Morning Touring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom After the Reopening
Our visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom continues after we took a look at what to expect from the arrival experience and rope dropping Avatar – Flight of Passage. You can pull up that post here. I may or may not have mentioned this in the first part, but at the moment, it doesn’t matter when you arrive at Animal Kingdom or what you do once you get there. Even if you show up at 10:30am and get in line for Flight of Passage, you’ll wait about ten minutes. That’s about 130 minutes less than you would have waited during the first eleven weeks of the year.
Ordinarily, we would be in a bit of a hurry during the first two hours of operation. Wait times typically increase as it gets later in the day. Over the last two years, the average wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris at 9:30am is 40 minutes. The wait hits an hour at 10am. We want to be in front of that. At the moment, I’m not sure how many times there are going to be more guests in the pictures than cast members.
I took the opportunity to meet up with a friend for a cup of coffee at the Creature Comfort Starbucks. Since we breezed through Pandora, I figured spending some time enjoying the sights and sounds of the Park would also help simulate a second ride on Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage. If you were to take advantage of short waits in Pandora, you’d arrive at each subsequent attraction a little later in the day. At that point, waits would be longer. That won’t be an issue today, even if we just laid face down on the pavement for three hours and then got in line for something. We’d be able to walk right on.
Here’s the spread:
Disney is very big on dots on the floor at the moment. You’ll remember that we were assigned to at least one on Flight of Passage. We see a similar system here at Starbucks. Like most things, physical distancing leads to a more pleasant experience. Instead of the person who ordered after you crowding the counter, they’ll now need to stand on their dot six feet away from everyone else. If we ever do make it out on the other side of this thing, I may carry dots around with me and see if I can assign people to them, as far away from me as possible.
Perhaps the point here is that Starbucks pricing should remain in line with your local store. You also have time to grab a cup at the moment without it affecting your day.
Even the cotton-top tamarins get a little extra room with about thirty signs asking you stand six inches further away.
Looking back in the opposite direction, it’s possible that I lied, and there are an even number of cast members and guests. Either way, I don’t think this will turn into an hour wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
Animal Kingdom has always been particularly stunning in the morning glow.
Of all the views at Walt Disney World, this is probably the one I missed the most.
We have a sign reminding us that we can get in line for Kilimanjaro Safaris right up until Park close. I see two cast members in the picture and no guests, so we are back on track.
Maybe not. It appears like we have four guests and four cast members. Is it busy or not?
Okay, it’s not. Although, even if there were 300 people in this photo, I do have the ability edit them out. So there’s that to keep in mind, too. Photography is a scam.
This semi-hidden seating area behind Tamu Tamu Refreshments is one of my favorite places to bring a snack.
I appreciated the fact that the wood carver was out chatting with guests first thing in the morning.
Harambe Market remains closed.
We’ll be stopping for lunch at Yak & Yeti.
That’s Mr. Kamal’s on the right as we look towards Asia.
You may remember that the Disney Dining Plan is not currently available. You’ll still see the snack credit logo on menus, including those newly-printed. At Epcot, all of the Food and Wine Festival booth menus have the snack credit logos next to the food items. Disney printed those menus long after the Dining Plan was canceled for the foreseeable future. Changes to other menus are more subtle. Here at Mr. Kamal’s, your Seasoned Fries will be served alongside your choice of dipping sauce. Disney doesn’t like saying no, so they would assuredly serve you a cup of each sauce.
Here’s the previous menu:
Before the March closures, the dipping sauces were self-serve. Breaking news, I know.
Disney surprised us by adding a brand-new show to the lineup in the midst of their battle with the main Equity entertainment union.
None of the signage is different, but you’ll have an opportunity to see “Feathered Friends in Flight” in place of UP! A Great Bird Adventure. We’ll stop in for the 11:30am show.
Later, we’ll also take a look at the cavalcades of characters that float through Discovery Island’s waterways. You might take the opportunity to sit down and relax as they glide by later in the morning or afternoon. This spot near the water is one of your best bets, perhaps second to only Nomad Lounge.
This area was at one time a Baloo and King Louie Meet and Greet before Disney turned it into a bar. Across from the Caravan Theater, it’s now a small Relaxation Station. You’ll remember that these areas serve as an opportunity to safely de-mask.
An hour into Park operation, it looks like seven or eight people are headed to Kilimanjaro Safaris along with us.
Unlike Harambe Market behind it, Harambe Fruit Market remains open. Kusafiri Coffee Shop across the way is not operating, so the Fruit Market offers a similar reheated breakfast sandwich in the morning.
As with other physical distancing markers, it’s not always obvious where they lead. The ones on the left may take us to Kilimanjaro Safaris, though it’s difficult to imagine that the line would stretch out that far. The markers on the right probably lead to the Fruit Market. Ahead, we have two cast members and two hand sanitizer stations leading into the Safaris queue. Cast still outnumber guests.
We’ll follow the markers in:
The loading platform almost reminded me of a stable with the dividers. On the ride vehicle, Disney has installed plastic separators between rows.
Theoretically, the plastic dividers allow Disney to load every row with a party, even if the rows aren’t six feet apart. With so few people riding in the morning, we enjoyed an empty row in front of us and behind us.
The clear plastic dividers probably affect pictures more than the in-person views. Without the plastic, this would be a fairly clear shot ahead. Still, the reflection off the plastic will make it more difficult to see the animals in front of you. It also eliminates much of the airflow that typically makes the ride enjoyable even in the summer heat and humidity.
One does wonder when many of these physical distancing measures will be removed. Obviously, there’s no telling right now. It could be a couple of months or a year or more before things return to some semblance of “normal.” One day, we’ll return to the Parks and all of the stickers and plastic will be gone. That will be a good day:
With about four months off, it “felt” like the animals’ behaviors had changed a bit. They all seemed a little more at ease, which make sense considering thousands of people hadn’t passed in trucks for about 120 das.
We would ordinarily save Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail for later in the day, but you could certainly head over now with no waits forming elsewhere in the meantime.
We could have walked right back on the Safaris. It probably makes more sense to return later in the day to potentially see different animals and different behaviors.
As I mentioned, Kusafiri remains closed.
Dawa Bar is also closed all day, as is Tusker House Restaurant. Festival of the Lion King is also “dark” as they say in the theater community. That means no shows are scheduled. The same is true for Finding Nemo the Musical and Rivers of Light. As an annual passholder who has experienced all of these things in the recent past, the temporary closures are not necessarily a huge deal for me. The closures are also a big reason why this may not be the ideal time for a “once in a lifetime trip. There is also the contagion card in play, of course.
With so few people at Animal Kingdom in particular, it’s easy to stay away from others at least 98% of the time. If you dine outdoors, you’ll be even better shape.
Tamu Tamu Refreshments, to the right in the picture above, will be open later in the afternoon. It offers quite the lineup of beer and treats.
I’m headed to Asia. Don’t worry, that’s a cast member in orange ahead of us.
Also cast members. It’s 9:36am, so we’re over 90 minutes into operation.
Drinkwallah, across from Yak & Yeti, remains closed. That’s the walkway down to the seating area on the right.
If you’re grabbing lunch at Yak & Yeti’s quick service arm, you might walk your food over to the seating section behind Drinkwallah. You’ll enjoy some picturesque waterside views with the characters intermittently floating by.
Joffrey’s at the Royal Anandapur Tea Company is open, which means there’s at least one cast member and no guests.
Two cast members, no guests. The entrance to Kali River Rapids, with a five-minute posted wait, is on our right.
Maharajah Jungle Trek is straight ahead. It’s another nature walk which makes sense to visit later in the morning. With no waits forming anywhere, visiting now is fine too.
We’ll tackle Kali River Rapids in the next part before moving on to Expedition Everest and DinoLand.