Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the last of four theme parks to be built in Bay Lake, Florida at the Walt Disney World Resort. The park opened on April 22, 1998, becoming the second largest theme park in the world, behind only Jackson, New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure. It is the single largest Disney theme park in the world, covering a whopping 500 acres. It is also the first Disney theme park entirely based around animal conservation, a philosophy that was actually pioneered by Walt Disney himself.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is an accredited Zoo and Animal Park by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which means the park has met or exceeded the standards for research, education and conservation. The park hosts nearly 10 million visitors every year, making it the seventh most visited park in the world.
The parks official icon is the “Tree of Life,” which is a 145-foot-tall or 44 m, 50 foot wide artificial tree.
The park has been divided into seven themed areas, with another, the Oasis, serving as the park’s entrance. The Oasis also features many animal habitats and main paths that lead deeper into the park.
Africa Theme – This park is set in a fictional east African village called Harambe. According to the legends, Harambe has been a self-governing village after a peaceful revolution in 1961. Today, this area contains many great animal exhibits while also serving as the starting point for tourists and students to observe Africa’s animals in their natural habitats.
Asia Theme – The Asian themed section was the first to be added to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, when it opened in 1999. The park is also set in a fictional located called Anandapur, which translates to mean “Place of Many Delights.” Anandapur has two distinct settings, the riverside village of Anandapur, and Serka Zong, which is a foothills location on the Himalayan Mountains.
Avatar: World of Pandora – This park is currently being built. It has been in the works since September, 2011, when Walt Disney Parks and Resorts struck a deal with James Cameron and his Lightstorm Entertainment production company, and Fox Filmed Entertainment to develop a theme park based on James Cameron’s Avatar Film franchise.
DinoLand USA – This theme park was inspired by the general public’s desire and curiosity about dinosaurs. The Dino Institute offers many great facilities surrounding the park which feature attractions designed around the long-extinct dinosaurs. There are also animals on display in DinoLand USA.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch – This section is geared towards families and small children. Guests are asked to hop aboard the 3 foot 4 inch narrow Wildlife Express Train for a short trip to the area and when leaving the area. Guests first enter the area called Habitat Habit!, where guests can learn about the protected Cottontop Tamarins, learning about these endangered species as they move about in their natural homes. Guests will also learn how to provide an animal habitat for areas around their own home.
Discovery Island – Located in the center of the park, Discovery Island is situated in the middle of the Discovery River waterway. It is considered the “central hub” of the Animal Kingdom Park. The Tree of Life, the parks iconic feature is also located in this section and the tree is surrounded by several animal enclosures and trails.