We started the day with Kilimanjaro Safaris. Coolest animal ever? Probs. Theses are addax, a type of antelope. They normally live in deserts, but they're critically endangered. I would say as a vegan, this might be a good thing about zoos? And to me, Animal Kingdom seems like a pretty nice zoo, because the animals look like they have a lot of room, even though they are probably invisibly restricted to a certain area, but at least they are protected from hunting here.
In a theme park that's all about animals and conservation, some of the food options are...ironic. But luckily there is Tusker House. This is a buffet that also has character breakfast and lunch. I'm pretty sure it used to just be breakfast, so I was a little worried when I found out lunch would be a character meal, too. The last character meal I had at 1900 Park Fare was utterly chaotic. SO many little kids screaming and then the characters were interrupting the meal.... It wasn't bad, just not ideal. Luckily, this character meal was far from chaotic. Our reservations were at 11:20, which was perfect since we had been the park since about 8:30 (so we had had breakfast at, like, 7) and it was less crowded since it wasn't quite the "regular" lunchtime yet.
The guy taking our picture with Donald at Tusker House commented that Donald looked cute enough to eat and Donald shook his head and "hid." Then my mom (LOL) told Donald, "Oh, don't worry, we don't eat you!" And he hugged her. Bahahahahah. It was too cute.
We were seated and the chef came to our table after we took pictures with safari Daffy Duck. He led my mom and me around the buffet to tell us our options. He was super nice but I can't remember his name (Jason maybe?).
Jollof rice, fried plantains, saffron root veggies and tofu, some chutney and breakfast potatoes (obvs).
Another perk of an early lunch reservation? They were still serving breakfast, but they were about to switch to just lunch so our chef asked if we'd like allergy-free waffles. UM, yes plz. No question. They were perfect.
Our chef also brought out a special bowl of curried butternut apple soup. It was great! Perfectly spicy.
This was their apple and endive salad without the cheese. It also had cranberries and walnuts. Super refreshing and interesting.
From top center, clockwise: curried rice, Tunisian couscous salad, green beans, Marrakesh couscous with roasted veggies, and samosas with dried fruit chutney and mango chutney
Tofutti and Enjoy Life cookies. Something I really like about these buffets is that they come with drinks. You can get coffee, tea, or soda, but I really like getting coffee because Disney restaurants always have soy milk (and it was early and I was tired). They had brought a whole carafe of coffee out and I still had some left, so I mixed a little in my ice cream. Really jazzed up the plain chocolate. Then I crunched the cookies up in it too. Yeah, I got real creative :)
Awesome plate of Enjoy Life cookies for my mom and I! We snuck those out and saved them for a late-night snack.
I can honestly say that this was the best day I've EVER had at Animal Kingdom. This is because I did the Wilderness Explorer activity all day! I didn't find it when we first entered the park but we were on a trail (not sure which, there are so many!) and we ran into a Wilderness Explorer booth and they let me participate. I really thought it was just for kids, but nope!! You get a little book and as you complete the activities in it, you earn badges. Here are some of the activities: Safari Badge for doing the Kilimanjaro Safaris, Conservation Badge for learning about animal nutrition, veterinary medicine, and recycling, Hiking Badge for hiking the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail and answering questions in your booklet along the way. I also got a picture with the real Rafiki and I didn't have to wait in line! My favorite badges were the African and Asian Culture Badges where you would meet representatives from respective countries and learn something about their culture. This HAS to be my favorite because I'm getting my Anthropology degree in May... But really, learning about other cultures is obviously really important and I have to respect Disney for incorporating it into a theme park.
Animal Kingdom closed at 6 and the Wilderness Explorer activities closed at 5:30, so I didn't even get all of the badges! I hadn't been to Animal Kingdom since 2010 or 2011, and I remember it being fun, but oh so hot and exhausting. I feel like in the summer, it gets hotter than everywhere else and in January, when we were there this year, it felt cooler than everywhere else. Seriously, I kept my jacket and scarf on pretty much all day. Definitely no complaints though- it made the park SO much more enjoyable.
P.S.There is also a new allergy/vegetarian kiosk in the park that I didn't get a chance to visit because after we ate lunch, we were just hurrying to fit everything else in the day because the park closed at 6. Here's a good review of the new kiosk.