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Discovery Island Pics at Florida's Walt Disney World: Memories of the Past

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Many flamingo birds seen on Discovery Island

Many flamingo birds seen on Discovery Island

Walt Disney World's Discovery Island

The year was 1990, and my mother, niece, and I had made plans to spend five days at Walt Disney World. We had reserved lodging at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort for the duration of the Disney portion of our vacation. Naturally, we saw and experienced much of the entertainment while at Walt Disney World. There is much to do and see!

One day we decided to take a break from the norm and see what Discovery Island had to offer. This island paradise proved to be an excellent interlude for us from the frenetic activity surrounding people at the other Disney theme parks. Traveling to and from the island was by boat.

The following photos will give one an idea of what there was to see on this eleven-and-a-half-acre zoological park called Discovery Island. Sadly, it no longer exists as the park was closed in 1999. The animals are now in Disney's Animal Kingdom and other zoos. What transformation the island takes is yet to be determined as of the time of this writing.

A Tropical Eden

On Discovery Island were thousands of different varieties of vegetation and plant life. Think small tropical paradise, and it would be a good description of what we found.

Water elements on the island, plus the lake surrounding the perimeter, created a fantastic habitat for many aquatic loving birds and animals. We enjoyed getting to see not only the many flamingos but also trumpeter swans, pelicans, several varieties of cranes, different types of ducks, storks, monkeys, lemurs, capybaras, Galápagos tortoises, and more.

Once on the island, one could choose many trails to meander and enjoy viewing the different animals, most of which roamed freely. One could also at the same time enjoy the abundant beautiful tropical scenery.

Safely contained behind wires were some alligators. There were also some ring-tailed lemurs from Madagascar, and the Queen of Bavaria Conures (an endangered species coming from North-Eastern Brazil), among other animals.

Over 100+ species of animals were on Discovery Island, besides the ones pictured or mentioned here. It was one of the most natural zoo settings that we have ever gotten to enjoy.

Bird Shows and Aviary

At regularly scheduled times, parrots, cockatoos, and other birds were part of a show. Some of the birds talked and did tricks on cue. Others were displayed, and we learned a bit more about them. The white cockatoo (pictured below) was very friendly and posed while sitting on people's arms.

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A walk through aviary united one in spirit with the colorful free-flying birds that were in abundance. It was so much fun seeing them flitting from one tree to another as they would do in the wild.

Scarlet Ibis

The red bird pictured below is a Scarlet Ibis which originates in tropical South America. A sign had the following information about them:

"The early explorers of the Caribbean Sea wrote about trees covered with blood when they saw flocks of scarlet ibis. These birds are now protected over much of their range. Our breeding colony of Scarlet Ibis is the largest in the United States."

Galápagos Tortoises FAQs

Getting to see Galápagos tortoises on Discovery Island was a rare treat. We will probably never visit the Galápagos Islands, a national park with the prime object of protecting these endangered tortoises. So we were thrilled to see five of these magnificent creatures on this island.

They had a wonderful area in which to roam, including sandy areas and also water. Shade was also present. What we learned about them was informative and fascinating.

  • Galápagos tortoises originally had from 12 to 15 subspecies, and only 11 remain alive today.
  • Over 250,000 of them used to thrive in the Galápagos Islands, but only about 15,000 are there today. They had few natural predators.
  • Pirates in the 17th century used to capture the tortoises and take them on board ships to have a ready supply of food. Tortoises can survive without food or water for up to one year. Because of that, the tortoises were a living source of sustenance.
  • People also sought tortoises for oil and other purposes.
  • The Galápagos National Park was created in 1959.
  • In 1969 U.S. law made it illegal to import Galápagos tortoises or their eggs into the country. A year later, every other country made similar laws.
  • Since 1971, in order to further protect this endangered species, tourists in the Galápagos National Park are now all accompanied by guides while on tours.
  • Galápagos tortoises live to be 100 to 150 years old and are not full-grown until about age 40.
  • Their prime reproductive years are from ages 60 to 90.

We were so happy to have gotten to enjoy this respite from the usual hustle and bustle at Walt Disney World for a short while. I am saddened to learn that it no longer exists. Those of you who may have visited Florida's Discovery Island while on vacation may enjoy seeing these photos as a reminder of good memories. For those who missed it, you will have some idea of how the island once appeared.


© 2009 Peggy Woods

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