Well, we’ve finally come to it. Today is the last in my series looking at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As special events and other highlights happen at the park I’ll cover them, but today I’m finished my peek at what you can find on a normal basis at the Animal Kingdom. We’ll conclude with shopping and special tours.
There’s not a lot of unique shopping at the Animal Kingdom. Most of the stores are of the typical shirts-and-stuffed-animals variety. However, there is the Mombasa Marketplace, in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom, near the Tusker House.
It’s divided into two sections: Mombasa Marketplace and Ziwani Traders. The latter is more typical stuff for kids–postcards, candy, Disney merchandise–aside from some small flutes and percussion instruments. In the main Mombasa Marketplace, however, one can purchase more interesting items. Options include imported African art, woven baskets, sarongs, carved wooden masks and statues, and more.
Some of the most interesting bits of the Animal Kingdom, however, are the special tours. There’s Wild Africa Trek, which I’ve already covered. But there are two other special behind-the-scenes tours guests can take of the Animal Kingdom.
The first is Wild by Design. This 3-hour tour, for guests aged 14 and up, details the creation of the Animal Kingdom. Its focus is how the Imagineers transformed the Florida wetlands into a safari landscape. It will also talk about the design process that went into creating the architecture of the buildings at the Animal Kingdom. I’m most interested in hearing how the Imagineers managed to somewhat replicate African savannahs and Asian jungles, but there’s a little something here for everyone interested in learning about the creation of the Animal Kingdom.
The other cool behind-the-scenes tour is for ages 16 and up. It’s called the Backstage Safari, and I’m perhaps more interested in it than any other tour in all of Walt Disney World. That’s because the Backstage Safari is all about the animals.
As fun as it would be, the Backstage Safari is not a behind-the-scenes in-depth petting zoo. Instead, the 3-hour tour explains how the staff of the Animal Kingdom meet the challenges of, basically, running a zoo. The tour focuses on all the aspects of caring for nearly 2000 animals from hundreds of species around the world: veterinary science, zoology, and conservation. Guests will get an up-close glimpse of some of the park’s residents, either in backstage rooms or right up at their enclosures. They’ll get to check out the veterinary facilities and learn the details of how that many animals are fed every day.
The Animal Kingdom is also a stop on an overall Disney World tour: Backstage Magic. Guests (16 and up) on this rather long tour (6-8 hours) learn about the music backstage at Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the Animal Kingdom (where guests get a backstage glimpse of Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade).
Tickets for each of the tours are not included in park admission. Tickets for Wild by Design are $60, Backstage Safari $72, and Backstage Magic $229. For more information or to book a tour, call (407) WDW-TOUR or (407) 939-8687.
*(The above image by JeffChristiansen is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)