Very excited to welcome back JAMES aka my husband for this Animal Kingdom guest post. Clearly I couldn’t have married him if he didn’t share a certain fondness for DAK as well! Enjoy! – Estelle
As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” That is certainly true in Disney theme parks and, in my opinion, is especially true in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While there are plenty of people who often criticize DAK for being a “half-day park,” I am definitely not one of them. I love the natural element and the living feel of the park, and – being an edutainment nut who remembers when History Channel and TLC used to actually play edutainment programming instead of half-rate “reality” shows – I love feeling like I’m learning about the real world while being entertained. I could spend an entire day just observing the animals in the trails and on Discovery Island, even though Disney would be quick to remind me that DAK is “nahtazu.” (If you don’t recall this joke, just sound the word out slowly.)
It’s easy to point to attractions such as Kilimanjaro Safaris, Maharajah Jungle Trek, or Pangani Forest Exploration Trail as the best “natural” elements of the park. The safaris in particular are incredibly popular with all guests, even the “half-day” crowd, and the latter two walking trails are a relaxing diversion for the stroller-pushers to avoid the crowds. What most people never seem to notice or appreciate, though, is the incredible level of detail and theming that Joe Rohde and the Imagineers put into the design of DAK, down to the smallest details.
Ever since my first visit to DAK in 1998, I’ve always noticed the “big,” obvious details like the aged and beaten look of Harambe or the beautifully carved animals comprising the grand Tree of Life. These large-scale touches are easy to spot even when you’re running through the park to see all the attractions or fighting humongous crowds.
On a recent trip, however, I got a chance to slow down and observe some of the little details that are very easy to overlook. Estelle and I were visiting DAK with some friends when we decided to take a seat in Asia and relax with our Safari Amber beers. While Estelle and our friends chatted, I took a leisurely stroll around the area with my iPhone and snapped a ton of cool pictures. As we had parked ourselves outside one of the bathroom areas in the Anandapur section of Asia, most of the theming was related to the mythical Yeti who is said to haunt the snowy mountains of Nepal.
In fact, Professor Pema Dorje is going to be presenting dramatic new evidence next week which proves that the Yeti is real!
If you spot something you think is a Yeti, make sure it’s not a Himalayan brown bear, black bear, bobcat marmot, snow leopard, wild boar, or lynx before reporting it.
Of course, you could book an excursion with Himalayan Escapes Tours and Excursions, who will take you “there and back with the flying yak” in search of the beast.
On your trek towards the Yeti’s mountaintop dwelling, you may pass an ancient Mandir, or Hindu temple, erected to honor the Yeti as the protector of the mountain in the 17th century.
You’re sure to become parched on your journey, so stock up on Kali River pure drinking water before you leave Anandapur.
Despite the possibility of a life-threatening and terrifying encounter with a Yeti, you should remember that the locals say: “may all beings be happy.”
One of my absolute favorite sights in Anandapur (or DAK in general) is this beautifully decorated bus which doubles as a refreshment stand. The level of detail is just stunning, and I could spend hours poring over every inch of the artwork.
All of these pictures, aside from the one taken while waiting on the Expedition: Everest queue, were snapped in just a few minutes in one small section of the park. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the amazing details to be seen throughout DAK. Rather, keep in mind that no matter where you look throughout the park, you need only slow down a little or stop entirely for a few minutes and just look around. The rich history and vibrant stories that the Imagineers tell through such small details are incredible and truly bring a new sense of perspective to your visit.
Think of the Animal Kingdom lands as larger versions of the pavilions in World Showcase. You can either walk around the World Showcase lagoon without stopping, getting a general feel for the countries, or you can stop and meander through each pavilion to learn more about their history and culture.
If you don’t take the time to observe the details around you, the World Showcase won’t take very long to complete. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, it just makes it easier to choose your own adventure. You can see as much or as little as you want. Maybe those who call Disney’s Animal Kingdom a “half-day” park should stop by the Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe or the Dawa Bar, grab a few cold drinks, and take the time to slow down and relax. Let the Imagineers transport you to far-off countries through the smallest details and theming. You may just find yourself spending a lot more time in the park than you used to.