Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is the ultimate dream come true for anyone who has ever endeavored to encounter rare and exotic animals in the wild, but may otherwise lack the necessary means for being spirited away to some remote faraway place. And Kilimanjaro Safaris, in particular, is an absolute marvel to behold!
Whether you’re a vacationer at Walt Disney World Resort, just visiting for a time, or you happen to be a Florida resident looking for additional adventures to take, you should know that there are many optimal opportunities all throughout the greater Orlando area where you can explore wonderfully wild animal encounters. From low-key drive-through safari parks to fully immersive tours, here are our top 10 recommendations for awesome adventures of an exotic nature near Walt Disney World.
10. Black Point Wildlife Drive
If you’re up for a drive that’s only around an hour and a half away from most Disney Resorts, then you should seriously consider this excursion over to Titusville. A very low-key observe-from-the-car experience, the wildlife encounters on this outing are more native to Florida than exotic in nature. But with its carefully maintained seven-mile routed pathway, it delivers on an exceptional adventure that allows you and your carload to drive by and observe on your own. To help you along the way, and for pinpointing targeted stops for identification purposes, head to their onsite Visitor Center to pick up a detailed map before setting out. Click here to learn more about Black Point Wildlife Drive.
9. Giraffe Ranch
For a truly unique on-the-farm experience laden with giraffes, hippos, zebras, rhinos, camels, otters, and more, you need only go on an hour’s drive to Dade City to this expansive 47-acre stretch you’d think was directly implanted here from the wilds of Africa. What’s more, they offer up various different kinds of safari tour options to suit all visitors. One of the most convenient offerings is a drive-through safari from your own vehicle, led by FM transmitter you can access from your own vehicle’s FM radio. Another exciting option lets you and your party ride along in one of the park’s customized 4-WD tour vehicles. There are even camelback-led tours as well! Whichever experience you choose, making a day here offers up an entirely unique experience and one of Florida’s best-kept secrets! Learn more about tours and pricing on their website.
8. Jungle Adventures, A Real Florida Animal Park
A 45-minute drive from Disney will land you in the jungle wilds of Christmas, Florida, and this optimal experience specifically. A wild delight full of the state’s most exotic animal encounters and novel experiences that know no parallel, some of the many pursuits to take to here includes hands-on guided events with animals, riverboat tours, additional VIP touring offers, and so much more. Various events and ongoing activities are also regularly featured here, so stay current with all the latest happenings by checking out their website.
7. Safari Wilderness Ranch
Just over a half-hour away from Disney, over in Lakeland, you’ll find yourself deep in the heart of Florida wilderness. But the animals here aren’t just limited to the state’s exotic elite; they come from all around, including the far reaches of Africa. A family-owned operation, this isn’t your usual crowded zoo or theme park venue. It’s a peaceful, tranquil retreat of sorts with many on-premises pursuits being offered, including drive-through safaris via your own car, customizable vehicle safaris they take you out in, and all-terrain safari excursions, camel riding expeditions, kayak outings, and more. They even have onsite camping for those looking to spread out the adventures over the course of more than just one day. Click here to learn all about their many wild delights.
6. Brevard Zoo
A convenient commute to Melbourne, Florida will bring you to this awesome non-profit zoo. Encompassing more than 70 acres, Brevard Zoo is home to over 900 animals, presenting close to 200 diverse species the world over. And as for the adventures awaiting you here, you can pick and choose from a wide range of unique offerings, some of which include giraffe feedings, kayak tours, a sightseeing train excursion, rhino encounters, tree-climbing/rappelling, and Paws On—an opportunity to splash around in Indian River Play Lagoon and meet both land and sea creatures of all sorts (intended for youngest visitors). Discover even more adventures awaiting you by visiting the website.
5. Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Here’s another exceptional not-for-profit zoo for you, this one situated on 116 acres of land, right in the heart of Orlando. Playing host to a broad range of different animals from around the world, you’ll find a vast array of onsite attractions to delight in, from animal encounters to checking out the botanical gardens, and even taking part of onsite family-fun activities, including a splash ground to cool off at and even zip-lining. To learn more about the zoo follow this link to their official site.
4. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
Want to take a free, low-key excursion by car to one of the most optimal birding areas in the state of Florida? Then head on over to this scenic drive-through, spanning 11 miles in all. Discover an abundance of Florida’s many diverse animal populations, with everything from alligators to bobcats en route. Follow along, led via audio tour for a wondrous wild outing with the family.
Those needing to stop and get out to stretch, use restrooms, or even plan a little picnic, take note that options await you along the path. Also, the drive-through is open on weekends only (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. All vehicles must exit by 5 p.m., so it’s best to arrive no later than 3 p.m. Learn more by clicking here.
3. Exotic Animal Experience
The name of this optimal Orlando-based excursion is pretty straightforward. You come here to experience memorable up close and personal animal encounters spanning a versatile array of different exotic creatures from all around the globe. Visitors do take note, however, that the private hands-on experiences to be had here are all by appointment only, and appointments can only be arranged solely on Thursdays and Saturdays. Click here to find out more.
One of the more popular venues with many out-of-state visitors and Orlando locals alike is this Orlando-based theme park/wildlife preserve. Privately owned and operated, Gatorland comprises an impressive 110 acres in all and boasts an abundance of different animals to behold. Additionally, many onsite experiences keep things lively, including their very unique, private behind-the-scenes Adventure Tours option, in which you even get to hand-feed alligators! Visit their website to discover more.
1. Disney Destinations within Animal Kingdom and Beyond
For fans of Kilimanjaro Safaris looking to add in some additional animal encounters the most obvious, convenient options around lie within your point of origin—Walt Disney World Resort’s Animal Kingdom Park. Aside from Kilimanjaro Safaris, you will find a wide range of additional adventures awaiting you here, from visiting Rafiki’s Planet Watch to hiking Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and Discovery Island Trails. Another awesome option is to stop in at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to visit with the resident animals there as well. And for even more encounters with nature—this time of a sea-based nature, you can’t go wrong with a stop by at The Seas with Nemo &Friends Pavilion in EPCOT.
There are many awesome animal adventures to pursue all around the greater Orlando area. Perfect for pairing with the exceptional Kilimanjaro Safaris experience you already know and love so well or to alternately try for an awesome extra, there’s just something undeniably untamed and beautiful about personal wildlife encounters! And Florida has among some of the most unique offerings, thanks to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and these other great destinations.