2002: Animal Kingdom Lodge

Thursday,  Animal Kingdom Lodge – here we come.

Well we spent most of the morning packing up,  trying to get all my purchases into suitcases (impossible) and generally leaving the villa – we had certainly made ourselves comfortable in our home away from home, and it took us a long time to pack.  I think both Phil and I were wondering if it was really worth the hassle, as we were quite comfy in our pad, and whole moving process took us the best part of the day – but then, we would have had to pack later on anyway, so we were just doing it earlier.  I tried to pack most of the cases so we wouldn’t need to open them again, and we just had one case to use in AKL –so it wouldn’t be such a big task later in the week.

We had to stop at Walmart and buy a new case ($15) and also get some petrol – what a palava – you had to pay in advance,  either with a credit card at the pump , or with cash inside, we had loads of cash that we wanted to use up, so Phil attempted to pay with cash, but had trouble understanding the machine – we had to move the car to another pump, and then he had to go in and argue with someone – eventually he had to guess how much petrol he would need,  leave that much cash inside,  then dispense his gas,  return inside to get the change – this really is the land where credit card is king.

Anyway – after much ado, we finally arrived at the AKL around 2pm.  We had never been before, or even seen it,  so I really had no idea what to expect.  It’s really impressive as you drive up, as it is really well hidden, and then suddenly appears out of nowhere.
We park up, and a nice porter person comes to help us unload our bags – which is nice,  but we have a number of cases, and then loads of carrier bags which I am frantically trying to stuff into the new case – in front of the hotel – we were all rather disorganised and chaotic, and to be honest I would have preferred to deal with my bags myself,  but we needed to use the trolley, and so you have to use the porter.

Anyway, bags unloaded Phil goes to park the car,  and we go inside with the bags, where we are passed onto porter number 2 – I didn’t tip the first porter as Phil had all the money, and I never worked out if I was supposed to tip them both,  or if they shared the tip,  etc – I really wish they would just have a sign up with bag charges on it.  Anyway, while Phil was parking, the 2nd porter gave us a lovely guided tour of the lobby, including the fire pit, and this amazing ceremonial mask which is bigger than a person.  Phil returned,  we checked in,  and headed up to our room.  We had only booked a standard room,  so I was expecting a parking lot view,  but when we entered the room, the porter opened the curtains, and there stood a giraffe – that was a priceless moment.  We all dashed out onto the balcony to look at all the animals, while the porter was trying to point out light switches etc.  Phil took care of the tipping,  and we were left alone in our perfect room.  I have heard much about these rooms,  but all I can say, is we loved it.  We were overlooking a small side savannah on the Kudu trail, and we saw 3 giraffes,  loads of birds, and lots of other animals which I can’t identify.  It was a real treat just standing on the balcony watching the animals.
It was so late in the day ,that we decided to completely change our plans, and spend the afternoon at the hotel,  have an early meal at Boma’s, and then go to the Magic Kingdom afterwards.  We started with a swim , the pool is lovely, in fact the whole hotel is amazing – it feels very laid back, relaxed and casual,  but really unusual and luxurious all at the same time.   I’m not a big swimmer so I found myself a sunbed, while Phil and Katie swam.  We had forgotten Katie’s armbands, but they have lifejackets available, so she borrowed one and had a great time.  She really enjoyed the slide as well.  I just enjoyed looking at the hotel- it’s a really unusual building.

After our swim, we got changed and headed down to Boma, we had a PS for 5.15 so it was very quiet in the restaurant.  The food was just amazing,  Everything was lovely from the soups (wow,  the soups…) to the desserts – the zebra domes are to die for,  as was everything else we tried.  We all ate platefuls of food,  I just kept going back to try more things,  even Katie had plenty to eat – this was the best buffet that we have had anywhere, when we could eat no more, we rolled ourselves out to the bus stop and caught the bus to Magic Kingdom – this came very quickly which was a great relief as last year we found the buses to be very slow.

We got to MK for 7 o’clock and packed loads into the 3 hours we were there.  We started with the Castle forecourt show, then Katie fancied a ride on Dumbo, and since the line wasn’t too long, off we went.  While we were waiting in line , an ominous cloud was heading towards us.  They kept announcing ‘Dumbo will close if it rains’, but Katie was willing to wait anyway and managed to get her ride.  After Dumbo, we picked up a Fast Pass for Pooh Bear, as the standby line was 60 minutes, as was Peter Pan.  We walked straight onto It’s a Small World, then decided to go over to the Pirate ride which had no line at all ‘ Yo ho ho,  it’s a pirate’s life for me’
We headed back to Fantasyland for our Pooh FP and have 15 minutes to wait,  so Phil and I decided to do Snow White – Katie absolutely would not go on, and after riding it I can see why – I think this is a very disappointing ride – it’s not about Snow White  at all,  it just really focuses on the witch.  We won’t be bothering with Snow White again.  It’s now time for our Pooh Bear Fast Pass, and of course, the standby line is only 2 minutes, but we use the Fast Pass anyway – well we’ve waited an hour, I wanted to use my ticket.  I tried really hard to find the picture of Mr Toad handing over the deeds,  but I failed to spot it.
Since all the queues were really short, we decided to try the Tomorrowland Expressway and Katie finally get’s to ride it- she’s been wanting to do this all week,  but I wasn’t about to wait an hour for it.

After the speed demons return from the Expressway, we start to head out of the park,  but as we pass Buzz we notice there is no queue there, so we dive in.  I’ve been reading some hints and tips, and desperately try to hit the secret 100,000 point target,  but I don’t manage it.  Katie hit something worth 40,000 though, so she beat me hands down.

We headed out of the park now,  through all the shops on Main Street (still my favorite place in the park) and we found a spot right near the parks entrance to watch the fireworks – Katie declared them ‘very pretty’.  As we were so near the entrance, we managed to get out of the park and back on a bus very quickly, and before we knew it we were in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.   We stopped by the store, and I picked up a couple of lanyards,  for non-pin traders we have managed to accumulate a  lot of pins and they won’t all fit on Phil’s hat anymore.

Before we went back to the room, we took a walk out into the savannah on the Arusha Rock- this is just off the lobby and goes quite far back into the savannah.  There was a ranger out on the rock who loaned us some night vision googles so we were able to spy on the Zebra’s – very cool.

We then headed back to the room, and discovered our only disappointment with AKL – we both fancied a coffee,  but they have no coffee machines here.  Seems a little odd, since we had a coffee machine at the Caribbean Beach.

Well,  the plan said Favorites, so we decided to start at Animal Kingdom as Katie really wanted to see the Pocahonta’s show, and then we were planning on seeing Bear in the Big Blue House at MGM, and maybe Blizzard Beach to finish the day.  Well,  that was the plan anyway.

I work up really early,  so I decided to go down to the Mara (food court) and get some coffee’s – we don’t really use the food court much, so we don’t get the refillable mugs,  but I wished I had bought some, because the coffee’s were very hot, and it was really hard to carry them back to the room without spilling them on my hand and swearing loudly.
After coffees,  we headed to the Animal Kingdom and had breakfast in the coffee shop at the Tusker House – I wish they exported those sticky buns  – they are gorgeous,  Katie and Phil shared a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast – well it’s a vacation right?
After breakfast, we saw the Pocahontas show – Katie just loves Pocahontas and has watched the video about 100 times,  so this was a must see show – she was really excited to hear them sing Colours of the Wind and to see Grandmother Willow talk.
After the show we left the park, intending to go to MGM,  but Katie was not too keen on the plan,  maintaining that she just wanted to ‘relax’,  so we decided to go to Blizzard Beach instead.  When we got there it was closed due to capacity,  so we headed round to Typhoon Lagoon instead,   this is where having the car was a big bonus,  I don’t know how long that would have taken by bus, or even how we would have done it.
Anyway,  we got into Typhoon Lagoon,  bought a sticker for our Blizzard Beach mug and set up camp in the Ketchakiddie Creek area.  We had been there about 10 minutes when the heavens opened.  I ducked under a huge umbrella, while Katie continued to play in the water, quite undeterred by the rain.  It rained for about 20 minutes then it stopped and was glorious sunshine again.
We decided to try the family raft ride,  this was really disappointing,  it’s much shorted than the Blizzard Beach version, not very fast, and mostly there is just water pouring on your head – I wasn’t impressed.
A float on the creek was in order to cheer myself up,  after spending 10 minutes or longer trying to get into my tube (is there a way to do this daintly?) we were off – straight under a waterfall, a very strong scary waterfall – I managed to get through it, but Katie got stuck under it,  she just wasn’t moving,  so I had to jump back out of my tube and go and rescue her.  She was actually very brave, because I was quite scared when I went through, and she was under it much longer than me,  but she was ok, just a little shaken.  Now, of course,  I had to get back in my tube, without the benefit of steps,  and somewhere along the way we had lots Phil.  I  walked, I floated, I jumped around like a prat, and eventually a nice CM showed me a good ledge to stand on to fall back into my tube, and we were off again.
After our not so lazy float, we grabbed some food – I can’t remember what, but Katie’s came in a bucket complete with spade which was handy.  We had just finished eating when they announced that the water areas were all closing due to lightening in the area.  We were all herded into safe areas, and we ended up under a wooden shelter, where Katie made some friends and they all built sandcastles together.
We stayed under the shelter for about ½ hour or longer, and eventually decided to leave the park,  just as we were walking out, they announced that it was reopening,  but we were quite happy to go by then.

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