The Beginners guide to Disney's Animal Kingdom

Pandora - Na'vi River Journey Shaman

People used to say that Animal Kingdom (AK) was a ‘half day park. However, with the opening of Pandora in 2017, this park now has longer opening hours. There are 1700 live animals and approximately 250 different animal species. There are 3000 different species of plants. This park is really a giant zoo – with a few fun filled themed areas thrown in- including the amazing world of Pandora.

Animal Kingdom Entrance
The entrance to Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom River scene

Animal Kingdom Alligator sign
These signs were everywhere around this park
flamingoes at Disney's Animal Kingdom

AK is technically the largest of all the Disney Parks and this is because of the animal enclosures. Disney is generous with the space it gives its animals. Each animal has 1 acre of space each, so 12 animals are on 12 acres.

The walkable part of the park is narrowed down to a few areas. Which does create a few bottlenecks of people at times.

Head first to Africa and ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. Then cross to Asia and ride Expedition Everest.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek - Major Attraction - it’s a trail walk through zoo exhibit of Asian animals and birds. I loved all the imperial Indian architecture. Really nice. Loved the bird aviary too. Pick up a large laminated map in the beginning of the trail – you can’t keep the map though. Animals include Bengal tigers, Giant fruit bats, Komodo dragons, gibbons and more. There is a Bat display. The Animal keepers have taught the bats to fly inside for dinner when a dog whistle is blown!  

Animal Kingdom Maharajah Jungle Trek Indian architecture
I just loved all the Indian architecture, it really felt like you were in India

Animal Kingdom Maharajah Jungle Trek

Animal Kingdom Scenery

Animal Kingdom Scenery

Animal Kingdom

The area outside the Jungle Trek sells Asian themed merchandise and is also an Asian entertainment area.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – Is a walk through self–guided tour of African animals. Animals to see include: Gorillas, zebra, hippo, warthogs and Meerkats. You can pickup a bird guide (hanging on a post inside the bird aviary). Gorilla's are near the end (30 minutes approximately). The Gorilla enclosure is actually sheltered and a good area to rest. The Gorilla’s came up close to the glass which made for great viewing of these wonderful animals.

Up close with the Gorilla's

The area outside Gorilla Falls is set up like a ‘little Africa’ with very loud drums, music and African dancing. It’s a very lively area and you certainly feel like you are in Africa!

Up! A Great Bird Adventure (replaces Flights of Wonder) - This new show commenced in April  2018 and includes free -flying bird encounters. The show revolves around the Pixar characters Russell and Dug from the movie 'Up'.

Expedition Everest – The ride is a high speed, 3.5 minute, outdoor rollercoaster. One of the most exciting attractions in all of WDW. The train goes Backwards/Forwards, wild plunges through caverns and canyons. You meet up with a 22 foot Yeti which used to move originally, but now doesn’t and only has the appearance of moving from lighting effects. This ride draws major crowds. Much rougher then Big Thunder mountain. Don't ride if afraid of heights.

Rivers of Light (new in 2017) – Night time spectacular and very beautiful. You can get a Fast Pass (FP) for magic animal lanterns that float in the air and on the lake. The Rivers of Light stems from the ancient belief that when animals passed from one world to another, they danced in the sky and became beautiful rivers of night. Plan to arrive 1 hour before if no FP.

Rivers of Light Animal Kingdom
Setting up for the Rivers of Light Night show
Its Tough to be a Bug – inside the Tree of Life - Go anytime, 8 minute 3D show inside the Tree of Life. The show might be too scary for little kids. We did see a lot of kids inside though – some were freaking out. The theatre goes dark, it is very loud, you hear swarming wasps, and the back of your seat might give you a small electrical zap. To avoid the zap - lean forward in your seat. The zap doesn’t hurt.
This was probably the best 3D show in all of the Walt Disney World parks. The 3D effects are very good. Many fun laughs to be had.

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom
Inside the tree - is the 3D show 'Its Tough to be a Bug'

Kilimanjaro Safari – A highlight of our day at AK was the 20 minute ride on Kilimanjaro Safari’s. It is not to be missed - it’s a premier attraction.
  • Line dwindles by midday. Simulated ride through African wildlife reservations. Safari drive through - see hippos, lions, giraffes, cheetahs, rhinos, zebra and elephants, flamingos, water buffalo and more. 
  • Animals often active in the morning, but better chance of seeing cheetahs, rhinos and warthogs later in the day. 
  • If ride mid-afternoon - animals get a bit antsy about going back to their enclosures. 
  • For photos best to get the back seat or side view (just request the seats when in line to the Cast Member - we did!). My camera actually stopped working on this ride (jammed). Luckily I take 2 cameras with me on holiday (not including my phone)
  • Upon exiting, begin Gorilla Falls Forest Explorations.

Kilimanjaro Safari Jeep Animal Kingdom
Kilimanjaro Safari Jeep Animal Kingdom

Kilimanjaro Safari Elephant Animal Kingdom
Kilimanjaro Safari Giraffe Animal Kingdom
Baobab Trees Animal Kingdom
Baobab Trees
Kilimanjaro Safari - The Lion King Rock
These rocks look strangely familiar....(The Lion King)
Kilimanjaro Safari
Me on the Safari ride!
Kilimanjaro Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari was a highlight of our day. You really felt like you were in Africa

The World of Pandora
I have written a blog post devoted to the World of Pandora and FastPass strategy: The World is amazingly detailed, very colourful and very beautiful.

World of Pandora Animal Kingdom
The World of Pandora

World of Pandora Animal Kingdom

Pandora - Avatar Flight of Passage - a 3 D simulator ride often with long waits of more then 180 minutes. Very good idea to get a FastPass for this ride. Birds eye view of all the sights and sounds of Pandora. Not recommended if you have a fear of heights or if you suffer from extreme motion sickness from motion simulator rides.

World of Pandora Animal Kingdom Na'vi

On this ride you get to fly on a mountain banshee as part of a 3D ride. You hop on to vehicles akin to motorbikes and put on some 3D glasses. There are some bright lights through the glasses and then bang- you are flying on a Banshee in the land of Pandora. The Banshee you are riding on moves beneath you. Your entire vision was flying down mountains, valleys, dense forests and more. One word: Breathtaking. There is wind and mist on this ride. My hair had all frizzed up in the end and was wind blown ha ha. 

My dear husband D.H said it was also ‘breathtaking’. My daughter A.J said it was great, but scary at first until you adjust to the fact your flying on a Banshee.

Na'vi River Journe
y - Voyage to Pandora's bio-luminescent forest. Calm and family friendly. The ride is a simple river ‘dark’ ride in a reed boat, with lots of effects including bioluminescent flora. The ride also includes audio animatronics including the indigenous population of the Na’vi, animals such as the direhorse and viperwolf, and the Na’vi Shaman of Songs (a highlight).

Na'vi River Journey Queue
The Queue for Na'vi River journey is undercover the closer you approach the ride

Pandora - Na'vi River Journey
The Na'vi River Journey ride

The wait for this ride was about 1 hour at 10am in the morning. We got FastPasses for ‘Flight of Passage’ and did the standby line for Na’vi River Journey. Note: Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey are on the same FastPass tier – you can only do one as a FastPass.

Wilderness Explorers - Park wide scavenger hunt and puzzle solving adventure game. Sign up first thing in the morning and get a free Wilderness Explorers Handbook. There are 32 badges (stickers)

There are numerous Wilderness Explorer stops around the park where you can get a sticker for each page of the book. However – it is not just a matter of getting a sticker. The Cast members will ask your child for an answer to a question, solve a puzzle or get you to do a quick activity (they make you work for the sticker). Its actually very educational for kids and the book is jammed packed full of information about animals, plants and conservation. My daughter wanted to do everything in this book – but we just didn’t have time. Highly recommended though if you have kids. We are keeping the book – for next time.

Wilderness Explorers book Animal Kingdom
Rafiki's Planet Watch (Animal Hospital) - Learn how Disney cares for animals in the park. Pat goats, llamas, sheep etc. We actually missed this part of the park. It closed at about 4pm, which was a pity as I think my daughter would have loved it. There were no notices I found that it closed early – just a note to check the Times guide for operating hours. So if this is on your list of places to visit – then make sure you do this earlier rather than later in the day. Disney has announced that Rafiki's Planet Watch will close permanently at the end of October 2018.

Wildlife Express Train – This train takes you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, so we unfortunately didn’t get to do this too as it also closed at 4pm. It takes 5-7 minutes one way.

Dinosaur Ride - This ride is very loud with Dinosaurs jumping out at you whilst the motion vehicle moves at high speed. I had heard a lot about this ride – how ‘scary’ it was. However, I am pleased to say the ride is fun but not scary. In fact, its basically the Indiana Jones track in Disneyland Anaheim. Including the ‘dip’ in the track. A large part of the ride was mostly in the dark (did they run out of dinosaurs?). Anyways, I would recommend this ride for all ages as a fun ride and not scary.
  • Outside is a dinosaur mini museum with a 50 foot replica skeleton of Brachiosaurus.
  • The Mission on Dinosaur is to save the last Iguanadon. Even the nostrils move as they 'breathe'. 
  • Duration of ride is 3.5 minutes
  • This place is a good place to seek shelter in a thunderstorm. Other than the ride (which had no real line), a pre-ride area, a mini museum and gift shop are all good areas to escape to during inclement weather.

Dinosaur Poster Animal Kingdom

Dinosaur ride Animal Kingdom

Finding Nemo - 40 minute puppet show. Best to sit 2/3 way back. A popular show but not a good use of a FastPass.

Boneyard – This is a huge Dinosaur playground disguised as an Archaeological Dig. Dinosaur footprints that roar when you jump on them and a xylophone that's made of dinosaur bones. Easy to lose sight of kids, but there is only one exit.

Dinosaur Playground Animal Kingdom

Triceratops Spin - Similar to Dumbo. Duration of the ride is 1.5 mins. Slow loading. Come back later if more then a 20 minute wait.

Primeval Whirl
. Small Coaster. Faster then it looks. Short drops, curves, cars also spin. It’s a 90 second ride. Not recommended - half spins are painful.

Festival of the Lion Kin
g - Very out of the way location. Needs a FastPass. There are plenty of acrobatics happening in this show.

Kali River Rapids
– You are guaranteed to get wet. This is a 5 minute white-water river raft ride. On the bridge that goes over one of the river rapids, your family members who don’t ride can shoot water at riders using fixed water guns. We did this! – but only one of the ‘water guns’ actually works (the one on the left hand side)!
Kali River Rapids Ride Animal Kingdom
Kali River Rapids ride

Best place to eat - Flame Tree BBQ, near entrance to Dinoland was recommended by Disney Resort staff. Good lunch choices. chicken, sandwiches. All nice eateries - with a view.

Where did we eat: Kamals – where we ate Falafels (very hot and spicy – not ideal for a hot humid day), fries, pita bread with hummus and carrot and celery sticks $19 the lot.
FastPasses? We got FastPasses for ‘Flight of Passage’, ‘Kilimanjaro Safari’ and ‘Dinosaur’. We really didn’t need the FastPass for Dinosaur! (after we rode with the FastPass, we immediately rode it again without a wait time).

I hope you enjoyed reading my review of Animal Kingdom, Florida. I hope you can follow us on Facebook:

Until next week,
Whats new at Uniqlo $1.99

Whats new at Peter Alexander- just search 'Nemo, Peter Pan or Bambi'


Keith Ashwood said…
One of my favorite places in Disney. You do a great job covering it. Love the photos!
Jennifer Dagi said…
Oh wow! After reading your posts, I feel like I've visited Disney's animal kingdom. It's a marvelous place to visit during a family vacation. Strangely, the baobab trees reminded me of the House Stark tree in Game of thrones.
Very great detailed post!! Disney is a vast place to cover everything and this guide will definitely help in planning it well!!
Jennifer Bhatia said…
WE have been there several times and my favorite ride is the jungle trek. We have not been there since pandora opened and this post makes me want to go check it out. WE always stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, too! That place is great. Love your post.
K.J said…
Thanks Keith Ashwood for your kind words. Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of my favourite places too!
KJ said…
Thanks Jennifer Dagi for your kind comments. Its a great compliment that you believe you have felt you have been to the park itself from my blog writing. I am so glad as that is my intention! Funny you should say about the Game of Thrones references. Didn't think of that!!
KJ said…
Thanks ActiveLifeLiving for your comments. My hope for the blog post is to make it a bit easier for anyone planning a visit there with ideas on what to do and what to see.
KJ said…
Thanks Jennifer Bhatia for your post. That is great that you have been to Animal Kingdom and loved it. You must go and see the new Pandora word, it is amazing. Avatar-Flight of Passage is awesome. Staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge would have been fantastic. We only saw the front entrance of the Animal Kingdom lodge unfortunately. I had planned to do a day 'resort hopping', but we ran out of time!
Eileen said…
Wow your photos from your trip look amazing! So many fun things to do!
Great and amazing place to visit!
KJ said…
Thanks Eileen. I really love taking photos and enjoy sharing them. Animal Kingdom is a really photogenic place. It's easy getting good photos
KJ said…
Thanks John Mulindi. I loved Animal Kingdom too.

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