The Oasis is that area located between the Animal Kingdom turnstiles and the bridge that spans Discovery River on the way to Discovery Island. The Oasis is equivalent to Main Street at the Magic Kingdom. It was the Imagineers intention that this area be used as a decompression spot – an area where guests could transition between the real world and the world of nature and animals. Rockwork, waterfalls, plants, and animals were employed to help you forget the vast parking lot you crossed just moments earlier.
Unfortunately, The Oasis succeeds almost too well. Its understated beauty and lack of any real attractions encourages guests to race through this area on their way to Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris. And I totally understand this. I too hurry first-time visitors through The Oasis so we can minimize our wait times for the more flashy rides. But this is a shame. Like everything at Disney, even the unassuming attractions hold magic.
It always bothers me when I hear people say that the Animal Kingdom is a half-day park. This is ridiculous. It’s only a half-day park if you skip half the attractions. It is extremely difficult to see all the rides and shows, plus walk the nature trails, in less than a full day. The Animal Kingdom is meant to be savored. If all you care about is “thrill” rides, then go to Universal. But take your time when visiting the Animal Kingdom. Relish each sight and sound. This park is packed with details. Discoveries are everywhere if you just take the time to look – and this includes The Oasis.
So here’s my thought about seeing The Oasis. If you arrive within the first hour of the Animal Kingdom’s opening, skip this area in favor of getting on the prime attractions with little or no wait. But be sure to budget some time and visit this land in detail when exiting. However, if you arrive at the Animal Kingdom any time after 10am, then slow down and enjoy this area. The lines for Everest and Dinosaur are already long by this time. Spending a few extra minutes decompressing in The Oasis won’t make a lot of difference and it will definitely put you in a better frame of mind.
The only structures in The Oasis are located near the turnstiles. This was done intentionally to minimize man’s impact on the sights and sounds that lie ahead. In addition, the Arts and Crafts style of architecture was used for these structures. This design uses natural building materials that blend well with nature.
On the left you’ll find Guest Relations. It’s here all your questions and needs can be attended to. Whether it’s dining reservations or language assistance, these cast members have the answers.
Next to Guest Relations are the restrooms. At nearby Expedition Storage, large and small lockers can be rented. A deposit is required and is refunded when the key is returned. Lockers can be accessed as often as you like during the day.
Rainforest Café can also be accessed from this area. Large signs mark the way. Make sure to hang onto your ticket as you will need it for reentry into the park.
On the right side of the courtyard you’ll find stroller and wheelchair rentals and Garden Gate Gifts. This shop offers a few basic souvenirs and camera supplies.
Even if you’re a regular visitor, be sure to pick up a guide map. You never know what might have changed or been added since your last visit. Besides English maps, Japanese, German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese maps are available. Times Guides are also invaluable for scheduling your day and seeing the shows.
Directly opposite the turnstile and across the courtyard, almost hidden by foliage, is the Animal Kingdom’s dedication plaque. Take a moment to find and read it.
For those of you who can’t make out the words on the above picture it says:
“Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Welcome to the kingdom of animals…real, ancient and imagined
a kingdom ruled by lions, dinosaurs and dragons;
a kingdom of balance, harmony and survival;
a kingdom we enter to share in the wonder,
gaze at the beauty, thrill at the drama
Dedicated this 22nd day of April, 1998
Michael D. Eisner”
If you arrive before opening, a cute preshow is presented in The Oasis. A safari truck rolls in with Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto onboard. They welcome everyone to the park and give us a few tips for enjoying the day. To see the complete three minute show, check out my video.
The first animals you’ll encounter are the Roseate and African Spoonbills.
The Roseate Spoonbill is native to Central and South America. It feeds in shallow fresh or coastal waters. Their beautiful coloring comes from a diet rich in shrimp. They also eat beetles, bugs, frogs, newts, and small fish other birds ignore.
The African Spoonbill can be found in Central and Southern Africa and in Madagasgar. They feed by sweeping their long bills back and forth in the water, capturing small fish and other aquatic creatures. When I was visiting, the spoonbills were busy with their nests which typically include two to five eggs. If you look closely in the second picture, you can see several eggs. The black stripe was placed on the eggs by the Disney veterinarians to monitor the hatching progress.
Found near the spoonbills is the Black Swan which is native to Australia. They were also found in New Zealand but hunted to extinction. Fortunately, they were reintroduced and are making a comeback. Black Swans mate for life and share hatching responsibilities.
Besides the animals, be sure to notice the landscaping. The tropical forest is magnificent and transports your mind to far off places.
And don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.
There are two trails through The Oasis (left and right) and the animals encountered are different on each side. Try to enter the park via one trail and exit by the other. Another “Main Street” element can be found along these passageways. Rock tunnels mark the way to your upcoming adventure in the same way as passing beneath the Train Station does at the Magic Kingdom.
Several species of macaws make The Oasis their home. The Scarlet Macaw is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics. It uses tree cavities to nest and usually lays two to three eggs. The Imagineers have recreated these nesting environments throughout the area.
The Military Macaw’s beak is strong and can crack the toughest seeds and nuts. In addition, they eat fruits, berries, and other vegetation found in the forest. Military Macaws live in large flocks and have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years in the wild.
Birds aren’t the only animals found in The Oasis. Mammals and reptiles also call this spot home. On the right trail you’ll find a Babirusa which means “pig-deer.” This name refers to the antler-like tusks of the male. However, evidence suggests the animal is more closely related to the hippopotamus than the pig.
The Rhinoceros Iguana spends his day sunning on a large rock. His name comes from the horn-like scales on its snout. He eats plants, fruits, vegetables, insects, and rodents.
But the star of The Oasis is the Southern Giant Anteater. Found from Honduras to northern Argentina, this largest of the four species of anteater uses its long sticky tongue to slurp up as many as 30,000 bugs a day.
Other animals found in The Oasis include the Indian Spotted Duck, Swamp Wallaby, Reeve’s Muntjac, Chiloe Wigeon, Black Neck Swan, and Patagonian Cavy. Please remember while viewing these wonderful creatures, “Our yummies are bad for their tummies.”
Near the north end of The Oasis is a delightful suspension bridge and cave worthy of Tom Sawyer Island. Overlooked by most visitors, this is a great spot for youngsters.
As you traverse The Oasis from the entrance to its north edge, you climb nearly twenty feet. This was done intentionally so that when you reach Discovery Island you have an unobstructed view of the Tree of Life.
When you return home from your vacation and are recounting your Disney World adventures, no one is going to ask you, “So tell me, what did you think of The Oasis?” In the scheme of things, this land is not as memorable as some of the other attractions Disney has to offer. But on the other hand, simple things can be everlasting. I suspect if you stopped and thought about it, some of your most cherished Disney memories are not about riding Splash Mountain or Tower of Terror, but rather a “moment” when magic happened at an unexpected time. I can’t promise that you’ll create a lasting memory in The Oasis, but there is magic here if you take the time to look.
The previous post in this blog was Where’s the Fire? Epcot's Innoventions.
The next post in this blog is Columbia Harbour House.