Monday, September 24, 2012

Animal Kingdom - Walt Disney World 2012

Finally, on our last day, we visited Animal Kingdom (AK). 

When I was planning for my Orlando trip, I mostly use resources from:

From those information that I read, AK was actually the park that excite me the most. It was just different. It didn't focus on theme park in general (princesses, castles, fairy tales, cartoon characters) yet it didn't sound as educational as Epcot =P Plus, my husband loves watching animal documentaries. So, I thought he would enjoy this park the most. I wanted to visit this park early on our trip, but somehow looking at our schedule and the parks' crowd level, it wasn't possible. So we ended up saving this park for our last day. 

As usual we arrived early in the morning. Then while waiting in front of the turnstiles, we did our theme park morning rituals. Firstly, we put on sunblocks. Then we took park maps and daily show schedules. We studied those information and tried to integrate it with our itinerary. Lastly, we took turn going to the restroom =P We didn't want to waste our precious morning hours in the park by going to the restroom.

AK consists of 7 areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Africa, Asia, Rafiki's Planet Watch, and DinoLand U.S.A. Basically, there are two important attractions (major headliners) in this park. The first one is Kilimanjaro Safari. I read a lot of tips about this attraction and mostly suggested to visit this attraction early in the morning. Why? Because there is a higher chance to spot animals than during the super hot afternoon. Another headliners is a roller coaster, Expedition Everest. The problem is, they are not located next to each other. Kilimanjaro Safari is in the deep left part of the park (Africa), while Expedition Everest is in the very right part of the park (Asia). 

Anyway, to our surprise, they let us entered the park before it officially opened at 9AM. We were told to enjoy the Oasis area where we could view many amazing animals exhibits such as wild boar, anteater, etc. However, most guests didn't even stop at the Oasis area. They went straight to Discovery Island where cast members were waiting with rope. While waiting, I took picture with the icon of AK, the giant tree of life.

We also came up with a plan to ride both Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest early in the morning. When the park officially opened, we would split up. My husband would head left to Africa and line up for Kilimanjaro Safari. Meanwhile, I would continue heading west to obtain Fastpass for Expedition Everest. Once I obtained the Fastpass, I would join my husband at Kilimanjaro Safari's line. However, I might need more time since I would have to go right and then left. So my husband decided to wait until I got the Fastpass before lining up for the Safari.

At precisely 9AM, cast members slowly led us deeper into the park still holding to their rope. We executed our plan. Btw, there were a lot of people also heading to Expedition Everest. They were walking really fast, trying to get as close as possible to the rope. I felt the urge to rush. I jogged a little bit, trying to catch up with the other guests. However, I stopped in the middle because I felt so tired. Seemed like 6 days of theme parks was too much for my feet =P When I finally arrived at the Fastpass booths, it took some time for me to get Fastpass tickets. Turned out something was wrong with my park tickets. A friendly cast member helped me. He gave me temporary park tickets to obtain other Fastpass throughout the day. Once I've gotten my Fastpass, I called my husband. He was already waiting in line for the safari. 

So I dragged my tired feet there. It was super hard. Seriously. Next time maybe I would rather wait longer in line for those attractions. It took a great deal of courage too, trying to catch up with my husband in the waiting line. I had to keep apologizing to people because it seemed that I was cutting the line. 

Well ... at least my effort paid off. We saw a lot of animals during the Safari. We boarded a rustic open-sided vehicle and rode around an African-style Savanna. We found many types of animals: Elephants, Lions, Hippos, Rhinos, Crocodile, Giraffe, and so on. 

Clockwise: Rhinos, Hippos, and Flamingos
Clockwise: Crocodile, Lion, Giraffe, and Elephants

While exiting the Safari, we passed through the main entrance of Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. 

Since we still had time, we went inside the trail. On this trail we could see birds, fish, and Gorillas! Well, we ended up seeing much more than that.

Ant Hill, Colombus Monkey, and tropical birds

Throughout the trail, there were many information about the animals. On one of the informational hut, we found the head skeleton of Hippo and Crocodile.

Near the end of the trail, we spotted this Gorilla! She was busy munching her food.

Once we were done, we explored the rest of Harambe Village. 

and browsed for cute animal plush toys =D

Then we rushed to Expedition Everest. The looming Everest is visible from the entrance of Asia. 

The waiting area was decorated as a Nepal Village... as you can see from these pictures:

I love this roller coaster. I was a little scared in the beginning since I could see the track ascended pretty high into the mountain. I also heard that this roller coaster has some backward movement. Overall, it turned out to be a very fun ride. The speed, altitude, drops, and twists were just enough for me. This was definitely a MUST GO ride in my list =)

Next we continued on to DinoLand U.S.A. We headed for our second roller coaster, the Primeval Whirl. It was a smaller roller coaster but with a more intense twists and turns. This roller coaster remind me of Great America's psycho mouse.

DinoLand U.S.A
We waited for around 30 mins for this attraction. It was quite popular. The vehicle that we boarded in Primeval Whirl was a time machine. It was a single car that fit only four people. As we went up and down, the vehicle would randomly twist. Since the vehicle was small, on most curves, we felt that we were being thrown out of the track. Surprisingly, this wild ride didn't caused motion sickness to my husband =P 

We didn't have a close-up pictures of the ride. The Primeval Whirl was the blue track on the right side of this picture. There were a lot of carnival-style game surrounding Primeval Whirl.

We continued on to another major attraction for this park, DINOSAUR. On our way there, we passed through a small ancient forest with lots of Dinosaur statues.

From the outside, the building that hosted DINOSAUR, looked somewhat like the visitor center in Universal Island of Adventure. Inside the visitor center, we saw the exact same T-rex's skeleton. However, the building's interior color scheme was different. The halls inside the building were decorated differently too. 

There was no line, so we walked all the way to the boarding point. This ride had a different story line from Jurassic Park's movie. In this ride, a mad scientist transported us back to 65 million year ago in order to capture a living dinosaur. The ride was quite turbulent ... and very dark. I couldn't really enjoy it because our sight was very limited. On one point, a big T-Rex appeared and shocked me. Fortunately I wasn't the only one who was shocked as you can see from this picture =P

Done with the ride, we paid a quick visit to the souvenir store. There was this one painting in the wall that depicted extinct animals. 

Hubby's silly pose
On our way back to Discovery Island, we passed through a character greeting spot. I went in to see what characters were inside. We saw Pooh and his friends. Even Eeyore was there. It was a rare sight actually. Too bad the line was too long for us. So we skipped.

We headed to the center of Discovery Island. Inside the big Tree of Life, there was a 3D show: It's Tough to be a Bug! It was a little bit dark and full of surprises. There was this one moment when I literally jump from my seat. At the end of the show, my husband who was still sitting, said that he felt something crawled in the seat. A lot of other people scream too... It wasn't scary tho'. It was actually quite fun. My husband really enjoyed the show. He said that this was the best 3D show during our 6 days theme parks visit. 

Oh, one more thing, since the show was inside the Tree of Life, we got to see the trunk up-close. Guess what? We saw a lot of animal sculptures everywhere. As you can see in the picture below, the sculptures were pretty impressive. My husband was posing with a crocodile while I was posing with an Orang Utan. 

Next we went to another major attraction in this park. It was a musical show: The Festival of the Lion King. The show was located in Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Entering Camp Minnie-Mickey
We saw a lot of cute characters statues along the path to Camp Minnie-Mickey. There were Daisy, Donald Duck, and the trio: Huey, Dewey, and Louie. 

We were too early for the 12.30 show so we went to Greeting Trails first. At the Greeting Trails, there were four huts located next to each other. Each hut has its own trail and was surrounded by greenery. A character was waiting in each hut at the end of its trail. Of course, we chose Mickey Mouse! 

We had to wait for around 20 mins to meet Mickey, so when we were done, we rushed to the Festival of Lion King. When we arrived at the waiting area, the door was just opened. We're so lucky we didn't miss the show. Btw, we were advised to come 30 mins early for this show. 

Inside the big stadium, there were four seating areas. Each area represented an African Animals: Lion, Giraffe, Elephant, and Warthog. We sat at the Lion's area. The audience were asked to participate in the show by mimicking the voice of their mascot animal. The show was quite spectacular. We saw people dancing, singing, and even doing acrobatic. The whole show was very colorful. 

I was starting to feel hungry, but since we're hoping to finish the park early, we decided to postpone our lunch. Instead, we went to Rafiki's Planet Watch. On our way we passed through an unexplored part of Africa. 

Then we boarded the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki's Planet Watch. It was a rustic train with lots of baggage on top =) On our way we could see the Savanna from afar. We also saw facilities where some Savanna animals sleep.  

At Rafiki's Planet Watch, we explored the Habitat Habit! which was an outdoor discovery trail. We also went to the Affection Section (petting zoo) and Conservation Station. We learned interesting facts about animals like how to take care of them and what nutrition they need. We also learned how to make our living space into a natural habitat for animals.

If your kids love animals, this will be one of their favorite attractions!

Once we were done with Rafiki's Planet Watch, we decided to have lunch. We chose to have lunch at the Flame Tree Barbecue which was located in the Discovery Island area. On our way, we passed through the entrance of Asia. Suddenly, I wanted to ride Expedition Everest one more time =P So we went to grab Fastpass for Expedition Everest before we had our lunch.  

So far, we think this was the best place for lunch (inside theme parks). Both the food  and the price was good  =) nice combination. Both of us had ribs. I loveeee their spicy BBQ sauce >.<! From our seat, we enjoyed a breath-taking view of the towering Everest. 

It was still an hour or so until we could use our Fastpass. We looked at the daily schedule and learned that there will be a parade soon. So in the meantime, while waiting for the parade, we went to Maharajah Jungle Trek. We saw Komodo Dragon and lots of giant fruit bats. We also saw the back of tiger! Well, we did wait for a while after that, but the tiger was nowhere to be found. =(

As you can see from the picture, Maharajah Jungle trek was located in a rustic ancient ruins. There were some small temples along the way. On our way in, we could grab a map showing us the locations and information of animals in that attraction. 

Still waiting for the parade, we decided to explore Asia and took pictures.

Village Houses
Unique Food Stall
To my delight, we saw this traditional public transportation called Bajaj. We have a lot of Bajaj in Jakarta, Indonesia, the city where both of us came from. Somehow my husband did a lot of silly poses that day. This one with the Bajaj is my favorite tho'!

We also accidentally met an Indonesian working in Animal Kingdom. She is doing internship for Disney.

And then came the parade! We got quite a strategic spot.. so I was able to capture a lot of picture. Here are some of them. 

The parade vehicles were shaped as African animals. We saw birds, giraffe, crocodile, antelope, peacock, etc. The parade itself was called Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade. The parade circled around Discovery Island. We watched the parade from the entrance of Asia. From our Indonesian friend that we met earlier, we learned that the parade passed through Asia at 4PM instead of 3.45PM.

Once the parade was over, we went to Expedition Everest. It was still fun. This time I opened my eyes when the coaster went backward. I realized that the backward track was actually quite long. I kinda felt we went through an inversion loop while moving backward... I'm not really sure tho' =P

There was another major attraction in this park that we skipped. It was a wet ride called Kali River Rapids. Since we didn't want to get wet, we decided not to play this ride. 

Kali River Rapids Entrance
From its entrance, we could see that the ride was actually quite popular. The Fastpass for that day was already gone. Anyway, next we went back to DinoLand U.S.A to watch Finding Nemo - The Musical. It was a live performance of music and puppetry. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately, once the show was over, we went out and found that it was raining very, very hard. We decided to end our day in that park. 

We thought we could walked through the rain since we were covered by raincoats. Turned out we were soaked! We waited for a tram to the parking lot for a while. We actually could walk to the parking lot, it wasn't far. But of course we didn't want to walk under the heavy rain. When we were riding the tram, one of the passenger in front of us said, "I'm glad I rode the Rapids. Everyone was worried that they will be wet. Look at us now! We're soaked through and through." I regretted my decision to skip that wet ride =( 

Anyway, we took bath and rested for a while at our comfy Hotel. Then we headed to Disney's Hollywood Studio to watch Fantasmic! (You can find our full day visit to HS here). Once we were done, my husband decided to visit his favorite attraction, Toy Story Mania, one more time. In addition, we went to One Man's Dream and saw an old biography about Walt Disney. It was quite inspirational =)

We ended the day by having dinner at Planet Hollywood Orlando. 

We thought that this would be our last theme park visit during the trip. However, that night we decided to visit Island of Adventure again for a short 3-4 hours before we went to the Airport the next day. Well, our Universal Orlando tickets were actually a three-day ticket. So far we used 2 days already. Since we couldn't come up with alternative plan for our last day in Orlando, we decided to use our Universal ticket. 

So the next day, I finally manned up and rode Incredible Hulk!

Turned out it was awesome! I like it! I should have rode it on our first visit =( Anyway, this is definitely another MUST RIDE attraction on my list. 

This is the end of our Orlando Trip. Surprisingly, I still feel like visiting theme parks. I can see myself returning to Orlando to visit these parks again in the future. In particular, I can hardly wait to see the Fantasyland Expansion at Magic Kingdom!

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