Posted by: JulieAloha | May 17, 2017

365 Gratitude Project – Day 137: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

May 17, 2017

Day 2 in Orlando, we were at Disney’s Animal Kingdom by 9:00am, picked up Mom’s wheels and headed into the Park.

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We went directly to Kilimanjaro Safaris to tour Africa. We saw white rhino, giraffe, African elephants, ostrich, zebras, greater kudu, wildebeest, hippos, lions, flamingoes, and more – the giraffe and rhinos approached the bus right next to us – there were no fences between the hoof stock and ourselves. I was so impressed with the size and natural feel of the exhibits – just beautiful!

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We wandered through the Gorilla Falls exploration trail next – we were delighted with the free-flight aviaries and the design of the exhibits which, again, allowed you to get very close to the animals without endangering them or you. There were several young gorillas, two were three years old and another was seven, in addition to an adult silverback and several older females. We saw the 2nd largest African toad species, a hippo sleeping under water, so many tropical fish and birds, and we were just in time to see the meerkats get fed!

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One of the best shows we saw was the Festival of the Lion King. Mom and I were in Pumba’s section, so we participated by making tusks with our fingers up by our noses and making snorty noises. We also did the hand-jive with the entire audience, sang along with Hakuna Matata and The Lion Sleeps Tonight and clapped to the music and joined the revel – what fun! The costumes were gorgeous and the voices clear and lovely – I especially loved the aerial artist and the monkey acrobats, but my favorite part was when the actors pulled children from the audience, gave them rain sticks to shake and had them join the dance around the central stage in celebration with the players – huge smiles on those sweet faces – mine too!

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One of the most astounding structures in the whole park is the Tree of Life which towers over the middle of Discovery Island and is made up of hundreds of carved and cast animal figures. There are paths you can walk to see the figures up close and they are absolutely beautiful. There’s an evening light show here, but we chose instead to see the River of Light show – a reason to return another time!

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We lunched at Pizzafari, each having the Romaine salad with shrimp, then stopping at a cart for a Mickey Ice Cream bar for Mom and a No Sugar Added Strawberry bar for me – mmmmm, icy goodness! From there we rode the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki Planet Watch and visited the Conservation Station. The train ride itself was educational as you got to see behind the scenes of the animal health and holding areas, giant barns for the elephants and rhinos and more.

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Working for a Conservation organization myself, it’s wonderful to see how other organizations care for their charges – Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and holds Species Survival Plans for western lowland gorillas, African elephants, cotton-top tamarins and okapi. The Conservation Station was amazing, you could see into their vet labs, watch videos about their conservation efforts, talk with docents and even meet some of the creatures they care for – one of the handlers was training a black-throat monitor lizard to be an animal ambassador, holding him carefully and calmly, rubbing his belly to encourage him to relax, and answering questions about him and their programs. There were also sound booths you could enter, put on headphones, close your eyes and listen to the sounds of animals and insects, a very immersive experience.

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The Asia section of the park held komodo dragons, Sumatran tigers, lion-tailed macaques, Malayan flying foxes and another amazing aviary. We also rode the Kali River Rapids, a giant river raft ride where they pretty much guarantee you WILL get wet – and we DID! The best part of that ride was another rider, a little boy whose eyes were huge and excited and he was laughing with glee throughout the ride – his father explained that this was his fourth ride that day, he loved it so much! The boy giggled and laughed and kicked his feet with joy, then as we approached the big drop he yelled, “Waterfall! Waterfall! Waterfall!!” and down we all went, shrieking and laughing – and soaking wet! The ride was fun, but HE made it memorable!

Another thing I’ll never forget about this park in particular was the number and diversity of flora – they must have an accomplished horticultural team. The air was filled with the sweet, heady scent of ginger and hibiscus, and there were all manner of orchids everywhere. There were many instances when I just closed my eyes and breathed in that heavenly air and relaxed into a smile – what a gift!

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Around 6:00pm we stopped to eat at the Dinoland Restaurantosaurus – I had a chicken BLT on brioche and mom had a kid’s meal wrap, which came in a plastic sand pail with shovel attached (we left that for a child to keep). We still had some time to kill so I rode on the Dinosaur ride – I didn’t buy the picture, but if you’re fast you can cheat:

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At about 8:00 we wandered toward the area we were told to line up for the evening event – the River of Light show. Due to Mom’s ECV we were given prime seats with no obstructing views for the show and took the time to just relax and chat and look over pictures from the day – we were also still wet from the river ride, so it was nice to just sit and dry off in the warm evening and watch the sunset.

The show was stunning with lighted flower and animal floats and boats with costumed players on the water and fountains and sprays of water overhead with light scenes projected onto the spray. The music was haunting and lovely and I lost myself to the story. I did take a video, but my current blog plan doesn’t allow me to upload it – however, you can view the entire video on my Facebook account in my Orlando Photo Album.

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By the time the show was over and the Park was closing we had spent over 12 hours in the Park – we Ubered back to the condo for some well deserved rest, planning to sleep in the next day and enjoy the pool before tackling Epcot.

16,110 steps today – 6.9 miles!


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