BEYOND THE RIDES: Wilderness Explorers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
A Free Adventure Challenge At Disney’s Animal Kingdom
“The wilderness must be explored! CA-CA! RAAWWRR”. I couldn’t agree with young Russell more! And with 580 acres* of outdoor space, there’s no better place to explore the wilderness than at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park. But don’t go it alone! Grab some trail mix (or a Dole Whip will do) and join Russell and Dug in a FREE wild adventure around the park with the Wilderness Explorer challenge.
The Wilderness Explorer challenge is a self-guided activity scattered all throughout Animal Kingdom. To participate, explorers of ALL ages will visit over 30 kiosks, completing simple tasks to earn a matching badge at each station. Tasks range from scavenger hunts to fact-finding missions, knowledge tests, and more. But not to worry! If you don’t feel so confident with your outdoor expertise, specialized WE guides are stationed at every kiosk to help you earn your badge. You’ll be earning badges left and right before you know it (or perhaps we should say “UP” and down in this case, if you catch my drift).
So how do you get started? Simple! Stop by any of the WE kiosks stationed throughout Animal Kingdom and tell them you’d like to join.
Wherever you stop, a WE guide will orient you for the challenge and then provide you with a personal guidebook for the tasks.
Use the guidebook’s map to locate each of the 30+ kiosks. Then, and most importantly, don’t forget to collect your badge for successfully passing off each challenge. Badges are kept inside your guidebook, which makes for a special souvenir when you’re done. If you’re not able to collect all the badges during your trip, just bring your guidebook back with you on your next vacation and pick up right where you left off.
Know Before You Go
Is the Wilderness Explorer challenge worth the time? Yes, with two thumbs way UP! HOWEVER, although the tasks and missions are quite simple, with 30 + badges to earn, the WE challenge will take up a large portion of your day (or two days if you’re completing the challenge with young children). If you’re a first time visitor to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may want to wait to join the Wilderness Explorers until you’ve had a chance to hit all the major attractions and rides or on a return visit to the park. That being said, the challenge will take you to every corner of Disney’s Animal Kingdom and is a wildly fun way to discover all the park has to offer.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Wilderness Explorer challenge is that on top of just being pure fun, it’s also EDUCATIONAL! (gasp!) No, not Hall of Presidents educational (although I do suggest that attraction as well). Rather, the WE challenge will excite your Little Explorers and help them to appreciate the natural world around them. It makes the ideal field trip a reality and keeps children actively engaged with each and every badge. I mean, when you’re standing amongst the bioluminescent lights of Pandora, having just come from a flight on a banshee, there’s really not much room to realize that you’re learning valuable information at the same time.
The Wilderness Explorer challenge is NOT only for children! Although most of the activities are aimed at elementary-aged kids, older children and adults will have fun completing the missions as well. I’ll be the first to admit that while I was going around to the kiosks, there were some questions that had me quite stumped for a minute as well.
Any participant who completes all the challenges to become a designated Wilderness Explorer will go home with a free WE guidebook and a badge for each mission successfully finished. I’m all for souvenirs and toys from vacations, but, to me, going home with the guidebook, badges, and all the memories that go along with them, is far better than a pin that sits in a drawer until next year’s vacation.
Like much of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Wilderness Explorer activity is almost entirely outside. As such, bad weather and heat may be problematic. But with a poncho or an iced treat from Starbucks, a little bad weather doesn’t need to slow you down.
We found that not only did earning the badges gave us more of a directional purpose as we made our way around the park, but the challenges also gave us something to do while we were waiting for our next Fast Pass or a show to begin. It really is a fun way to explore all that Animal Kingdom has to offer.
“A wilderness explorer is a friend to all, be it plant or fish or tiny mole!”
For more information about Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorer challenge, click here.
* In case you’re wondering, EPCOT is 300 acres, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is 135 acres, and Magic Kingdom… only 107 acres. You could basically fit 5 Magic Kingdom’s inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. So, YES, Disney’s Animal Kingdom most definitely has PLENTY of space to explore!