5 Thrilling Expeditions Found in Animal Kingdom
The Jungle Cruise movie is thrilling audiences around the world, bringing the attraction’s blend of adventure and humor to the silver screen. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, and Jack Whitehall, the film tells the story of Dr. Lily Houghton (Blunt) and skipper Frank Wolff (Johnson) as they travel down the Amazon in search of an ancient tree that possess the power to heal. It’s exciting stuff and is sure to drive Guests back to the attraction in the Magic Kingdom. However, it isn’t the only epic expedition to be found in the parks. In the spirit of discovery, let’s take a look at some of our favorite adventures in Walt Disney World. This week, we’ll focus on the adventures you can find at Animal Kingdom.
Taking place on 110 acres, Kilimanjaro Safaris is an unrivaled experience, introducing Guests to 34 different animal species in a near perfect recreation of their natural environment. You’ll ride through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, accompanied by a tour guide who provides information on the animals and habitats encountered. The attraction is both the longest in all of Walt Disney World and the largest (by a wide margin). You could fit the entirety of Epcot’s World Showcase inside the grounds of the attraction!
An interesting note about Kilimanjaro Safaris is that it brings to life Walt Disney’s original plan for the Jungle Cruise. In the beginning, he planned for the attraction to have real live animals featured. The logistics involved made it impossible at the time, but as so often happens at Disney, no good idea goes away forever. Taking a ride on Kilimanjaro Safaris is like leaping into one of Disney’s True-Life Adventure films.
Kali River Rapids
If you want to go on this particular adventure, you’d best be prepared to get wet. Don’t let that deter you. Kali River Rapids is an exciting trip through the Asian rain forest down the Chakranadi River. The journey is lead by Kali Rapids Expeditions, who are attempting to show visitors the natural beauty of the area. However, this is no pleasure cruise. A group of illegal loggers are in the area, and they’re sure to cause trouble. Like the Jungle Cruise, each raft you travel on has a different name such as “Banyan Bay,” and “Himalayan Hummer.” Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the attraction is the attention to detail paid by the Imagineers, who traveled to countries like Bali, Thailand, and more to make sure that the cultural details depicted were accurate. Imagineers even brought authentic artifacts and placed them throughout.
Get buckled up for this particular adventure. Expedition Everest is one of the most thrilling adventures in the parks, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Standing at a towering 199 ½ feet, it’s the tallest attraction in Walt Disney World. While racing through the mountain, you’ll also encounter a 22-foot-tall Yeti, and (perhaps even scarier) and 80 foot drop, all while racing along at 60 mile per hour. One important note, despite the attraction’s name, you aren’t actually traversing Mount Everest. Your journey takes place on the Forbidden Mountain, which lies between you and Everest. While your ultimate goal is to reach the world’s highest peak, the fearsome Yeti on the Forbidden Mountain may have other ideas.
Like Kali River Rapids, Imagineers went to great lengths to ensure cultural authenticity to the attraction and its surrounding environs. The architecture was patterned after buildings found in the Kali Gandaki region of the Annapurna Conservancy in the Himalayas, and a startling 2,000 items were used to decorate the attraction. Many of those items were hand crafted by Newari wood carvers from the Kathmandu Valley.
DINOSAUR, located in DinoLand U.S.A., takes its brave adventurers on a journey to the past. While visiting the Dino Institute, you’ll be informed that you’ll be boarding a Time Rover, which will take you back to the early Cretaceous period. However, the incorrigible Dr. Grant Seeker (get it?) has other plans and sends the vehicles to a different time in the hopes of capturing an Iguanodon. Unfortunately, the time selected is the same time as the great meteor strike, so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride.
The attraction utilizes the same ride technology as Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. As you race through the jungle you’ll encounter 19 different types of dinosaur, including the ferocious Carnotaurus. The dinos found on the attraction were the largest Audio-Animatronics ever created at the time of its opening (April of 1998). In fact, they’re so large that their bases were built all the way through the building and into their own foundations buried in the ground. (For more awesome facts like this, check out Celebration’s book 112 Disney Lists by Tim Foster).
Avatar Flight of Passage
Last, but certainly not least on this week’s tour is Avatar Flight of Passage (an attraction which definitely made me tear up the first time I rode it because it was so stunningly beautiful). In Flight of Passage, you’re given the chance to ride on the Ikran (the Na’vi’ word for the banshee) as part of the traditional coming-of-age ceremony celebrate by the Na’vi. The breathtaking visuals seen on your journey are further brought to life with multi-sensory affects. You’ll feel the wind as you soar through the air, smell the earth, and even get a little wet as your banshee flies near the water. Perhaps even more remarkable, you’ll actually feel the expansion and contraction of your banshee’s body as it inhales and exhales.
Along with the stunning experience of your flight on the Ikran, it’s also worth spending some time examining the queue area. While there, you’ll see cave art created by the Na’vi’, as well as the remains of the Resource Development Administration’s barracks. You’ll also see an unbelievably detailed Avatar floating in a water tank. Watch him for long enough and you’ll notice that he’s breathing and twitching.
Animal Kingdom is a paradise for those with an explorer’s spirit, but there’s more adventure out there waiting to be found. In next week’s blog, we’ll take a look at some of the other thrilling expeditions found around Walt Disney World.