One of the more recent additions to the Walt Disney World Theme Parks are the interactive quests that you can participate in at each park. These are awesome! They get the kids involved and interested in areas of the parks where they otherwise might be bored or not as into the attractions such as the World Showcase at Epcot. Well at the Animal Kingdom, they have the Wilderness Explorers.
The Wilderness Explorers has been around for years, but only recently have both my boys been old enough to understand and truly engage with the cast members. and THEY LOVED IT! If you are unfamiliar with it, the concept of the Wilderness Explorers stems from the movie Up, where Russell is in search of his final badge for his Wilderness Explorers Club when he meets Mr. Frederickson, the protagonist of the film. So in Animal Kingdom you get a chance to join the Wilderness Explorers and tour through the entire Animal Kingdom Park in search of badges which you must then earn from the cast members.
The starting point to pick up your Wilderness Explorer Handbook and earn your first badge is the "headquarters" located on the bridge between Oasis and Discovery Island. From there you will travel to different posts throughout the park on a self-guided pace to earn over 30 badges. Some of the badges include the Ecology Badge, the Hiking Badge, the Asian Culture Badge, and the Dinosaur Badge.
Each Post is marked with a small wooden sign that coordinates with the badge itself you can find in your Field Book. Another hint is to look for Cast Members carrying orange satchels. Those are carrying the badges and so they can help you find where you are looking for. Each badge took approximately 5-10 minutes to do and to be honest a lot of that time was spent trying to find the different stations!
Here is one tip that would certainly have helped us going into the Wilderness Explorers is that some stations close BEFORE the park does. There are 4 badges located over at Rafiki's Planet Watch which closes around 4:30pm. So if you are working hard on collecting every badge, I encourage you to make sure you look at the times at the different locations and prioritize the ones with earlier closing hours.
And did I mention, this activity is FREE? Making it a great way to spend time with your kids, explore the Animal Kingdom, and save some money in the process!
Overall, we truly enjoyed this activity! My children found it fun (and dare I say it, educational!) and we were encouraged to explore areas of the park that we had otherwise ignored and passed by without much thought. And it was FREE! I really can't ask much more than that!
UPDATE: On our most recent trip to Animal Kingdom, once again our kids begged to be Wilderness Explorers, and really how can I not say yes? This time they were flat our insistent on collecting every single one of the badges. So we set of to do just that, and a little over 6 hours later, they did it! They collected every single badge. The best part was that the Wilderness Explorer Leader made a huge deal out of it and announced it to everyone near by. The boys ate it up! Again, this is really a super cute and fun thing for kids of all ages.
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!