7. Sectional divisions
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is divided into various different sections, each boasting its own array of attractions specific to that area’s unique theme. These divisions include: The Oasis, Discovery Island, DinoLand U.S.A., Asia, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and Pandora - The World of AVATAR.
- The Oasis: This is the first place you’ll come to upon arriving to the Park. As you enter the gates, this calming sanctuary sets the mood for your adventure into nature and wildlife with its encompassing flora, fresh-flowing waterfalls, and all-around tranquility and spirit. Laden with easy-to-navigate walking paths that lead to other sections of the Park, along the way you will pass by several featured animal exhibits, including exotic birds and unique mammals of all sorts.
- Discovery Island: Beyond the Oasis you will come to what’s arguably the Animal Kingdom’s most recognizable section—Discovery Island. Originally named Safari Village, the area was renamed following the closure of the then Discovery Island zoological park on Bay Lake in 1999. It’s here you will find the Park’s easy-to-recognize iconic Tree of Life—a 145-foot sculpted baobab tree likeness that features over 320 carvings of both existing and extinct animals of all kinds. Discovery Island is like a connecting circuit to all the other Park sections. It features walking trails, various attractions, shops, food, and of course real-life resident creatures in featured viewing areas. You’re also likely to encounter character meet and greets here, including those by the otherwise elusive Pocahontas as well as Russell and Dug from Up! to name a few.
- DinoLand U.S.A.: This area of Animal Kingdom takes a step back—into the prehistoric past, that is. Focusing mainly on extinct creatures that once ruled the roost, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in this part of the Park by way of rides, attractions, themed eateries, and unique character events/shows. There are also a couple of animal exhibits in this section, and no, they are not living breathing dinosaurs. Instead, you’ll find the antiquated American crocodile and Asian brown tortoise, along with birds (the closest living creatures we have today to dinosaurs) like the Abdim stork and red-legged seriema. And because birds of a feather flock together, this is also a great place to meet Donald Duck at his Dino-Bash—a celebration of his recently discovered ancestry links to dinosaurs. Other friends of Donald are also on-hand for meet and greets as well, including Scrooge McDuck, Launchpad McQuack, Daisy Duck, Pluto, Goofy, and Chip ‘n Dale in dino-suits!
- Asia: One of the two Park sections named for an entire content, Asia is an extraordinary area full of wonder, mystical intrigue, and an abundance of wild creatures. The setting draws inspiration from the village-life culture and natural habitat surroundings of such places as India, Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, and Indonesia, with ancient temples and ruins throughout. In fact, according to Disney’s creative storyline theming, this location is known as Anandapur, which translates to mean “place of all delights” in Sanskrit. Rather than focusing on one or more particular countries, this area is a melting pot of sorts for all the aforementioned nations. As the storyline goes, Anandapur was founded in 1544 as a royal hunting reserve. But now, under the direction of the current royal family, the area has been revamped into an official area of conservation devoted to the preservation of wildlife. And as mentioned before, that’s just what you’ll find when you come here, along with two of the Park’s most notable thrill rides and animal encounter experiences (which we will get into later) as well as shops and dining.
- Africa: This other section named for a continent is a pretty big deal. The setup and theming for what Disney has established as “Harambe Village,” (Harambe meaning “come together” in Swahili) is a combination of influences from some of the favorite places Disney Imagineers came across during their scouting visits to the continent while Park plans were still at the conceptual level. You’ll see echoes of Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, and many other nations encompassing the land. Per Disney storyline, Harambe Village itself was designed to be an East African village that appeals to the visiting tourists, who come out to embark on the renowned Kilimanjaro Safaris expedition (which we will cover in greater deal later on). So you will undoubtedly notice the friendly marketplace vendors, hotel in the background, shops, and even several dining options. And don’t forget about the live street entertainers with their bright and colorful garb and festive sounding authentic African instruments. In addition to village fun, Africa is packed with plenty of other lively entertainments to see, both of the stage variety and real-life amazing encounters with live animals.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch: While technically located within the Africa limits, in the fact that you cannot reach this place without first entering Africa and then boarding the Wildlife Express train, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is its own entity. Here you’ll find the Park’s primary conservation headquarters, which also serves as an onsite petting zoo, wildlife exhibit, activity hub, and veterinary clinic all in one. The petting zoo is known as the Affection Section and is a great place to interact with such creatures as goats, sheep, and other farm animals. Inside the Conservation Station you can get a firsthand glimpse of active conservation efforts all around the world and supported by the Walt Disney Company, in particular. You’ll also find plenty of interesting interactive exhibits, including live animals, fossils, and even fascinating facts and products about elephant poop! You can listen to audio clips, access live monitors, and even see veterinary services taking place onsite through large viewing windows at select times of the day. There’s also the brand new Animation Experience at Conservation Station, which allows visitors the chance to learn about the ways in which animals live by creating their own Lion King-inspired artwork featuring some of the film’s most beloved characters. Outside you’ll also find Habitat Habitat!, a miniature walking trail featuring cotton-top tamarin monkeys.
- Pandora - The World of AVATAR: This is the newest section in Animal Kingdom, having opened back in May 2017. Inspired by the popular James Cameron film franchise, it goes without saying that “the World of Avatar” is in deed a whole other world. From the stunning floating mountains, to brand new attractions (rides and otherwise), as well as other stellar scenery, this part of the Park truly succeeds in bringing the films to life. You’ll think you’ve entered an alien world, whichever time of day you arrive. And if you enter by night, you’re in for a bioluminescent feast for the eyes beyond compare. You’ll also discover a host of original dining spots and whimsical, one-of-a-kind menu offerings all inspired by this fictional land.