My absence from the internet is sadly conspicuous, but I promise I have a good reason! For my birthday this year Adrien and I both wanted to go on a trip, and we looked at skiing in Colorado, yoga retreating in Costa Rica, and and sight/snow seeing in Montreal. All of these would have been great, but definitely would have cost a pretty penny and DEFINITELY would have put a damper on our summer vacation plans of going to Mexico to swim with the whale sharks (!). So in the spirit of prioritizing, we decided on something local, but new to both of us — Animal Kingdom! I fully anticipated over-the-top corniness and explosions of Mickey ears, glitter, singing and snotty screaming children running wild. I was pleasantly surprised to find I assumed wrong.
We explored the gardens, animals, caves and sights, rode roller coasters, went on a 3-D dinosaur adventure, and bonus! We had a full day of active rest! 5 straight hours of walking, for real.
But I’ll be honest, the REAL highlight of our trip was the Wild Africa Trek, which is a private safari that takes you behind the scenes of everything.
The group was 6 people with 2 guides. Adrien and I were wary that it would be gimmicky, cheap, and rushed. Man were we wrong! 0 for 2 that day – in a good way. 🙂 It was amazing. We had a great foundation with weather you can’t beat: 78* and not a cloud in the sky with a slight breeze and no humidity.
I’m a big skeptic when it comes to staged adventure type stuff, but this felt so unlike that! It started with a long hike over the river and through the woods (some of these are freeze frame pics from a video camera, so the quality isn’t great)…
We stopped for a drink of guava/passion fruit/papaya juice…
We got super, SUPER close to sweet animals like giraffes, hippos, Nile crocodiles (this was a step up from 16 ft crocs and no barriers/fences!)…
Most of the time we were about 7 ft from all these animals and got to take our time and ask as many questions we could think of. See my hair in the bottom left corner of the pic above?! That’s how close we were!
- marinated tandoori shrimp
- air dried beef and prosciutto
- fruit salad in mint ginger glaze
- smoked salmon on a bed of jicama
- sundried tomato hummus with pita
- chicken curry salad
- an edible orchid!
We hiked back to the same place we started and along the way heard all about animal conservation and the effects of poaching and all that. Little side note to all my conservationists out there: one of the most common reasons elephants are killed is when they destroy farmers’ crops and thereby take their livelihood. Farmers get upset and kill the elephant to sell the tusks as retribution and to make up for lost income. As it turns out, elephants are terrified of honey bees! So groups are teaching farmers how to cultivate bee hives on the outskirts of their properties to keep elephants at bay, and also have an additional crop to sell. How amazing is that?! To be honest, it sounded a lot like we were about to be hit up for a donation. But we weren’t. A sizeable portion of your ticket is donated to different organizations, AND we got to pick which cause it benefitted. You could choose between wild cats, elephants, or hippos, and the group was split evenly between elephants and wild cats. A & I put ours towards the hippos. No love for them?! Can’t have that! 🙂
One more thing that made this totally worth it… along the way there was a photographer taking pics of everything from beginning to end, and a CD of every single one is going to be sent to us in a couple of weeks after they’re cropped and touched up. That’s included in the ticket price, too. 🙂
Part II of our adventure was dinner at Cafe Tu Tu Tango!
It was an amazingly fun, loud,
tipsy, tapas dinner. I don’t wanna stereotype, but if you enjoy any combination of the following, you’d really love this place: Tim Burton, Ani difranco, Salvador Dali, Mexican inspired cooking, indie music, salsa music, the arts, tattooed & very cool personable servers, sangria, micro brews, and/or bright colors. It was definitely a bar feel but still clean, friendly, and I didn’t see a single drunken college student stumble out the door. A good sign in my book! 😉
The day after we spent some good QT at the outlets and Mall at Millenia and had a hilarious, memorable road trip home.
Best. Birthday. Ever!