Disney’s Animal Kingdom park is part zoo, part amusement park, and all fun for everyone. Explore these secrets of Animal Kingdom, and then be sure to check some of them out during your next visit.
What is Disney’s Animal Kingdom?
Animal Kingdom is Disney’s take on a zoo. The park is part zoo, part Disney theme park, with a large focus on conservation.
The park features several lands themed to different countries or ideas. These include: Discovery Island, the Oasis, Asia, Africa, Dinoland USA, Pandora, and Rafiki’s Planet Watch.
In Africa, Discovery Island, the Oasis, and Rafiki’s Planet watch, you will find more animals, and fewer rides. In Pandora, Dinoland USA, and Asia, you will find a greater focus on rides and attractions.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom
The Secret Entrance
If you are arriving at Animal Kingdom during peak times, you may find a long wait to get through the ticket scanners and into the park. But, one of the secrets of Animal Kingdom is its secret entrance. If Rainforest Café is open, or more specifically, their gift shop, you can cut through there and access the park from the turnstiles at the back of the gift shop.
The Secret to Seeing Active Animals
The animals of Animal Kingdom are most active first thing in the morning, and close to sundown. During the midday heat, the animals often take refuge in the shade, and move around less.
The best time to walk around the animal exhibits, and ride the safari is early, or later.
Also, keep in mind, each time you will have a different experience, so be sure to visit the animals more than just once!
The Secret of Animal Kingdom’s Size
Animal Kingdom is the largest park inside of the Walt Disney World resort. One of the secrets of Animal Kingdom is that Kilimanjaro Safari is about the same size as the entire Magic Kingdom park.
Next time you board one of the safari vehicles, keep in mind you are covering as much ground as Magic Kingdom takes up.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom Rides and Attraction
The Secret Soaker
Another Secret of Animal Kingdom is that guests can add to the fun riders have on Ka’li River Rapids. On the bridge above the ride, guests can push a button to have the elephants spray riders with a barrage of water.
Expedition Everest’s Cost
Expedition Everest holds one of the costliest Secrets of Animal Kingdom. This rollercoaster has the title of most expensive rollercoaster in the world. The coaster cost a whopping 100 million dollars to build.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life
The Hurricane-Proof Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is the icon of the park. But, the secret of Animal Kingdom’s centerpiece is that it can handle hurricane force winds.
The Tree of Life is indeed not a real tree, but a manmade structure created to look like a tree. Inside the trunk is an upside down oil rig that serves as the platform for the tree, which can handle hurricane force winds, something that is a high probability in Florida.
Also, did you know the Tree of Life has over 300 animals which were hand carved into it?
Jane Goodall Helped with the Tree of Life
One surprising Secret of Animal Kingdom is that Jane Goodall helped the Imagineers with one of the carvings on the Tree of Life.
Jane Goodall, noted conservationist and primate expert, was surprised to realize there was no Chimpanzee on the tree, so the imagineers worked with her to carve one. They modeled the carving to look like David Greybeard, the first wild chimpanzee Jane ever observed.
Dinoland USA Road Signs
Dinoland USA hosts a few of the secrets of Animal Kingdom. As you walk through this section of the park, keep an eye out for road signs.
Many of these signs say Route 498, indicating that Dinoland USA is a town on that route. But, why the number 498? This number was chosen because Animal Kingdom, and Dinoland USA, opened in April of 1998, meaning the 4th month of 98.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom’s Real Dinosaur
Okay, so technically the dinosaur is not real, but a replica of a real one. Inside the queue for the Dinosaur ride, you will see a large T-rex skeleton.
This skeleton is an exact replica of the real version named “Sue.” Sue is the most complete T-Rex skeleton ever discovered and can be found in a museum in Chicago.
Countdown to Extinction
A little known Animal Kingdom secret to newbies is that the ride Dinosaur is actually a retheme of a different ride. When Animal Kingdom opened, the ride was called Countdown to Extinction, and according to those who rode it at this time, it was much much more intense.
When the movie Dinosaur debuted, Disney quickly made plans to retheme the ride to tie into the movie. During this retheme, the ride was also tamed down a bit to accommodate younger riders.
How Animal Kingdom Helps the Environment
Conservation and Animal Safety
One of the Secrets of Animal Kingdom is the commitment to recycling and conservation. For example, all of the benches in Animal Kingdom are made from recycled milk jugs.
To learn more about Animal Kingdom’s conservation efforts, head over the Rafiki’s Planet watch, where there are interactive exhibits, and hands on activities.
The Secrets of Animal Kingdom’s Safari Vehicles
The safari vehicles that take guests through Kilimanjaro Safari are modified to run on propane, rather than gasoline or diesel. This reduces emissions and pollutants to keep the animals that live in the safari safer and healthier.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom’s Décor
One of the Secrets of Animal Kingdom is how the imagineers constructed the concrete inside of the Africa section of the park. If you look closely at the concrete, you will see cracks and imprints of leaves.
To achieve this effect, imgineers created a mold of a mud imprint and used that to stamp the concrete of this park section. Additionally, some of the natural cracks in the concrete were enlarged by spraying with a sharp jet of water.
The Flags in Asia
A little known fact is that the small strands of flags in Asia, near Expedition Everest, are themed to be prayer flags.
Prayer flags are a large piece of Tibetan culture, and are used to bless the area and give good fortune. It seems to have worked as this area of the park is one of the most popular.
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A Hidden Secret in Plain Sight You Likely Won’t See
There is one secret hiding in plain sight at Animal Kingdom, and it’s one that few people notice. However, if you look closely, you’ll notice a number of puzzle locks throughout the Expedition Everest ride queue and across other areas of Animal Kingdom. These ancient puzzle locks are designed to stymie would-be thieves, and they do a pretty good job considering that the only two people who know the secret to opening them are the maker and the person who buys them.
Hidden Secrets of Animal Kingdom
DeVine and Kevin
One of the Secrets of Animal Kingdom is their walk around characters. Animal Kingdom has two very unique characters, that you won’t see anywhere else. They make rare and unscheduled appearances.
Kevin, a 7 foot tall walkaround character from the movie Up! interacts with guests by squawking at them, and by occasionally allowing hugs.
DeVine is even more rare. She is a humanoid/ tree character. Think of DeVine as a living vine. She appears in the Oasis park section, and is often missed by guests. She can be found blending into the trees and leaves, and moving slowly.
The Secret Short Dole Whip Line
Many people think Polynesian Resort and Magic Kingdom when they hear “Dole Whip.” But, did you know you can get dolewhips in Animal Kingdom?
Animal Kingdom has specialty Dole Whip flavors, including an adult spiked one. These can be grabbed in a flash, without having to wait in the insane Dole Whip lines that wrap around Magic Kingdom.
Secrets of Animal Kingdom’s Animals
Watch for Feeding Time
The animals in the enclosures in the park entrance, oasis, and Discovery Island trails are fed around 5pm. We recommend waiting by these enclosures for some great photo ops.
During our last visit, we watched caretakers feed the birds at the entrance to the park. We were able to get up close to the animals, and ask their caretakers all the questions we had.
For example, we learned that they use different sounds, such as bells, drums, whistles, etc, to call the animals to eat. Different animals have different calls for dinner.
The Flamingos Hide Mickey
If you decide to ride Kilimanjaro Safari during your next visit, (which you should,) take an extra look at the Flamingo pond. One of the little known secrets of Animal Kingdom is that the flamingo pond is shaped like Mickey’s head.
This makes the Flamingo pond a Hidden Mickey!
The Ostrich Eggs on the Kilimanjaro Safari are indeed, fake. These ostrich eggs are not just a prop though, they allow the ostriches to exhibit natural nesting behavior without actually reproducing. This helps control the population, and allows the ostriches to recreate their natural instincts.
Thousands of Animals
A fun secret of Animal Kingdom is the vast number of animals that live onsite. Animal Kingdom houses almost 2000 animals, if you count all the avian species that live onsite. They have hundreds of species ranging from mammals, to reptiles, and birds.
Pandora’s Secret Plantlife
When Pandora was created, Imagineers used over 500 trees, and around 10,000 various shrubs, bushes, and flowers. Additionally, the imagineers created their own artificial plants to bring Pandora to life.
For some added fun, they named all of these unique plants. Their names include Puffball Tree, Dapophet, Vein Pod, Scorpion Thistle, Episoth, and Flaska Reclinata.
Pandora’s Fake Waterfall
While Pandora does feature many real waterfalls, one of them isn’t even real water. The highest waterfall, which can be seen from the exterior queue of Flight of Passage, is not a waterfall at all.
Instead, it is a rotating wheel that gives the illusion of water falling. It is also designed using forced perspective to appear larger and farther away than it really is.
Animatronic in Water?
Another secret of Animal Kingdom takes place in the Flight of Passage queue. Inside the queue you will see an Avatar animatronic submerged in a fluid chamber. In reality, this is not an animatronic at all, as animatronics and water do not mix.
Instead, imagineers created an air pressure system with pistons to move the arms and legs of the figure.
Extinct Secrets of Animal Kingdom
Discovery River Boat Tours
An almost forgotten Secret of Animal Kingdom is the Discovery River Boats Tour. This boat ride took guests along the Discovery River.
Similar to how the train in Magic Kingdom train takes guests through some fun show scenes, this boat ride took guests on a ride around a dragon’s den.
The dragon’s den exploded fire as the boats passed.
Today, all that is left is a small dock, and a rock circle where the dragon used to live. To find the remnants of the dragon’s den, look down at the water from the boardwalk bridge that leads to Pandora. The den is directly below the boardwalk at the point where the walkway changes to Pandora.
After that last secret, you may be thinking: “why was there a dragon’s den in Animal Kingdom?” When Animal Kingdom was in the planning stages, Imagineers intended to later open a section of the park called Beastly Kingdom.
Beastly Kingdom would feature mythical animals such as dragons, unicorns, and more. The dragon’s den mentioned above was used to promote the upcoming Beastly Kingdom, which unfortunately never came to be.
Today, the land set aside for Beastly Kingdom is being used for Pandora, so the odds of this new land coming to fruition, are not good.
Discovering the Secrets of Animal Kingdom for Yourself
If you’d like to discover the secrets discussed above on your own Disney World Adventure, be sure to contact us for a free vacation quote, or keep reading below for more Disney travel inspiration.
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