Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

The Incredible Tree of Life

Wednesday February 8, 2017                                                          Most Recent Posts:
Animal Kingdom                                                          We’re Celebratin Carrie’s Birthday Week in Disney World
Walt Disney World                                                                      Picking Citrus Near Lake Louisa


As if to tell us we don’t have to go to Animal Kingdom to see wild animals, the turkeys come walking through the campground and around Winnona as we are leaving to catch the bus.

First I see the hens.  When I come out, they head away and cross the road.  Guess that’s the answer to “why did the turkey cross the road.  When we walk on toward the bus stop, the toms are showing off in the woods.








Very handsome dudes and huge when all puffed up.



Taking the bus from Fort Wilderness is the only way to get to Animal Kingdom.  So we do.  Our first fast pass isn’t until after 11 so we are able to wander through the Oasis and see things like the Black Swan, the only swan native to Australia.



The Babirusa pig, which means “deer pig”,  is from the Asian Rainforest and reminds me of the wild boar that do great damage to the forests and parks in Florida.  Sure wouldn’t want to run into those tusks.




The Saddle Billed Stork is an amazing looking bird and is actually wide spread in sub saharan Africa.  I can’t imagine thinking of him like we do our wide spread American Robins.









From the Oasis we move onto Discovery Island, the hub of Animal Kingdom.  The center of Discovery Island and the main icon for Adminal Kingdom since its opening in April of 1998,  is the majestic Tree of Life.  It appears to be a real African baobab tree.  It’s an impressive 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide at its base and is home to more than 350 meticulously detailed animal carvings on its massive trunk, its enterwining roots and outstretched branches.  The animals magically appear as you look at the tree.   It’s quite a moving sight as you come onto Discovery Island. 



Disney explains that the tree was engineered from a refiotted oil platform and designed to withsstand hurricane force winds but still look realistic. 

The leaves are made out of kynar which is a highly non-reactive thermoplastic fluropolymer.  Info for you chemists who might know what that is. 

The leaves move in the wind just like the leaves on a living tree would.

The Tree of Life took 18 months to complete with 3 Imagineers and ten artists working full time on its creation. 



A unique system of fabricating and assembling the branches was designed that enabled the flexibility that was needed to bring this idea to life. There are 45 secondary branches that lead to 756 tertiary branches. With 7891 end branches, the entire structure is covered with 102,583 man made leaves, each of which is more than a foot long.  I find this all absolutely incredible.

A major part of the illusion is the painting. With varying shades of browns and green used, you'll be tempted to reach out and touch it to make certain that it's not actually tree bark. Even when you're viewing it close up, the realism is striking.  You really must take the time to see it close up and bring binoculars for those high up branches.  You never know what you will find.



Today we spend most of the day walking the Discovery Island trails which encircle the grand tree or nearly all around as we did come to one section that isn’t open yet.  We take breaks for lunch and our two fast passes but mostly we are entranced by the tree, such a perfect symbol for the interconnectedness of all life and the diversity and beauty of the amazing creatures with whom we share this incredible planet, Earth.

We move onto the trails surrounding the tree.  So much to take in everywhere we look.  Some of the animals are quite obvious.  Others are very subtle.   What do you see here?





We interrupt our tree search and go across the bridge from Discovery Island to Africa.  Mount Kilimanjaro is in the distance.  We have a fast pass to see some real live animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari.




On the safari you see what you see and every time it is different.  Today we see Ankole Cattle whose horns can be up to 8 feet, Wildebeests, Giraffe,



Pretty amazing horns.



Giraffes and Elephants are among my favorite African Animals.




Seeing the little ones makes me feel the elephants must be reasonably happy with their Disney World habitat.


The White Rhino are a surprise.  Although they are the largest of the Rhinoceros and supposedly the most social, we haven’t seen them often on the safari.



By now it’s just after noon and the temperatures aren’t up to the predicted high of 83.  I guess the lion likes the view and the warmth of the rocks.



The Safari exits into the area of the batchelor gorillas.  They are out and moving around so we stay to watch.

One gorilla is sitting with his back to the waterfall.  Another is walking in this direction.











The larger male takes up a spot just to the right of the smaller one.  He’s not turning his back to anyone.  In fact, he looks at us and then to his left when he sees a third gorilla coming up out of the gorge.








No wonder he’s looking.  I just happen to catch the face on Gorilla 3 as he starts up the hill.  That mouth looks like it would have a roar but I don’t hear anything.  There is a Disney employee there who knows all of these bachelors and says this is posturing.  The two larger gorillas are jockying for heirarchy and position.



Eventually this fellow sits at the top of his hill with his back to us and ultimately walks on off.  I guess he doesn’t get the spot by the waterfall.



We leave the gorillas and stop for lunch where our table is directly in front of a performance area where watch great African dancers and acrobats.   They take volunteers from the audience to follow their dancing and this little girl is the star of the show.  She’s really got the moves.  Anything he can do, she can do.



After some excellent acrobatics, they get the whole crowd involved in dancing.  Everyone really has a great time. 




I love their wonderful faces.





On our way back to Discovery Island from Africa we stop for a parade and yet more dancing.  They do a lot of dancing here in Animal Kingdom’s Africa.  And in wonderfully colorful costumes as well.






Back on the Discovery Island Trails around the Tree of Life, we stop to enjoy the Cotton Topped Tamarind which is a New world monkey meaning it’s one of the five families of monkeys found in Central and South America.  He’s one of the smallest of the primates. His habitat is the humid tropical forest.  I wonder if Florida’s heat and humidity is enough for him.  They are very endangered as their habitat is logged for coffee and cattle.  There are only about 1000 left in the wild.


What a face!



Not too far away are three African Crested Porcupines taking a nap together. Actually, since they are nocternal this must be night time for them. They are the largest porcupine in the world with quills 1 to 13”  long.  Their most heavily armed area is their hindquarters.  When threatened the black and white quills along their head and back can be raised into a crest making the pocupine look much larger and threatening.  I read that if this strategy doesn't chase off the predator, the porcupine stamps its feet, clicks its teeth, and rattles its hollow-tipped tail quills. This would most certainly scare me but apparently if this too fails, it runs backwards and rams the attacker with the short, thick quills on its backside. OUCH!  The tips of its quills lodge in its enemy's skin, and the resulting wounds can disable or even kill the predator. Porcupines have been known to injure lions, leopards, hyenas, even humans.   No need to watch out for them in your neighborhood or on your travels, they live in hilly rocky habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and Italy.

Back at The Tree of Life we’ve come around to an area by a waterfall.  More animals everywhere. 




Can you name them?






We wander on around the paths at the base of the tree discovering more and more animals.



We are perfectly positioned for our fast pass to one of my very favorite things in Animal Kingdom, the show called It’s Tough to Be a Bug.  I say we are perfectly positioned because amazingly the 400 seat theater is housed in the base of the Tree of Life, in its root system.  But more on that and part two of the Incredible Tree of Life in my wrap up post on our day in Animal Kingdom.


  1. The elephants and gorillas are definitely my favorites. The gorillas have such human expressions it's uncanny. I can't remember where I was driving yesterday but at one point I looked to my left and there were many turkeys poking around in the grass there. I don't think I've ever seen wild turkeys around here before.

  2. The elephants are a lot safer in Disney than in thier natural habitat these days:) Come to think of it-those turkeys looked pretty happy too!

  3. I never tire of looking at the animals in the Tree of Life. Disney really put a lot of magic into it. Speaking of turkeys, do you remember the peacocks that used to wander around Fort Wilderness? It was sad to see them removed, they added a special touch when they opened their tails into full "bloom".

  4. I'm trying to ease my way back into BlogWorld, but yours is one I never stopped reading as it kept me "traveling" when I wasn't able to do it myself! Love the pictures of the gorilla! Sorry we couldn't connect while I'm in Florida.

  5. The tree of life is quite impressive! So are those animals.

    Wild turkeys can often be found in the countryside here.

  6. I always like your pictures of the Tree of Life. What an incredible tribute. Your pictures of the gorillas are terrific!

  7. So. Much. Wonderful. That shy gorilla is so adorable - the posturing one, very impressive! Great dancers - I would love them. Love all the information on the beautiful Tree of Life. As much as I love the animals you share, I think the Tree is my very favorite thing here.

  8. How fun to see wildlife right in camp. I've seen those Saddle Billed storks in South Africa and also baobab trees as big as that tree of life but not nearly as decorated. I wonder how those Ankole Cattle hold their heads up with all that horn. Oh boy, elephants! I would love to see gorillas in the wild. Looks like that one has his eye on you. I also have yet to see the Porcupines but have seen some of those huge quills. Thanks so much for the African memories. Your photos of the wildlife are wonderful.

  9. The Tree of Life is amazing!! I bet I could spend several hours or half a day just looking at all the detail. What talent went into creating it!!
    Love all the animals 😀

  10. Such amazing wildlife photos! That baby elephant is adorable. I love going to the San Diego Wild Animal Park and seeing the animals roaming free in natural habitats. It looks to be much the same at the Animal Kingdom, so I'm sure I would enjoy it. Thanks for the great tour!

  11. That Tree of Life is amazing!! Beautifully done. Great wildlife pictures as always! Such a fun place to be. I do hope the Elephants are happy :)

  12. I am fascinated and intrigued with that tree of life and I would like to see that in person one day. So much detail and well crafted! Your wildlife photos are always great ones especially when you snapped at them at the right moment.


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