Day Two: Animal Kingdom

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Today’s wake up call was 7am, and we had to leave the hotel by 8:30am. Laura’s mom made ramen for breakfast and we have a giant bag of oatmeal for other breakfast options. Off we went to the Animal Kingdom! Laura and Jessica’s Disney style is to reserve fastpasses and get there very early to do other popular rides first, then take it very easy during the day with an afternoon hotel relaxation break and shows peppered in between. It is the best way to play it, but it’s a bit startling at first if you’ve never experienced it because the first thing that happens when you enter the theme park is you ignore every sight around you and basically just speed off to whatever attraction.

The good thing is that the Animal Kingdom is not that big, and by the end of the day, it kind of felt like we’d seen pretty much the entire park. Our first ride was a 5 minute wait for an extremely boring ride that has now become my go-to joke ride when I want to evoke a ride that’s a long wait and low value (it was the Na’Vi River Journey). Anyway, it was a very boring ride, but thankfully we had zoomed straight here the moment we got through the entrance, because in the time it took us to ride it, the wait time jumped from 5 to 40 minutes. It did bring us to Pandora where we spent the next hour+ taking photos and watching a drum show.

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This is probably my favorite pic I took during the entire trip – I waited so long for crowds to pass!

After the drum show, Laura sprung a one hour break on me, meaning our families would split and meet back at Pandora in an hour. I think they ended up going to a lounge for drinks whereas my family headed back towards the entrance to look at all the stuff we had zoomed past earlier. Looking back, Laura probably figured there wasn’t that much to do in this theme park, and her parents wouldn’t want to walk back and forth too much, whereas my family would have preferred walking around looking at the animal exhibits in Africa and Asia. At the time though, I was very much like “WHAT I don’t know where to go around here!”

We ended up exploring about half of the Africa section of the theme park and walking around the Tree of Life – honestly as I look at the Animal Kingdom map to try and jog my memory, I feel like there’s so many exhibits that were probably closed at the time, or other attractions that I don’t recognize the name for but we probably did actually experience it. Anyway, I distinctly remember being in “Africa” and have tons of pictures of The Tree – and then we headed back to Pandora to meet up with the Kuos for our first fastpass ride.

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More of Pandora

I like Pandora from the perspective of treating it like a funky botanical garden. Our fastpass was for Avatar Flight of Passage, which was my mom’s favorite ride, and my favorite experience purely because I got to sit next to my mom and half the time I was turned to her to watch her delighted reactions. My mom is actually fantastic to sit next to on rides, because she voices EVERY emotion she’s feeling.

I think from here, it was kind of close to lunch time, and we ended up unexpectedly splitting up again – Laura’s family went to eat lunch in Pandora whereas my family wasn’t that hungry. We headed right back toward the entrance, but this time headed to “Asia.” It was not as obviously laid out to me as “Africa” was, though maybe that’s because there were significantly more people at this point in the day. We did bird exhibits and I honestly can’t remember what else. All the animals are A BLUR!!!

Even though everyone claimed not to be hungry, I figured everyone was just too hot to eat. Though we only had ten minutes left before we had to meet Laura’s family again, this time for our fastpass to Kilimanjaro Safari Rides, I made a quick decision to stand in line and ended up buying an Asian Chicken Wrap (which I stuffed into my backpack because it was wrapped in foil) and a single Beef Teriyaki Bowl which we stood and shoved into our mouths. I was at HIGH STRESS because I didn’t want to be late, but in the end, we were only about six minutes late and everyone felt a little happier now that we’d eaten something.

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So many safaris out during the day – I felt like I was on a factory tour

The safari ride was much more interesting than I’d expected. We actually ended up going on it a second time, as the final ride of the night. I voted for it because it’s a pretty long ride, and Laura said that more animals come out at night.

The best part of this ride was having my mom sit on the side so she could take photos. I forgot that she is TERRIBLE at taking action photos – she would constantly turn off her phone, and then realize she wanted a photo and would spend precious seconds unlocking her phone and by the time she got the camera app up, we would have already passed the animals. My absolute favorite was when we gave her PLENTY of advance notice that a tree she really liked was coming up … and this is what she got:

After the safari ride, our groups split between people who wanted to watch a bird show (Laura and her parents) and people who would go on the Gorilla Trek (Jessica and my family). Jessica mainly wanted to see a baby gorilla whereas I figured my parents LOVE walking anywhere that’s green and leafy. Unfortunately for Jessica, the baby gorilla didn’t make an appearance. I had assumed the baby gorilla would be in a little hospital-like viewing room, but it’s actually just out in the wild with its mom! Besides getting to see explore this huge animal exhibit, we also ended up speaking to one of the animal experts and some things I learned include: 1) they purposely bring female gorillas around to different zoos so they can see other mother gorillas take care of children and learn how to be good moms, and 2) the female gorillas are on birth control so they can prevent inbreeding, since they’re in the same area as their father.

Then our next fastpass was for Dinosaur – which was a TERRIBLE ride. At the end of it, Laura leaned over and was like “this was once the flagship ride of this theme park” and I responded “what? THIS?!?!” I can’t even remember what the ride was like to be honest.

Wait a minute … I’ve read this post several times and only now, on July 7th 2019, more than a month after, I remembered that our group actually headed back to the hotel after riding Dinosaur. LOL I have no idea what we did at the hotel! Or what was the first thing we did when we returned to Animal Kingdom! Or maybe we didn’t leave the park? WHAT A BLUR!!! I only remember exiting Dinosaur and there was some slight confusion within my family because Laura said their family might go back to the hotel to rest, but if anyone wanted to stay in the park, she was planning on continuing on. And my family is TERRIBLE at making snap decisions so no one could decide whether they wanted to stay or go. Meanwhile, Jessica was already starting to head back, and I think my brother was probably the first to say he’d head back to the hotel, so then my dad followed, and then I was like, you know what it is so hot I would love to go back as well.

Again, I have no idea where the hours went in between, but when we returned to the park, we watched the It’s Tough to Be a Bug Show, which I’d never seen even when it was in CA Adventures. Nice to just be in AC! Then we headed over to ride the roller coaster Expedition Everest, and I think Laura and Jessica may have been slightly surprised that my parents wanted to go too. Their parents ended up getting a salad at the same place where we’d bought lunch. This was the first ride where we had to go through standby and it actually took more than 10 minutes to wait in, so we got to see the queue decor. And that’s when I realized, it’s possible my mom actually would have loved to take pictures of some of the queue’s decorations, but we’d never see it because for all the longest waits, Jessica already got fastpasses! My mom’s favorite thing about all the amusement parks though, was clearly any time we had a fast pass, because she’d always ask “how long was standby?” so she could feel superior for not having to wait.

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View in the early afternoon
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View before sunset!

By the time we got out of Expedition Everest, the sun had set, and our last ride was the Kilimanjaro Safaris at night. Which I also loved! There was pretty much no line, and apparently the animals are more active at night. Though it is harder to see the animals, it’s a nice experience to just sit in the ride and enjoy it without feeling any need to take photos. Also, I thought the driver for the second one was a bit more lively, and there were fewer cars out on the road so it didn’t feel like such a conveyor belt of a ride.

The main thing the Kuos wanted to do was see Pandora at night for its night illuminations. It was cool but not worth more than a 20 minute stay. Then we headed out to the exits, and happened to see some sort of projection show on the Tree Of Life. Then jumped on a shuttle back to our lodge … Laura’s family decided they wanted to go our hotel’s lounge (Sanaa, the same one where my mom and I had taken a cultural tour the night before) to get small bites and drinks. My family isn’t the lounge type, and we hadn’t really eaten a proper dinner, so we ended up going to the Jambo House and going to one of their restaurants that was open late, The Mara. I think the place we were staying in, Kidani Lodge, has more suites so it’s quieter, whereas Jambo House has a more typical hotel feel, is much larger, has more pool area, and much more restaurants/common areas.

The Mara ended up being FANTASTIC! Our family was really happy with what we got – African Potije which was really just like a curry and ONLY $8.50!!!, a Braai Chicken flatbread which was basically like chicken w pesto sauce, a pulled pork BBQ sandwich, and a drink. Turns out the drinks have a RFID chip in them so it knows how many times you refill – you can refill 3x in a 24 hour span. Once we found this out, it felt like we were required to get 3 refills, so I made my brother make a half and half to go, and I basically chugged one serving’s worth of half and half at the table.

Another delightful thing that happened here – near us, a lady was celebrating her birthday and she had gotten a chocolate mousse cake, and was going around offering it to people! We politely declined but only once because we definitely wanted that cake!!! It was delicious, especially because it was a perfect serving size for us four. So kind of her! I’m certain her room would have had a fridge too, so it was really nice of her to want to share it with others.

Then back to our hotel for sleep! Next day was … resort day!

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