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Florida's Discovery Island Pictures at 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 crocodiles. 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 here was very friendly and posed while sitting on people's arms.

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.
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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.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 27, 2020:

Hi MG,

I have no idea why they decided to shut down this natural and beautiful attraction. It was probably a monetary decision as to how best to make a profit.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 27, 2020:

This is a very nice article and made wonderful reading. I wonder what was the reason to close down the island visits?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 27, 2020:

Hi manatita,

Discovery Island was indeed a lovely place to visit when it had all of those animals. The landscaping was beautiful too. Some of those Galapagos toroises live a long time! Thanks for your visit and comment.

manatita44 from london on December 27, 2020:

The birds are stunningly beautiful and the verdure of the foliage amazing! The tortoise is charming ... a delight to see. I saw one in Tanzania, last year. They said it was over 100 years old!! Some of the animals are rare and the sand is very soft and smooth. A true resort! Bring me my hammock!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 27, 2020:

Hi Vanita,

Discovery Island was such a beautiful place to visit. I am glad that I could show you and others what it was like when it was open.

Vanita Thakkar on December 27, 2020:

Nice memories and beautiful pictures of the birds and animals. It is sad that the place is no more there for visitors to enjoy. It would be a great joy to visit such places.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 20, 2020:

Hi Samantha,

I agree that it is a shame that Discovery Island is no longer open as an attraction in Walt Disney World. I am glad that we took the time to see it. It was so beautiful!

Samantha on December 19, 2020:

What a beautiful spot. What a shame it is no longer open.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 05, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

I also think it is sad that Discovery Island is no more. It was a nice break from all the hustle and bustle of Walt Disney World. At least people will have some idea by looking at these photos and reading this hub about how it used to be. Thanks for your vote + share.

moonlake from America on April 05, 2013:

How nice, and your photos are great. It's to bad Discovery Island is no longer there. Voted up and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 15, 2011:

Hi Sharon,

It is a shame that Discovery Island was not left as it once was. It was such a nice and more relaxing break from the rest of Disney World. Am sure that something will eventually be done with that island. Thanks for leaving a comment.

Sharon on September 15, 2011:

It would be great if they could bring this back. It's a shame to see things decaying in Disney. River Country, and Discovery Island were both awesome. I'm sure they could put a resort on the island or something.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 16, 2011:

Hello Bali Temples,

Happy that you enjoyed this look at the old Discovery Island at Walt Disney World. We were fortunate to be able to see it on our Florida Vacation years ago before it closed. Thanks for the comment.

Bali Temples on February 16, 2011:

nice hub! thanks for share :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 14, 2010:

Hello Florida Collection Agency,

Discovery Island at Walt Disney World was a great place in Florida and I am glad that my mother, niece and I got to see it when it still existed on that island.

Florida Collection Agency on September 14, 2010:

Looks like a wonderful place. Thanks for the information.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 02, 2010:

Hi Billy,

I have no idea what Animal Kingdom is like compared to Discovery Island. All I know is that it was a great and natural setting. Glad we got to see it as it was. Am sure the Disney folks have done a good job with its successor.

billyaustindillon on August 02, 2010:

Sorry to hear it is not operating as it was. This looks a fantastic place to take kids - my sons just love the zoo and wildlife. I wonder what animal kingdom is like in comparison to discovery island?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2010:

Hello yensid,

Happy that remembering our visit to Discovery Island at Walt Disney World brought back wonderful memories for you as well. Thanks for the comment.

yensid on July 07, 2010:

Ah, you brought back wonderful memories. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 08, 2009:

Hi dohn121,

Yes, I agree with you in that it was so nice to see Discovery Island at Walt Disney World when it was in operation. You are certainly writing some wonderful hubs about Disney World! I also enjoy reading about your experiences. Thanks for the comment.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on October 08, 2009:

What a shame that this is no longer available for tourism, Peggy. I certainly would have been one to have gone to enjoy this. Thank you for sharing this. You certainly were fortunate to have such an experience.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2009:

I know, Ethel. Few things stay the same in life. Just happy to have the photos and memories of Discovery Island. Thanks for commenting.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 11, 2009:

Lucky you to visit whilst it was still open and so entertaining

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2009:

Hi Celesta,

We also spent 5 days there and bought a 5 DAY PLUS SUPER PASS which let us to into all the parks as often as we would wish. We also stayed at a Disney resort. I truly do not remember the costs at this point, but the pass was a cheaper way to go than purchasing individual least back then.

We were busy the entire time and still did not get to see everything. Maybe I'll write another hub or more showing what we DID get to see in that timeframe.

Your grandson will always remember that great trip taken with you.

Thanks for leaving a comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 11, 2009:

Hello loveroflife,

I agree with you. It is a shame that they closed Discovery Island. It was such a great place for the animals and a more peaceful experience from all the activities at the other Walt Disney World as they are. We loved the break. Thanks for commenting.

Celesta on September 11, 2009:

My grandson and I were there in August for five days. The Island is not there but there is still much to see and enjoy. We visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. You can only visit one park a day unless you purchase a rover ticket for $50.00 per person. The rover ticket allows you to visit more than one park a day and gain entrance as many times as you like.

We visited the Magic Kingdom the first day and Epcot Center the second day. The cost for the two parks was 340.00 or 360.00 without the rover ticket. With the rover, it would have been an extra $100.00.

There was no way we could have seen everything in one park in one day. An employee at the hotel told me it takes at least two days to cover one park in its entirety.

Epcot is educational. Children who have completed the fifth or sixth grade will really enjoy it and understand its teachings.

They are still doing construction at the Epcot Center to make it better.

Peggy, we saw the three large parrots at Walt Disney Attractions. They were together, but not talking. Ha!

loveroflife on September 11, 2009:

What a shame that people taking a vacation to Florida will no longer be able to enjoy Discovery Island.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 10, 2009:

Hi IslandVoice,

It will be fun taking your granddaughter with you to Walt Disney World. You won't be able to see Discovery Island, alas, but there is PLENTY of things to do and see as you well know having been to both places. Hope she will like it as much as you do. Thanks for the comment.

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on September 10, 2009:

We're taking our 5 yr old granddaughter next year and we are super excited. Been to Disneyland and Disneyworld, and love both places. Enjoyed the hub and photos!