Disneyworld’s Animal Kingdom in a Hot Nutshell

disneyworld entrance

Sorry it’s taken so long to recap my trip to Disneyworld. I’ve been just a tad distracted by the news. In light of possible nuclear annihilation, Nazi’s marching proudly in our streets, and the fact that I find myself shockingly in alignment with Senator Orrin Hatch more often than not these days, sharing my thoughts on my day at Disneyworld seems, well… rather meaningless.

But I said I would, so I will.

My adventures consisted of just one small sampling of Disneyworld’s massive conglomerate of offerings – Animal Kingdom. Here’s my take…

The Good:

The ability to fully escape the aforementioned news cycle thanks to the incredibly immersive experiences they’ve created.

As we approached Expedition Everest, winding our way through a Nepalese bazaar, past stupas lined with carved stones depicting Buddhist Ashtamangala signs, colorful prayer flags flapping in the thick hot air, I was vividly reminded of my Annapurna trek years ago in the Himalayas of Nepal. The stagecraft was that good (except of course for the throngs of tourists donning all manner of Mickey & Co. gear, pushing baby strollers, riding electric scooters, etc.)

Of course, the thrilling terror of a high-speed rollercoaster is always good fun. Especially one that hurls you backwards through pitch darkness.

Old timey rollercoasters are fun too. We hit this one up at Dinoland U.S.A. Glad we hadn’t eaten lunch beforehand…

The Bad:

Within ten minutes of entering the park, we were subjected to a live and quite amplified performance of the Macarena. Really? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say I’m fairly confident I need never hear this song again. Ever.

The crowds. The heat. Anyone who thought the off-season in Florida (me!) would apply here at Disneyworld was dead wrong. And brutally uncomfortable.

Even after our Kali River Rapids ride (the first of the day) which doused us soppingly wet, the feeling of refreshment was fleeting. The thick humidity prevented our clothes from ever fully drying (my ass was still damp at midnight) and unfortunately one in our party was wearing denim. Her thighs suffered terribly.

The Meh:

Not sure how the kids in our group felt, but I was underwhelmed by the Kilimanjaro Safari experience. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve created some pretty incredible habitat – a 110-acre preserve of open plains, shady forests, and rocky wetlands that provides sanctuary and protection for over 34 species of African animals.

But the open-air vehicle that transported us through the preserve was more bus than jeep, with something like 75 patrons on board. And dozens of these lined up, taking off just seconds apart from each other.

I snapped a few photos… and did get to see my first flamingos in Florida (of the non-plastic variety, that is).

The Amazing:

I’ve saved the best for last, but as in life, nothing is perfect – you have to take the bad with the good, or in this case, the excruciatingly frustrating with the mind-blowingly amazing.

Our final stop of the night was Pandora–the World of Avatar. This is the newest section of the park, and the only one open for “magic hours” (the park technically closes at 10pm but “magic hours” occur from 10pm till midnight when the heat of the day has begun to recede and the landscape is aglow with fantastical flora) so needless to say, the crowds were insane.

One of our destinations was Avatar Flight of Passage, a newly opened ride that in two months alone saw its one millionth rider. Just to do the math for you (because I am the kind of person who likes to do the math), one million divided by 60 days is nearly 17,000 riders per day! Divide that by 15 hours per day and you get over 1000 people being shuffled through this ride every hour. And that’s just an average. Undoubtedly most people aim to do this at night.

The wait time posted as we entered the line read “180.” What that could possibly mean was beyond my comprehension until someone explained, it’s minutes… 180 minutes! Um, that’s three hours, I thought. Are we seriously going to wait in line for three hours?!

We were. There were no ifs ands or buts about it, especially from the tweens in our group.

Did it matter that three hours are far more valuable to someone middle-aged than to a tween? It did not.

What I will say, is that Disney took great care to make the waiting (the excruciating waiting) as interesting as possible. Gone are the days of lines resembling airport security where no matter one’s placement you can see the beginning, the end, and all the teeming masses in between.

This line switch-backed its way through an otherworldly landscape of towering rock and glowing plants, our immediate surroundings and more distant vistas ever shifting.

Where the line leads is impossible to see until you’ve there.

First, the night sky gives way to a cool cavern, again filled with artifacts (cave paintings, beautifully organic light fixtures, and more) of such detail that you’re fully distracted as you plod along wondering, Are we almost there yet?

We are not.

Then through a second cave.

Then an airlock.

Each waiting zone different from the last.

And then, a very real-looking laboratory with lots of things to gaze at in fascination.

Then, blissfully, through another door into a station for just sixteen riders, where our DNA would be “sampled” to pair us with a mountain banshee. The graphics were reminiscent of the “Beam me up, Scotty” teleport, but I gotta say, if I was twelve again, this would seem pretty damn realistic.

Finally, at long last (and in less time than the full three hours, thank god), to our flying station. No pictures allowed here.

I’ll just say, that as I was “flying” on the back of a mountain banshee (virtually via 3D glasses), dodging vertical rock walls, snaking through a jungle of trees, and swooping over the rivers of Avatar, I couldn’t help but scream with delight, a plastered smile stretched ear to ear.

I cast a glance left at my friend who’d invited me on this Disney adventure, and she looked exactly the same. We really were flying.

1 Comment

  1. Don’t forget the way that we could feel the beast move on our inner thighs as if we were really riding a living creature. Or the smell of seafoam. Or how it got hot when we were flying over lava. OMG, we were flying.

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.