Walt Disney World is full of details which can only be observed by one taking their time and deliberately stopping to really appreciate the immersive environments provided. The Oasis in Animal Kingdom is one of these areas. Full of animals in discreet habitats, it is not a realm which should be overlooked. Serving as the area guests walk through as they enter and exit Animal Kingdom, it was designed by Imagineers to transition visitors from the outside world into a realm of natural beauty. Disney describes the area on their website as follows:
Follow the Path to Adventure
Explore the untamed beauty of the natural world. Stroll shady trails past gentle waterfalls, meandering streams, imported flora and fascinating creatures. Keep your eyes open for the local residents of the Oasis: giant anteater, boar, barking deer, wallabies and spoonbills.
The Oasis serves a function similar to Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, U.S.A. With lush and dense plant life, it requires you to walk up a slope, eventually taking you up twenty feet higher than you began, allowing for a clear and commanding view of the Tree of Life. There are main walkways on both sides, where most all guest traffic occurs. But, in the middle there are several smaller trails and a bridge with flowing water. With green, gray, and brown tones, the animals seen in the Oasis camouflage well. They cannot be seen by quickly walking by.
Therefore, the Oasis must be enjoyed slowly, by looking closely for animals toward the back, amongst brush, and in small nooks and crannies. Wallabies, Rhinoceros Iguana, Babirusa, Reeve’s Muntjac, Black Swans, and Anteaters all reside here. Not quite fitting in elsewhere in the park, it shows Animal Kingdom’s commitment to all of earth’s creatures big and small (but all equally important).
Most of the creatures which inhabit this section of the park are quiet and prefer a lower profile. Dark corners allow for them to camouflage easily. Who are some of these residents?
The Reeve’s Muntjac is located in the Oasis as one proceeds up the right branch; their habitat is located on the left. The Muntjac is well camouflaged and difficult to see. I have only gotten a clear view of the animal prior to park opening. The Muntjac is a small brown deer with a long nose and antlers and is native to Southern China and Taiwan. They are named after John Russell Reeves, an employee of the British East India Company who introduced them to the United Kingdom in the 1830’s. The ability to bark and long front teeth provide protection from predators. A lush area of browns and greens, the Oasis helps to provide cover for this shy creature. Across the way from the Muntjac is the Indonesian Babirusa, a pig found in the swamps of Indonesia. They have long bodies with thin legs and canines which grow up to a foot in length. Babirusas fair well in captivity, often forming attachments to their caretakers.
Another understated resident a little further ahead and on a side path to the left, is the Wallaby. Similar to the Muntjac, they are primarily active around dawn or dusk and tend to stay at the back of their habitat during the day. Occasionally, I have seen them getting some sun in the middle of the day. The Wallaby is a marsupial native to Australia and nearby islands, and in the wild, they can congregate in groups of up to about 50 called mobs. Next door is the Rhinoceros Iguana who is essentially always visible and does not seem bothered by any noise or activity.
On the right branch, anteaters have set-up shop and are generally more visible. At the far end of their habitat, one anteater has created a nice cool spot in the dirt which requires guests to look down. The particular breed here is the Southern Giant Anteater which uses a two-foot long tongue to eat up to 30,000 insects a day. About the size of a Golden Retriever, they can be seen using their long bushy tail as a blanket. Their unique walk derives from walking on their feet, which are curled into a fist shape, allowing their claws to stay razor sharp. Solitary, the anteater will often change its sleeping habits based on the presence of humans, working to avoid them.
Other residents of the menagerie include ducks, swans, and birds always active and enjoying the waterways which permeate the area. African Spoonbills and Black/Black-Necked Swans add color, foreshadowing what is to come. A bridge and rock tunnels add a taste of mystique and adventure evident as one proceeds to places like Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail where the animals are bigger and bolder.
The best time to see the residents of this area active is in the morning, often prior to park opening. The temptation to rush to Avatar Flight of Passage is strong, but observing these animals munching on their breakfast and seeing the sun beginning to shine through the trees helps foster a strong appreciation of the natural world. However, if one cares to leave in the afternoon and head back to the pool at their resort, start by grabbing a cold beverage at Creature Comforts and slowly meandering to your mode of transit. This allows you and your party to cool down and explore. While many of these animals are resting in the afternoon, an abundance of ducks and other birds are always active. Slowly wandering along shaded paths, a turtle or two might appear and you never know what you will see!
My personal wish is Disney would offer tours of this area, pulling back the curtain and talking about specific care the animals receive and educating guests as to the foliage present. This would allow for an appreciate of Animal Kingdom to grow. A park many still see as a half-day experience immediately immerses guests into a world of lush flora and fauna beginning with the Oasis.
Is the Oasis an area you enjoy when visiting the parks? If so, what is your favorite animal there?
Spencer Wright is passionate about Walt Disney World, Disney Film, History, and Old Hollywood. He works in Center City Philadelphia and lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He looks forward to writing articles for The Dis Unplugged; currently focusing on Animal Kingdom and the creatures that live there.