Disney’s Animal Kingdom & Epcot

by Dick Kerekes
I have visited many places in the world, and Africa and Asia were on my list to visit some day. Flying is not longer fun and the cost of trips to either area would really strain my pocketbook. Ah, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando to the rescue!! With over 1,000 animals on 500 acres and very authentic recreations of Asia’s and Africa’s architecture and landscaping, at the end of the day I truly felt I had traveled to those countries.
My companion and I entered the park exactly at the 9 AM opening and proceeded to the Kilimanjaro Safaris, from my previous experience with theme parks; I had planned what I wanted to do the most and was determined do those as early as possible, as I know things get more crowded in the middle of the day. The open safari vehicle looked exactly like those you see in the movies .If you are planning to take photo, the key is to get to the end of the seat. If you are in the middle you are going to get a lot of heads. Photo tip: if you camera is adjustable, set it the highest shutter speed available because the truck never stops, and the road is one bump and jolt after the other. If you have continuous shooting speed used in sports, set it and snap away and good luck. I got a couple of good shots, but a lot of blurs as well. The road goes through small rivers, and the scenery is spectacular, with hills, fields, and a variety of animals like zebras, hippopotamuses lions, and gazelles and may more that come into view. If you really dig this, go out get in line and go through again and who knows what other African animals may appear in you new trek.
Our next stop was the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, a walking tour through lush surroundings. We were there early so it was not crowded and we could enjoy the bird aviary leisurely as well as getting some good photos of gorillas in their natural habitat. I loved all the trees, which provided some natural shelter from the sun.
My next stop was about five minutes away to Asia and it was like strolling through Indonesia, Thailand and India, There were wonderful photo opportunities to pose with the rickshaw type bicycle transportation in that country.
Lunch time! We chose Flame Tree Barbeque, one of the many fast food places available in the park. It proved to be an excellent choice.
I had a mixed green salad with Bar-b-que chicken; my companion opted for the Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich on multi-grain bread with Cole slaw. We spent less that at $20.00 including soft drinks. The food was fresh, filling and very satisfying. We also enjoyed eating it in outdoor dining area that featured ducks and cranes visiting our tables to beg food.
After lunch, we chose as walking visit to the Maharaja Jungle Trek, which featured tigers in their natural habitat and very interesting bats hanging from clothes lines. The Bengal tigers were mostly resting because of the heat but with patience I took a couple of great photos a tiger looking for a shady spot. This is a must see exhibit. How often do you get to walk through the ruins of a maharaja’s palace complete with tigers or see bats up close and personal hanging right before your eyes?
Our final destination for the day was Expedition Everest. You can hardly miss seeing this one, after all Mt. Everest is a rather commanding mountain. This is a roller coaster ride, inside and outside the mountain, with cliffs, and caverns and yes and even a Yeti (abominable snowman) to accompany you on your ride. I did not go on this ride (or adventure as Disney likes to call them), but my companion did. She waited about ten minutes in the single rider line, and was pleased by the four minute ride, which she declared excellent and not too rough but with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. The mountain offers so many great photo angles and opportunities and so very real in every way.
At this point we called it a day. I prefer to leave theme parks before closing to avoid traffic and I take my pleasure in measured doses. Someday I will go back and catch the live animal shows, and catch Dinoland, Camp Minnie-Mickey, It’s Tough to be a Bug, and anything else I may have missed. I saw lots of kids of all ages that seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as were their accompanying adults.
On Saturday I visited EPCOT, a park I have been to a dozen or more times, and that I always enjoy but my visit this date was the occasion of the EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL. This is the l3th such festival but the first I have ever attended. It will run through November 9th so if you like to sample fine cuisine and wine from about the World then this is the place for you. Your admission to the park admits you to wine seminars and culinary demonstrations from 10am to 7pm, daily. You can meet different world famous chefs, attend their lectures and go to their book signings. For example on October 11 at 3:45 pm, Tina Pantoja will host a wine seminar on Francis Ford Coppla’s Napa Valley wine. And I thought the only made movies.
You can visit twenty seven food and wine locations spread around the big lake in the middle of EPCOP and purchase samples of mainly food and some beer and wine from all over the world. The samples will cost you anywhere from $3.00 to $ 5.00, and remember they are samples only so if you are really hungry it might cost you twenty five to thirty five dollars to satisfy your appetite. I tried grilled beef with Chimichurri Sauce from Buenos Aires. One of the best buys from The Mouse Catch was a selection of three cheese that included Dorthea from Holland, Asiago Pressato from Italy and Manchego from Spain. At $4.50 it was well worth the price.
I was also able to attend the final day of the USA Culinary Competition with the winner going on to the World championship in Lyon France in 2009. No doubt, this sparking event held in the World Showplace will arrive on my television screen at home sometime in the future, given that cooking shows and cooking competition are so popular on the cable net works. It was a great way to end a great weekend in Orlando. So if you want an exciting vacation, you can see Africa and Asia in one day, and then eat your way around world on another and it is only a 21/2 hour drive away. No passport required.