By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is incredibly scenic during the day, but it takes on a whole new dimension once the sun goes down. Prior to now, few guests have experienced the park after dark. Now, Disney is on a mission to make sure you have plenty of reason to remain well into the evening.
The night-time event we’d been waiting for had arrived. Buses arrived at The Boardwalk and whisked us off to the park, where some of the friendliest Cast Members in the World greeted us and wished us a great evening. With the promise of the presentation of a modified version of Rivers of Light and a showing of The Tree of Life Awakens, there was no doubt that’s what we’d have.
The party took place in both the Africa and Asia sections of the park, but the excitement began before we reached Harambe. The pathway leading up to Africa was lined with characters from the former Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade, lending a nice nostalgic touch as well as a reminder that it’s all about the animals.
When we arrived in Africa, tables lined with the evening’s signature drink, Sunset Over the River, made a refreshing start to a spectacular party.
A buffet filled with flavours from the continent was set up around Harambe, adding a wonderful aroma to the sights and sounds of the evening, which included live music and dancing at every turn. It was like a street party, Africa-style, and the whole area was buzzing with festive anticipation.
Then it was on to Sunset Kilimanjaro Safari. The attraction we all know so well is completely different after dark, and while the animals can be difficult to see, that’s a big part of its charm. Instead of feeling like tourists exploring the savannah, you feel more like park rangers watching the animals become active as they go about their night-time resting and foraging. Watching the dark silhouette of a lioness, a giraffe or an elephant awake and alert and active in the night, is something quite unforgettable.
Taking photographs at night from a safari jeep bumping and rumbling along a dirt road isn’t easy, so we recommend not bothering, but instead, simply soak up the mystery and majesty of seeing these animals in a way they have never been seen in Animal Kingdom before.
Then, the time had come to make the trek into Asia, where a dessert party had been set up. The sweet treats were intriguing, but we were more focused on the new stadium for Rivers of Light, built into the landscape around the river. We saw only one portion of the show, but the lighting and water effects of the water lilies and the dancing fountains within them were so overwhelmingly beautiful and immense we almost forgot to clap at the end. If the rest of the show equals that part in creativity—and we firmly believe it will!—Disney has a major hit on their hands. You will not want to miss Rivers of Light.
The evening’s finale was The Tree of Life Awakens, a projection show on the Tree of Life hosted by, of all things, a slew of fireflies dancing in the treetop. It tells the story of various animal carvings on the tree coming to life, then it transitions into snippets from Disney stories inspired by the natural world, including Jungle Book, The Lion King, and a nod to Avatar. It will quickly become obvious where the best spots are for viewing the Tree, and we can assure you that, unlike us, you’ll want to be away from the light posts, if possible!
Image: Disney Parks blog
Before the event, we were excited about Rivers of Light making Animal Kingdom a full-day park, and, having seen a sneak preview, we’re even more convinced it will become a beloved Disney classic along the lines of IllumiNations and Wishes. Prepare to be WOWED!
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