Oh, Darling: Let’s Be Adventurers

Wilderness Explorers (At Disney Again)Well howdy, adventurers! Lace up your hiking boots and put on your thinking caps for the third installment of a four-part series presented by Mouse on the Mind and At Disney Again. Each Friday this month, we’ll be sharing the stories and sights of Disney World’s interactive in-Park games. All of the photos in this post were taken by At Disney Again, and you can find more beautiful photos from our recent adventuring on his blog.

The wilderness must be explored! And if you’re brave enough to be a friend to all, make a pit stop at Wilderness Explorers Headquarters, located on the path leading toward Discovery Island, right about where you’d normally take your photo with the Tree of Life in the background.

There, you’ll meet with Troop Leaders and Badge Guides who’ll start you off on your journey to become a Senior Wilderness Explorer (just like Russell!) by giving you a Wilderness Explorers Handbook and a pencil. (A GOLF PENCIL! My favorite kind of pencil.)

At this first stop, you’ll also earn your first badge: The Wilderness Explorer Call Badge. We were initiated by the lovely Leah, who walked us through the challenge: to learn and repeat the world-wide organization’s special call.

(For even more photos of me looking like a dork, head over to the companion photo post, with nearly 100 shots of the Wilderness Explorers game!)

Here’s the anatomy of earning a badge: first, you find a badge location based on the map in the very front of the Handbook. Most of them are totally easy to find; however, some of the badge locations are also merch shops, which can be a little confusing. Keep your eyes peeled for the badge signs, though–they won’t steer you wrong.

Once you’ve found the sign signifying a badge, follow the instructions on the corresponding page. Most badges require two steps to complete the task, but some are only one and a few are ongoing (like circling all of the animals you encounter). Once you’ve completed the task, connect with the Badge Guide, who’ll give you a sticker to show you’ve completed that page in the Handbook.

Throughout the Park, there are 31 badges to earn. While we didn’t manage to score them all, we did put a pretty big dent in our Handbook, and I’m going to share three more of the badges with you:

Above, you can see images captured while earning the Flamingo Badge. Here, we learn about the animals themselves and about animal banding in general, and we get to spend some time taking a close look at the specimens on display. This is pretty typical of the animal-based badges.

In the photo above, you can see an example of something At Disney Again and I totally love about this game: see that giant Yeti foot? Have YOU ever seen it before? Chances are, if you haven’t been to the Parks in the past several months, it’s new to you. But it looks like it’s been there FOREVER. So many of the game elements feel like that. They’re so seamless and perfectly fit.

Anyway, we like the Yeti Badge as an example of an interesting, multi-step activity. First, Explorers use their eagle eye to spot representations of the Yeti in the surrounding area. Then, they use their math skills to determine their height as compared to the Yeti’s footprint. And, finally, they learn about Asian folklore. On this day, our Badge Guide was from Nepal, and he taught us all about the importance of butterflies in his culture. Very cool.

The telescope badge is pretty simple, but it’s in a stunning location, and I couldn’t NOT share these photos with you. Here, you use your telescope and chart-reading skills to determine the height of the Forbidden Mountain to earn a nifty badge.

Like I said, there are 31 badges, each unique and interesting, and this is just a small sampling. One thing that they all have in common, though, is how simply easy they are to complete. I really love the low-techness of the game. There are no entry barriers. There is nothing complicated to understand.  Once you’ve earned a badge, you can move on to the next badge. Or another activity all together. It flows seamlessly into your touring style. You can commando the badges or you can take it slow, stopping when you see them.

It is, I think, the most put-downable, so to speak, of all of the interactive games. The other interactive games are great, and you can theoretically “pause” them at any time, but more than Pirates or Agent P, this is the kind of thing you can walk away from for a day or a week or even a year and pick right back up where you left off with no interruption. (The same could be said of Sorcerers, I suppose, but I think it’s a rare breed that’s really returning to those portals over and over each trip.)

Above, I mentioned how seamlessly the new game pieces meld into their spaces, but I also really love how the whole game has a distinctly Animal Kingdom feel about it. For example, a lot of the signage seems sort of slap-dash, like it was just thrown together. The Headquarters even features a chalkboard that heralds the game’s closing time. It feels very terrestrial, which is one of the things I love about the Park as a whole.

Closing Time at Wilderness Explorers Headquarters (At Disney Again)

I also love that, even if you’re going for a Complete-Them-All strategy, the game forces you to slow down and really appreciate the collective knowledge in the Park. You have to stop and look at the animals. You have to stop to appreciate the details. You have to stop to talk to the cast members.

By earning each of the badges, you’re learning about animals, obviously, but also about socio-economic concepts like exchange rates, different cultures (a great use of international cast member experiences) and creativity. It’s fun, and it is perfect for kids (or kids at heart).

The hardest challenge, in our estimation, was the Signaling Badge in DinoLand. It took us awhile to find them … but if you want to give yourself a competitive edge, At Disney Again has some great photos of them on his blog post about the game.

And just so you don’t think it’s overly serious: My favorite badge has got to be the hand washing badge. Frankly, I think more people need a lesson in proper hygiene, and I am so glad Disney stepped up to take on that arduous task.

My second favorite badge? The gorilla badge … I mean, I learned how to drag my knuckles. There’s really nothing more ridiculous than a 30-year-old woman and her MUCH older (and balder) photographer companion learning how to knuckle walk.

But seriously: One thing you’ve probably noticed throughout  this post are the absolutely amazing orange bags that the Badge Guides carry. They are EPIC. And I want to own several of them. Disney is doing itself a HUGE disservice if these bags don’t appear in on-property gift shops … like immediately.

Where can I send my money, Disney?!

Have you played the Wilderness Explorers Interactive Game at Animal Kingdom Park? Let us know about your experiences in the comments! 


Want to win a Wilderness Explorer Handbook? Enter below and you could win TWO copies: one unmarked and the other loaded with stickers from our first adventure. (You can enter once a day, and the giveaway ends next Thursday. Good luck, and happy tweeting!)

And don’t forget to click here for more incredible photos from our adventures in the wilderness!

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