Wilderness Explorers Overview
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
21 thoughts on “Wilderness Explorers Overview”
We’re interested in doing this on our next trip. Can you sign up at other locations besides the headquarters?
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!
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…
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!
How are the badges constructed? Do they have pins, velcro, or adhesive?
Love your posts.
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!
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!
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!
They don’t start signing people up until 10am, so you won’t be able to do it at rope drop. Just an FYI.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
I know this is such an old post, but I’m shooting my shot anyway– can anyone tell me the size of the stickers? I’d love to bring blank buttons to stick them on and pin to a little sash…