Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida

Disney's Animal Kingdom is an animal theme park (a zoo with rides) located at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. It was the fourth park built at the resort and it opened in 1998. It is the largest single Disney theme park in the world, covering more than 500 acres (202 ha).

Disney's Animal Kingdom is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), just like the other higher quality zoos in the U.S.

This sprawling park in the southwestern corner of Walt Disney World. As mentioned before, t is equal parts theme park and zoological park. Nearby is the second-most-popular water park in the world, Disney's Blizzard Beach (the first most-popular is Typhoon Lagoon).

When it first opened, park advertising used the faux-African word "nahtazu" ("not a zoo") to emphasize that it was not just a collection of animals in small iron cages. The animals spend their days in expansive habitats that are as close to their natural environments as possible, with subtle and camouflaged barriers keeping them away from guests (and each other). At night, they sleep comfortably indoors in the park's extensive housing area backstage.

The park consists of 7 themed areas that are connected to Discovery Island. The “island” contains The Tree of Life, a sculpted 14-story (44 m high, 15 m wide) artificial tree that serves as the centerpiece and icon of Disney's Animal Kingdom.

The Animal Kingdom typically closes at 5PM, much earlier than the other theme parks, so that the animals can get rest.

Wild Africa Trek provides behind the scenes look but it costs $190 (as of 2013) on top of the admission ticket. More info here: Wild Africa Trek: Explore a Different Side of Disney’s Animal Kingdom « Disney Parks Blog http://bit.ly/1gLZ39m

1. Oasis

The Oasis is the park's main entrance. It features African Spoonbills, Australian White Ibis, Babirusas, Bronze-winged Ducks, Giant Anteaters, Hyacinth Macaws, Lesser Whistling Ducks, Military Macaws, Scarlet Macaws, and others. The main paths lead deeper into the park, and onto Discovery Island.

2. Discovery Island

Discovery Island is in the middle of the Discovery River waterway. This is the "central hub" of Disney's Animal Kingdom, connecting almost all of the other 7 sections of the park, except Rafiki's Planet Watch.

The Tree of Life, the park's visual icon, is located here surrounded by animal enclosures of Discovery Island's trails showcasing Abdim's Storks, Black Crowned Cranes, Black-necked Swans, Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Grey Kangaroos, Galápagos Tortoises, Greater Flamingos, Red Kangaroos, and others.

3. Camp Minnie-Mickey

Camp Minnie-Mickey is themed as a rustic summer camp. Here guests can meet the Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and others. Located in the area's main theatre is Festival of the Lion King, a live stage show featuring performances inspired by the movie The Lion King.

Some of the animals seen here are Bronze Turkeys, Homing Pigeons, Opossums, Porcupines, Rabbits, Raccoons, Rats, and others.

4. Africa

This exhibition is set in the fictional east African village of Harambe.

The main attraction is Kilimanjaro Safaris. Guests climb aboard an open-sided safari vehicle for an expedition to see African animals that freely roam through acres of savanna, rivers and rocky hills, including African Elephants, Black Rhinos, Blue Wildebeests, Bongos, Cheetahs, Dama Gazelles, Gerenuks, Grant's Zebras, Greater Flamingos, Greater Kudus, Hippos, Impalas, Lions, Nile Crocodiles, Okapis, Ostriches, Pink-backed Pelicans, Reticulated Giraffes, Sable Antelopes, Saddle-billed Storks, Scimitar Oryx, Thomson's Gazelles, Warthogs, Waterbucks, White Rhinos, and others. The predators and the hippos do not “roam freely” but are housed in disguised enclosures.

The adjacent Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, which is located partially “on the outside” of Safaris leads the visitors into the forest where they see Black-and-White Colobus Monkeys, Blue Cranes, Gorillas, Hippos, Meerkats, Okapis, and others. Its aviary consists of African Grey Parrots, African Jacanas, Collared Kingfishers, and others.

5. Rafiki's Planet Watch

This is the only section of the park (among all 7) that is not connected to Discovery Island. Rafiki's Planet Watch is instead connected to Africa via a train. Guests board the Wildlife Express Train for the short trip to and from Planet Watch. The trains run every 5-7 minutes.

The indoor Conservation Station showcases the various conservation efforts supported by the Walt Disney Company. It also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Disney's Animal Kingdom's animal care facilities, including a veterinary examination room complete with a two-way communications system so the veterinary staff can answer guest questions.

Outside, Affection Section is a petting zoo featuring goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, donkeys, and other domesticated animals.

6. Asia

Like Africa, the section's attractions are part of a fictional place, the kingdom of Anandapur (which means "Place of many delights"). Anandapur comprises two villages: the riverside village of Anandapur and Serka Zong, which is in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains.

Portraits of Anandapur's royal family, the Maharajah and his wife, can be found in most of the businesses within the two villages, and a map of the kingdom, featuring both villages and their location relative to the mountains and river can be found on the wall of the Disney Vacation Club kiosk located there.

The Maharajah Jungle Trek leads guests through the forests and ruins outside the village, which are home to Bengal Tigers, Blackbucks, Black-Rumped Flamebacks, Collared Kingfishers, and others.

The trail is themed as if it had once been the hunting grounds for a wealthy maharajah who enclosed the forest to allow for easier hunting and then some time later died in a hunting accident. The themed storyline continues with subsequent maharajahs (including the original maharajah's bachelor brother) transforming the area into a nature preserve where the villagers live in harmony with the animals therein. These maharajahs are memorialized on the walls of the tiger enclosure. The forest was, at one point, also run by imperial British visitors, as evidenced in the Western spelling on the sign at the entrance to the Jungle Trek, which reads "Royal Anandapoor Forest". When their occupation of southern Asia ended, the British turned the forest over to the villagers of Anandapur, whom you encounter as you walk through the jungle.

Nearby, Kali River Rapids is a river rapids ride along the fictional Chakranadi River through a rainforest, past an illegal logging operation and down a waterfall. Most riders get wet, and some get completely soaked, so plan accordingly.

Looming in the distance behind Anandapur is the Forbidden Mountain, the home of Expedition Everest, a roller coaster ride through the Himalayas where the passengers will have an “encounter with a Yeti.”

Towering 200 feet over the surrounding terrain, this mini-mountain is visible from some distance away and even threatens to overtake the Tree of Life as the park's most visible icon. The Tree, perhaps by contrast, is most impressive up close, where its size and detail can truly be appreciated.

7. DinoLand U.S.A.

DinoLand U.S.A. was inspired by the public's curiosity about dinosaurs. The fictitious Dino Institute and its surrounding facilities attract those with a scientific interest in the long-extinct animals. The Dino-Rama recalls the many roadside attractions that were once scattered throughout the United States.

Like the other sections of Disney's Animal Kingdom, there are animals on display. These particular animals, such as the American Crocodile, Red Legged Seriemas and Asian brown tortoise, have evolutionary links to the age of the dinosaurs.

The Dino Institute is the home of DINOSAUR, a thrill ride featuring a trip through time to the Late Cretaceous Period.

There are plenty of dining options. I had lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island and was not very impressed. The view was great though. Terraces closest to the water offer a nice view of the river and Expedition Everest in the distance.






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