6 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Animals

I’ve already done a number of animal-themed posts here on Vacationearing, but they’ve all focused on a particular type of animal: birds, fish, dinosaurs, elephants, bears, dragons, and lions. What if you love all animals equally? That’s what we’ll talk about today: the more generalized animal experiences available at Walt Disney World.

Here are six things to do in Walt Disney World if you love animals.

1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom

I always feel like putting an entire park as a list item is kind of a cop-out, but in this case, if you love animals, Animal Kingdom is where you’re going to want to spend much of your time. You’ll see animals (both real and Imagineered) in other parks, but here you’ll find more than 1,700 animals from 250 species! Of course you’ll want to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris, but don’t forget about all the trails where you can see even more animals. The trails include the Cretaceous Trail, Discovery Island Trails, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, and Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Harambe Wildlife Preserve sign on Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Harambe Wildlife Preserve sign on Kilimanjaro Safaris

2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time at Animal Kingdom, the natural place to stay is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. More than just a hotel, the lodge also features a wildlife preserve. If you book a room with a savannah view, you could see giraffes and antelopes from your balcony! Even if you don’t stay at the lodge, you can still visit it to see the animals.

Zebras at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Walt Disney World

Giraffe at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge in Walt Disney World

3. Wanyama Safari and Dinner

This experience does require you to be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Animal Kingdom Villas. It’s limited to twelve guests, and you get an up-close-and-personal view of the animals around the resort. After the safari, you have dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place, the African-themed restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge. See more information on the Disney website.

4. Wild Africa Trek

If the Wanyama Safari experience wasn’t enough for you, you can get an even more adventurous experience on the Wild Africa Trek. The trek takes place backstage at Animal Kingdom and promises that you’ll “get closer than you ever dreamed possible to Nile crocodiles and massive hippos”! You wear a harness that connects you to an overhead track and cross a rope bridge, so this experience is probably not best for those who have trouble with heights. This summer (May 29 to August 25, 2012) you can save $50 on tours that start at or after 11:45 a.m. Visit the Disney website for details.

5. Backstage Safari

If you’re interested in veterinary medicine, you’ll be fascinated by the Backstage Safari. The tour lasts three hours and is currently priced at $72 (in addition to admission to Animal Kingdom). You’ll learn how Disney’s wildlife specialists feed and care for all the animals in the park. If you have more questions than you have time to ask during the tour, consider this next experience as well…

6. Dine with an Animal Specialist at Sanaa

This is your opportunity to have lunch with a Disney animal specialist (and no more than eleven other guests). The lunch takes place at Sanaa, a restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village. It’s offered Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. and costs $49 for adults and $29 for kids. Considering no theme park admission is required and you get a four-course meal, this seems like a pretty good deal! You can see photos of the food at the Disney Food Blog.

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Since this list involves three different tours plus a lunch, I’m thinking there’s no way to do this all in a day. This is more of an entire animal-themed vacation. Stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, splurge for a savannah view, enjoy lunch with an animal specialist, and take hundreds of close-up photos of the animals!

Which tour on this list—Wanyama Safari, Wild Africa Trek, or Backstage Safari—sounds most like your style?