A visit to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom is so much more than just seeing a few animals and riding the Expedition Everest.  Take the time as a family to become a Wilderness Explorer by completing challenges and earning badges as you work your way around the park. It’s a fun new way to see more of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and learn more about the world around us.

The Wilderness Must Be Explored!

Wilderness Explorers - India

Wilderness Explorers Troop Leader at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Photo by Rebecca Darling – Texas TravelingMom

TMOM disclosure graphicTaken from the adorable Pixar movie, Up, families visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World can learn more from their visit with the Wilderness Explorers program. Remember how Russell & his faithful dog Dug had a mission to learn more about the world and its lovely inhabitants?  Now you have that chance, too.  There are 31 self-guided badges scattered all over Animal Kingdom park, allowing you to go at your own pace and pick and choose which badges you are interested in completing.

My family and I have visited Animal Kingdom several times, so much so that we are typically though the entire park in half a day.  The Wilderness Explorers allow families the opportunity to go a little deeper into the park and take their time to learn more about the animals and conservation attempts across the world. With badges ranging from animal observations to nature skills, you are challenged to learn on your visit to the park. We decided on this last trip, that we would take the time to earn a few badges.

CAW! CAW! ROAR!

Wilderness Explorers

Earning our first Wilderness Explorers badge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Photo by Rebecca Darling – Texas TravelingMom

Your Wilderness Explorers experience begins at Headquarters—located on the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island. You can also pick up one at the  Wilderness Explorer stops in Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and Dinoland U.S.A.  Here you can fill out your registration card and learn the Wilderness Explorers Motto:

“A Wilderness Explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole.”

My kids (ages 5 and 14) and I also earned our first badge at headquarters with a Troop Leader – we learned the Wilderness Explorer Call.  She also took the time to explain the program to us and provide us with a few pointers, even highlighting some fun badges to earn throughout the park.

Earning Wilderness Explorer Badges

Using the guide book, you can find all 31 badge locations across Animal Kingdom on the map on the first page.  The locations are very easy to spot, with clear badge signs and a troop leader or badge guide present.  We didn’t go from stop to stop but rather incorporated them into our day at Animal Kingdom.

Once you arrive at a badge location, turn to that page in the guide and follow the instructions on the page to complete your activity.  These can range from speaking to a Troop Leader about a particular animal to learning code on a ham radio.  All activities are engaging and fun and don’t take very much time to complete.  Once you have completed the requirements, you have earned your badge, a sticker that goes into your guide book.

Wilderness Explorers Troop Leader at Disney's Animal Kingdom Photo by Rebecca Darling - Texas TMOM

Wilderness Explorers Troop Leader at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Photo by Rebecca Darling – Texas TravelingMom

One of the very first badges we earned was the Flamingo Badge.  We learned from the Troop Leaders at that station that contrary to popular belief, many flamingos are not the pretty pink color we all think they are.  We also learned how they slurp up their food in their beaks upside down in the water and heard an important conservation message about keeping the coastal waters clean so that there is enough food for flamingos to eat.

We then moved onto Africa where we earned our music badge by playing an African drum pattern.  In Asia, we learned more about the Yeti legend and how to spell our name in Hindi.  Each station we visited throughout the day was interesting and fun and they all presented us with a relevant message about conservation.

So what do you earn?  Nothing but the satisfaction of learning more about our incredible planet and the people, animals, and plants that cover it.  Children will earn different ranks for the amount of badges they complete – a tadpole for 5 badges, a minnow for 10 badges, and a fish for 20 badges.  Earn the rank of a Senior Wilderness Explorer by completing all the badges.  And if you don’t finish them all on your visit, you can bring the book back and complete more on your next one.

Team of Conservation Educators

All Wilderness Explorers Troop Leaders are college-aged and are participating in the program as a degreed internship.  They all go through specific training to learn about conservation before they spend at least 6 months to a year working as a Troop Leader.  I found the Troop Leaders to be passionate about their messages and very good with the children they were educating.

Mom’s Review: Yea or Nay?

So after a full day of earning badges, what did this mom think? On this particular trip, I had only two of my kids with me – my 5-year-old and my 14-year-old.  Ideally, this program is for ages 8-13.  Most of the messages were spot on for my 14 year old.  Lucky for me, she really digs this kind of hands-on learning, but I can see most 14-year-olds thinking in was “not cool”.  That said, all of the leaders and guides did a terrific job of tailoring their messages to the age of the audience they had.

I thought the program was fun and easy to complete.  The individual badges were not complicated and each one took less than five minutes to complete.  As an adult, I enjoyed all the information we learned about all the different animals and cultures we encountered.  And I particularly enjoyed the conservation reminder, something for us to take home – a way that we as individuals can make a difference at home.

Wilderness Explorers Breakdown

Here’s the program broken-down for you:

  • 31 badges to earn throughout Animal Kingdom
  • Best for ages 8-13
  • Can take longer than a day to complete them all
  • Best to take your time and learn from each station
  • FREE
  • Makes you slow down and see more of Animal Kingdom

The next time you visit Animal Kingdom, make sure to plan for a full day there and take the time to become a Wilderness Explorer!

Before heading to Animal Kingdom, make sure you check out 4 Easy Ways to Impact the Future While Visiting Animal Kingdom and 10 Secrets You May Not Know About Animal Kingdom.