Discovery Island Trails at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Jack Spence Masthead

Before I begin today’s blog, I need to bring you up to speed on an incident that occurred last month. After the Animal Kingdom had closed, a small branch (approximately 5 pounds) fell from the Tree of Life. It landed in an uninhabited area and no persons or animals were harmed. As a safety precaution, Disney closed “It’s Tough to be a Bug” and the Discovery Island Trails while the experts determined why this happened and check the remaining limbs. “It’s Tough to be a Bug” has since reopened and portions of the Discovery Island Trails are once again accessible. However, several of these pathways are being retrofitted with a protective covering.

Protected Pathways

In order to give myself some cushion, I write my blogs 4 to 6 weeks in advance. I photographed and wrote this blog several days before this incident occurred. Because of this, some of the Tree of Life photographic vantage points I discussed may not be available in the future.

In past blogs, I have commented that it frustrates me when I hear people say that the Animal Kingdom is a half-day park. It is only a half-day park if you skip half of the attractions. Some people seem to think that after they’ve ridden Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Dinosaur, and seen Festival of the Lion King, that nothing else is worthy of their attention. This makes me sad. The Animal Kingdom is about more than rides and shows — it’s about nature and animals. And that’s where today’s blog comes in.

I suspect that many of you have never experienced the Discovery Island Trails. Now I admit, part of this is Disney’s fault. They haven’t marked all of these trails with signs. But this was done intentionally. The Imagineers wanted guests to “discover” these hidden areas as if they were out hiking in the real world. They hoped that guests would explore and uncover the magic of the Animal Kingdom.

The first area of exploration can be found at the foot of the bridge that leads from The Oasis to Discovery Island. This area is marked by a sign, which upon first glance, could be mistaken for an old tree stump. But upon further investigation, you’ll discover it complements the Tree of Life as it has a number of animals ingeniously carved into its surface. You are now entering the “Tree of Life Garden.”

Tree of Life Garden

Tree of Life Garden

The Tree of Life Garden offers some of the best vantage points for photographing the Tree of Life. Kodak agrees and has marked this spot appropriately. Notice the head of the Lady Bug on the Kodak sign is a camera.

Tree of Life

Kodak Sign

Before we go any further, I want to remind everyone, DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS. This includes the native Floridian birds and squirrels that have made the Animal Kingdom their home.

Do Not Feed the Animals

There are a number of animals to discover in this area, the first is the Cotton-Top Tamarin. This cute little primate is native to South America. They are among the smallest of the primates and communicate with chirping sounds, whistles, and high-pitched trilling. Unfortunately, they are highly endangered due to deforestation. It’s estimated that only about 6,000 remain in the wild.

Cotton-Top Tamarin

Disney places colorful markers near each animal. These signs identify the creature and provide a few interesting facts about its behavior — in rhyme. That’s right; these informational markers are written in verse. This makes them perfect for a parent to read to a child.

Animal Information Sign

Here is the verse for the Cotton-Top Tamarin:

When we are born,
(We’re usually twins),
It’s truly a family event.
Our mom keeps us fed,
And dad gives us treats,
Sweet fruit just to
Keep us content.

I’m carried by parents and siblings,
Right from the very first day.
It’s part of our family values,
The cotton-top tamarin way.

At the base of the Tree of Life is the home of the West African Crowned Crane. These birds have an unusual method of scavenging for food. As they walk, they pound their feet on the ground. This startles nearby insects, causing them to jump into the air. The crane then catches the bugs before they fall back to earth.

West African Crowned Crane

Also in this same area is the White Stork. This migratory bird travels between Europe and Africa, but avoids flying over the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, it opts for a route over the Straits of Gibraltar. When returning to Europe, they seek out the same nest year after year.

White Stork

As we leave the Tree of Life Garden and travel up the pathway leading to Africa, we come to a nicely shaded area. This is the spot to view the Lesser Flamingo. Found primarily in Southern Africa and parts of Southern Asia, the Lesser Flamingo number in the millions and is the smallest of all the flamingo species. Their pink color comes from the carotene in the shrimp they eat.

Flamingo View Area

Lesser Flamingo

Lesser Flamingo

A little further up the walkway is one of my favorite animal viewing spots. It is at this location that you can see the Asian Small-Clawed Otter. There are actually two viewing spots to observe these cute animals. One is located outside where you can watch them romp on their island and swim above water. The other viewing area is found within a cave and offers views of the otters swimming underwater.

Otter Viewing Area

Otter Viewing Area

The Animal Kingdom is home to two Asian Small-Clawed Otters who happen to be brother and sister. These animals hunt by detecting movement in the water with their whiskers. Besides eating fish, they dine on crustaceans, mollusks, and amphibians.

Asian Small-Clawed Otters

Asian Small-Clawed Otters

Four times a day, a trainer enters the otter enclosure and encourages them to perform rudimentary tasks. This is the perfect time to get some great pictures. The training times are not posted so if you’re interested in seeing one of these sessions, check with guest relations for the current schedule.

Otter Training

As we venture further up the path toward Africa, we come to the first of two nearly hidden pathway entrances. It is located on the right side of the walkway (closest to the Tree of Life) and is recognizable as this is a wide spot in the road and populated with a few tables and chairs. Occasionally, Flik and Princess Atta from the movie “A Bug’s Life” can be seen in this area posing for pictures.

Discovery Trail Entrance

Discovery Trail Entrance

At the beginning of this trail, a Paroon Shark-Catfish can be spotted on the left side of the walkway. This fish is native to Southeast Asia and are so named because of the dorsal fin on its back. They can grow to six feet in length and weigh as much as 650 pounds.

Paroon Shark-Catfish

This path doesn’t offer many animal viewing spots, but it does wind its way around the Tree of Life and through some beautifully landscaped gardens. There are a number of benches along this path where you can stop, relax, and soak in the surroundings.

Discovery Trail

Discovery Trail

Discovery Trail

Discovery Trail

Discovery Trail

This path also travels beneath the boughs of the Tree of Life and presents a number of great photo opportunities. I have found that close-up shots of the carvings can be especially interesting.

Tree of Life

Dragon Fly

Seahorse

Squirrel

Ant

One of the animals that can be found along this pathway is the Red Kangaroo. Native to Australia, the Red Kangaroo is the largest surviving marsupial and the biggest indigenous Australian mammal. Although controversial, the kangaroo is harvested for their skins and meat. Kangaroo meat is very lean with only about 2% fat.

Red Kangaroo

The far end of this trail deposits you near the entrance to the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. But before we discuss this show, we’re going to retrace our steps and head back toward Africa.

The second Discovery Island trail is equally difficult to find. It is located just south of the bridge that leads into Africa and once again, can be recognized as a wide spot in the road.

Trail Entrance

The first animal we encounter along this trail is the Saddle-billed Stork. These birds make their home in sub-Saharan Africa and are the tallest of all the stork species (although not the heaviest). I was intrigued to learn that the males and females can be differentiated by their eye color. Male Saddle-billed Storks have brown eyes while the females have yellow.

Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork - Male

Saddle-billed Stork - Female

Located nearby is the Painted Stork who lives along the swampy shores of Discovery River. This bird gets its name from its pink tail feathers. Found in India and Southeast Asia, the Painted Stork is very social and will often intermingle their nests with those of cormorants, ibises, spoonbills, and herons.

Painted Stork

Still in the same vicinity is the African Crested Porcupine. This member of the rodent family uses its quills as its defense. When threatened, the porcupine will charge its attacker, rear-end first, trying to stab him with his quills. These attacks have been known to kill lions, leopards, hyenas, and even humans. The African Crested Porcupine is nocturnal, so if you happen to see him during your journeys through the Discovery Island Trails, consider yourself lucky.

African Crested Porcupine

Further along this trail we come to a viewing area for the Nene Goose and the Giant Galapagos Tortoise.

Animal Viewing Area

The Nene Goose (pronounced ney-ney) is the state bird of Hawaii and makes its nest within the crevasses of lava rock. The Nene evolved from the Canada Goose which is believed to have migrated to the Hawaiian Islands 500,000 years ago, shortly after the island of Hawaiʻi was formed.

Nene Goose

The Giant Galapagos Tortoise is the largest species of the tortoise family and can weigh up to 800 pounds. In the wild, these predator-free animals can live over 100 years. In captivity, one such tortoise lived 170 years.

Giant Galapagos Tortoise

As we continue along our trail, we come to a large waterfall. Its mist is especially refreshing during the summer months.

Waterfall

This is another good spot to take some close-up pictures of the animals carved into the Tree of Life.

Orangutan

Lion

Monkey

Owl

Turkey

It’s at this point the trail joins in with the exit route of the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. If you reach this area as the show is letting out, stand back and wait for the crowd to clear. Although there are no animal lookouts on this remaining portion of the trail, it is beautifully landscaped and if you’re mixed in with the departing throngs, you’ll miss much of this area.

Near the end of the trail is an offshoot pathway. It is marked by a sign that reads “MEET THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW“ and refers to the bugs seen in the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. At the end of this secondary path is a secluded area where a cast member will spend some one-on-one time with you discussing various insects.

MEET THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW

MEET THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW

MEET THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW

MEET THE REAL STARS OF THE SHOW

This area opens at 10am and highlights a number of bugs throughout the day. When I visited, a tarantula and giant cockroach were on display. William was manning this post and he spent several minutes talking with us about these two insects and helped us understand the role they play in nature. He also discussed several of the “no longer active” insects on display.

Giant Cockroach

Tarantula

Display Bug

For those of you squeamish about bugs, don’t worry. They are enclosed in special cages for their safety and yours.

The insects only spend about two hours in the display area before they are taken backstage and replaced with new species. The insects are delicate and extended observation time can be stressful for them. During their time in the public, ice packs are placed under their cages (on hot days) and the temperature of their enclosures is constantly monitored.

Bug Enclosure

Another display in this area is giant insect heads. Kids can place their faces inside these heads and look through the creature’s compound eyes and get a good idea of how a bug sees the world.

Bug Head

Bug Head

To help children get more out of the Animal Kingdom, Disney has created the Kid’s Discovery Club. Within each “land” of the park are Activity Stations where kids are introduced to educational games and fascinating encounters. These locations are marked with a “K” on the park guide maps. The Bug Encounter mentioned above is the Discovery Island location.

After finishing their first activity, children will be given a membership card with that location stamped. As they visit other Activity Stations, they receive additional stamps. Once they collect all 6 stamps, they can receive a special bonus for completing all the activities. This is a great way to get kids involved in the Animal Kingdom and it makes learning fun.

Kid's Discovery Club

Kid's Discovery Club

As we continue our clockwise circle around the Tree of Life there are several other inlets and short pathways that offer animal encounters. One of these features the Ring-Tailed Lemur. This little guy is native to Madagascar. His species is highly social with females being the dominate sex. The Ring-Tailed Lemur is extremely intelligent and can understand basic arithmetic operations and tools based on function.

Ring-Tailed Lemur

The Lappet-Faced Vulture is native to Africa. Like many other species of vultures, this variety has a bald head. This is because its head would get bloody while eating and it would be difficult to keep clean.

DIT%20063.jpg

Continuing on, we reach the entrance to the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction. This show recently discontinued FastPass and the ticket distribution machines have been removed. This area is now used as a character meet-and-greet spot. Currently appearing are Russell and Dug from the Disney/Pixar movie “Up.”

Russell and Dug

I have only mentioned about half of the animals that can be discovered around the Tree of life. Here is a somewhat complete list of all the creatures awaiting your attention in this area:

Abdim’s Stork
African Comb Duck
Agouti
Asian Small-clawed Otter
Axis Deer
Blue & Yellow Macaw
Cape Teal
Capybara
Demoiselle Crane
East African Crowned Crane
European Polecat
Eyton’s Whistling Duck
Galapagos Tortoise
Greater Flamingo
Green-winged Macaw
Hadada Ibis
Red Kangaroo
Ring-tailed Lemur
Saddle-billed Stork
Salmon-crested Cockatoo
Silver Teal
White Stork
White-faced Whistling Duck
Woolynecked Stork
Wood Stork

I know I can be a harpy on this subject, but the Animal Kingdom is definitely a place to slow down and smell the roses. I spent almost three hours along the Discovery Island Trails researching this blog and taking pictures. Now I realize, no casual visitor would ever spend this much time in this area. But I do think it’s possible to spend the better part of an hour viewing the animals and talking with cast members in this area.

When I was photographing the Giant Galapagos Tortoise, one family approached the area in a straggled manner. Dad was the first to see the tortoise and said to the group, “Hey everyone, come look at the giant turtle.” Everyone ran over, uttered a few “wows” and “cool” then they were on their way in less than 30 seconds. Somehow I imagine that they won’t even remember this encounter once they return home.

Expedition Everest is a fantastic, not-to-be-missed attraction! But so are the animals. Once you discover the animals of the Animal Kingdom, you’ll learn that this is definitely NOT a half-day park.

Next week I’ll be discussing the Tree of Life and the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction.

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43 Replies to “Discovery Island Trails at Disney’s Animal Kingdom”

  1. I’m right there with you Jack! A very big pet peeve of mine is when I hear someone say that they only spend a few hours at AK during a visit because it doesn’t have much to offer. I can’t imagine spending less than 2 days there during a typical visit of a week or more! Don’t get me wrong I LOVE the attractions, however, to me the animals are the MAIN attraction. We have watched the gorillas for hours. We stood in front of the observation window at “Conservation Station” for more than an hour waiting for them to bring in a tiger for examination. We had a vet informing us of everything that was taking place, before her arrival, as well as during the exam. An experience I will never forget!

  2. Thanks for another dynamite blog.
    My sister in law (Dr. of Biology) and I could spend days at Animal Kingdom Park and never get tired of it. Although it is VERY hard to corral an over-excited young nephew, we manage to make time for at least the “otter trail” as he calls it when we first get to Animal Kingdom and usually make time for the rest of the Discovery trails on the way out of the park. The last time we were there as a family, my Mom was in a wheel chair, so we really appreciated the lack of crowds and the cooler/shadier parts of this area of the park.
    We also love the other animal trails as well (tigers, bats and naked mole rats, oh my), listening to the various musical groups, the drums, Kilimanjaro, the Yak & Yeti and the Kali River Rapids, Everest (and the smoothies at the Royal Anandapur Tea Co for an overheated cranky boy!). I could go on and on. The last time I was there alone, I did the Wild Africa Trek and that was fantastic!!!
    So I say to those who still believe that the Animal Kingdom park is a half day park, then fine, skedaddle, and make more room for the people who really love this park!!

  3. Because I studied the Disney parks for months before we went the first time (2007), I did know about the trails around the Tree of Life. But even though I had pictures to prove it, there were still people who said I didn’t know what I was talking about. Even a CM told me there were no trails other than the Tree of Life Garden! However, I did not know about “Meet the Real Stars of the Show” so now I have something new for my next trip. We get a 10-day ticket and hit AK at least three or four times for a full morning during our visits. We’ve never been to evening EMH there, but hope to do that in the future. Evening EMH seems to not be scheduled regularly.

    Jack’s Comment:

    You were very smart to research Disney World before your first trip. You can’t believe how many people arrive here and don’t have a clue of all there is to see and do.

    Walt Disney World is so big and offers so much, many cast members are not aware of everything. They would never knowingly provide misinformation, but it happens occasionally. So don’t always take a CM’s word for something. If you think you’re correct and they are worng, ask a second CM or go to Guest Relations.

  4. jack as many times as i have been to the animal kingdom WOW i did not know about some of these animals . but then that is why you are THE GREAT BLOGGER JACK THE ONE AND ONLY.

  5. Hi Jack,
    I Just have to say that my Family loves animal kingdom!!! We were just down in January and we took the Wild Africa Treck and what a wonderful way to experiance AK. I gave it to my fiancé for his birthday and we had an amazing time! We had been to AK last year when they were just starting to do it and couldn’t get a reservation. This year I called about once a week until they opened up reservations for Jan. It was a little pricey, I’m not sure I would take the a whole family, but boy was it worth it! I highly recommend it to pretty much everyone that I know! I was only disapointed that they dont offer a trading pin yet! BTW I now love looking forward to Monday’s! thanks so much!

  6. Jack,
    Thanks for another great blog. We just returned home from WDW Monday night. I planned for 1-1/2 days at Animal Kingdom this year. We still did not see so much of the park. We missed many of the trails. Next time maybe I should plan for more time there. I will probably have to wait for retirement to be able to take a month off. (Unfortunately, that’s a few decades away.) (I had wished our vacation could have been during the time of your meet-and-greet.)

  7. Hi Jack,

    Do you know if the giant tortoise used to be on Discovery Island? I thought I heard that some of the animals were moved to Animal Kingdom. Any truth in that?

    Jack’s Answer:

    There is truth to this rumor. Some of the animals of the former Discovery Island were moved to the Animal Kingdom. Although I can’t say for 100% certain this is the same tortoise, I’m 99% sure it is.

  8. Hi Jack! Love your articles! Glad your still here! Knowing it is a lot of work! Yeah for Animal Kingdom! I also hear it is a half a day park for so many people. May we all take time and smell the roses! 🙂

  9. I love Animal Kingdom, and it does take me the whole day. I have been to this park many times and each time I pick up a map and check off as I go thru the park. So much to see when you walk around, besides the rides. I look forward to each visit as I always find new treats that I never saw before. A friend went and when I asked how they liked the park they said it was ok but not much to do, so I asked did you see this….and this… oh and what about this….they missed alot lol and will be going with me next time.

  10. Thank you for this information about AK. I’ve been past these trails countless times but never knew you could venture in. Will explore more the next time I’m there.

  11. Very nice article. While I am certainly one to stop and smell the roses, I never knew there were so many animals to “discover” in this area. I don’t get to the Animal Kingdom too often, but I’ll certainly have to take some extra time to explore this wonderful area on my next visit.

  12. jack,

    i know its not part of the Tree of Life Gardens, but it is another attraction typically skipped by many at AK and another reason so many people apply the 1/2 day park tag. one of our favorite shows in any of the parks is Flights of Wonder. we have a group of friends that attend almost as much as my family, and they recently told us they had never seen the show and i am not sure they had even heard of it. i would highly recommend this show to everyone at least once, but we see it each and every trip. very informative and entertaining.

  13. Animal Kingdom has become my favorite park over the last few years. Two wonderful experiences come to mind, both on nights where they had an evening EMH. I should add that I always go the week after Thanksgiving, so it does get dark early.

    Two years ago, I booked the last seating at Yak ‘n Yeti and took my time, so I was walking out actually after the park closed. Walking alone along the pathway in Discovery Island, you could hear every single solitary sound and I noted a lot of things that you don’t notice during the day – like the lady bug lights.

    Last year, same thing, but I walked all the way over towards Expedition Everest to go towards the exit. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the view of the attraction back-lit against the nighttime sky was absolutely breath-taking. I can picture it now in my mind.

    Don’t miss lingering a bit after the park closes on an evening EMH night.

  14. Great blog about Animal Kingdom. My family has been there several times and it is one of our FAVES. But I admit, I did not know about the trails. Thanks for the insight.

    Happy Travels,
    Lesli Garris

  15. Great Blog, Jack!
    On our last visit to AK in March, we finally found and wandered through all of the Tree of Life trails. I couldn’t believe I’d missed them in the past. It was so quiet and peaceful back there and I loved finally having a close up view of the Tree of Life. AK is such a relaxing park, a real favorite of our family, and we always spend a full day there.

  16. Hi Jack. Thanks for another great blog. I look forward to reading them every time.

    One of my favorite activities while on vacation at the Mouse House is to simply sit down, listen and watch the area around me. And AK is one of the best places to do that! I head straight for those “hidden trails” and stop at a bench or lean against the tree root. Most of the crowd noises are muffled – you hear the sounds of the waterfall, of the wind in the leaves, of the animals …and an occasional guest in the “Tough To Be A Bug” line. I find it very relaxing. And I love watching the kangaroos on those rare non-nap times :o).

  17. HI Jack,
    Oh just a few weeks too late. I had NO IDEA about these trails and was just down to Disney 2 weeks ago. I often only last 1/2 day for most parks due to the heat but try and go another day to the parks – but never knew about this trail. Well will just have to go back again and discover it. Thank you again for the great blogs you post, all the time you spend doing them and helping many of us learn of areas in the parks that we didn’t know about. We are very grateful that you are so dedicated and wish to enrich all of us about Disney.
    (Bummed I won’t be there at your meet n greet).
    Thanks again.
    Bonnie

  18. AK has always been a real favourite of ours, and is in fact my husband’s favourite park. We love just wandering and not having to rush for the big attractions, seeing shows that could be on the West End,the parades, the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, etc. Some days we go to AK and after Kilimanjaro Safaris (our absolute favourite) we do just wander, doing all the trails, seeing all the animals and just sitting eating ice cream and our children say that these days are the best. We are just starting to plan our 2014 visit and are already excited beyond belief. Thank you so much for all your hard work, it really is appreciated – a ray of Florida sunshine to an often dark, wet and miserable north east of england.

  19. Hi Jack! I LOVE Animal Kingdom!!! I find the trails to be fun and relaxing. It’s a lot nicer than your average “zoo,” because it has all of Disney’s magic!!! I have had a great time watching the otters alone. I could stare at them for hours. They are very entertaining if they are in a playful mood. Disney is all about taking your time and discovering the hidden wonders around every corner…I couldn’t agree with you more.

  20. Hi Jack,
    Your articles are just awesome. I know you worked for Disney for years. I have always wanted to work at Walt Disney World, my dream job is a be a host. Do you have any advice? Thanks

    Jack’s Comment:

    FYI: All male cast members are “hosts” and all female cast members are “hostesses,” so I’m not sure what you’re dream job actually is.

    As for advice… When you’re ready to get a job at Walt Disney World, apply online. That’s how everyone starts. In all probability, you will be put in some entry-level job, like janitorial, shop salesman, restaurant host, maid, maybe a ride operator, or some backstage job. You will NOT be placed in a job such as a tour guide, waiter, or concierge and other, better paying and more knowledgeable positions. These positions are highly coveted and it takes seniority to move into these jobs.

    Remember, cast members work weekends, nights, and holidays (like Christmas) and their shifts vary from day to day and week to week. When I was a Traditions Host and teaching new cast members what to expect, it told them, “Remember, you are working while others are playing.

    I wouldn’t trade my nine years at Disneyland for anything. I love my time there and I met many wonderful people. Like any job, it’s what you make of it.

  21. I’ve often looked through pics online of the Tree of Life and often wonder how to get so close to it. Thank you Jack for enlightening me after all this time. Why didn’t I just open my mouth and ask a CM? Who knows….

    Another fantastic blog, thank your for all the hard work you put into them, I really enjoy reading.

  22. Hi Jack,

    Great blog as usual.

    Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park allowed me to realize a long-held fantasy. To be able to attend a Disney Park on its opening day. (and I have the t-shirt to prove it.) 😉

    On that opening day, even without most of Asia let alone Expedition Everest, I never considered it a half-day park. Of course I spent quite some time just walking through the Oasis, checking out all of the animals. As I saw people rushing though I thought, “Slow down, you’re missing a lot of animals here!”

    I was early at the park that opening day and Disney wasn’t sure what the capacity of the park would be, so they closed the entry with the park considerably under capacity, which made for the perfect day.

    I explored all the trails through Discovery Island, and stayed until the park closed. I share your frustration at the notion that Animal Kingdom is a half-day park. There are still attractions I haven’t seen.

    I’m not exactly sure why, but Animal Kingdom is probably the park I visit the least, but that certainly isn’t because I don’t like the park. It might be that it offers fewer air-conditioned respites from the heat. I tend to visit the park during the winter months, and this year we didn’t get much of a winter.

  23. Great Blog! Nice to show that there are alot of things at Animal Kingdom and most people miss them. It took us a couple visits before we realized Rafiki’s Planet Watch and all that can be seen and done there thats a couple hours at least, especially if you get there early to watch the Animal Hospital. Thats is what I like about Animal kingdom it is made to be discovered and not all out there in the open.

  24. Jack,

    I wait each week to see what you are going to teach me about the “World” and this week you did not fail to instruct. I had no idea there was an area behind the Tree of Life where you could “meet” the stars of the show. Thanks for the heads up.

    Now can I teach you something? When the Spanish explorers reached the Galapagos and saw these larger than life turtles, many of the men actually attempted to ride them seeing that there shells were as big as “galapagos” = saddles, not turtles.

    Now I begin to wait for what you are going to teach me next week. Blessings to you!

    Jack’s Comment:

    Thank you for providing me with the “saddle” explanation. Since I can’t publish something without checking things out myself, I looked up your story on the internet and found it to be true on several sites. However, I also found additional sites that support my version of the naming of the islands. Even though I suspect your version is correct, I’ve decided to remove the one sentence from my blog. It’s just easier that way.

  25. Thanks so much Jack! We will definitely be exploring the discovery island trails when we are there next week! I have never been able to figure out where these areas are, they aren’t clearly marked, as you said!

  26. Really enjoyed this Jack – I think the first trail we discovered in Animal Kingdom was because my Pal Mickey pointed it out to us as we walked near the Tree of Life! 🙂

  27. Hey Jack, Great blog!! After we’d been to Animal Kingdom a few times we started to spend time at the Tree of Life. It’s usually fairly quiet there (everyone is in a HURRY to get to the main attractions). It’s really a great place to visit on your way out of the park and unwind.
    How much of the trail has been eliminated as places where you can walk?
    We’re looking forward to at least a day there when we go in October.

    Jack’s Answer:

    None of the trails have been eliminated or shortened. It’s just that some portions of the trails are temporarily closed while Disney constructs the protective covering. At the rate they’re progressing, all of this work will be done long before you arrive in October and you’ll be able to enjoy all of the trails.

  28. Jack,

    You’ve covered my favorite part of my favorite park! I knew this day would come and my secret would eventually come out… My only wish for this area would be that the benches would ALL be shaped into rocks and the Tree of Life, as the garish multicolored ones in these pictures are just so tacky in this area. My favorite part is that the little ones never seem to make it into these trails, so it’s nice and quiet! I’m off all summer, so you just may see me sitting on one of these benches, iPad in hand, passing the time posting to twitter (linked above). Stop and say hi… that goes for anyone. We can talk about anything and everything Disney.

    Take care,
    Dan
    @AtDisneyAgain

    Jack’s Comment:

    I don’t know if you’re aware, but those brightly colored benches are made out of recycled milk cartons. Disney is trying to make an ecological statement.

    However, I agree with you. Along the trails, something blends in with nature would be a little more soothing.

  29. Thanks for another great blog Jack. Animal Kingdom is a full day park for us. We love to walk all the different trails. In fact walking the trails is just as fun for us as riding Everest or the safari. The Animal Kingdom is such a beautiful park that I wish everyone would slow down and enjoy all that it has to offer.

  30. hey Jack
    first off, for my family Animal Kingdom is never a half day park. We always hit the big attractions but we also love exploring the trials because they offer so much when it comes to seeing different types of animals. It is all about exploring when it comes to Animal Kingdom and that’s why we love it so much. can’t wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.

  31. Jack, this a great blog. We love the trails. We have stared at the lemurs for a long time just waiting for one to move. Hahhah! It is a great way to get out of the crowds and relax. I agree when you say AK is a full day park. We usually find something new each visit.

  32. Hi Jack,

    We love walking around Discovery Island Trails each time we are their. My husband has taken some great pictures. We enjoy looking at all the carvings (if you can call them that) in the tree. Wonderful blog. It is a great full day park and it should be interesting to see what is built of Avatar.

    Jack’s Comment:

    No construction has begun with Avatar. In fact, I spoke with Joe Rohde last month at a press event. He said Disney is still in the “blue sky” stage of development.

  33. Hi Jack,

    Another outstanding job! I remember when I first discovered the Trails on my second visit to the park. I’m very prone to sticking my head into places at Disney where I’m not sure I’m supposed to be, anyway. And this is what I thought I was doing, at first. But then I saw the benches and realized there were no “Cast Members Only” signs and continued on my journey. Walking along the trails is absolutely one of my favorite things to do at Disney.
    Hey, have they discovered what caused the branch to fall off the TOL yet?
    Thanks again for the great blog. ~ Johnny.

    Jack’s Answer:

    Disney is usually very tight-lipped when anything negative happens. I doubt that we’ll ever hear what actually happened with this branch.

  34. Great blog Jack! I think this park is misunderstood, I recently had someone say, that has never even been to Disney World yet that they were going to skip AK because it didn’t look like it had a lot to do. gasp!!

    This is such a wonderful place full of adventure, fun,education,wonder and so many unexpected things how anyone can pass this park up is beyond me!!

  35. We always spend multiple days in AK during our visits but we can never manage more than 3/4 of the day as we find this park the most humid. I don’t know how anyone can say it’s a half day park, I could spend half the day just on the asia trek. Will definitely make more of an effort with the tree of life trails though. I may also venture towards the ‘real stars’ provided there are no 8 legged guests in attendance at that time.

  36. Jack, thank you so much for this amazing blog! We also love AK and it makes me so mad when people insist it is a half day park. Like you said, clearly they are skipping a ton of great stuff!
    I can’t believe we too have never found these trails. I will definitely be bookmarking this blog to use for our next visit!
    Thanks again!

  37. We actually ran out of time during our visit in September! And our group of 5 included only one 5 yo besides the adults! (could this be why? lol!)

  38. Although there may not be any actual roses to smell at A. K. (feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken), the metaphor is certainly apt. The Imagineers certainly fill the ‘World’ with many clever and fascinating details that are easy to miss when you are in Attraction Commando mode. Although they continue to add new things to keep the ACs happy, it is this attention to detail that makes repeat visits a delight.

    Thank you again for your continuing series of blogs that, to quote the Genie, “illuminate the possibilities.” Your efforts are much appreciated.

  39. In all my years of going to the Animal Kingdom I can not believe I missed this trail. I love meandering around the Animal Kingdom it is not just a half day park to me. I will definately look for this trail when I go again in September.

  40. Hi Jack,
    I love Animal Kingdom. In the photo of the saddle billed storks, you will notice a flat, square platform on the ground. Did you know that it is actually a scale? The birds are trained to step onto it at feeding time so that keepers can monitor their condition. Isn’t that cool?