Wilderness Explorers Overview

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Head under this majestic sign to enter the wild Magic Kingdom.
Head under this majestic sign to join up as a Wilderness Explorer.

Animal Kingdom is undergoing a season of change, and one of the first things that was introduced was the Wilderness Explorers game. Animal Kingdom has a rather unfair reputation as a half day park, but if you’re interested in seeing everything, it will take you a full day, especially with the relatively early closing time for most of the year.

While that early closing time will change soon with the new nighttime entertainment options, the very nature of the park makes it ideal for a more leisurely day, using your touring plans to get where you need to go quickly to allow you truly enjoy the animals. In addition, the Wilderness Explorer game is completely interactive, with a go at your own pace that makes it great for weaving it throughout your day and allows you to play across multiple visits. Not only is the game entertaining, it is free to all park guests; and since you receive actual things to keep, it makes for a fun and free souvenir.

Let’s look at the game more closely!

Wilderness Explorer's Recruitment Station
Visit the Wilderness Explorer’s Headquarters to sign up!

The Wilderness Explorers game is an extension of the film Up, which allows you to become a Wilderness Explorer, just like Russell. As a Wilderness Explorer, you will be performing various tasks to earn your badges, which will take you around the entire park.

Before you begin to collect badges you will need to visit the Wilderness Explorer’s Headquarters and allow the Troop leaders to lead you through the indoctrination process and learn your special organization call. As a slight warning for anyone easily embarrassed: you will be standing in the middle of the walkway, making hand signs and cawing or roaring along with the leader. This almost eliminated me before I was fully joined up, but I stuck with it, and it did get easier! Next, you will be issued your identification badge (a sticker to wear on your shirt to identify you as a Wilderness Explorer for the troop leaders to be able to find you) and your handy dandy handbook.











Your handbook is basically your entire guide to the game, and since the game can be played over multiple visits, you can use the same one each time. If you do play on a different trip or day, just check in at Headquarters to get a new identification badge to show you are exploring.

Wilderness Explorer's Handbook
Follow this guide! It is literally your handbook to success as a Wilderness Explorer.

Inside your handbook you will find the directions for completing the task (or tasks!) for each badge, as well as your membership card, the troop’s motto, and the simple overview. As directed by your handbook, you look for the next area to earn your badge.

Membership Card
Inside your Wilderness Explorer’s Handbook, you will find your membership card and your guide to exploring.

There are 31 badges scattered throughout the entire park, and inside your handbook you have a park map that shows where you can earn each badge. It’s best to keep both your handbook and the regular park map handy, as the handbook map has only the lands marked, which makes it harder to navigate.

This map of the park shows where you have to go to earn your badges.
This map of the park shows where you have to go to earn your badges.

There’s no requirements to get the badges in any specific order, so feel free to follow your touring plan and fit in your badges as you go, but do note the closing time, which is not always the same as the park closing. The easiest way to find out the closing time is to check at the Headquarters (located on the bridge to Discovery Island from the entrance to the park), where it will be be posted. Be sure to check your map before you leave an area, because it’s really frustrating to realize you missed a badge back at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Look for small signs to show you where you can earn a badge, and note the one on top which shows you can sign up as a Wilderness Explorer.
Look for small signs to show you where you can earn a badge, and note the one on top which shows you can sign up as a Wilderness Explorer.

As you proceed, you will locate the Troop Leaders who are stationed to help you with your tasks by finding the small signs that looks like the badge you can earn there. In some locations, you can also sign up to be a Wilderness Explorer, instead of at the Headquarters, indicated by the logo, but those aren’t always found in the same location.

Page of Workbook 2
The flamingo badge is one of the first ones you come to after signing up, so be sure to stop there first!

Inside your handbook, each badge has a list of requirements that you must follow, and most give you some additional information about the location or the animals in that area. This is a fabulous way for kids to learn, with the fun of collecting the badges as a reward. The troop leaders are excellent at judging the age and ability level of each Explorer, and modify the task as necessary.

Page of the Workbook
The tracking badge asks you identify the animal you are tracking, and report back to the troop leader.

The badges ask you to do varied tasks, including listening and answering questions based on what you hear, watching animals and reporting on what you see, breaking codes, even drawing the animals you see.

Observing the Zebra
Working on the hiking badge by observing the zebras.

Something that might cause a bit of difficulty for younger players (and honestly, I found it difficult, too) is the lack of a surface to write your answers on as you work your way around the park. You soon get good at spotting a surface to write on, and just make it work. A good idea would be to bring a small, half-size clipboard, which you can get and bring along quite cheaply.

Working in the Workbook
If you’re visiting during the school year, you can have the kids learning and writing with nary a complaint.

The Wilderness Explorer game adds a much needed interactive element to a visit to Animal Kingdom. Just like  Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, the game allows you to see and interact with portions of the park you might not otherwise see or spend any time exploring. It’s a well designed experience, and it’s simply a must do on your next visit to Animal Kingdom.

Bats! You will need to observe the bats to earn your Bat Badge!
Bats! You will need to observe the bats to earn your Bat Badge, which has the best name of any badge.

Good luck, Wilderness Explorers, and remember your motto, “A Wilderness Explorer is a friend to all, be it plants or fish or tiny mole!”

Have you joined up as a Wilderness Explorer, or are you planning to do so on your next visit?

Katie McNair

Katie McNair was born and raised in Central Florida. She grew up visiting Disney World as often as she could manage. Her favorite park is Epcot, and her favorite attraction is Living with the Land. Katie currently teaches 7th grade language arts.

20 thoughts on “Wilderness Explorers Overview

  • July 14, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    We’re interested in doing this on our next trip. Can you sign up at other locations besides the headquarters?

    • July 14, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      Yes, you can, but there’s no guarantee of where. Generally you can sign up at the Flamingo badge’s location, which is located near the base of the Tree of Life. Look for a Troop Leader wearing a crossbody bag with the logo for Wilderness Explorers to sign up!

  • July 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Does this hold any adult appeal? We did the interactive Pirates thing at MK a couple of years ago and found it to be strictly for the kiddos. I love this as an excuse to explore every corner of DAK but if they’re going to raise an eyebrow at adults without children doing it…

    • July 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      I didn’t include the Pirates thing for just that reason. It was well done, but perhaps not as interesting to adults as to the primary audience of kids. I have mostly worked on my badges in a group of adults only without a younger Explorer along, and the Troop leaders were great. No one ever looked around to see where the kid player was, which I appreciated, since it could easily become a point of embarrassment. I did notice when I went back and explored again after borrowing a friend’s child that the Troop Leaders make the adults answer the questions correctly and actually probe you to think, which I honestly appreciated. They really do an impressive job tailoring this to each person who turns up to play. Next time you’re there try it out!

  • July 14, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    How are the badges constructed? Do they have pins, velcro, or adhesive?
    Love your posts.

    • July 14, 2015 at 3:35 pm

      Sadly, Disney didn’t spend the money to make it anything beyond stickers, but maybe that’s lucky, as anything as pricy (and cool!) as actual badges would definitely up the price to participate from free to quite a bit. However, both the stickers and your handbook are well-made and full-color, and the entire experience makes for great memories and your guide is a free souvenir.

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

  • July 14, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for this great overview! We are definitely planning on doing this with our zoologically-inclined first graders (twins) when we are there in Sept.

    Question: How long does it take to sign up? Our thought was to sign up first thing after rope drop and then get on with our touring plan and earn badges throughout the day. Thanks!

    • July 14, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Sign up is super quick, and if there’s a line, they will induct groups of new Explorers all at once. Basically, each Explorer will get a badge (sticker) to wear, a new handbook, a small golf pencil, and then you have to say do a few things with the Troop leader (like cawing like a bird.) Then you’re free to go explore!

    • July 14, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      They don’t start signing people up until 10am, so you won’t be able to do it at rope drop. Just an FYI.

      • July 15, 2015 at 12:08 am

        Good point! Even if you pass by headquarters and are further into the park by the time it opens, you can check the first station you see and ask the Troop leader there where the closest sign up location is. They should be able to tell you!

  • July 14, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    I did this as a solo adult when I did the Princess 10k in Feb, thinking I would get the handbook for my kids the next time they went. I was able to sign up at one of the Rafiki locations with the leader explaining how it worked in less than 5 minutes!

    • July 14, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      I know it was probably mostly designed for kids… but I must admit I really enjoyed it as an adult. I’m glad you got the chance to participate!

  • July 14, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    My 5-year old daughter absolutely loved the Wilderness Explorer game. We ended up going back to Animal Kingdom for a second day (last day of a 7-day trip) so that she could complete her book.

    They even had a mini-ceremony when she received her final sticker. It was her favorite experience of the whole trip.

    • July 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      How awesome! I haven’t *actually* finished all of my badges. Like I warned, I forgot one pesky little badge back on Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and it’s made me so irritated I haven’t gone and finished. I will have to now! Thanks for reading!

    • July 14, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      I want to echo Kurt — this was my son’s favorite activity at Animal Kingdom. He loved Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom as well, but we rejiggered our schedule to get the rest of the badges on the second day. It was so personal, so imaginative. Based on other people’s feedback, it seems like Disney has done a great job tailoring it to whoever is doing the activity. It probably was the most time consuming thing we did on the trip, but so rewarding. If you think your group may be interested, be prepared to devote a considerable amount of time to it. We scrapped the shows at AK to do this instead

      • July 15, 2015 at 12:05 am

        It does take a large chunk of time, but I do think it makes everything more rich and detailed, since you’re spending the time to focus on things in more depth. I’m so glad your son loved it!

  • July 14, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    If you participate as an adult, do not wear a camp shirt and khakis. After the CMs put a Wilderness Explorers “badge” sticker on my shirt, I spent the rest of the day having kids (and a few adults) handing me their books and asking for their next badge. I had to explain that I wasn’t a real WE guide.

    • July 15, 2015 at 12:04 am

      That’s hilarious! I’m sure it made for a frustrating day for you, but that’s the best. You were almost an honorary cast member for the day!

  • July 15, 2015 at 9:43 am

    My 6 year old son loves it too! We actually have 2 books at home (from 2 different trips) and the stickers easily transfer from one to the other. We will bring his newer book back with us in January and hopefully he will be close to finishing it off!

    • July 15, 2015 at 11:14 am

      That’s interesting that the stickers are able to be moved! I hadn’t thought to try that. That makes it easy to have a complete book even if you forgot the one you’re working on at home. Thanks!

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