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By Darlin’ Diva

I have an extremely active imagination.  Sometimes it just needs to be set free, you know… to go wild, run amok, burn off a little steam.  One of the most exciting places for my imagination to roam free is on the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

This self-guided walking trail (whoa that sounds boring, but trust me, it’s not),  is located in the Animal Kingdom’s Asia section, and is one of two trails that opened with the park in 1998.  The other trail, the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, is located over in the Africa area.

TIP:  If you only have time for one trail, this attraction is almost always less crowded than the Pangani trail. Pangani gets packed because its entrance is right at the exit of Kilimanjaro Safari.

The attention to detail Disney uses along this walkway in Asia is so spectacular, you (and your imagination) will easily believe you have been transported back in time. Back in time to a far off land – to a wild Asian jungle filled with amazing sights and sounds.  Honestly, if you find yourself with 30 minutes of touring time to spare (like between fast-passes maybe), it would be well spent strolling along this fantastic exhibit’s nearly 1/2-mile of winding paths.  Like the Pangani trail, there are many exciting things to see and experience in the Maharajah’s Jungle…for animal lovers, it doesn’t get any better than this.  Without a doubt, explorers of all ages (including little stroller-riders) will find something enjoyable along this tour.

TIP for HUNTERS (of Hidden Mickeys):  There are several Hidden Mickeys along the way.  I’ll give you one hint:  Pay particular attention to the turban-wearing man depicted on the wall of the ruins.

Now…set your imagination free (go on, you know you want to)….

Enter the Royal Anandapoor Forest (pause for effect).  Take in your surroundings for a moment and you will be certain you are in the Asian wilderness where royal hunters once chased their prey.  The trail first brings you to the huge, prehistoric-looking Komodo Dragons – it’s easy to imagine them using their tongues to “smell” you and decide you’d make a delicious meal!

Moving on, you’ll approach the exhibit area for Malayan tapirs (what the heck is a tapir?).  These awesome large vegetarians have the coolest little “trunks” for noses (look for them-short little elephantine trunks – really!).  The only type of tapir found in Asia, Malayan tapir’s numbers in the wild are dwindling due to loss of habitat. Sometimes they’re a little tricky to spot so a little extra patience may be needed in order to see one of these amazing relatives of both the horse and rhino (I think it’s worth the effort to spot one.)

Keep walking and you’ll find an unbelievable “cave” for viewing two types of bats: Rodrigues fruit bats (both bat photos are of these because I was totally floored by their size, which is enormous, and their leathery wings are just crazy-scary looking) and Malayan Flying Foxes (if you need to know what those look like, go see ’em for yourself). What is totally incredible is that for part of this exhibit, there is nothing separating you from the bats! It’s true!  So while you’re standing there watching them, imagine how frightening it would be for the sun to set and those bats to wake up!!!!  Yikes!

Walking along again you will come to the very best part of the trail – the decaying ruins of the Maharajah’s palace. (Begin imagination sequence now)  Shhhhhh…tread softly notice the lush Asian jungle vegetation as it grows among the ruins and listen to the songs of what must be a hundred birds.  You can feel an air of expectation….THERE!  Look!  TIGERS!!!!  It’s easy to imagine you’re suddenly with Mowgli in The Jungle Book as you find yourself face to face with Shere Khan, the Bengal Tiger.

PHOTO TIP:  This is an excellent photo opportunity since you can get a great look at these fierce but gorgeous cats.  Disney has cleverly added windows to the tiger viewing areas to there are no bars separating you from the tigers.

Like the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek also includes an aviary (avoid this if you are afraid of birds!).  This amazing collection of Asian birds can be wonderfully entertaining.  Bird spotting cards and signs will help you identify the beautiful (and sometimes weird) species in this area.

There’s never a wait and the trail is open to all visitors.  Don’t miss a fantastic opportunity to let your imagination run as wild as the animals along the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Until next time…Darlin’ Diva