Hakuna Matata

It isn't ceremoniously springtime until the "sugar ants" make their appearance.  They're back!  It's definitely spring here in the Northeast!  We've begun the relentless pursuit of starving them out - no offense little fellas.  Keeping the counter tops and the sink clean, maintaining a tight lid on the compost bucket (tight lids on everything, this is war!) and basically, enduring their onslaught of tiny, marching bodies until they tire of us and move on (can't come soon enough for my liking!).  But... this post isn't about marching ants (hurrah, hurrah), however, it is in direct correlation with the animal kingdom, more specifically, Disney's Animal Kingdom!!  

Nineteen years ago, on Earth Day, Disney World opened their park doors at Animal Kingdom with a clear mission in mind: celebrate the animal world and bring about conservation efforts and education.  It's been their steadfast goal and I was surprised to learn that since 1995, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund has devoted more than $6 million to conservation efforts around the world and has supported more than 230 projects.  Wow, incredible work they are furthering and digging into.  Well done, Disney!! 

My family and I spent our last full day in Florida at Animal Kingdom.  It was bittersweet knowing it was the last day of our completely wonderful, amazing, treasured Florida vacation and our first "real" family vacation together.  I know it won't be our last!  We were all tired by this point, oh man, I had a huge blister on my pinky toe from all the walking and breaking in new shoes (didn't anyone ever tell me not to do this on vacation?), and we decided to take it easy.  Well, what were we thinking?!!  This is Disney World and there were loads of experiences awaiting us!!  Come along with me... 

Upon entering the park, the grand focal point and welcoming exhibit is The Tree of Life.  Standing 14 stories high, with over 300 creatures from the animal kingdom exquisitely carved into the trunk, and 50 feet wide, it is awe-inspiring, reminding us how small, vulnerable we all are, yet how beautifully majestic our world is, and that we should never take it for granted.      

Our first stop was It's Tough to be a Bug! situated beneath the Tree of Life.  This is a cute, interactive, educationally fun show featuring the character, Flick (an eternally optimistic ant from Disney's movie A Bug's Life).  I was not able to get any images within this theater as the screen is not photogenic, plus I was too busy covering up my lens when water was spraying over us!  It's a must see - the kids all loved it! 

Our next stop was completely by accident, an unplanned delight.  We took a wrong turn as we meandered through Asia, hearing applause, our curiosity took hold, we peeked in.  We were in search of a cool spot to sit before our next FastPass so we had time.  We watched the stage show, Flights of Wonder, with exotic, colorful birds that would fly on command.  Really neat!  

Then it was time for face painting!  Alanna remembered having her face painted here when we last visited with an entire crew of family members.  Pleasantly, we found what she was looking for in Harambe, Africa!!  

Finding Nemo - the Musical, was another delightful performance and a treat to experience.  They've perfected the stage presence for this one!  It moves along at a good pace to keep all ages entertained and tuned in, eagerly anticipating the story line and leaves you wanting more! 

Speaking of wanting more, the Festival of the Lion King show was a vibrant array of characters, exuberant dancing, all the songs we know and love, and agile acrobatics!  They ask for young members from the audience to participate and dance in the show towards the end (head's up!).  Our girls were too shy for it, but there were lots of others that weren't as shy!  The round-tent-like show was a phenomenal performance that had us singing, clapping along and ear-to-ear smiling!! It's another must-see!  I added in a clip of the Circle of Life finale for you to enjoy (be warned, you may be inclined to sing along!!). 

After the amazing Festival of the Lion King show, we were ready for a slower pace and more animals!  Kilimanjaro Safari is a wildlife adventure.  We thought that either early morning or later afternoon would be best to view the animals since they might be more active at those times of day.  We did see a lot of amazing animals, but we may have had better luck in seeing more activity a bit later.  Still, it was great!  And the girls loved (loved!!) witnessing the animals in their natural habitat.  It was another treat!  Interestingly, the "110-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve is a spectacular sanctuary dedicated to the protection of African animals" that keeps you wanting more!  See if you can spot the furry head of a daddy lion sunning himself, napping in the eighth image below with the boulders.  Once you see him, you can't unsee him!  And then there was the silverback Gorilla that made his presence known.   

After our safari exhibition in the wilds of Africa, we were all set for dinner.  We ate at the Tusker House Restaurant with Disney characters popping in at our table to say "hi!"  This restaurant is a full all-you-can-eat buffet!  And the prices reflected that, too.  Be forewarned if you decide to make a reservation and eat their delicacies (and everything was incredibly delicious!) that they are priced a bit higher than a regular restaurant.  ;)  

After dinner, with full, satisfied bellies we were all set to head back to our resort for a night swim and pack up to head home in the morning.  On our way, we noticed another spectacular show happening.  The Tree of Life Awakenings, a gorgeously colored light show set to music.  The animation jumps off the tree and we were all mesmerized.  The story unfolding is centered on a young doe.   "A feast for the eyes, each revelation celebrates the eternal balance and harmony that exists in all living things, big or small, and is sure to inspire and delight the entire family, big and small."  Truly magnificent!

And with that, our Florida vacation is a wrap.  I hope you enjoyed hearing about our adventures and viewing my images.  I shot most all of these on my Sony a99 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens since that was lighter for me to carry, however, some of the images were shot on my iPhone.  You may be able to tell the difference. ;) We all had a marvelous, whirlwind vacation together!  We loved every minute of a every adventure... the girls didn't want it to end.  You might tell by the unenthusiastic faces on the flight home.  Thank you, Disney.  We are grateful to you.