April 2012: In the Magic Kingdom, the Jungle Cruise has fake animals. But in Walt Disney’s first blueprint, he penciled in live animals. Ride planners convinced him to change course, however, because real, living mammals can be finicky, and riders between noon and 5 p.m. could end up seeing only the business end of a sleeping lion. That, in a nutshell, is the downside to Animal Kingdom attractions that rely on cooperation from four-legged (or less) friends.
Here are some ideas to make touring a little easier or better:
• Read the general park-touring tips.
• Arrive early. Most animals don’t sleep in their exhibits, so Disney must rouse them from their protective cages and shoo them toward incoming guests. Most animals go willingly, however, because there’s food at the other end. In addition to thinner crowds early in the day – and the park can open before 9 a.m. – the animals are more active, or at least awake. (Trivia: Each animal responds to a different musical instrument, and that’s how Disney calls them in at night.)
• Stay late. Of the four Disney parks, only Animal Kingdom has no nighttime show, so if a guest feels he’s seen it all by 3 p.m., he’ll leave. The park closes earlier than the rest – 5 p.m. in slower seasons – but in the last hour, ride lines grow shorter.
• Fast Pass Kilimanjaro Safaris, stand in line, then ride it again later when the Fast Pass comes due. Since animals roam, the sights on a second tour change.
• Rides with long lines. Consider a Fast Pass or early ride on: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Kali River Rapids (except when it’s cold), and Expedition Everest.
• Rides with medium lines. These could get long in busy season, but the wait is generally average: It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Primeval Whirl, DINOSAUR, and TriceraTop Spin. In addition, the quality of your seats for two shows may depend on how early you get there, and in busier times, you may not even get a seat: Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo-The Musical.
• Rides with short lines. In the middle of the day, plan on any of the walking tours (Discovery Island trails, Pangani Forest, and Maharajah Jungle Trek), and pencil in the Wildlife Express, Flights of Wonder show (Asia), and the kids’ playground in DinoLand.