Disney has a “get in free on your birthday” promotion and Lynn and I used it when we went to Animal Kingdom theme park for my birthday earlier this month. When we checked in, Lynn made me wear the “Happy Birthday, Edward” button they gave me. Then, everywhere we went – all the Disney employees and characters were telling me happy birthday all day long. That’s probably more “happy birthdays” in one day than I’ve gotten in my whole life!
Animal Kingdom combines a “zoo without bars” with theme park rides and this results in a very well done attraction that has something to offer everyone. Lynn and I really enjoyed it and for me it definitely makes the Central Florida Photos must do list .
Animal Kingdom is located west of Orlando off of I-4. For more information, Wikipedia has a large entry, with articles on the various areas in the park and the animals you can see as well as the rides.
You might want to bring a variety of photo equipment. My 70-300VR zoom lens on a Nikon D90 crop sensor body (1.5 crop factor) was about right for the long shots of wildlife (but we never have enough glass, do we?). I also had my 16-85 zoom for scenic shots, and there are a lot of scenic shots. I saw one or two people with tripods, but I didn’t bring mine in to the park. I couldn’t have used it on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, and it would have been in the way in many of the other places in the park. One other thing, even in early May, Orlando is already very hot and humid. Check the weather forecast and dress appropriately. Cool clothing and sun block are a must.
This close-up photo of a giraffe was taken from the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicle. Lynn and I went straight here when we got to the park, since it was at the top of our priority list and we didn’t want to wait in a long line. Even so, it took about 20 minutes before we could board. It’s a very nice experience, but photographically challenging. The vehicle almost never stops and the ride is designed to be bumpy and fun for younger folks, so you’ll have to make sure your shutter speed is high enough to freeze the vehicle’s motion. This giraffe crossed the road in front of us and they do have the right of way, so I made a nice calm portrait of it while the vehicle paused to let it pass. You’ll want to try to avoid the middle seats. I sat on the far left, but I think both sides probably have as good a view at different times.
This next photo is of a mother and juvenile elephant coming toward us along the elephant trail, also on the safari ride. I like the way the young one is kicking up dust out in front of Mom.
The next area we visited was the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, where there are gorillas, meerkats, and a number of other animals. There’s a photo of one of the gorillas in an earlier post . Here’s a meerkat.
Another thing I liked about this park is the displays that are set up throughout the areas to give them some cultural ambiance. Here are two photos from the Maharajah Jungle Trek that I especially liked. This first one is a “water station.
This one is of a cart in the village area.
Finally, here is a photo of the center piece of the park, the Tree of Life.
I’ve posted a gallery of my Animal Kingdom photos at this location . Please visit and browse to get an idea of some of the animals and things you can expect to see. I haven’t been to Africa or India, but it seems like Disney has done a credible job re-creating pieces of those far away places here in Central Florida for us to visit and dream about.
2/9/2010 Update: I have some additional photos posted in this set on Flickr .
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