June 2021 Walt Disney World Trip Report – Part 3

We’re back with a recap of our second day in Disney’s Animal Kingdom from our June 2021 trip!

If you need to catch up on this trip report…

June 6, 2021 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom & Chef Mickey’s

Since we got to Animal Kingdom pretty early the day before, we decided to sleep in just a tiny bit and get to the park around 9 am. When I picked up pizza in the food court at All Star Movies the previous night, I also grabbed some cereal and milk so we could have a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading out to the park.

In hindsight, and probably had we brought actual luggage instead of just a carry on, I probably would have just packed some quick breakfast food like cereal from home to avoid the inflated Disney prices, but I was working with limited packing space. (If the Magical Express was also doing baggage pickup like the before times, I would have been more inclined to check a bag, but if we needed to pick it up anyway I thought a carry on would be easier.)

When we arrived at the park, we started the day off in Asia to walk through the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It was really nice going to Animal Kingdom with Josh because a lot of times I feel like whoever I’m with in this park is so focused on rides, and there’s so much more to the park aside from rides. I’ve also never done the animal trails in Asia (or anywhere really in the park for that matter) in the morning, and it was so worth it!

Of course, I’ve rushed to Kilimanjaro Safaris in the morning as I’m sure everyone else has, but part of the logic in doing that I think is also because of the line. Sure, the animals do tend to be more active in the morning, but the longer you wait the longer the line will likely be (in normal times anyway, I’m not sure the usual rules of how lines worked applied during this weird reopening phase.)

The first animal we saw on Maharajah Jungle Trek was the Komodo Dragon. She was sitting right out front in perfect view of us as if she were waiting for guests to come by to pose for photos. Even though this was the first stop right near the beginning of the trail, it was pretty clear this wasn’t the attraction most guests were rushing to in the morning, so we really took our time hanging out with every animal we saw.

It was a little difficult to see the bats on the trail that morning (which is honestly fine with me…) but some of them were stretching their wings when we went by and I don’t think I’ve seen them do that before. They have a pretty massive wingspan, so even though they were definitely sleepy being nocturnal that was really neat to see.

The best part of Maharajah Jungle Trek that day by far was the tiger! I’ve seen the tigers on this trail a lot, especially when I worked in Animal Kingdom, but never this close up. Animals apparently love Josh (seriously…my cat has just decided he’s her favorite now…) and this tiger was no exception. She went right up to the glass and walked back and forth next to him for a few minutes.

Not that I’d recommend it, but I suspect if the glass wasn’t there she would have let him pet her. That was a really cool moment that made it so worth it to do this trail first thing in the morning when no one else was around!

The aviary portion of the trail was up next, and I cannot stress enough how cool that part of the trail really is if you actually spend time there. I think so many people write it off as just a bunch of birds, but there are some really fascinating birds there that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and some of them (I think especially when it’s not too crowded like it was this morning) will pretty much come right up to you.

Scanning the QR code for the bird spotting guide was also much easier- The QR codes in general are another COVID change that I kind of hope sticks around. It was just easier to look up which birds we were seeing on my phone that I was already holding onto anyway for photos than trying to juggle that and a physical guide. Plus, you know…germs!

Once we finished up the trail, we stopped to check the wait times for Kilimanjaro Safaris because we really wanted to do that again. (I always try to do the safari at least twice per trip since you could have a totally different experience. The wait was 35 minutes, but since we did a lot of what we wanted to do in Animal Kingdom the day before and didn’t have plans for the rest of the day until a late dinner at Chef Mickey’s we felt like we had plenty of time to wait.

The actual wait time was probably just about 30 minutes, but the queue was a little interesting. Maybe this is somewhat ‘normal’ and just new to me because I would usually just avoid rides altogether when the lines are really long, but they had an extended queue open for the safari that took us backstage. You couldn’t see much of anything, as far as a backstage area in Disney goes it wasn’t all that exciting, it was just sort of jarring to me where I hadn’t seen that before.

This was an excellent safari though! We saw pretty much everything we saw the first time, with the addition of some of the baby animals, including the baby zebra and White Rhino! The painted dogs were more visible this time too, and one of the cheetahs was up and walking around (I usually catch them sleeping.)

We had such a good safari the second time around that I really would have come back and done it again later in the day to see what might be different, but by the end of our second day in Animal Kingdom we were just too tired. On our next trip though, assuming the park hours are longer and allow for it, I’d love to do a sunset safari!

Oh- As far as baby animals go, you can easily keep up with all of them when you’re not at the parks on Instagram. @drmarkatdisney is the Vice President of Disney’s Animal, Science and Environment programs, and he is always posting updates about what’s going on in Animal Kingdom and as well as with other animals around the parks (can’t forget about the animals at The Seas in Epcot, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the horses at Tri-D Circle Ranch!)

We kind of did a little bit of back and forth in Animal Kingdom that day, because after the safari we decided to go back to Asia to see…Oh wow, what’s it called right now…In my head I’m thinking Flights of Wonder but I know that’s not right…Up! A Great Bird–No….Feathered Friends in Flight! (Ok, can we just bring back Flights of Wonder at this point?)

I knew the show would be different because of COVID, but it wasn’t noticeably different at all and honestly if they keep it the way it is…I mean…I’d be okay with it. I LOVED Flights of Wonder, I thought the storyline with the tour guide and everything was really fun and just the right amount of comedy where I’d really rather focus on the animals. I thought the Up! version felt silly, and while you would see the same birds I didn’t care for the emphasis on the characters.

The current version was closer to Flights of Wonder minus the tour guide bit and some of the audience interaction, and I think that worked really well! I’m not sure what the average Disney guest thinks of it, but I don’t know…I’m just there to see birds!

After Flights of Wonder, we stopped to say hi to the Gibbons again in Asia. Seriously, I could watch them all day. Sometimes I really don’t know how I manage to do anything else in Animal Kingdom.

Then we went back toward Africa to stop for lunch at Harambe Market with the plan of stopping at Rafiki’s Planet Watch after. Admittedly, Harambe Market isn’t somewhere I get to for a quick service lunch in Animal Kingdom very often, so it was a nice change to try something different.

I haven’t been to Harambe Market since they had the curried corndog-like sausage (which was really good, by the way!) But this time we both ordered a ribs and chicken combo that came with cilantro rice and salad. It actually turned out to be one of our favorite meals of the trip! The ribs…might even rival Flame Tree Barbecue‘s…They were seasoned with something totally different (maybe actually a similar curry seasoning that used to be on the sausage?) and even the rice and salad were delicious!

Next up was Rafiki’s Planet Watch, another place in Animal Kingdom that I admittedly don’t visit during most of my trips but I really should. First of all, can we talk about how Rafiki’s Planet Watch pretty much looks like any zoo in 1998? It’s kind of funny. I’m not mad at it, just an observation (I mostly mean the exterior and overall design of the main building, especially the massive mural with all of the animal faces near the restrooms.)

While at Rafiki’s we pretty much went right outside to the petting zoo area. We went to our local zoo during COVID and the petting zoo area was closed so it was nice to be able to do it here! The animals at the petting zoo (sheep, goats, pigs, and a cow that day) were mostly chilling in the shade, but a couple of them were definitely interested in the attention from guests, especially the pigs who literally flopped over hoping for belly rubs!

We didn’t stop to do anything inside Conservation Station during this trip, aside from a quick walk through to see if any veterinary procedures were happening (they weren’t though), and to take a look at the lovely 90s decor near the restrooms. I would like to do the drawing class sometime, but this trip it just seemed like it’d be more annoying to carry whatever we drew around, so we’ll save it for next time when I have my larger bag with me!

We were getting pretty tired by the time we took the train back from Rafiki’s, and since we spent the day before in Animal Kingdom, too we planned on heading back to the hotel for a bit of a break before our late dinner that night. On the way out though, we did stop and see It’s Tough to Be a Bug! I kind of like It’s Tough to Be A Bug. It’s not my favorite, or a must-do every trip by any means, but I don’t know, I think it’s kind of fun. I remember being terrified of parts of it as a kid, but as an adult, it’s fine. And the Hopper Animatronic is still really cool.

After It’s Tough to Be a Bug, we went back to the resort to chill for a few hours. Josh took a nap and I intended to spend a few hours at the pool, but I laid down for a few minutes and ended up falling asleep, too. Part of me wishes I had made it to the pool because it doesn’t seem like I’m going to get a lot of beach days this summer up here so it would have been nice, but I guess I was just that tired!

The nap was useful though because our dinner at Chef Mickey’s wasn’t until 9:00 (getting character dining reservations was not easy for this trip, so times were limited). I’ve only ever done Chef Mickey’s for breakfast, which I thought I would prefer, but our dinner was surprisingly good! I don’t mean to knock Chef Mickey’s (obviously Mickey is an excellent chef), but it’s just not the kind of place you normally go for the food, it’s more for the characters. The new family style dinner was awesome though, so I hope that stays instead of the buffet! (Dinner included three different salads, fried rice, gnocchi, au gratin potatoes, asparagus, roast beef, turkey, and salmon, plus a tray of assorted desserts.)

As for the character interactions, they were lots of fun! The distancing was sort of weird, it definitely felt more noticeably different than the meet and greets in the parks. In the parks the floats and cavalcades felt different because I was so familiar with how things were before, but not totally off because they still have dance parties and parades in the parks so it wasn’t much different.

Eating at Chef Mickey’s without being able to hug the characters or pose for a photo right by your table was a little strange, but the characters were still really exciting to see and I think some of the selfies and photos with them from afar ended up being a lot of fun! Josh’s favorite character is Donald, and I’m so excited for him to meet him at a regular meet and greet sometime given how much fun he had just taking the above socially distanced photo at Chef Mickey’s.

We took an Uber back to All Star Movies after dinner and hung out at the resort for the rest of the night, which was fine because given the naps we were definitely tired. And we had our last day of the trip ahead of us with a full day in Epcot to drink around the world! Part 4 soon….

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