Discovery Island

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Discovery Island
The entrance to Discovery Island from DINOland USA.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Theme Gateway to Disney's Animal Kingdom
Opening date April 22, 1998 (as Safari Village)
December 2000 (as Discovery Island)
Number of Attractions Two
Formally Known As Safari Village (1998-2000)

Discovery Island is a land in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The area was known as Safari Village from 1998 until December 2000.


When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1998, the land that is today known as Discovery Island was called “Safari Village”. Encircled by the Discovery River, Safari Village was designed to be the park's hub, as it allowed guests to take bridges to the rest of Animal Kingdom’s lands. Besides being the central location in the park, Safari Village also housed the parks icon, the Tree of Life. This 145 ft. tree features almost 400 beautifully carved animals on its trunk [1]. Inside the massive tree, guests can find the 3D attraction It's Tough to be a Bug!.

On opening day, the Tree of Life was surrounded by two different walkthrough attractions- the Safari Village Trail and the Tree of Life Gardens [2]. Both of these attractions allowed guests to see the beautiful landscaping and wildlife that surrounded the Tree of Life. Finally, Safari Village was also home to the Discovery River Boats, which took guests on a tour of the Discovery River, previewing other parts of the park.

Outside of the aforementioned attractions, Safari Village was also home to the restaurants, Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbecue, as well as four shops: Island Mercantile, Beastly Bazaar, Creature Comforts, and Disney Outfitters [3].

The first change to Safari Village came in late 1998 when the Tree of Life Gardens were incorporated into the Safari Village Trail [4]. Subsequently, in November 1999 the name of the Discovery River Boats was changed to the Discovery River Taxi, in an attempt to emphasize the transportation aspect of the attraction [5]. Due to guest dissatisfaction however, the attraction was closed by the end of 1998 [5]. Then, in March 1999 Disney once again tried to reinvigorate interest in the Discovery River Boats by renaming the attraction the Radio Disney River Cruise [6]. Although now featuring music from Radio Disney (and showcasing small animals that were brought on board), the attraction still proved unpopular and in August 1999 the Discovery River Boats were closed for good [6]. Also in 1999, Disney Outfitters changed its name to Wonders of the Wild [7].

In December 2000, Safari Village was renamed Discovery Island [3]. This name change happened subsequent to the Discovery Island attraction located on Bay Lake permanently closing [8]. In conjunction with the name change, the Safari Village Trail was renamed the Discovery Island Trails [9].

Since the name change in December 2000, Discovery Island has seen a relatively few number of changes. In 2001, Wonders of Wild changed its name back to Disney Outfitters [7]. In August 2012, Beastly Bazaar closed, before eventually reopening in May 2013 as character meet and greet location called "Adventurer's Outpost" [10]. Subsequently, on January 4, 2015 [11], Creature Comforts closed in order to become Animal Kingdom’s Starbucks location. The new Starbucks opened to guests on June 19, 2015 [12]. In March 2016, Disney Outfitters was renamed Discovery Trading Company [13].

On May 27, 2016, Tiffins, Animal Kingdom's newest table service restaurant opened in Discovery Island [14].

Current Attractions

Animal Kingdom's icon, The Tree of Life, can be found in Discovery Island. Photo by Jason Pratt

It's Tough to be a Bug!- On this 4D attraction, guests enter the world of the Disney-Pixar movie A Bugs Life. Here they meet Flick, Hopper, and a cast of characters as they learn some of the challenges of being a bug.

Discovery Island Trails- On this short walking trail, guests can find Galapagos tortoises, lemurs, kangaroos, and other exotic animals.

Former Attractions

Discovery River Boats- This slow moving boat attraction allowed guests to preview other parts of Disney's Animal Kingdom. The Discovery River Boats were known as the Discovery River Taxi from November through December 1998 and the Radio Disney River Cruise from March through August 1999, when the attraction permanently closed.


Pizzafari-This counter service restaurant specializes in Italian-American food.

Flame Tree Barbecue- This counter service restaurant offers guests a wide variety of American barbecue.

Creature Comforts- Formally a shopping location, Creature Comforts now serves as Animal Kingdom’s Starbucks location.

Tiffins- This table service restaurant gets its theme from the world travels and artwork that inspired the creation of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney Imagineering describes the restaurant as "a gallery you can dine in with artwork that is a direct result of travels to Africa, Asia and South America".

Smiling Crocodile-Previously known as the Gardens Kiosk, this quick service stand offers a small variety of snacks.


Island Mercantile- This shop sells apparel, headwear, pins and vinylmation.

Discovery Trading Company- Formally known as Disney Outfitters, this store sells Disney and Animal Kingdom merchandise and souvenirs.

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • The buildings in Discovery Island were originally designed to be a "unique, over-the-top salute to animals [15].
  • To come up with the original animal motifs used in Discovery Island (then Safari Village), Imaginners Jenna Goodman and Ruben Viramontes searched for images appropriate for each building's theme. After finding them, they interpreted hundreds of animals in a folk style that meshed with the design of each location [15].
  • The original Safari Village color pallet took some inspiration from the colors of the Caribbean [15]
  • Beginning in January of 2019, Kevin, from the Disney Pixar Film UP!, began meeting guests in Discovery Island [16].


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  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Malmberg, Melody. The Making of Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park. New York: Hyperion, 1998. Print.