Animal Kingdom is everything you could possibly want in a zoo and a theme park, and somehow, Disney’s Imagineers have managed to make it a stellar mix of both. With their latest addition, Pandora – The World of Avatar, it has become one of the most exciting and fresh parks to pay a visit to.
We covered over 16km in this park (in one day) because the attractions are insanely far apart. If you have young children, please bring a stroller so your child’s legs don’t malfunction after about 1 hour of walking.
We were there on a Wednesday, and I arrived at the park rather bus-sick because the bus ride had been terribly cramped and stuffy (a little girl threw up during the ride).
The gates opened slightly before 9am, and we made a beeline for The World of Avatar, since the FastPasses+ for both of the rides had been unavailable up to a week in advance. Apparently everyone was also headed there, so we made our way through the crowd and rushed to the Na’vi River Journey.
The sheer scale of the floating islands and the gigantic otherworldly flora & fauna made it feel as if we had been transported to an alien planet, which was what the Imagineers had set out to achieve when they created this new land.
(I took the video while running to the boat ride, so pardon the quality.)
The Na’vi River Journey was a dark, leisurely boat ride through a river in Pandora, and there were some stunning animatronics and holographics featured in the ride, including a 3m tall Na’vi animatronic (which crossed the uncanny valley with its lifelike movements). We rode it twice while the queue was still under 15 minutes, but the queue soon ballooned to over an hour.
The safari bus ride was next on our list, so we walked over to Africa and walked right into the nonexistent queue for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. It was a 20-minute tour around the safari in an open bus, and the bus driver/tour guide provided an informative running commentary as we drove past different animals.
It was really quite lovely seeing such a diverse range of animals (over 30 different species) roaming freely on the wildlife reserve, and Disney’s commitment to conservation and education really shone through on this attraction.
After shopping at the gift store and getting rehydrated (the temperatures that day were soaring), we went to DinoLand USA to ride Dinosaur, which we had a FastPass+ for.
It was a really bumpy dark ride that swerved us around in a time travelling vehicle as we tried to escape big bad dinosaurs and evade the comet that made dinos go extinct. I wouldn’t recommend the ride if you have back or neck problems, motion sickness or all three.
Over in Asia, we were transported to Nepal, with its beautiful coloured flags and rustic architecture. I’ve included more pictures later on this post, but they hardly do justice to how authentic the decorations felt; and gosh they looked beautiful against the backdrop of the cloudless sky.
We had Asian food for lunch, and the food in Animal Kingdom was outstanding compared to the other 3 parks. I had a particularly delicious meal of Korean pork ribs, which were so perfectly cooked that the meat fell off the bone.
To get a respite from the heat, we watched UP! A Great Bird Adventure, a brand new bird show featuring Russell and Dug from the Pixar movie ‘Up’. After that, we took a short train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, an area of the park dedicated to educating children about conservation. There was a petting zoo with goats, pigs and sheep, and I had a field day going around hugging the animals.
After returning from Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and grabbing a chunk of chocolate fudge for my sweet tooth, we headed for the Festival of The Lion King, a live musical and acrobatic show. It was identical to the show in Hong Kong Disneyland, so I took a short nap (don’t blame me, I was still battling jetlag a week into the trip).
Afterwards, we made our way to the Tree of Life, a humongous sculpture with many animals carved into the Baobab tree. According to the Disney website, the sculpture features 325 carvings of existing and extinct animal species on its trunk and surrounding roots. The 4D movie/attraction It’s Tough to Be a Bug is located within the tree, and let’s just say that it was a funny and very…immersive movie, with puffs of scented air and huge spiders descending from the ceiling.
It was time for my dad to use his FastPass+ for Expedition Everest, arguably the most recognisable and terror-inducing ride in Animal Kingdom. The roller coaster goes all the way up into the mountain in the picture above, how’s that for terrifying? And there’s also a yeti who sends your roller coaster spiralling backwards, if that’s your idea of fun…
After watching my dad go on the ride, we chose a less stomach churning option of walking through the Maharajah Jungle Trek, which was basically a Nepal-themed zoo exhibit featuring a number of Asian animals.
We stopped for a teatime snack (I had a delicious Malva Cake Sundae for $5.99) and watched a tribal acrobatic performance.
One of the last attractions we visited was the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, yet another zoo-like exhibit, complete with gorillas, zebras, meerkats and many other animals native to Africa.
The crowd had thinned out considerably by late afternoon (around 5pm?), so I had my hopes up that we would be able to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, but lo and behold, both of the ride queues in Pandora had been closed since the wait times had become far too long. 😦 So we called it a day and headed back to our hotel.
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If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series