Hakuna matataOctober 13 in the United States
Whether by accident or design our last Disney Park of this Orlando visit turned out to be our favourite. Animal Kingdom has a relaxed feel that makes it seem less like a theme park and more like a botanic gardens, that just happens to encompass death defying thrill rides. That's a one-two punch that you just can't beat, calming yet terrifying. Once again we managed to drag our weary bodies out of bed and catch the Disney bus to be at the park just before rope drop. Overnight, as I was awake, I cooked up the fiendish plan of trying to head for the most popular ride in the park, Avatar - Flight of Passage. This is the most recent and most sought after ride in any of the Florida Disney parks. Wait times of over two and a half hours are common. I wouldn't even wait that long for a date with Salma Hayek, so luckily I had pre-booked a Fastpass two months ago. But I thought if I could race to the ride just as the park opened I might beat the horde and be on the ride within half an hour or so, freeing me up to ride something else later. Good plan, poor execution. I foolishly arrived at the park just before rope drop, but 3000 other people arrived before that and all decided to stand in a line just where the Avatar standby queue was. Foiled! Everyone racing for the Avatar ride did have the positive side-effect of freeing up lots of other rides in the park, which meant we didn't have to use a Fastpass to ride Expedition Everest. This is a full on, high speed rollercoaster which climbs to a great height, naturally, then flies down backwards before switching tracks and hurtling down and around the mountains to a sudden stop at the bottom. I thoroughly enjoyed it and giggled like a madman the whole time. Someone else had their eyes closed for large portions of this ride. After Expedition Everest we had a couple of hours until our next Fastpass so explored the park admiring the impressive wildlife on display including primates, crocodiles, hippos, tigers and gorillas. This was a real highlight and added to my enjoyment of the park, as the animals looked well cared for and in natural roomy enclosures. Our second Fastpass was for Kilimanjaro Safaris, which takes you in an off road truck through the safari park sections of Animal Kingdom. It was like being on safari in Africa, without having to suffer the inoculations or the risk of email scams. Seeing elephants, lions and giraffes roaming the savannah, or sleeping on it, as many of them were in the Orlando heat, sure works up a hunger. What a stroke of luck that I had made a reservation for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe inside Animal Kingdom. An hour and a half and 27,000 calories later we stumbled out of the cafe in a food induced coma and meandered around the different lands until our Fastpass time for the Avatar ride ticked by. Now I love the Avatar movie and people have raved about this new ride, so I was jonesing to get on it. I was however a little nervous, as it is a motion ride, and a very intense one at that. I have a history of motion sickness and it's these rides that cause it, so I had a full on sweat going as we queued for this treat. It didn't help that the ride had been put on hold earlier in the day because a rider had vomited mid-ride. Mounting my banshee and putting on the 3D glasses I was saying a little prayer to whatever deity would listen. None of them were picking up though as about a minute into the experience, which was astonishing from what I saw to that point, my brain realised that the vision it was processing was not exactly matching the motion it was feeling and was ready to push the abort button. In these situations my go to strategy is to close my eyes until my brain cooperates. I did this off and on throughout the ride, so saw about half of it. Jean was cackling away the whole ride having a whale of a time and she informs me that the bits I missed were spectacular. I felt so much better hearing that. I did manage to see and feel the last minute or so of the ride in a continuous chunk and I'm glad I gave it a whirl, despite what my stomach was telling me. Wobbling off this ride we exited the park and made a quick stop at the hotel to bring our core temperatures down from nuclear meltdown before one last dash for deliciousness at the Cheesecake Factory. Pasta Napolitano and Hershey's Chocolate Bar cheescake wrapping their cholesterol choking fingers around our hearts we finished off our last full day in Orlando with one more trip to the outlet malls. Tomorrow it is hasta la vista Florida and hello again chilly London. Time to ditch the shorts and hold on to your money.
Click the link below to view video of the safari