*spoiler alert* If you plan to take the Backstage Tales Tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and don’t want to know the details of how it unfolds, this is not the post for you!
I recently traveled to Walt Disney World with my two daughters, in celebration of my older daughter Jessa’s high school graduation. Since Jessa graduated from an Agriculture Sciences magnet program and plans to major in Animal Science at Texas A&M University, I wanted to give her the chance to go in-depth with some of the animal experts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom while we were there. I booked the Backstage Tales tour in Animal Kingdom. For the $90 investment (per person), this tour was well worth the price of admission. It was a small group – me and one other mom, with 5 kids between us.
We started off in the Guest Services area at the entrance to Animal Kingdom. Our guides, one a former teacher and the other a Disney College Program alum, met and welcomed us. As we were having a torrential downpour that morning, each of us was offered a clear poncho with Mickey Mouse on the back – the same ones they sell in the gift shop for about $9. We headed into the Oasis area, and talked about the history and construction of the park. We also had the rare chance to see the Tree of Life in an empty park and have our photo taken.
We made our way to the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (soon to be renamed Gorilla Falls) and entered the aviary. A keeper was there and talked to us about how they manage the bird population. He explained that they have to count and check in on each bird every single day. They make sure each one is in good health, eating enough and not injured. We were given the opportunity to hand out yummy bird treats (mealworms, ew!) and the birds were more than happy to take advantage. On our way out, in the exhibit where the naked mole rats live, we were privileged to find a keeper who had just located a baby beetle, and he was happy to show the newborn grub off.
Next stop was the elephant house, where the keepers were giving the elephants baths. We got to see them playing with their toys, and a keeper talked to us about the care of the elephants. Then we visited the rhino house and got up close and personal with Frankie, an adult male white rhino. His keeper talked to us about his life and that of the rest of the rhino population. Then we traveled to the invertebrate house, where we saw spiders, scorpions, katydids and butterflies. Many of these creatures are carried onstage by keepers to greet guests in the Oasis.
It was time for a break, so we were taken into a Cast Member conference room and given a presentation on sea turtles and how the Disney Company is making efforts to help maintain the wild population. Disney’s Vero Beach Resort has a number of very cool interactive experiences for guests to be involved with sea turtles. We were also given a snack and a special gift to take home.
We were able to enter and tour the nutrition center, where Animal Nutrition Specialists were preparing food for some of the animals. We watched them cut up restaurant-grade produce for the vegetarian animals and portion out meat for their carnivorous clients. We learned about the ways that they distribute the animal diets and how they use different means to entice the animals to eat.
Then we headed to the veterinary clinic and talked to a vet technician about how they care for sick or injured animals, and check up on those that are being transferred to or from another facility. We even got to see them do an X-ray on a frog!
The final stop was on Discovery Island, where we were taken behind the Tamarin Monkey exhibit. We were able to put our knowledge into action and create snack boxes for the monkeys, which the keeper then placed in the exhibit. We got to watch as they explored and devoured the treats, knowing that we’d had a hand in their care for the day. I was thrilled when Draco chose my snack box to dig into!
My girls and I really enjoyed this tour and would do another one in a heartbeat. We learned a lot about animal care and nutrition as well as how the park operates. If you have the opportunity, this family highly recommends taking of this special experience!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Aly Miller is a lifelong Disney fanatic. She recently discovered the WDW Radio Podcast and became a member of the WDW Radio Nation. When she isn’t obsessing over all things Disney, she and her husband run Chad Miller Auto Care, an independent full service automotive repair shop in San Antonio, TX.