Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Stop for Gorilla Falls Aviary!

My enthusiasm for all things Animal Kingdom knows no bounds, but I have a confession to make:  I tend to rush through the aviaries at the end of Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.  I get excited about seeing all the animals and then when I get to the aviary, I start thinking right away about what I want to do next or when our next FastPass will be.  Birds-shmirds, right?  They’re basically all the same and can be…well…boring, no?  They can also drop “bombs” on unsuspecting passersby and who wants that vacation memory?  Recently though, I decided to try something new.  At the end of the Gorilla Falls trail, when we reached the birds, I took a different attitude.  Here’s what happened…

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Stop for Gorilla Falls Aviary!

We were actually almost to the exit when I started watching this little yellow bird search for something that turned out to be a small red leaf.  It took the leaf, flew to it’s nest and, except for its tail sticking out, disappeared inside the nest.  For a while.  I could see it was busy trying to place the leaf, I suppose, so I waited to see what it would do next.  The little bird popped back out and still had the leaf in its beak!  Which it promptly spit out…leaf rejected!  What the heck kind of bird was this picky thing with the cool looking basket-like nest?

Heaving a pretty big sigh at myself, I quietly called to Raymond and Joseph to wait a minute, I’d be right back.  I knew from doing the Wilderness Explorers adventure there would be a bird spotting guide back by the entrance, so I wove back through the crowd, against traffic, and snagged one.  As I walked back to the guys, I started paying much more attention to the birds.  There are a lot of birds.  Different shapes, sizes and colors  – up above and down below.  If you’ve got a fear of birds (Ornithophobia), you’ll maybe want to skip this area.

The spotting guide’s a must.  The picky little yellow bird?  Taveta Golden Weaver!

Raymond and Joseph, familiar with my ways, waited patiently as I took my first extended tour of the aviary.  I learned some stuff.  The birds seem really happy.  If you’ve been skipping out on this, you should give it a try next time you’re there.

Have you spent time in Animal Kingdom’s aviaries?  Which do you prefer, the one on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail or on Maharajah Jungle Trek?


Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little Corner

If you’ve been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’re probably very familiar with Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  Were you aware there’s a third and often ignored trail?  There IS!  And I’m here to tell you, when the crowds get crazy, it’s a great place to escape!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little CornerDisney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

We’d been to Animal Kingdom dozens of times and still did not notice the Cretaceous Trail in DinoLand U.S.A. until last December during Christmas week when the park was so crowded we could barely move.  Raymond, Joseph and I were working on our Wilderness Explorer badges when two of us became distracted by unusual flora.  As I’m rarely distracted by any type of plant life unless it’s edible,  I wasn’t even a tiny bit curious.  Not wanting to get left behind however, I followed the guys into the trees and found myself on the Cretaceous Trail.  And we were alone.  Thousands of people in every other section of the park and we’d discovered peace and quiet!  And some other stuff, too.

The Cretaceous Trail is short and has no live animal exhibits.  It exists to teach guests about the plants and animals alive today that survived (or can be traced back to) the Cretaceous period.  It’s short and seemingly unpopular.  The beauty of this area is the soaring, unique landscaping.  Once brought to my attention, I had to admit, the trees and shrubs and whatnot were pretty cool.  There are also some dinosaur figures here and there and benches available for folks looking for a place to rest.Disney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

Why visit the Cretaceous Trail?  I’ll give you five great reasons…

  1. Your baby is asleep and you’d like to keep it that way OR you want to let a little one stretch their legs in a crowd-free area.
  2. You love unusual plants.
  3. You need a break from people.
  4. You’re an aspiring paleontologist.
  5. You’re dragged there by family members while you’re trying to earn Wilderness Explorer Badges.

Have you been to the Cretaceous Trail?  If not, it’s close to the pillars for Dinosaur, so next time you’re over in DinoLand, you should take a minute (literally) to check it out!

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

Have you taken the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Disney’s Animal Kingdom?  Have you seen the tigers?  It’s been our experience that they do an extraordinary amount of sleeping.  On our last visit, though, something was decidedly different…

Maharajah Jungle Trek – Tiger’s AWAKE!

It started off as expected.  Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE the two trails in Animal Kingdom and can spend quite a bit of time checking out both the incredible theming and landscaping along with all the amazing animals on both Gorilla Falls AND the Jungle Trek.  What I mean by “expected” is that the adorable and mostly stationary Komodo Dragon was just where he should be.  The bats, fascinating as they are, were y’know, just hanging around.  We were in no hurry as we strolled along taking in the much loved scenery on they way to the tiger enclosure.

There was a cast member in the middle of the pathway.  She was crouching down and cranking what looked like a large wrench attached to something in the ground.  I wanted to take a picture, but could tell this was one of those backstage things Disney really likes to keep secret.  It turns out, she was opening a gate inside the tiger area that would allow the male tiger to change enclosures.  Hopefully, being a good tiger, he’d do what was expected of him by moving to the newly opened area and be rewarded for his efforts.

There he was!  So used to seeing the tigers napping, we were completely enthralled by how gorgeous this one was as he strutted around, sniffing the special perfumes sprayed around the enclosure for his enjoyment.  Then it was treat time and he waited patiently as chunks of meat were tossed to him as a reward for doing exactly want was wanted.

Even asleep, the tigers in Animal Kingdom are fantastic.  Awake?  Incredible!!!  What a great moment – in the right place at the right time – to see that big, beautiful creature in all his feline glory.

Have you been on the Maharajah Jungle Trek?  What were the tigers doing when you were there?


Who Would Love Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers?

I cannot say enough how much we love Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  So much to see and do, no two visits are ever the same.  Recently we were at Animal Kingdom for the second time during our week-long, Christmas week vacation.  The weather that day was cold and windy, but we were determined to make the best of our last day at Disney World!

Who Would Love Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers?

Arriving uncharacteristically late in the morning (Kona breakfast was worth it!), we’d barely made it into the park when I said, “Wait!”.  I realized we’d just passed up some Cast Members who were part of the Wilderness Explorers activity.  They appeared to be getting another family started on their quest to earn badges, gain knowledge and explore Animal Kingdom.  I told Joseph (who occasionally still does what his mother tells him) to go back and get us our information for this maybe-not-really-for-grownups activity.

Clearly the Cast Members were enjoying this earnest young man asking how to join the fun.  A kind young lady handed him his Wilderness Explorers Handbook, his “uniform” (a sticker), and helped him earn his first badge by teaching him the Wilderness Explorer call…”The wilderness must be explored!  Caw Caw Roar” with the proper hand gestures, of course.  I moved closer as I took pictures and when the Cast Member realized we were together, offered me my own book (I said we’d share) and insisted on giving me my uniform.  I wore that sticker proudly all day!

Armed with the map in the handbook, we set off to earn some badges.  Inside the booklet’s back cover, I saw the “levels” explorers could reach based on the number of badges earned.  The top level, Fish, required 20 badges to achieve.  Goal set, we were on our way!

There are two types of Cast Members to help you with this activity.  Troop Leaders, who wear a Wilderness Explorers’ uniform and Badge Guides, who are identified by the orange badge satchels they carry.  This means that some activities involved a leader teaching or showing you something (insect, fossil, animal information) and other badges were earned simply by obtaining certain information on our own.  We ran into lots of other families earning badges.  Some awesome Cast Members would spot us first as we were looking for their station and call out, “Hello, Wilderness Explorers!”  This is when wearing our “uniform” was helpful.

The Troop Leaders were passionate about the information they shared.  We were sincerely interested and asked lots of questions – this is what makes this activity suitable for all ages!  The Badge Guides were responsible for checking to make sure we completed the badge requirements, but weren’t there to teach us anything.  They were all nice and some got a kick out of our enthusiasm.  To earn the “Yeti Badge”, explorers are supposed to mark in the book how tall they are compared to the wooden yeti foot print outside Expedition Everest.  Much too tall for this to be accurate, we took a picture instead to show the Badge Guides who got a laugh out of our efforts.  Pay no attention to the beer in Joseph’s hand.  Thirsty work, this badge earning.

All in all, this is a very fun activity for families of all ages!  We were successful in our quest to earn 20 badges!  Without rushing too much, we managed it in about 4 1/2 hours, working around the three FastPasses we had booked.  The Wilderness Explorers is part scavenger hunt, part problem solving activity, part learning from an expert – all of it interesting and entertaining.

Have you earned any Wilderness Explorer badges in Animal Kingdom?  If you have kids (of any age) or if you’re just looking for a new way to explore the park, consider adding this to your plans for your next visit and have a great time!