While Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is well known for its animal based attractions and exhibits and its exquisite attention to detail, there is one attraction which perfectly blends the two and takes guests into a lush and thriving forest. The Maharajah Jungle Trek® is a self-guided walking tour found in Asia, and it allows guests to experience up close encounters with many different animals while exploring beautiful ruins and plant life at their own leisurely pace.
The Maharajah Jungle Trek® (Trek) opened in March of 1999 and expanded on the theme of Asia’s fictional Anandapur by allowing guests the opportunity to head deep into the Anandapur Royal Forest which embodies the spirit and look of traditional Southeast Asian forests. The back-story of the Trek is that the palace and its grounds were originally constructed by a king of Anandapur as a hunting retreat. Some of the original opulence can still be found in the palace ruins, intricate artwork, and the ruins of a grand ballroom which is now home to the aviary.
Over time, the opulence and hunting retreat succumbed to nature, reinforcing the theme that nature is all important. The story is further enhanced by artwork found throughout the Trek which tells its history in more detail. Near the palace ruins, look for murals which depict the four former kings of Anandapur. The first king was a hunter who built the palace for his game hunting. The second king is depicted as representing sensual pleasures through material wealth. The third king was the conqueror who restored the palace to its original glory and opulence. The final king was the hermit who fled the palace and its people for a life in the forest where he suffered at the hand of nature.
In addition to the murals of the kings, a five piece relief found near the entrance to the aviary shares the story and consequences of man’s destruction of nature. However, it encourages that the balance can be restored and the full glory of nature can be returned. In the middle carving, look for a classic upside down Hidden Mickey on the man’s necklace!
With such a rich back story and such attention to detail, this is truly one of my favorite attractions to experience in Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. If you’ve been reading my articles for a while now, you know that I absolutely love details and spending time taking it all in. The Trek offers that opportunity from the moment you leave Anandapur and enter the forest. From prayer flags to intricately carved bird feeders to benches that are more like artwork than seats, beautiful details are everywhere in this attraction – so be sure to take your time exploring and taking it all in.
The journey begins with an unveiling of lush bamboo forests and the ever impressive Komodo Dragon. Further down the path guests encounter a small building that is home to Rodrigues Fruit Bats which can be found hanging out (groan!) amidst dozens of prayer flags. Past the bats is the main attraction of the Maharajah Jungle Trek® – the Bengal Tigers. Housed in the palace ruins, the tigers can be seen from three separate viewing areas and are more active in the early mornings and evenings. Just past the tigers is my favorite spot throughout the entire Trek - a small bridge overlooking Elds Deer and adorned with seemingly hundreds of prayer flags. It’s a beautiful testament to the level of detail that Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park is famous for.
The final section of the Maharajah Jungle Trek® is dedicated to the aviary – home to over fifty different species of birds. When you enter the enclosure, be sure to pick up one of the guides which will help you to identify and learn about the different species of birds around you. Be sure to take some time checking out all of the different bird feeders and baths, many of which are carved to look like temples and palaces. They have amazing details, and often, beautiful birds hanging out on them! Unfortunately, after the aviary the Trek concludes, and guests are reintroduced to Anandapur and its busy streets.
The Maharajah Jungle Trek® is an amazing attraction to experience due to its up close encounters with majestic animals and its incredible attention to detail. If you’ve never experienced the Trek before, I highly recommend spending lots of time exploring it on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
What is your favorite part of the Maharajah Jungle Trek®? Did you know the history behind the palace ruins? Let me know by leaving a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.