Animal Kingdom Low Crowds and Nonexistent Waits in the Current Normal
Our day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues. In Part One, we took a look at the arrival process and saw what it takes to rope drop Avatar – Flight of Passage. The answer: (presently) not much. After Flight of Passage, we walked on Na’vi River Journey with “literally” nobody waiting in line in front of us. Part Two followed with a stop at Starbucks, a walk around Asia and Africa, and a ride on the modified Kilimanjaro Safaris.
We now find ourselves at Kali River Rapids. I’m on the record naming this as my least favorite ride across all four Walt Disney World theme parks. If you’ve missed the sound of my voice, you can pull up the podcast where I rank all of Walt Disney World’s attractions along with the Grim Grinning Guys here. As I recall, we name Splash Mountain as our number one attraction – an opinion that I’m sure will not age well.
Kali River Rapids offers free lockers to the left of the entrance. You want to put anything that you don’t want to get wet in these lockers. There is no pouch in the middle of the raft to stow belongings.
The locker signup takes about 30 seconds. I wasn’t too crazy about pressing the buttons, particularly with no hand sanitizer station nearby, but hopefully they’ll add one in the near-term. YOLO, I guess.
By default, you’ll have two hours to return to your locker.
The lockers are single use and intended for those riding Kali River Rapids. You can always return and rent another locker before the free time expires. The only information the kiosk wants from you is a pin to open and close the locker. You don’t swipe a credit card or enter a name or anything at the beginning of the process.
You’ll probably want to keep the receipt, which lists your locker number and when you need to return. If for some reason you arrive after the two hours are up, a nearby cast member should be able to override the system if you have a good reason for your tardiness. Riding Kali right now will take about 15 minutes. That means you could ride a couple of times without having to move your stuff. I have no idea why you would want to do that, but you could.
At Universal, where lockers are required on a lot of attractions, return times are usually tighter and based on the posted wait of the attraction. I’ve run into some trouble trying to squeeze two rides on Men in Black without having to move my stuff, only to return and owe a couple of dollars. Fortunately, and I think I speak for everyone here, this is not Universal.
It’s 9:43am on Friday, July 17th, 2020. With the RealFeel already at 95 degrees, riding Kali should help cool us off and get our socks wet.
With no FastPass+ offered at any attraction, the queue through here is wide.
Historically, they’d try to keep FastPass+ users to the left with a variety of ropes.
The queue for Kali River Rapids remains the resort’s least-appreciated.
It’s probably the attraction that I’ve been on least.
This may be a little too “Midsommar” for me. We’ll push forward.
The number of people carrying their full camera rigs through here is also going to be pretty low. That all points to a lack of quality coverage.
I’m rocking the iPhone.
Theoretically, the queue weaves through several rooms with a ton of interesting artifacts. Disney has these areas roped off for the most part because nobody is in line.
There’s a ton to see.
At a minimum, I think it’s on par with Expedition Everest.
Because Disney doesn’t want you to stop, the pre-show video, discussing deforestation, is turned off.
As with the other attractions that we’ve visited, there is nobody waiting.
Two of the three rafts in view glide by empty. They’ve even got an extra one there on the right if demand somehow increases. It won’t. But it could.
Almost all of the water effects on Kali are off.
We’ve got no mist here.
None of the animals are shooting us with water.
I’m not a million percent sure if they would seat you across from another party or not. Demand hasn’t been high enough where that would come into play yet.
We’ll get a little splash here and continue along:
Kali took about 13 minutes from the when we got in line until we were back out front, including some amount of time taking pictures in the queue. With the water effects off, the ride is either more pleasant or a bigger waste of time, depending on what you’re after. I was happy to just get mildly soaked on the drop. In the summer heat, you should dry pretty quickly regardless.
Alternative Access Entrances are available for guests with Disability Access and rider swap. Next month, we’ll theoretically see more VIP tours using these entrances as well.
While I was happy to come away with dry socks, I’ll admit that squirting people with the elephants via this (now covered) button is one of my favorite things. Do I like getting squirted on the ride? No. Do I like squirting others while they’re on the ride? Absolutely. This is still America.
Picking up your stuff is as easy as returning to your locker and inputting your four-digit code.
At 10am, or two hours after the Park opened, you could ride Kali as many times as you wanted without a wait.
The store to the right of the Yak & Yeti quick service is open.
Disney Vacation Cub kiosks are not, though you’ll note that Disney is still running Wilderness Explorers. That’s one of the badge locations on the left.
Disney continuing Wilderness Explorers is one of the things that I found most surprising.
The scavenger hunt requires about 40 cast members and a lot of interactions that are less socially-distanced.
It’s worth noting that Disney has moved the badge locations to areas that are a little more out-of-the way. The handbook, which also makes a great “free” souvenir, has not been updated with these changes. If you can’t find a badge location, ask a cast member. Most badge locations are still along the main pathways.
There’s a badge location on the left there sort of hiding behind the pillar.
In unrelated news, I might see eleven guests up ahead, so things appear to be picking up. Maybe grabbing that cup of coffee and pushing our arrivals back will prove costly.
Animal Kingdom offers four character cavalcades and a set of drummers. They enter and exit in the same area underneath the bridge in between Expedition Everest and the Theater in the Wild.
- Goofy and Pals Set Sail – Leaving their posts at Donald’s Dino Bash, Goofy and his Pals cruise down the Discovery River.
- Mickey and Friends Flotilla – Ready for a brand-new adventure, Mickey and his friends set sail on the Discovery River.
- Discovery Island Drummers – The Discovery Island Drummers take their music to the water, performing live as they sail around the Discovery River.
- Discovery River Character Cruise – Catch a glimpse of Characters from Disney’s Pocahontas or Disney’s The Lion King as they float along the Discovery River.
- Donald’s Dino Boat Bash! – Donald and his friends take Donald’s Dino Bash to the Discovery River. Keep an eye out for their party boat throughout the day.
We have a long-distance view of one of the cavalcades exiting.
It won’t be too long until another comes out.
The Joffrey’s location across from Yak & Yeti is a good choice if you’re averse to Starbucks or simply in the area.
The Frozen Cappuccino is one of my favorite pick-me-ups.
You can’t tell, but there are a couple siamang up top there.
Thirsty River Bar is a good stop for a free cup of ice water.
You can carry your cup down to what was once the seating area for Rivers of Light. Earlier this week, Disney confirmed that Rivers of Light would not return. That certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t see a new/modified nighttime spectacular return on the water at some point in the future.
they did you wrong, rivers of light pic.twitter.com/pudeEu7GML
— josh (@easywdw) July 16, 2020
Enough people were probably disillusioned by Rivers of Light, particularly after Disney removed the live shamans and acolytes. The entertainers added an incredible amount of soul to the show. After their departure, the show was even less cohesive. While I was hard on Rivers of Light myself, the first five or six minutes were among my favorite of any Walt Disney World spectacular. Unfortunately, the show was longer than that.
Disney has only released operating hours through October at the moment, and Animal Kingdom closes at 6pm nightly.
That’s not late enough for a nighttime show, anyway. With the theater’s seating locations in Asia and DinoLand, there may be some way to incorporate dinosaurs and the yeti into a show. Perhaps “Dinosaurs Versus the Yeti.” I’d watch that even if I couldn’t really see what was happening on the water screens.
While we enjoy our complimentary cup of water, we can wave to the drummers coming our way as they exit.
Chip and Dale are on their way down the river. With Goofy at the helm, there’s probably a 50/50 chance they make it back.
Disney continues running promotions primarily focused on Florida residents. That makes sense, since they’re the most likely to travel to Walt Disney World at the moment. If it were up to me, Florida would be on permanent quarantine from Florida. I’m still waiting until everything on the menu is Buy One, Get One Free.
I’m not sure if we’ll see coupon-day or not.
Crowds remain low as we stand outside Expedition Everest and look down towards the rest of Asia.
Expedition Everest was down all day and did not reopen until the following afternoon at 1pm. They do not tell you what the problem is, but it’s typically related to faulty sensors. There’s also the whole runaway train and killer yeti thing and whatnot. “Why isn’t your out-of-control train working?”
It looks like we’re free and clear to head to DinoLand.
We continue to enjoy a pretty day. More recently, the rain has arrived around 11am and continued for a couple of hours.
But that isn’t what’s keeping people away today.
DinoLand did not appear to be the place where people were hiding out.
The Dino Diner remains closed.
We do have a couple of socially-distanced tables. If everyone in the Park came over right now, we might be able to fill one up.
A limited amount of pin trading is still available via these pin boards. This one is to the left of what was Primeval Whirl. At the moment, cast members aren’t wearing lanyards for pin trading. You’ll need to stop by at a specific experience like this one.
I figured we might as well stop by TriceraTop Spin. I count five cast members and no guests.
Two cast members and no guests.
The experience at TriceraTop Spin isn’t demonstrably different than before.
With physical distancing, you may find yourself waiting on one of two levels, instead of all being spread out across the bottom. Breaking news, I know.
The elevated view did not help in our mission to find the people.
They’re not on TriceraTop Spin.
Or over by The Boneyard, which is closed.
In addition to Rivers of Light, Disney also confirmed that Primeval Whirl would not be returning. If memory serves, it went “seasonal” last year, only opening for the likes of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I was not a big proponent of the ride, but as a single rider, I would typically be paired up with a couple who had never been on the ride before. Because nobody rides Primeval Whirl a second time. I am not ordinarily a sadistic person(?), but I did derive some amount of pleasure after the first whip-around, when the poor people stuck in the vehicle with me started to question a number of their choices in life. Primarily, why they boarded Primeval Whirl when you can see the people crying as their heads slam from side to side from outside the entrance.
With no traditional character meet and greets, Donald’s Dino-Bash is out. The truck remains with a modified Wilderness Explorers location outside the store on the left.
If you were to use the gas in this pump to bulldoze Primeval Whirl, TriceraTop Spin, and the carnival games, you might have a sizable piece of land for a new attraction. With Disney already cancelling or postponing announced projects, it’s unlikely that we’ll see any changes come to DinoLand in the near-term. Primeval Whirl will just sit there, closed, as it has most days over the last 18 months.
In the last couple of days, Disney removed Primeval Whirl’s vehicles. Certainly, we could be surprised, and Disney will announce a replacement. As recently as early March of this year, Disney could have used another major attraction to help take some of the pressure off Pandora first thing. That’s no longer the case, but it might be again in three or four years.
As long as they keep our dino, just about any change is welcome.
Losing all of this would be a shame, though.
Even if Disney started work on some sort of excavator roller coaster tomorrow, it would be three or four years until it opened. That may be right along with the next “Avatar” movie.
The Cretaceous Trail would have taken you up to meet Daisy Duck prior to the extended Park closure. Disney currently has it roped off.
DINOSAUR is our next stop. I see no guests and no cast members, so we’ll call this one a wash.
Cast members: 2. Guests: 0. Posted wait: 5. Actual wait: 0.
We walked right into what is ordinarily the pre-show room.
Currently, Disney is using it as queue, so you’ll walk right through if nobody is there waiting.
The doors to the next area are open.
A cast member stationed near the stairs will remind you which way the seat belt buckles.
Then it’s a straight shot down to load. You may be able to make out that there’s a barrier between the first row and second and third rows. That’s true both on the vehicle and in the loading area.
The barriers may be even less visible here. At least it’s artsy.
It may be worth asking if they can accommodate a first row request. The barriers may cause some reflections on the limited number of things you can see on the ride:
Not every picture is a winner.
We arrived at 10:34am and were back out front at 10:44am. The 10-minute total experience time may be a record.
Just the ride and pre-show take about that long.
Technically, I guess things have picked up at TriceraTop Spin. I see one dinosaur filled.
You’ll want to figure out mobile order on the My Disney Experience app as Disney continues to heavily favor it. Typically, they won’t let you past the equivalent of this point unless you have a confirmed mobile order that’s ready for pickup. The exception is dietary concerns, where you’ll be allowed inside to discuss your options. You can use Disney gift cards on mobile order now, in addition to a credit card or something like Apple Pay. So if you’re traveling from abroad or don’t have a credit/debit card or something, you can load up a Disney gift card and use that at checkout. If you tell the cast member that you’re not comfortable using mobile order or would like to speak to someone in person, my assumption is that they would also let you through in most scenarios.
Inside, the toppings bar is no longer available. It looks like Onions and Pickles are available upon request, in addition to the usual pre-packaged condiments.
Hopefully Scrooge and friends are back sooner, rather than later.
The often-overlooked Dino-Bite Snacks is open.
It’s the one area where I didn’t see any social distancing placards/chairs removed. Potentially because there has never been more than one group sitting over there.
One more look at the closed Boneyard playground.
A sad sight as we leave DinoLand. No showtimes for Finding Nemo the Musical.
The floating characters are not quite as obvious as the parades and processionals that we see at the other Parks.
If the music changes, you might head for the bridge or whatever area is closest to the water.
Trilo-Bites is open.
The Buffalo Chicken Chips remains a sizable, shareable snack or meal. I’m still waiting for a BOGO on that $13 margarita. Coupon-day here I come.
So far, my day couldn’t be going much better outside of Expedition Everest being closed. We would have been able to walk right on that too. It also means that we’ve seen all of these low waits and low crowds without one of Animal Kingdom’s most popular rides running.
I’m not talking about Primeval Whirl, either.
Isle of Java, to the right of Flame Tree Barbecue, is apparently open from just 8am to 11am.
Since it’s 10:52am, we’ve only got a few minutes to get our Macaw Specialty Beverage order in.
Most of the other Discovery Island kiosks are closed entirely.
Character Landing remains closed.
As does the Adventurers Outpost Mickey & Minnie Meet.
Fortunately, Flame Tree is about to open. All of the cash registers are designated for mobile order pickup except for the one on the far left.
For whatever reason, Disney pulled the Sampler Platter. It arrived with Chicken, Ribs, and Pulled Pork. You can still get two of three with the Chicken/Ribs Combo. The Fries with Cheese Sauce are out again as well, potentially as the FDA reclassifies the viscous orange liquid as Not Food for the second time.
In the next part, we’ll see how things are looking at It’s Tough To Be A Bug. We’ll also stop in at the new bird show and enjoy lunch at Yak & Yeti. We’ll finish up the afternoon by getting in the standby lines for both Na’vi River Journey and Flight of Passage around 2pm. Five months ago, we would have waited about four hours to experience both. Today, I feel like it will take less than 45 minutes total.