Although I’m a big fan, the Wild Africa Trek isn’t the only trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In my role as an education manager, I love to see and participate in the unique interactions that guests have with cast members on 3 self-guided animal areas. I like to call these areas “Treks & Trails” and they include Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail in Africa and last, but certainly not least, Rafiki’s Planet Watch (a member of the “trails” family). These areas provide a great opportunity for guests to find additional animals, but also offer something for everyone. Don’t believe me? Check out the list below and let me know what you think!
1. For the Hidden Mickey enthusiast: Did you know there are Hidden Mickeys on murals on Maharajah Jungle Trek and Rafiki’s Planet Watch? Take your time as you search (or ask a friendly cast member for assistance)! Can you find the Hidden Mickeys in the photos below?
2. For the cultural aficionado: Cultural Representatives create an authentic atmosphere in both Africa and Asia. Cultural representatives have a unique role because their main assignment each day is to share information about themselves. While chatting with a cultural representative, guests can learn about their culture, home and leisure activities, food and more! You’re bound to learn something and you might even be inspired to take a trip around the world.
3. For the artistic eye: World Showcase at Epcot isn’t the only place to find beautiful works of art almost identical to the models in their respective countries and continents. The unique murals, carvings and structures are also amazing and definitely worth a look. The attention to detail is amazing!
4. For those who like to have the “inside scoop”: Get an “authorized” peek backstage!
Whether you’re interested in the backstage animal areas (if so, the Backstage Safari might be the perfect tour for you!) or you’re wondering what “reimagining this area for your future enjoyment” really means, The Wildlife Express Train provides the best of both worlds. Guests get a backstage look at animal areas on their way to Conservation Station and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. On the way back to the Village of Harambe, guests can get a quick glimpse of the work being done to expand offerings in the land of Africa.
5. For the animal lover: Tigers, okapi and snakes, oh my! Multiple viewing areas in Maharajah Jungle Trek help you find tigers all around! Don’t let the water fool you! Tigers are excellent swimmers contrary to popular belief based on their domesticated cousins, the housecat. Can you spot the hidden okapi? They’re not called the “Ghosts of the Forest” for nothing, so keep an eye out for their striped hind legs strolling between the trees. Let’s not forget our cold-blooded friends. Get up close through the amphibian, reptile and invertebrate windows filled with tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes, lizards, eels and snakes! Find these animals and more along your way!
6. For those whose motto is “slow and steady wins the race”: Take your time! The treks and trails are self-guided tours, so you can stop and enjoy nature for as long as your heart (or the leader of your herd) desires!
7. For the prospective Wilderness Explorer: Becoming a Wilderness Explorer is no easy task! Only the diligent can proudly claim this title, and even then, it takes many more than one day to earn over 30 badges! 14 badges can be earned along the 3 treks and trails, so if becoming a Wilderness Explorer is your goal, we’ll see you soon!
8. For the aspiring conservation hero: As their names imply, Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Conservation Station are all about conservation education. Did you know some domestic animals are endangered? Did you also know that by donating to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund you’re helping protect wildlife and wild places around the world?!
9. For the mythical creature believer: Dragons! Komodo dragons that is. Did you know the Komodo dragon can track his prey up to a mile away and eat 80 percent of its body weight?! They can be found on the Maharajah Jungle Trek (weather permitting) and at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Would you believe me if I told you we also had mermaids at Rafiki’s Planet Watch? Technically we do! Greater sirens can be found in this area as well. Although they don’t look like the mermaid you were probably thinking of, in Latin, the word “siren” means mermaid, so take a look on your next visit and let us know if you see the resemblance.
10. For the Character fanatic: Meet Chip & Dale, Rafiki and more! Chip & Dale love the trails and are frequently found ready to explore in their adventure gear. Rafiki has been spotted near his equally wise counterpart, Grandmother Willow in Conservation Station as they share conservation messages to save their homelands. Who else have you found along the trails?
11. For the future veterinarian or zoo keeper: Watch live animal procedures and talk to animal keepers after live shows at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Animal keepers are actively caring for the animals throughout the day, so they are a great source of information if your paths cross!
These are just some of the amazing reasons the “Treks & Trails” should be on your must-do list during your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Once you take time to explore, you’ll find much more to do, see, hear and explore!
See you real soon