19 May 2009

Tigers in this forest

As a general rule I try to keep personal stories out of the Gazette’s headlines. That isn’t to say that there has not been the occasional mention of my wife, parents, sister, or friends, or that I have spun a tale about a terrific evening here or there, but for the most part I try to focus on the history and fantastic elements of Walt Disney World and less on my personal accounts. However, to describe some of the truly unique experiences available to guests, I find that, in this instance, I must resort to personal anecdote.

During the course of my last trip, I took several trips into the jungles of Anandapur and forests of Pangani. These trails offer some of closest and native environments for viewing the creatures that we share the planet with. Often, as it was on the days I visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom, these lesser experienced attractions were bypassed in favor of Dinosaur and Expedition Everest. For guests like myself who enjoy the time they have to be in the company of animals, the fact that the trails are not as crowded as they could be is a boon we cherish, but I also feel sorry for those who are missing out on these encounters.

While strolling along the Maharajah Jungle Trek, I was informed that the tigers were out in about. Almost all of the tigers I discovered were in a state similar to this:This isn’t really surprising, but I still stopped and marveled at each tiger I found. I stopped when I reached the Tomb of Anantah, the first ruler of Anandapur, which also serves as ground-level viewing of part of the tiger region and the entrance to the aviary. There had been one tiger strolling and frolicking about in this area before I made my way down, and I was wondering if I would be able to catch a glimpse of the large cat once more. Unable to see the tiger, I began to move away when an orange flash pounced up into the window where I was standing.

It did not appear angry or annoyed, more curious, but for approximately fifteen seconds I was nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye with a tiger, with only a piece of glass between us. To say that it took my breath away would be a gross understatement. I savored my moment with this majestic creature before the tiger jumped down and continued to move about the enclosure. Honestly, even though it was only ten o’clock in the morning, the rest of my day would pale in comparison.
As I have repeated this story to friends and family I was reminded that I became, for a few seconds, Winnie-the-Pooh as he is portrayed on my very favorite Disney’s Animal Kingdom shirt. I did not snap a photograph of the tiger in the window, and no one was with me to capture the moment forever, but as soon as the tiger jumped down I did capture one picture.

It is an encounter that I know I will never forget, and a story I wish I heard more often from other guests. While the trails and exhibits of Disney’s Animal Kingdom offer shade from the Florida sun, a vast amount of information on the animals of the planet, and quality time with the same creatures, they are not fulfilling their full potential as guests are not taking the time for these experiences. It is a shame to see such a treasure trove go unnoticed, and I hope a situation that is remedied as more and more guests find the true joys of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


Anonymous said...

I absolutley love both the Pangani Forest trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek. I have had the luxury of visiting WDW twice by myself this year and did both attractions both times. It was wonderful to be able to spend as much (or as little) time as I liked wondering the trails and looking at the animals and at all the details of the theming (which I think is some of the best in all of WDW!)

Josh said...

You are so right about this! Some of our favorite moments are the times we find ourselves face to face with some of the wonderful creatures on these trails.

We've watched gorillas (the bachelor troop) fight for supremacy. We've watched hippos battling it out. And we've seen a small antelope try to take on one of the huge Banteng bulls. This stuff is priceless, and way to many people just pass it by. Their loss.