Review of "Disney's Animal Kingdom"

published 09/01/2018 | Secre
Member since : 23/04/2003
Reviews : 574
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About me :
Journalling more for myself than anything else now, so I don't expect reads or rates!
Super
Pro Some excellent attractions, well themed, safari
Cons Long queues for Pandora, not as detailed on conservation as UK
exceptional
Prices
Is it worth visiting?
Transport links
Family Friendly

"If You Go Down to the Woods Today..."

Tumble Monkeys - Festival of the Lion King

Tumble Monkeys - Festival of the Lion King

Disney was actually an add on to our honeymoon as we had the spare budget; originally we had intended to go to Orlando just to spend time at the Universal theme parks. We ended up very grateful that we had taken the additional expense as a vast majority of our honeymoon actually ended up being spent within the Disney parks for a variety of reasons, not least of all the sheer size and scope of the parks.

Animal Kingdom

Welcome to a kingdom of animals… real, ancient and imagined: a kingdom rules 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 and learn.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a theme park with a zoological twist within the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando and is the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres of land. Dedicated to the natural environment, the park was the forth built and has a specific focus on animal conservation, which is something Walt Disney himself was keen on promoting.

The symbol of the park is a 145 foot tall and 50 foot wide artificial baob tree called The Tree of Life; for those who are unaware, the baob tree is a special tree that stores huge quantities of water and it is therefore a life saver for desert animals who can drill a hole in it and take water from it.

What’s On Offer

Oasis
The Oasis is the entrance into the park from which you go straight ahead onto Discovery which then links you onto each of the other areas of the park. It’s essentially a transition area which features animal highlights including the babirusa, spoonbill and giant anteater along with dense vegetation and leaves. The aspect that will immediately capture your attention is the Tree of Life, due to its sheer size and greenery. It is actually located in Discovery Island, but you get a good look at it from the entrance.

Discovery Island
Discovery Island is the first main area that has specific attractions along with the animal highlights; in this case otters, cotton-top tamarins and ring-tailed lemurs. There is a Wilderness Explorers challenge for the smaller people to complete as they work their way around the park and earn badges as they go. It’s Tough to Be a Bug! is a 3D film that is sat inside the Tree of Life that uses a lot of the characters from the film, A Bug’s Life, and focusses on why bugs should be considered friends. It uses Hopper to depict how unfair humans are to bugs and how they need a taste of their own medicine and has some special effects including hidden leg ticklers under the seats.

There are a fair few Discovery Island Trails that travel around the island and take you around the Tree of Life to see it up close. Up close it is even more impressive as you realise that there are hundreds of carvings of existing and extinct animal species on its trunk and roots. There are also projection mapping shows in the evening that depict different animals and other imagery. Throughout these pathways you come across many of the animals within Discovery Island, so it is worth taking a slow meander.

Pandora – The World of Avatar
This is the newest area of the park and it opened to the public in May 2017. Themed around the Avatar movie – the one with blue people – it is set a generation after the events in the film and features Pandoa’s floating mountains, alien wildlife and plant life. There are two attractions held within the section of the park and both have far too lengthy queues for what they are. Part of the issue with the queues were thjat with Avatar Flight of Passage they had breakdowns and other issues putting at least one room out of action and they were letting far too many Fast Tracks into the Na’vi river ride, meaning that the main queue was overly bloated. Poor management of queue lengths and technical equipment in short.

Avatar Flight of Passage is something we were actually daft enough to spend over three hours queuing for and found that it utterly destroyed our enjoyment of our first day at this park. It’s not a bad ride, but it certainly didn’t justify the length of queue that it had, particularly when it comes in at a whopping four and a half minutes to ride. The idea is that you are linked to an ‘avatar’ and fly a banshee across the landscapes of Pandora; it is essentially a reality flying simulator with 3D effects and some extra nifty additions like scent effects when you go into caves. The ‘banshee’ does actually breathe under your legs as well. Na’vi River Journey is a slow boat ride ar5ound a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs; again, whilst this isn’t a bad ride, it is far too short and unexciting for the hour long queue.

Africa
Africa was my absolute favourite aspect of the park for several reasons. First we watched the Festival of the Lion King here, which runs at set times per day, and was truly excellent; a melding of theatrical performances, special effects and the music from the original Lion King movie, this was a stunning performance. Out of both days we went, this was my out and out favourite aspect of the trips and is definitely well worth making sure you see if you are at the park.

The other huge attraction to Africa is the Kilimanjaro Safari which is an open-sided safari ride through the savannah of East Africa set in the fictional Harambe Wildlife Reserve. You sit in an open sided truck driving through the open terrain whilst the driver points out various animals and gives you some details about them. We did two safari’s and I can see why we were told that no two safari’s are ever the same as it really does depend on which animals are out and how interested they are. An interesting titbit I learned is that the name white rhinoceros is a mistranslation from Dutch to English of the word ‘wild’ which actually means wide in English.

We saw a wide variety of animals within our two trips and this is another absolute must see that I would definitely recommend to anyone coming to the Animal Kingdom. It is also worth going at different times of day because the animals you see will differ, how alert and active they are will differ and indeed how long you spend on the safari will differ as in peak times your driver will take you through far quicker. There are also evening safari’s if you are staying later on in the evening and you can therefore see a whole new experience still.

The Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is a tropical forest walk which has gorillas, hippos and exotic birds to view as well as a room with insects such as tarantulas in it. Then Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a conservation area that you have to take a separate train to get to. I personally found this area to be overly simplistic and that might just be an American approach to things in reality; if you are looking for information on conservation, there is far more detailed information here in the UK at various zoos. There is also a collection of petting animals within this area.

Asia
The focal point of Asia is the Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain which is a rollercoaster train ride through the Himalayan mountains whilst avoiding the clutches of the Yeti. The mountain itself dominates this side of the park and certainly isn’t something you will be able to miss. Once more we found that the park had technical issues with this ride and we had to wait for it to be fixed before we could go on it. There is also the Kai River Rapids which says what it is in the name and then a couple of additional shows which we didn’t see.

The animals are a big draw to this part of the park; the gibbon area kept our attention for a long time as whilst it is from a distance, there is a lot there for the gibbons to play with and climb on. You also have the Maharajah Jungle Trek which is a trail through Asia allowing you to see the tigers up close and personal – although still through glass obviously. The tigers had cubs at the time which we weren’t able to see, but we did get some stunning shots of the male tiger in the water only metres away from us. Within this area there is also the lion tailed macaques and the komodo dragons.

Dinoland U.S.A
Dinoland is more geared up to the children but there are a few things worth an adults time, most notably Finding Nemo – The Musical which has some really skilled puppeteering used and is well worth wandering over to have a lookskie. You can book a time via Fast Pass to ensure you don’t have to wait. Then there are some playground areas and some child friendly rides.
Food and Drink

As you would imagine, there are a wide range of places to eat and drink within Animal Kingdom, although it is worth noting that Disney do not serve plastic straws in order to prevent potential issues with animals eating plastic. The straws they use are cardboard recycled ones and are not as user friendly, bending far more easily and not bringing up as much liquid as the plastic ones do.

Discovery Island has the largest range of places to eat including pasta, snacks, sandwiches, barbecue meat, flatbreads, sea food, Starbucks and other tasty snackages including beer, wine and cocktails. Africa hosts the Harambe Fruit Market and the Harambe Market, the latter offering some spectacular African style ribs and meets which are stunningly spiced and seasoned… you might suffer meat sweats however. Asia offers pan-Asian cuisine as well as Korean barbeque style food, cocktails, beer and snacks. Finally, Dinoland is most typically American with buffalo chicken, burgers and hotdogs amongst others.

Shopping

There are a wide variety of shopping opportunities throughout the park and each area has distinctly themed merchandise according to its attractions. Pandora therefore has Avatar themed merchandise whilst Africa offers African inspired carvings, drums and home items. Asia’s only shop is based around Expedition Everest merchandise and Dinoland has childrens toys and clothing. Discovery Island is once more the largest shopping area and has the one-stop shopping destination for Disney gifts.
Thoughts and Musings

If I’d have been writing this review having only visited once, the tone of it would be very different indeed. The three hours we spent waiting for the Avatar ride could have been much better utilised and the ride really wasn’t worth it. We therefore left the park feeling generally fed up and rather disappointed. In fact, if we hadn’t got a safari Fast Track booked I think we would have left immediately after that ride we were so fed up. As it was, we stuck around and did the safari which we both enjoyed, but it really wasn’t the best day we had at park and it was largely spoiled by the long queue at a single ride, made even longer by technical failures.

Our second day was much better although the other Pandora ride also left a distinctly bitter taste in my mouth, being far too short and just not impressive enough to warrant the hour queue. Again, mismanagement meant that this queue should have been shorter and wasn’t because of the sheer quantity of Fast Tracks they were letting in. We didn’t let that spoil the day though and did the vast majority of the rest of the park and really enjoyed ourselves in doing so.

Animal Kingdom is well worth visiting if all you want to do is the Safari and the shows because they were well worth doing and were truly exceptionally enjoyable. We also very much enjoyed the African themed food, so I would strongly suspect the Asian food is just as good. It is worth saying that the safari is the best place to see the animals; with the exception of the tigers, gibbons and some random birds, we didn’t actually see a vast amount of wildlife within the main park… perhaps they were all hiding from us. But the safari more than made up for that.

Pricing

It’s worth shopping around as you can get better deals by doing so. On the Disney website a 14 day ticket for all the Disney parks will set you back £369 ($494). We booked through British Airways and got a fourteen day ticket for £250 ($327) so you can do your own maths on that one!
Do We Recommend?

Yes, we do. It’s a pity our first day was tarred by the overly lengthy queue times for a single ride, but other aspects of the park such as the Lion King Festival, the safari and the Finding Nemo show more than made up for that on our second visit. Initially we weren’t going to go back, but we had a spare day and though why not… I’m glad we did.


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Comments on this review

  • Soho_Black published 12/01/2018
    Your reviews seem like less of a review of the Disney parks and more of a guided tour...
  • RICHADA published 11/01/2018
    An Exceptional review on several levels. Interesting that BA can offer such a sizeable discount on Disney's rate, especially with the current depressed state of the £. R.
  • ravingreviewer published 09/01/2018
    E!
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