A trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers visitors an entertaining and educational experience that stresses the importance of the protection and conservation of animals. Cross the bridge from Discovery Island and travel within the park to Africa to experience the bustling village of Harambe. Grab a bite of African-flavored cuisine, sway or dance to the beat of drums, and shop for souvenirs. But don’t leave until you’ve had a chance to experience three animal attractions.
3 Animal Attractions Not to Miss at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The first time my family visited the Animal Kingdom was over 10 years ago. I packed my Ricardo luggage and was looking forward to visiting the Disney park again with my now 20- year-old who had flown from Ohio with his girlfriend and my husband to join me. While the animal encounters offered in this park appealed to him at 8, I was disappointed to realize that Expedition Everest was the attraction he most wanted to see this time around. So my husband and I set off to explore on our own – and on the way we found three animal attractions that are not only fun for these almost empty-nesters, but popular with families as well.
Kilimanjaro Safaris in the Animal Kingdom
Do you think a visit to the savannah of Africa is off-limits? Think again! Visitors to the Animal Kingdom can board trucks at the Kilimanjaro Safaris for a 22-minute bumpy tour through the African Safari. Covering an area of 110 acres, this popular attraction is not only the biggest in the Animal Kingdom, but the largest attraction of any of the Disney parks worldwide.
Customary of Disney attractions, you will find you become part of the story when your driver is alerted to the presence of poachers on the Harambe Wildlife Preserve. In an effort to trap the poachers before any animals are harmed, your truck will speed off through the savannah- so hold on tight and have your cameras ready. In the process, you’ll see lions, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, giraffes, warthogs, ostriches, flamingoes and long-horned Ankole Cattle.
Guests of all ages may spot over 30 types of animals and birds on the guided tour. An animal chart is secured above the seats, but you won’t want to take your eyes off the passing view or you may miss the animals!
TMOM Kilimanjaro Tip: If you plan to take photos, try to be seated on one of the end seats on your row to provide a clear view of the savannah.
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail at Disney
Exit the Kilimanjaro Safaris and follow a self-guided walking trail through the tropical Pangani Forest Exploration Trail School and Sanctuary – or better yet, grab a FastPass for the Safaris and stroll along the trail as you wait. Research stations staffed with Disney cast members allow you to ask questions about the African wildlife along the way.
Young visitors can interact at the Wilderness Explorers Stations along the trail. Some of the animals you’ll see include Okapi, rare African birds, black and white Colubus Monkeys and Stanley Cranes; but perhaps the most anticipated animal is the Lowland Gorillas.
During the 20-30 minute walk, visitors will learn about the conservation efforts Disney takes to protect this endangered species. One step, is to participate in a breeding program. Overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. Five gorillas have been born at the Animal Kingdom through this program. In addition to gorillas, Disney also participates in the AZA Species Survival Plan for okapi, elephants and cotton-top tamarins.
Baby meerkats can also be spotted in the wooded Pangani Forest, but unlike gorillas, they are full grown at about one year of age. Male gorillas don’t mature for 11years, while the female is considered grown at 8 years of age.
TMOM Pangani Forest Exploration Trail Tip: The gorilla viewing area is quite popular; if you find yourself jostling for a spot at the window, continue on the path and around the corner. You’ll come to a bridge that offers a good view of the gorillas.
Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in the Animal Kingdom
Take a trip behind-the-scenes of Harambe aboard the Wildlife Express Train. Every five to seven minutes, this fun train carries guests from Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to learn how Walt Disney World cares for the thousands of animals located within the park.
The Conservation Station offers interactive exhibits and veterinary facilities where the animals are treated and cared for. Guests continue to learn about the conservation efforts that Disney stresses, and find out about organizations throughout the world that further endeavors. You may even find one at home so you can take the knowledge you learn on vacation and carry it over to home life.
The Affection Station provides visitors the opportunity to interact with a variety of animals that include exotic breeds of common petting zoo animals. While this exhibit is fun for grown-ups- you can imagine it’s a real kid pleaser.
TMOM Wildlife Express Train Tip: As with most rides at Disney, the lines get longer as the day goes on so try to ride this one earlier in the day.
Have you experienced any of these animal encounters at the Animal Kingdom? What tips would you share for visitors to this Disney Park?