Florida is the second most popular tourist destination in the United States due to the plethora of theme parks scattered across the state. Hidden amongst the infamous selection of thrill rides and dazzling spectacles are some amazing experiences that many animal lovers probably assume exist only in their dreams. In no particular order, here are five of the most thrilling wildlife experiences Orlando has to offer.
Disney‘s most recent addition is the perfect mix of zoo and theme park. In addition to the entertaining attractions people have come to expect from a Disney property, the 500-acre park is home to more than 1,700 animals from various regions of the world. The Asia portion features the Maharaja Trek, a walking tour that exposes guests to bats, komodo dragons, deer, and birds. In the Africa region of the park is home to the Kilimanjaro Safari, which is an 18-minute adventure through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Passengers may encounter lions, elephants, giraffes, and many other African creatures.
If you’re looking for an even more thrilling animal experience, you can check out Animal Kingdom’s Wild Africa Trek. The Trek is a private three-hour walking/riding tour of the Safi River Valley, which resembles the animals’ native home in Africa. The exciting excursion requires participants to wear closed-toed shoes and safety harnesses as they travel through grasslands and across rope bridges. In an all-terrain safari vehicle, guests ride over an open savanna inhabited by giraffes, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, and more. During the journey, tour guides share in-depth knowledge about each of the animals, as well as information about Animal Kingdom’s dedication to animal conservation. The Wild Africa Trek is not included with the regular admission ticket, and the price of the tour includes a complimentary souvenir and gourmet African inspired snacks to enjoy after the tour.
Lowry Park Zoo
Just outside of Orlando is the Lowry Park Zoo, located in Tampa, FL. This zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals who are all from regions with climates similar to Tampa. Different areas of the park are dedicated to creatures from Asia, Africa, Australia, and Florida. The zoo’s primary focus is to provide care for endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species. There are several opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals at Lowry Park Zoo, from the petting zoo and the Pony Mingle to the Macaw Flyover and the Walk with Wallabies. There are also a few areas where you can purchase food to feed certain animals like giraffes or stingrays.
For an even more intimate look at Lowry Park’s critters, join the Behind-The-Scenes golf cart tour led by the zoo’s animal care team. Participants can check out the Manatee Hospital, Veterinary Clinic, Commissary, Elephant Barn, and Rhino Encounter. The guides demonstrate how they interact with and care for the animals, as well as discuss the zoo’s conservation efforts. Guests can also feed and observe a rhino up close. This tour is not included in zoo admission and costs $29.95 for non-members.
SeaLife Aquarium is Orlando’s newest animal attraction, located at the brand new I-Drive 360. The aquarium showcases animals native to each of the world’s major oceans. Guests can walk through a 360-degree underwater tunnel, touch Sea Anenome or Starfish in the interactive rockpools, and even have the opportunity to feed some of the sea life. There are several educational-yet-entertaining talks that teach guests about specific animals or regions that are represented in the aquarium. If the exhibits throughout the aquarium leave you yearning for a closer look at the awesome sea creatures, there are two different tour opportunities to participate in. The Behind-The-Scenes Tour is a 25-minute walk through the working areas in the aquarium, where guests can learn all about how the animals that live there are cared for. The Discover Tour is an hour-long interactive tour led by a SeaLife diver, which allows guests to witness special interactions between the animals.
SeaWorld Orlando is home to nearly different 20 animal exhibitions. In addition to the entertaining and educational animal shows, there are several places to view the park’s various creatures up close. However, there are only two exhibits that guests can actually interact with the aquatic animals; the Dolphin Cove and the Stingray Lagoon.
Get even closer to the ocean animals at SeaWorld’s sister park, Discovery Cove. In the Dolphin Cove, guests get the chance to learn all about communicating with bottlenose dolphins and get to know the animals one-on-one with hugs and kisses before swimming with them in deeper water. You’ll find playful otters and marmosets while swimming in the Freshwater Oasis and snorkel among colorful schools of fish in the Grand Reef. Outside the water, there are hundreds of friendly tropical birds flying around the Explorer’s Aviary that will land on visitors’ hands and wait to be fed.
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