Kingdom reserved 2 of the areas at the Flame Tree BBQ for Wild Decade Attendees to use for dinner. That really worked well. People were able to mingle and have some down time together. It was VERY nice.

At about 6:15pm, most of us having now been in the park almost 12 hours, I was starting to get tired. There were 2 events I still wanted to get to....but made the decision to forgo the last meet on Dinosaur!

We gathered outside DinoLand USA for a presentation. The Wild Decade organizers, led by 17-year-old Adam Roth, presented a $500 check to author Lou Mongello (The Walt Disney World Trivia Book) to go to the Dream Team charity he has established, which benefits terminally ill children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Adam and Jason present Lou with the Make-A-Wish Donation

Afterwards we posed for a group photo that was a lot of fun to organize.

Wild Decade Group Photo

Larger Wild Decade Group Photo Image

Soon it wsa time to say goodbyes. The day went WAY too fast but the memories will last a long time.

Thanks to Val Bunting, Joe Rohde, the Cast Members who helped create Animal Kingdom and those that have worked there over the years, the WDWCelebrations team and all the attendees who made this a wonderful day.

Their next event, a World Wide Weekend will be held in late September. Registration is already open. I'll be there, will you?

February 9, 2008

February WDW Trip Report Part 2, Saturday 2/2/08

Saturday was spent with a family who I've known for several years. Bonny and Andrew have a special daughter named MJ who is featured (page 246) in the PassPorters Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line book I co-authored.

MJ is a 7 year old girl with multiple disabities including Right Cerebral Cortex Polymicrogyria, autism, epilepsy, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder; to name a few. Her language is limited to single words and some sign language, but spending a day with her is a special treat beyond words. It's been amazing over the years to see what her many many trips to Disney parks has done to help her become more alive, more verbal.

Our day began with breakfast at Cape May Cafe. MJ is fed only by a feeding tube and therefore does not eat or drink. She does enjoy Character Meals. She also enjoys cutting food while the rest of us eat.

Today was a celebration of MJ's birthday (which is later this week). Minnie was the first to wish her a Happy Birthday.

MJ and Minnie

Dale stopped by for some chair dancing with MJ.
MJ and Dale

After breakfast we headed to Animal Kingdom. We were still in the Oasis when we realized it was time for White Spoonbill eggs. In the photo below, one Spoonbill had just moved away from sitting on the eggs and another came over and turned them around. About this time, All Ears team member Linda Mac joined us!

Spoonbill and Eggs

Being in a park with MJ is not your typical day in a park. It's a slow stroll with her pointing to various parts of the park that she wants to visit. Her mom will ask, Do you want to go to Planet Watch? and she will either motion or speak, yes or no. And believe me, she knows the names of everything in the park!

Along the way, we encountered Terk. MJ just LOVES to rub Terk's belly!
MJ and Terk

Next was the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch.

Deb and MJ on the Wildlife Express Train

MJ loves all the hands on items and especially being able to pet the animals. "Touch, touch", is what she says about the rabbit below.

MJ and the rabbit

She was also quite fascinated with the cage the rabbit traveled in.

MJ looking at the rabbit cage

Soon Jiminy Cricket appeared..... It was amazing that he had no line of folks waiting to see him. He took the opportunity to spend extra time with MJ. She was showing him the bird's nest that had 3 babies in it.

MJ and Jiminy

And I couldn't resist the chance for a photo-op with Jiminy!

Deb and Jiminy

Next up was lunch at Flame Tree BBQ. I had a Turkey Sandwich on a multi-grain roll. And while the roll was on the dry side, it must be low on the glycemic index as just a low dose of insulin took care of it!

After lunch, we planned to see Finding Nemo the Musical. However, MJ had about had enough of the crowds so we headed back to her house.

One of MJ's friends gave her a Belle dress for her birthday! Here she is modeling for us.

MJ dressed as Belle

Here is MJ with LindaMac, whom she called "Mac" and her dog Coco.

MJ, Linda Mac and Coco

MJ and Deb just hanging out.

MJ and Deb

A wonderful day had come to an end and it was time to head back to the resort. Originally I was going to call it a night, but then realized I was very hungry. LindaMac said she could eat also and we managed to get a resservation for Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian for 6:15pm. We could just make it.... A great dinner and server and company......Saturday came to an end. day with NO plans at all! WOW!

February 4, 2008

Animal Kingdom Turns 10 in April! Part 3

This is the 3rd in a series of Blogs celebrating Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary in April.
Part 1 shared my original trip report from the Cast Previews.

Part 2 talked about A Wild Decade celebration by the team.

This blog shares Anita Answer's initial thoughts about Animal Kingdom, from 1998. She was able to visit Animal Kingdom as part of the WDW Resort Guest Special Previews.

March 23, 1998 -- Animal Kingdom at last!

I had originally planned to go to Animal Kingdom (AK) at opening (7 am!) but decided to sleep in for a little while instead. At last I'm on my way zipping down World Drive and then Buena Vista with the windows down and the radio going.

I pulled into the AK parking booth, and the CM asked to see my ticket. Apparently they're enforcing the "you must buy your ticket at your resort" rule. Once in the lot, the road circumvents the entire lot to the south and you pull into the rows from the opposite side of the lot. (Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?) None of the rows had been numbered yet, but the section signs were up. I knew I was in Unicorn, but didn't know the row--which is very dangerous in a rental car! I fished around in my backpack for a bandanna to tie on my antenna, but all I could come up with was a clothes pin. I was off to the tram. The tram lets you off about 50 feet from the entrance.

To the left is the Rainforest Cafe, complete with man-made waterfall. The entrance itself is reminiscent of Typhoon Lagoon. Once inside, I was trying to keep one eye on the map and one eye on all the wonderful scenery, and eventually, I had to give up on the map.

You enter into an area called "the Oasis" which is full of little paths, small animals, trickling brooks, etc. This opens up to Safari Village, sort of the Hub of AK. Safari Village is brightly painted and just gorgeous, but consists mostly of souvenir shops from what I could tell. Directly in front of me was the incredible Tree of Life. You can stand and look at that tree all day, and still see something new each time. Whoever designed it is a genius.

Off to the right is the path to DinoLand and Asia, which isn't open yet. I saw some of the construction of Asia from the boat ride and from the bridge leading to it--it's going to be breathtaking.

I took a right turn into DinoLand. The first thing you see is the Boneyard--this is going to be a fun place for kids! Lots of tubes, chutes, rope ladders, and hidey-holes. A seven year-old's dream playground. The Restaurantosaurus is off to the right (serves McDonald's foods.) The theming is really nifty--it looks just like a thrown-together basecamp for Paleontologists; right down to the Airstream trailer.

Countdown to Extinction (CTX) is directly ahead on the path. You enter through what looks like a museum. Some of the displays were not yet working, though. From there, you go into a room with a replica of a (whatever-saurus.) There's a preshow here, but the lines were so short, I never did catch it on any of my three rides on CTX. From there, you go down into the next pre-show area, where you are shown a short film which ostensibly explains about your time-travelling vehicle and where you're going. From there, you go to the loading area.

The vehicles are the same as the Indy ride at DL. In several spots, the ride is in pitch black, so I assume that some of the effects aren't running yet. The ride is mechanically better than Indy, but Indy's theming is MUCH better. Maybe CTX's theming will be better once it's 100% on line, but for now it's not as good.

From there, I went on the Safari Village-to-Africa portion of the River boat ride, which oddly loads from the edge of DinoLand. There are some very cool rock formations; my favorite of which was Crocodile Falls; followed by Dragon Rocks. I'm not sure why they put the two so close together as there isn't much else to see on the boat ride.

As you near Harambe, the African village, there are some geysers like those at Big Thunder Mountain RailRoad at the Magic Kingdom. Harambe's theming looks just like a backwater African village. Most of the village is, you guessed it, souvenir shops, but there's a wonderful restaurant called Tusker House. It's kind of hidden, so you have to look for the entrance. Tusker's has a great bakery that you can access from an outside queue as well. Try the chocolate chip cookies..mmmm.

In Harambe, you enter the queue for Kilimanjaro Safaris (KS). The queue winds through the KS offices, complete with ringing phone, travel brochures, etc. The latter part of the queue sets up the lame-o poachers story via video. The safari is taken on large vehicles, which are free driving, not on a track. The "roads" are really cool--the truck tracks in the cement "mud" and even some rock paintings.

The landscaping is so incredible, it's hard to believe that two years ago this was just Florida swampland. They added hills, rocks and African foliage, and it all looks like it's been there for hundreds of years. I saw lots of animals, including giraffes, ostriches, elephants, vultures (!) and hippos on my first trip.

From the Safari, I went on the gorilla walk, which was very disappointing. Although the landscaping is breathtaking, I only saw one baby gorilla from the back and only for a fleeting second. Doh!

Next, I took the train to Conservation Station (CS) . The ride is very very boring, and Conservation Station is pretty boring as well. CS is like a very small Epcot pavilion with interactive kiosks. There is a small petting zoo with the obligatory baby goats, as well. I don't think I spent more than 5 minutes here before walking back to the train station for the return ride. I sure hope they plan on putting more attractions here, because if this is it, they're going to have a slew of cranky guests once the crowds and long lines descend!

I left Harambe, and followed the path from Africa to Asia. I stopped (yet again) to take a look at the Tree of Life from this side, and took some pictures. I had planned to hop the river boat Africa-to-Safari Village leg, but the ride was down, and no explanation was given.

Instead, I peeked at the construction going on in Asia, keeping one eye on the river boat queue house, which can be seen from the Asian bridge. I overheard two managers saying one of the boats was caught on something, and they were going to use another boat to get it free, so I figured that might take awhile and I gave up waiting around.

I decided to continue my loop of the park and headed back toward Dinoland, intending to ride Countdown to Extinction again. On the way, I spotted a beautifully painted restaurant on the banks of the river, which had carved stone animals and small ponds, waterfalls, etc. There were lots of outdoor tables so I strolled down by the water to sit and rest for a while. There, right in front of me was the stuck boat, and sure enough, another boat was ramming it over and over to get it unstuck. I watched until the boat was free at last, but they still didn't open the ride. I had just enough time to grab some popcorn and diet coke before I had to meet friends at the Tree of Life entrance.

I sat on a bench with my snack and a manager with a clipboard and a Newton asked if he could ask me some questions about the park. After he asked me the requisite questions, we chatted a bit about the park, and how wonderful this opportunity was to see it before it gets crowded. There is so much detail here--I was especially impressed with the mosaics inlaid in the sidewalks all over the park. The mosaic was the best part, IMO, of Conservation Station. The manager and I agreed that once this park filled up, no one would notice these little touches, and we were lucky to get to see them now.

I decided to see if I could get into the 1:00 Lion King show, and I almost did it...they closed the queue with only 3 people in front of me! Doh!

So, I investigated Camp Minnie-Mickey, which is very cute. It's themed like a national park a la the Wilderness Lodge. There are several character greeting areas and lots of colorful character statuettes around the area. I walked back over to Dinoland, and looked at the theming a bit more closely--still very cool! I rode CTX again, and then poked around in the shops. I played with some Dino Beanies in a giftshop, and then went to meet my friend.

My friend was waiting at the appointed place and after big hugs, we took the Safari, where we saw even more animals than I had seen earlier. We skipped the Gorilla Walk and strolled around Harambe. We took a few pictures and a passing cast member was kind enough to take our picture together.

After that, we took the now-open boat ride from Africa around to Safari Village/Dinoland. From the boat, you can get a really good look at the Asia construction going on. The boat Cast Member told us that they were going to start bringing small animals on board each boat for a bit of wildlife lore, since there really isn't much to see on the boat rides yet. The Africa-Safari Village leg had even less to see than the Safari Village - Africa side.

We debarked at Dinoland and rode CTX again. Afterwards, it was about 4:20, so we decided to see if we could get into the 4:30 show of Festival of the Lion King; the last show before the park closed at 5:00 pm. We got in with no trouble at all. The show was cute, but, hey--it's no Hunchback, ya know? ;-) all the costumes were there with the exception of 3 missing headdresses on various folks.

After the Festival of the Lion King show, the park was closing and they ushered us out of the park. We reluctantly walked back to the tram (especially me, because I knew I was headed for the airport. ;-( ) The tram took us back to our be-clothespinned vehicle, and away we went.

January 28, 2008

Animal Kingdom Turns 10 in April! Part 2

In my first blog on Animal Kingdom circa 1998, I shared with you my initial trip report as well as some photos from the Cast Previews in March of that year.

I also told you that in this blog, I would share information about a special 10th Anniversary Celebration taking place at Animal Kingdom on April 22, 2008; it's called A Wild Decade!.

This event is not an official Disney event, but it is done in cooperation with Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom managers.

Do you remember my blogs about Epcot's 25th Anniversary Celebration and the group that held a 2 day celebration in the park?

Well that group, is the same one hosting - Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary!

While they never really intended to do anything else as they planned for Celebration 25 at Epcot, the feedback they received afterwards led them to continue down the path of hosting events.

With a new website, the new WDWCelebrations Team is planning at least one event per year for the foreseeable future. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the team comprised of: Adam Roth, Jason Diffendal, Jackie Steele, John Coriglinao and Tom Corless.

Adam spoke about how important the relationships with Disney management were to the success of the previous event, "It had never really been done before. So to let the relationship sit and waste away, would be wasting a good thing. We are working with Disney on the 10th anniversrary for Animal Kingdom. It's nice to have the reassurance that what we are doing is approved."

Adam Roth and Deb Wills

Will they surpass their Celebration 25 registration of approximately 800 attendees (representing 6 countries and 28 states) ? That's not a concern; their focus is producing a quality experience for all participants. Right now there are just over 100 registered persons for A Wild Decade..

The team developed quite an extensive email list from their Epcot event last fall and already have sent out several newsletters talking about the "A Wild Decade" event as well as an event later this year.

Jason went on to explain: "We sent out a Press Release to a small number of webmasters of Disney sites to get word out about our Wild Decade event. Jackie, Tom and I are spearheading the creation of a set of standards for sponsors and partners of the website and event." The team is available for interviews and podcast guest appearances.


John did confirm he will be doing a history walk, or more like a History Hike. "It won't be as long as the Epcot one. It should be about a 60-90 minutes."

John Coriglinao's Epcot History Walk

While Epcot's Celebration 25 encompassed 2 full days of events, the "A Wild Decade" will be limited to a one day event, April 22nd. In addition to the History Hike, the group plans to experience Finding Nemo: The Musical and also Expedition Everest together. They are trying to plan a group meal and are exploring options at Animal Kingdom.

The WDWCelebrations team has also been careful to leave a great deal of flex in the schedule should Walt Disney World plan something for the anniversary!

The sky's the limit with these gentleman as Adam explained, "I can't guarantee we'll be celebrating Epcot's 50th, but I can say we have looked at our schedule for several years into the future. And Epcot's 30th is one of notable mention."

Below is an excerpt from the WDWCelebrations Press Release about the Wild Decade Celebration! - For Disney fans everywhere, this is the Internet's newest and brightest source of special events and organized festivities. If you want to sample "the magic" with family, friends, or just like-minded Disneyphiles, come celebrate with us!

Announcing a breakthrough in the way people can appreciate and enjoy the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida; WDWCelebrations is a new fan-based organization aiming to bring Disney fans everywhere together for a variety of occasions, both big and small.

From the dedicated team that created the unique Celebration 25 event for the 25th anniversary of Epcot® in October 2007, WDWCelebrations aims to celebrate the past, present and future of Walt's famous Orlando resort. The 'World' will never be the same again!

The website was launched in December 2007 as the Internet home for this new organization. And, in addition to providing information on upcoming WDWCelebrations events, the site will unveil a new calendar-based concept as a central repository about other notable dates and occasions from the rest of the Disney online community. A regular newsletter and RSS feed will also provide event news and updates to all subscribers, bringing "unity to the community" in ways not yet explored.

Walt Disney World has long been celebration central over its 36 years for everything from anniversaries to birthdays - but now there will be even more for its legion of fans to celebrate in 2008 and beyond, starting with the 10th anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Park in April.

So, for news of official Disney celebrations, plus more individual events and festivities -including an annual WDWCelebrations fan gathering - log on to the essential website and stay in touch with all the magic!

"A Wild Decade"

WDWCelebrations is pleased to announce its first Commemorative Event, "A Wild Decade," in honor of the 10th Anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Park on April 22, 2008. Building on the success of Celebration 25, "A Wild Decade" will focus on unique experiences, including group rides, photos, meals, and other special events designed to bring Disney fans together to celebrate and enjoy each other's company.

Just as all activities at Celebration 25 were approved by Epcot® management, WDWCelebrations is seeking approval by the management of Disney's Animal Kingdom® Park for all activities scheduled for "A Wild Decade." WDWCelebrations hopes to provide a day of fun and memories marking this special occasion.

And "A Wild Decade" will be just the first of many events under the WDWCelebrations banner, as plans are already in the works for an annual Signature Event in September and more Commemorative Events marking milestones in Walt Disney World history in the future.

The entire Press Release can be found at the website.

I plan to be in Animal Kingdom on April 22nd! Will you?

Next time we'll look at Anita Answer's memories of her first visit in 1998!

January 22, 2008

Animal Kingdom Turns 10 in April! Part 1

Can you believe it? I can still vividly remember the March day in 1998 that I spent in Animal Kingdom during Cast Previews.... it was amazing!

Ever since that first day, I have been in love with the park and try to get there whenever I can. It's the first time I have been able to see a Disney themepark evolve from the very beginning, well at least from a visitor's perspective!

In honor of Animal Kingdom's 10th Anniversary, I plan to do a series of blogs about the park.

For this blog, we'll go back in time to the March 9,1998, Cast Previews:

Reading the Cast Preview Animal Kingdom Guide Map

Here is the report I filed upon returning home from that incredible experience!

Where do I Begin??!!

On Monday March 9th, I had the distinct pleasure of attending one of the Cast Member Preview Days at Animal Kingdom. Not only was the weather better than expected, but the park surpassed all my expectations.

First, this is a PARK! Yes, a theme park, but a PARK! There are lots of places to sit (tho more benches are desperately needed in some areas), lots and lots of vegitation and plantings, lots of quiet areas to view animals, lots of things to look at for long periods of time. It is not a park for the Commando Tourist who wants to check everything off a list by noon!

Some initial thoughts and impressions.....

WOW WOW WOW! That's all I kept saying! This Place is awesome!

The Tree of Life is magnificant! There really are NO words to describe it..... Once you see it for yourself, you'll know what I mean. Each time you look at it you see more and different carvings! There are supposedly over 360 carvings throughout the entire tree (and that includes the trunk, branches and roots), as well as some Hidden Mickeys (that I could not find, but are hidden in the moss). The roots of the Tree of Life outline the cue area for the 3D bug movie which opens in April! The tree is something to look at and enjoy and savor. It is quite moving!

Tree of Life

This park is about saving the environment; there are no drink lids or straws. I recommend you bring water bottles and/or refillable mugs to pour your drinks into!

Lockers! Are in several park locations. The ones in the front are $2 which is supposed to get you unlimited access through out the day.

One other note, the food is EXPENSIVE even by Disney standards. Two of us had BBQ for lunch: Smoked Turkey sandwich, veggie sandwich, 1 order of fries, 2 orders of baked beans, and 2 soft drinks was $25.00! That is WAY overpriced to me!

The Kilimanjaro Safari is a wonderful 20 minute ride. The audio was hard to follow sets the scene for poachers to attack near the end of the ride...I eventually tuned it out to savor my surroundings. You are quickly brought into the landscape built by imagineers and forget you are in Florida. It is a BUMPY ride! Photography is tough to do but can be done! There are no visible fences..... I felt like I was on a real safari (but never have been so I can't compare). The jeeps are 8 feet above ground and open and with a top cover. We saw a number of animals which were outstanding! Both a white Rhino and 2 zebras walked in front of our jeep.

Kilimanjaro Safari

Countdown to Extinction --

A Super fun ride which is VERY bumpy and jerky! It lasts only 3.5 minutes. Lines will form quickly for this see it early! The inside que area has Diaramas that light up 2 panels at a time -- telling the story of creation. The que area .... Once through that section, you stand in a small Orientation Room where Phylicia Rashad entertains you by setting the stage. You then go into the vehicle loading area. 4 across (minimum height is 47 inches), with lap belts. It IS JERKY! (Did I say that already?). It is a dark ride with lots of loud noises...parents please use caution with your children.

Countdown to Extinction Sign

The Festival of the Lion King at the Campside Circle in Camp Mickey and Minnie was absolutely outstanding! Folks stood and applauded as the 30 minute show came to an end. Outstanding tumblers, singers and dancers.....beautiful floats of Simba, Pumba, a Girafe and Elephant! This show rocks! Clap your hands, sing aloud and enjoy the music from the Lion King including: Just Can't Wait to Be King, Hakuna Matata, Be Prepared, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Circle of Life, Lion Sleeps Tonight and a Reprise. The theatre in the round seats about 1,000.

Fesitval of the Lion King

And that ends my report on the Cast Preview Day at Animal Kingdom.

All photos on this page were taken in 1998, the year Animal Kingdom opened. If they look a little fuzzy to you, we were still using film then and so these photos have been scanned.

Next time I'll tell you about a special 10th Anniversary Celebration that's being planned by the same folks that brought you Epcot's 25th Anniversary Celebration!

April 21, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update Part 2

Friday really was an incredibly magical day. I already shared with you the baby Spoonbills I watched at Animal Kingdom....just amazing.

The day actually began earlier at the Wilderness Lodge, where we had the privilege of attending a flag ceremony on the roof of the Lodge. The cool breeze stood the flags out in a colorful array. I had not been on the roof in about 10 years and the views were as incredible as I remembered. Cast Member Jack was just wonderful and made it a very special experience!


Ok, back to Animal Kingdom... The park was pretty crowded when I arrived 10:30ish. I was in the Dinosaur section. Do you ever feel like you must have a sign on your car that says "Put me in the farthest parking space possible.. oh and please give the folks in front of me close parking spaces" LOL So I was wayyyyyy down the end of Dinosaur. I realized just how crowded it was when there was a back up to get on the tram. As one filled, there were just as many folks waiting in the lot for the next one.

The baby Spoonbill I showed you yesterday....well, they are in the very front viewing area as you enter Animal Kingdom. There were actually 2 Spoonbills nesting with babies. The mom on the left had 2 little ones; you saw a photo of one. The spoonbill on the right had 1 baby that had been born in within the last 12 hours and also had another one coming out of the egg.

Animal Kingdom was celebrating Earth Day and had exhibits set up in each land, geared towards teaching kids more about the environment.

As I headed to Pizzafari for some lunch, I saw dear friends of mine, MJ, Bonny and Andrew! A great surprise. While at lunch I met a woman who thanked me for co-writing Passporter's WDW for Your Special Needs. She said she never imagined they'd be able to do a trip to Walt Disney World and the book gave her the courage to do so! They were having a really good time!!!"

Off to the Kilimajaro Safari... MJ stays in her wheelchair and so we went to that part of the queue line. There was a very long wait, but that was ok, it gave us a more opportunity to talk!

On the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, we saw real eggs belonging to the Flamingos. The 6 month old giraffe is now gliding more confidently along the savannah and everywhere I looked, it seemed as though there were young ones... very exciting!!!

I headed off to do some resort research and then returned to the room to get ready for dinner. Another wonderful meal at California Grill. I'll be writing more about that for a feature article in AllEars.


Life, IT too short!

April 20, 2007

4/20/07 - WDW "Live" Update

Today, Friday, is our first full day at Walt Disney World. It's been an amazing day that I can't wait to share with you as soon as I have time to write.

But I do want to share this precious photo... It is a 1-2 day old baby African Spoonbill who lives in the Oasis at Animal Kingdom.


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About Animal Kingdom

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Deb's Digest in the Animal Kingdom category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney Hollywood (was MGM) Studios is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.