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Disney's Animal Kingdom® Park So I went to DAK.

Discussion in 'United States' started by groundskeeper24, 15 Sep 2014.

  1. groundskeeper24

    groundskeeper24 Well-Known Member

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    After the birth of my son last year, my new zoo consumption has been non existent. That changed this past week when we spent some time in Orlando, and i naturally gravitated toward Animal Kingdom.

    Everyone's got an opinion on this place, and it seems that few are alike. I went in a relatively dead season for Disney crowds, so this was a tremendous help.

    From an animal exhibit standpoint, most are quite good. Some are possibly the best of their kind. Pagani Forest trail is outstanding, but I unfortunately did not see all of it b/c it was partially closed off. The gorilla habitats were amazing and lush, just as other Zoochatters have said. I found the Colobus enclosure to be nothing special, and the meerkat setup was terrific. It was so large that they were difficult to spot at first glance.

    Kilimanjaro Safaris is another great exhibit, but perhaps not as great as I was expecting. There's no way that the ride lasted 30 minutes as the guide suggested. It seemed much shorter. Also, while there are many species of hoofed stock on the guide displayed on the bus, you'll likely not see them all. I was very much looking forward to seeing sable antelope, and they were nowhere to be found. No duikers or okapis, either. Add that to no gerenuk in Pagani, and that's a bit of a bust for me. While the proximity of the animals was better, as well as the landscaping, I think I enjoyed Busch's Journey into Africa just as much. The fact that I can see all of the different species their is a major advantage for Busch, on top of the fact that many of the animals there can be viewed for a much longer period of time. Don't get me wrong, it's a must see. Animals literally can come right up to the vehicle. We has a giraffe standing just a few feet from the bus, as well as an ostrich that stalked us all the way though it's exhibit. One very positive thing about his ride is the large groups of huge animals like hippos, rhinos, and elephants. I doubt that many zoos have the space to do what Disney does with these species and still make it look great.

    Maharajah Jungle Trek was another great complex with terrific exhibits. Komodos, flying foxes, blackbuck, Eld's deer, and birds set the table for the featured species, the tiger. All enclosures are top-notch here. My only complaint is that they didn't do more with it species-wise. A company with Disney's deep pockets could do better IMO. Megefauna like Indian rhinos, tapirs or even gaur would be a help to this complex. A primate would also be great. Given the Disney connection with The Jungle Book, I was a bit surprised to see no bears, leopards, monkeys, wolves, pythons, or orangutans in the mix here.

    Discovery Island and the Oasis are the other main animal exhibits here, with a few stragglers around the parks such as gibbons in the Asian zone and American crocs and Burmese mountain tortoises in Dinoland USA. Much of the exhibitry in these areas consists of bird displays, which are all well done. Exceptions are lushly planted homes for rhino iguanas, babirusas, giant anteaters, small-clawed otters, and some huge shark catfish. The babirusa and anteater setups may be the best I've seen for the species.

    All in all, I'd give DAK very positive marks. I'm with fellow Zoochatters who dislike the breakneck speed of Kilimanjaro, but it's not my biggest beef. My issue is the lack of species diversity form an institution that's capable of more than any zoo in the US, possibly on the planet Earth. There are so many theme parks in the Orlando area that you could spend a month there and still miss a few. Why not focus on the animal aspect of the park instead of building a new Avatar area? You can see Tranformers, Harry Potter, Marvel, Legos, Mickey Mouse, and Star Wars experiences just minutes from
    DAK. Why does anyone need another movie-themed park zone? I'd rather see an expansion of the Asian Zone or a South American area added. As a zoo geek, perhaps this sentiment is particular only to people like me, but I wish DAK went in the direction of the old SDZ rather than SDZ trying to become more like DAK. Lord only knows what it could become if Disney concentrated it's efforts and resources into building the best zoo it possibly could.
     
    Last edited: 15 Sep 2014
  2. zoomaniac

    zoomaniac Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely agree with you. Still, the way Disney is going was and is the financial way. That means that an Avatarland, as a unique thing, will bring more people into the park then tapirs, leopards or orang-utans... unfortunately.

    By the way: I prefere Kilimandjaro ride at Disney against the safari train ride at Busch Gardens, because the view isn't disturb by roller coasters and other stuff and you can see a bigger variety of animals.
     
  3. groundskeeper24

    groundskeeper24 Well-Known Member

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    Oh, I undertand. I just didn't have the same kid in a candy store experience that I did at Busch. They just have so many animals that I don't see much of at zoos anymore. I saw hyenas, the last cape buffalo that I know of in the eastern US, sable antelope, nyala, and countless other antelope species on my visit. It's the most I've seen since I visited San Diego in 1996. All were in fine exhibits as well.

    I'm sure Disney has a fine hoofed stock collection, but apparently 100 bucks doesn't buy you a chance to see it all as 80 does at Busch.

    I do agree about the design of the exhibit hiding the rest of the park. Disney doesn't quite have the same number of rides to conceal as Busch does, but it's still a very immersive experience. Maharajah, Kilimanjaro, and Pagani all do a great job of making you feel like you're somewhere other than a theme park.
     
  4. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the review. A quick note on the Asia jungle trek - there was a Malayan tapir there until relatively recently (where the muntjac is now I think?); I'm not sure why they don't still have the species.
     
  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    A very nice and balanced review. Finally another ZooChatter besides me who is less than thrilled with DAK. In my opinion it is the biggest ripoff in the zoo world, but everyone else on this site is enamored with this overpriced park. Busch Gardens is better than Animal Kingdom for one very simple reason - you can walk on your own and actually see the savanna. If DAK made an overlook onto the Kilmanjaro Safari the park would instantly become three times better.
     
  6. tschandler71

    tschandler71 Well-Known Member

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    Another DAK review that doesn't mention the lodge - its free, you can look at your own pace, and you see a ton of species.

    Ankole Cattle
    Bongo
    Blesbok
    Common Eland
    Grant's Zebra
    Greater Kudu
    Impala
    Giraffe
    Thomson's Gazelle
    Waterbuck
    Wildebeest
    Roan Antelope
    Red River Hog
    Okapi
    Ground Hornbills
    Blue Crane
    Crowned Cranes
    Flamingos
    Marabou Stork
    Ostrich
    Pink Backed Pelican
    Griffon Vulture

    Where else can you see a selection like that for free?
     
  7. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed it during my May 2014 trip, but I am also a Disney fan. If I went purely to see animals, then yes, it would be a disappointment. Great exhibits, but I would love to see more animals. I did love the safari ride, but it is a challenge to get good photos. And unless you go at opening or closing, you're going to need a fastpass unless you want to wait in a long line. I also enjoyed the bird show.

    The above post has a great suggestion about seeing those animals at the lodge resorts. I had dinner at Sanaa and had a great view. However, I viewed it for free an hour before dinner as well.
     
  8. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    Avatar will be relevant. From everything I hear it will dovetail perfectly with the spirit and message of the Animal Kingdom. This will also help build the audience for the park, and because it does not involve live animals it will allow the park to operate during evening hours, which are both things yet another animal attraction would not.
     
  9. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    You left off the Hartmann's mountain zebra and Somali wild ass.
     
  10. Specialist Elbr

    Specialist Elbr Member

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    This is one of my main gripes about most "for profit zoos", even those accredited with AZA. It seems that they will always want to draw in more people regardless of whether the experiences is truly educational or not. Yes a zoo is suppose to be entertaining, but also educational. IMHO when a zoo moves towards entertainment, I find it a detraction. I am ok with a train/tram and an old fashion carousel, but once you go beyond that it feel it detracts from the purpose of the zoo.

    It seems that when it comes to Publicly traded companies (in the US) it is almost inevitable that the attractions become more important to the park than the animals. I'm sure there are whole threads on zoochat dedicated to that discussion.

    PS. OOPS I seam to have posted without knowing what I was talking about. I did not even realize that DAK stood for Disney Animal Kingdom. From reading groundskeeper24's post, it seemed like like a Disney version of Busch Gardens or Seaworld. I next time, I'll Google before shooting my mouth off.
     
    Last edited: 16 Sep 2014
  11. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    Two quick points:

    1) DAK is not a zoo, it's visitor base and psychology is very different than what you get at zoos.

    2) Increasing is not just about the bottom line, the more people who spin your turnstile the more people are exposed to your message.
     
  12. wensleydale

    wensleydale Well-Known Member

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    Even though this isn't a zoo, this sounds like the most interesting park in the whole Disney World. I went to Disney World on a high school band trip, and this to me sounded like the only park that was worth spending 12 hours at (guess which one we didn't go to?) because I like to really wallow in whatever exhibits I see, and 12 hours is a good amount of time to do that. You probably had a much better time here than I did at Disney's MGM or Whatever they are calling it now. It was the least interesting of the parks I visited (2 hours of things to do, 12 hours [somewhere in that vicinity] spent there), so needless to say we spent the most time there.
     
  13. Tim Brown

    Tim Brown Well-Known Member

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    Qh come on now...DAK not a zoo? Exotic animals held in confinement for public delectation- at a price. That's a zoo in my book.What next ?The Empire State Building isn't a skyscraper? Hoover isn't a dam? I fully appreciate that Disney decided to test and expand the parameters of the zoo experience(in the name of profit incidentally) but they were in no different a place in doing that than Carl Hagenbeck over a hundred years ago...and he built a zoo,pure and simple.
     
  14. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    You are taking zoo to the most basic definition, and at that I suppose you are right. However, while most zoos are at most, regional attractions, DAK has a broader audience with completely different motivations for visiting. The point being, you can not judge business decisions made by DAK through the lens of a local zoo. Things that will increase visitorship in a zoo will not necessarily have an identical effect in an animal based theme park. If you visit DAK expecting a zoo, chances are you will be disappointed because DAK was not designed for you. It was designed for a theme park audience.
     
  15. Tim Brown

    Tim Brown Well-Known Member

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    Ive been to DAK..spent the day with an employee who explained all in fact,at no point did it strike me as not being a zoo.In Europe places such as Hannover,Pairi Daiza,Gelsenkirchen have very much embraced the Disney ethos.. and no-one would dream of describing them as anything other than zoo....Zoos change and evolve,Disney is a part of that, but until we have "The Mickey Mouse " immersion exhibit then its a zoo as far as im concerned.
     
  16. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    Oh so Hannover is spending tens of millions of dollars on an expansion that will feature no live animals whatsoever with the intention of increasing attendance? Not something that would make much sense at a "zoo" would it? That is the crux of the operational difference I'm trying to point out.
     
  17. Tim Brown

    Tim Brown Well-Known Member

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    But that doesn't mean its not a zoo,the old Manchester Zoo(Belle Vue) was two-thirds amusement park but it was still the second largest collection in the UK for many years and regarded as a zoo.There are many instances of suchlike around the world - whatever their motivations they hold non-domestics in captivity to be viewed/enjoyed by the public,grass will stop growing in green before that circumstance isn't a zoo!
     
  18. groundskeeper24

    groundskeeper24 Well-Known Member

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    I'd call it a zoo. Heck, there are places in the photo gallery and still others that warrant threads in the discussion forums that I'd consider less zoo-ish than DAK.

    FWIW, I asked my wife this very question as we were leaving the park. She's only a zoo nerd by marriage and could take or leave them otherwise. Her opinion was that it absolutely was a zoo.

    IMO there are several unofficial categories of zoos. There are urban zoos, wildlife parks, amusement park zoos, roadside zoos, game farms, reptile zoos, aviaries, aquariums, and probably a dozen or so others I can't think of.
     
  19. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    You are pleased to call it whatever you please, the point is that if you judge it with the same mindset as your local zoo, you are missing the point. That's not what they are trying to be, so necessarily they would not compare well to what a zoo goer is used to.

    Attempting to get away from pointless debates of a symmantical nature and returning to my original point, adding new animal trails at this juncture would not aid them in furthering their goals. What they need is to increase the park's hourly capacity and its ability to increase the hours the park is open. This is precisely what the Avatar project is aimed to do. Once that has been accomplished, further down the road a new geographic trail may make sense. In the meantime you can expect them to engage in smaller projects that are designed to enhance their existing live animal programs and displays.

    PS Will a moderator please move this to the DAK forum?
     
  20. elefante

    elefante Well-Known Member

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    Does Orlando have a zoo? I agree that it would be nice to see DAK focus on animals instead of something dumb like Avatar.