When you first think of Animal Kingdom, you probably immediately think of the big stuff, like Avatar Flight of Passage and Kilimanjaro Safaris. But if those popular attractions are the only ones on your list, you’re missing out big time.
After all, this is Animal Kingdom we’re talking about, and there are a lot of opportunities to get up close and personal with animals you may not have the chance to see anywhere else, including multiple walking trails that feature some pretty cool exhibits.
One of the most low-key, fun activities in the park can be found right behind the park’s icon, the Tree of Life. If you’re ready to explore, join us for our complete guide to Discovery Island Trails.
Discovery Island Trails Quick Facts
Description: At Discovery Island Trails, you can follow the path (and walk through caves) around the Tree of Life for some gorgeous views of the park, along with a few animal sightings. Here, you’ll see exhibits featuring animals like the Galapagos Tortoise, the African Crested Porcupine, and the White Stork.
Discovery Island Trails is in the hub area of Animal Kingdom. The trail technically begins right in front of the Tree of Life, but there are also entrances to the deeper parts of the trails on both sides of the Tree of Life.
It might be easiest to take a left past the Tree of Life and find the one directly across from Creature Comforts (Starbucks). There is another entrance to the right of the Tree of Life, near the bridge to Asia.
How to Experience Discovery Island Trails
There is no Standby Line or Lightning Lane here. Instead, this attraction is offered for guests to explore at their own pace.
Since it’s a bit hidden behind the Tree of Life, it’s usually not too crowded here — in fact, if you visit first thing in the morning, you might find you’re the only one on it!
The trail is typically open for the full length of that day’s park hours, and you’re nearly guaranteed not to have any kind of wait to experience this attraction.
You can take your time visiting with the animals and checking out the up close views of the Tree of Life while also taking a break from the crowds in the rest of the park.
Do I Need To Use Genie+ at Discovery Island Trails?
Genie+ isn’t offered at Discovery Island Trails, but that’s okay — you wouldn’t ever need to use it, and that frees up your selections for bigger attractions in the park, like the ones in Pandora or even Expedition Everest.
However, this is the perfect attraction to check out while you’re waiting for your return time for nearby attractions. There are entrances and exits close to the Pandora, Africa, and Asia areas of the park.
For more Genie+ advice, check out our touring strategies for Animal Kingdom.
What to Expect When You Visit
There is no queue for this attraction. Just find one of the entrances (the one across from Creature Comforts is a great place to start, or you could begin by hanging out with the flamingos right out in front of the Tree of Life) and enjoy the trail!
Guests who are using ECVs and wheelchairs may remain in them while exploring the trails, since they are fully accessible.
During the Experience
The trails themselves are beautiful, with waterfalls to admire and caves to explore — not to mention the fact that you can get a better look at all the details and the more than 300 animals featured in the carvings on the Tree of Life (pro-tip: This also offers some awesome areas for photos without crowds).
But what you’re really here for are the animals, and this trail will deliver. There are several you’ll be able to see here, which include:
- Asian Small Clawed Otters
- Lesser Flamingo
- White Stork
- Saddle-Billed Stork
- Red Kangaroo
- Lappet Face Vulture
- Galapagos Tortoise
- West African Crowned Crane
- Ring-Tailed Lemur
- African Crested Porcupine
The trail is self-guided, so you could be done exploring the area in as little as ten minutes or take as long as an hour or more, reading the plaques at each exhibit to learn more about the animals featured here and watching the character boats float by. It really is up to you!
Is Discovery Island Trails Kid-Friendly?
Discovery Island is very kid-friendly, especially if the kid in question is a big animal lover. They’ll get to see plenty of animals up close, watching them exist in their habitat, and the trails themselves can be a great way to get rid of some energy while taking in the exhibits.
And like we mentioned, this is an awesome place to catch a great view of the cavalcade boats as they float by, which is something many kids are a big fan of.
There is nothing here that should scare little ones, but while you plan the rest of your trip, be sure to check out our list of attractions that could scare kids at Disney World.
Strollers are allowed on the Discovery Island Trails, which are fully accessible — there are ramps, so you won’t have to worry about carrying the stroller up or down a flight of stairs here.
When Animal Kingdom first opened in 1998, the Discovery Island Trails were actually called the Tree of Life Gardens, since at that time, there was already a Discovery Island at Disney World, though it has since closed down.
After that area shut down, a year later, the trails were renamed to Discovery Island Gardens before eventually settling on the name it has now.
Disney wanted to make it clear from the start that Animal Kingdom was not your typical zoo — in fact, early ad campaigns called it “Nahtazu” — emphasizing that the animal encounters like this one weren’t the kind of thing that guests would see outside of Disney World.
Other Fun Details
- The otter exhibit features 67,000 gallons of water — whoa!
- Sometimes you might be lucky to spot unique characters on the trails during the park’s Earth Day celebration.
- The animals here have changed through the years. Guests were once able to see capybaras, along with other animals that have either been moved to other areas or are no longer at the park.
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