The Yak and the Yeti

The Yak and the Yeti

Disney’s Animal Kingdom isn’t quite a zoo but isn’t exactly an amusement park either. It’s a sort of mash-up of the two. I recall the park feeling a tad sparse when we visited on our honeymoon. Since I wasn’t feeling well, we only spent a half day there and I didn’t feel we missed anything. That was nearly ten years ago, however, and they seem to have filled the park nicely since then.

It was hot as blazes the entire time Rowena and I were in Florida, however our day at Animal Kingdom was the easiest to navigate because there’s shade everywhere. I suppose it makes sense, since there are animals living at various places throughout the park. Not to mention the entire theme centers around nature. It’s amazing how eliminating direct sunlight can help you deal with the heat.

We started the day with a trip to the African Safari. I always recommend hitting that ride first thing after the park opens, since the animals may still be awake and moving. They’re likely to be sleeping if you visit later in the day. This is particularly effective if you’re staying on resort and can get in to the park early. Despite not having such a luxury, this was one of the best safari rides I’ve ever been on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many elephants moving around, including a mother and her baby! We were also privileged to see both a black and a brown rhino (our guide told us that black rhinos are very rarely seen in the wild), as well as many of both types of giraffe that inhabit the sanctuary. Other highlights included a sunning lioness and a momma warthog with her babies!

After the safari, we decided to settle in to an air-conditioned building for brunch and a chance to compare photos of all the wildlife we saw. We stumbled upon the Yak and Yeti restaurant (from which this post gets its title). Considering how hard it can be to find restaurants with free space in the Disney parks, we were surprised and pleased to be seated right away. We sampled some fine Asian cuisine among many Asian artifacts, including this mysterious instrument which our librarian friend later identified as an Arabic astrolabe.

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My favorite addition to the Animal Kingdom park is the Expedition Everest roller coaster. I was expecting a normal, average roller coaster, but it’s actually a clever blending of traditional coaster with screen animation, one of the best uses of the technology I’ve ever encountered.

Before stopping by all the prime photo spots in the park, we got our faces painted. Rowena got a peacock mask, while I asked for an oriental dragon (something which isn’t included on the sign posts). Luckily for me, not only were the face painters super nice about the request, but the girl who painted my face had been waiting all day to paint a dragon! He was super cute too! We both managed to sleep carefully enough to preserve the face paint for an extra day. In fact, since the face painting is done with theater paint (which is pretty sturdy stuff), we probably could have made it last a third day, but we were both keen to be able to scratch our faces again.

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We cut out early to return to Epcot for more international taste-testing, but not because we found the Animal Kingdom lacking. As with Epcot, one of my favorite things about Animal Kingdom is that it’s not just about the entertainment. The park takes up some 500 acres, with most of it dedicated to wildlife habitat. Many of the shows, and even the Safari ride, dedicate part of the show to talk about wildlife preservation and the needs of endangered species, making the experience as much about education as entertainment.

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