Walt Disney Adventures: Part I | Eastern North Carolina Now

Walt Disney Adventures: Part I, Animal Kingdom

    Whether one loads up the family into the minivan and heads down Interstate 95, or they pile into the SUV and head down Interstate 75 to the sunshine state of Florida, what they have in common is that they're heading south ... deep south: where the air is hot, the men well fed and the women are better looking. Where the hordes often congregate is Central Florida, and there are advantages. Advantages such as: Interstate 75 and Interstate 95 converge at Orlando, the accommodations are plentiful, and there is much to do for energetic folks.

    In and around the Orlando area, there is a plethora of theme parks; most notable among them are Sea World, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Disney World. Disney World is by far the largest in the area, as it is, as far as theme parks go, in the world, with its four separate theme parks, two separate water parks and bustling Downtown Disney, which is a "pay as you play" theme park unto itself.
    In this narrative, we will focus on Disney World, which, of course, was at the heart of my family's central Florida vacation. When we recently visited Disney World, we stayed minutes away in southern Orlando / Kissimmee area at the Sheraton Vistana. The Vistana is a gated time share, with a variety of accommodations, including but not limited to; one, two and three bedroom condominiums and two and three bedroom villas. At the Vistana, there are a number of pools, game rooms; activity based common areas, and health clubs. Our accommodations at the Sheraton Vistana were the 2 bedroom condominium, with a moderate sized kitchen, adjoining eating area and moderate sized living room with a balcony. The two bedrooms were spacious, so much so the second bedroom had two double beds, and the master featured a large jacuzzi across from the king size bed.

   Our vacation plan was to enjoy the parks at Disney World one day, and take a break and hang out at the resort the next day. Some time earlier, I had secured park jumper passes for the family for a specified number of days that can be used over an unlimited time. This was our second vacation on some of these passes and we have discovered that we truly enjoy the flexibility that they afforded us.

   To maximize our effectiveness, on the Disney day, we would leave as early, as it is humanly possible for young women to ready themselves, to be among the swirling multitudes that occupy these parks. Our drive to each park was only minutes away, with the Animal Kingdom being the farthest away, which is the park that we first visited. The Animal Kingdom is a planning and design masterpiece in its effort to remain a natural wonder, where animals and the cultural facsimile of the continents of Asia and Africa meet the visiting throng. The folks that visit this park go for reasons; not least of which is the roller coaster, Expedition Everest. The coaster is housed within a vastly scaled down replica of a Himalayan mountain that, within it, contains the Yeti. The ride, in which even my wife found the courage to venture forth on, has some thrilling and mostly thematic turns: including at one point when the coaster car screeches to an abrupt stop at a dead end of broken tangled track, and then proceeds in retracing its path backwards. The virtual snow capped replica can be seen from almost any vantage from throughout the park.

    Within close proximity of Expedition Everest is the rough water of Kali River Rapids, which is, as anyone who has spent a hot, humid day in central Florida, a welcome relief from the often oppressive heat. The cure: a misty, often water drenched ride along rumbling rapids of the replicated Kali River, complete with water falls, stone temple statues and lost loggers as you bounce and bob in the Burmese rain forest.

    A short trek from the river ride is the Maharajah Jungle Trek; it is a self guided tour of the native wildlife among the majestic murals, and ruins reminiscent of Southeast Asia. In this natural environment of the indigenous flora, it is a visual and olfactory paradise, featuring Komodo dragon, tigers and a variety of gigantic bats hanging around. It is a harmonious and exotic mix of bright beautiful colors and birds of all descriptions. If one was to close their eyes, listen to the shrieking call of these exotic birds and enjoy the wonderful scents, one could easily imagine being on a long walk in a distant jungle.
< br>     In keeping with the natural motif, there is a rich variety of Asian monkeys, literally hanging around, above the patrons of the park in the area occupied by the vendors of concessions. Their humorous antics lend obvious credence to the descriptive phrase monkey business.

   Leaving the monkeys, the tigers and the wild rides that complete even the most eclectic of theme parks, the wife and my two big girls walk toward the center of the park and the Tree of Life. Like Expedition Everest, the Tree of Life is easily visible throughout the park and to the Imagineers of Disney World; it is as thematic as it is visible. The theme of the Animal Kingdom is maintaining the environment so we might continue our planet as a going concern.

Bengal Tiger resting amongst the western Asian ruins: above. Komodo Dragon just around the corner: below.     photos by Stan Deatherage

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