|By Kat Tretina|
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is slowly but surely becoming a fan-favorite among Walt Disney World guests the world over. Absolutely enormous, it is over 500 acres and is the largest of all the Disney parks. With its sprawling size, it typically feels less crowded and less hectic. While it has some top-notch attractions and thrills, the wildlife is the real star of the show. Let me explain why you should get up early for Animal Kingdom in today's new article...
Animal Kingdom encourages guests to take it slow. As you enter the park and make your way towards the Tree of Life at the center, you will gradually notice that you are walking uphill. This literally forces you to slow down and look at the foliage and animals around you, taking in all of the beauty and rare creatures.
Animal Kingdom is host to a number of gorgeous but less-popular attractions, among them are the spectacular Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and Maharajah Jungle Trek walking paths. These are my favorite experiences in the park; I highly encourage you to tour these trails right at the park’s opening. While everyone else rushes to Expedition Everest or the African Safari, you can take a more leisurely pace and most likely enjoy them all to yourself.
At the opening, the animals have just woken up and have been released into their habitats. Fresh from sleep and with the cooler morning air, most of them have plenty of energy and are excited to put on a performance. From the Komodo Dragon to the meerkats, all of the animals are more energetic and active early in the day.
In the afternoons, you will typically see the magnificent Asian tigers sprawled out for a nap against the walls. If you’re lucky, they may sit up to rotate and go back to sleep. But if you go in the morning, it’s very common to see the tigers playing together or sprinting around the enclosure. They typically toss and wrestle the giant toys placed for their enrichment and even jump into the water to swim. It’s a unique view of these amazing animals that most people miss.
One of the best things in the early mornings is that the zoologists and caretakers are typically out observing the animals, making sure they are acting normally and interacting with each other properly. This is an opportunity to hear from the people who care for these creatures every day talk about their remarkable jobs.
Most recently, I met a caretaker who saw me staring at the tigers frolicking. Since I was the only person around, she and I started talking about the boldest one of the two. The caretaker told me the tiger was new; she had come from a very small zoo where she had a tiny cement enclosure. When the tiger first arrived at Animal Kingdom, she got so overwhelmed in her new huge environment that she would pant heavily and hyperventilate. They had to limit her time out to one hour at a time so she wouldn’t get overwhelmed and gradually increased her time outside. She’s now out for the full day and absolutely loves her new home. The whole time the caretaker was speaking, the tiger was vigorously tossing a green jug in the air and pacing in the water.
Another place most people rush through are the bird enclosures in both trails. During one early morning visit, a cast member told me to look down instead of up to see the more shy birds and the larger ones feeding. That tip is invaluable; you’ll see so many more vibrant birds foraging and preening and you can get close to them for the perfect picture. It’s a great place to relax and get away from the crowds while enjoying spectacular animals in their beautifully landscaped habitat.
Animal Kingdom has some fantastic rides and shows; Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and the Lion King show are some of Disney’s best. But for those of you who love animals and want to see them up close, the trails offer a fantastic opportunity at the park. It’s a completely different experience than any other park and well worth the early morning wake-up call.
Kat Tretina is a freelance writer living and working in Celebration. Originally from Philadelphia, she's been a lifelong Disney fan. The queen of obscure Disney trivia (do you know how many horses are at Disney World? Surprisingly, around 85!), she and her husband moved to Celebration to escape the cold and enjoy life at the happiest place on earth.
Kat's favorite place in Disney is Animal Kingdom, especially the walking trails right at park opening. The animals have just been let out, so that's when you are most likely to see the tigers playing or swimming and the meerkats scurrying around.
Kat specializes in the latest news and developments at Disney World as well as budget friendly tips to get the most out of your trip. To see more of Kat's work, visit her personal site www.ktretina.com.
You can find all of Kat's articles here.