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Trip Report Making Lemonade out of Lemons Fractal Family Trip Report - Completed

I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been one big sour lemon.

For those that did not read my Pre-Trip report; my entire family (Val-wife, Alex - oldest daughter, Sterg - son, Toni - youngest daughter) has recovered from the Covid-19 virus. Myself, Val, Sterg and Toni got it in March and Alex in April while working as a nurse. Val had it worse with a fever for a couple days and flu like symptoms for about a week. The rest of us were either asymptomatic or had minor symptoms.

Add to that the mental stress of living in a society dealing with this pandemic, Toni missing out on a big chunk of her High School Senior Year and her last dance recital (where she was going to take on a major role as Jasmine), work reductions for Sterg and high stress work conditions for Alex on the front line. Yes, 2020 has sure been one big sourpuss.

But, as the saying goes; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

It just so happened that last year I made a reservation to attend the annual AHEPA convention in Walt Disney World, just as I did in 2017. We were going to stay at the Grand Destino Towers but that seemed very much in jeopardy when AHEPA (which is a charitable organization I'm involved with. Like a Greek version of the Knights of Columbus or Lions Club.) cancelled their convention. Soon after however, I received an email that Disney would honor our reservation in July. This was pretty tempting since we had convention rates and discounts on tickets. Long story short, we decided to go. We felt that having already had the virus gave us an extra level of protection and we knew that Disney would handle the health risks properly. In addition, we later found out that our rooms were moved from Grand Destino to the Contemporary in order to accommodate the LA Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sterg's and my dream of playing Marco Polo with the Greek Freak and LeBron James in the pool were quickly dashed. But who could say no to staying at The Contemporary for $175 a night?

We were a go! It was frustrating however because although we had a resort reservation we did not have park tickets. We also didn't have a "park pass" which was needed during this reopening of WDW. We had to wait for all that to open and I had serious doubts it would by the time our first day at the resort (July 20th) rolled around. I decided to book flights without tickets or park passes. Southwest had roundtrip flights from Philly to Orlando for $90 plus if you had to cancel you got that credit for a future flight. No brainer. This was turning out to be the cheapest Disney trip we have taken as a family! Soon after I was open to buy tickets and book Park Passes. We had started to squeeze that lemon and add it's juice to our pitcher of cold water.

Now for the Cast of our adventure.

Myself - Chris/Fractal. A lover of Disney Parks for the many memories it has given me over the years with my family, the way it helps me completely unwind from my job, and how it taps into my creative side and challenges my skills as a photographer.

Here I am with my crazy kids at Christmas.


Val - my beautiful wife. Not the biggest fan of Disney but in the end she was on board. I think secretly she likes it more than she lets on. I will make it up to her with a trip more to her liking.

Here she is with Alex.


Alex - our oldest. Now a traveling nurse. Alex is like me in many ways but as she's getting older and more responsible I'm starting to see her take on a number of Val's traits. She's a good mix and always a delight to be with.

From a trip to Colorado we took last year;


Sterg, aka Fractal Jr. One word to describe Sterg - catalyst - he just makes things happen. He creates reactions both good and bad. He graduated last year from Penn State. He was a captain on the Swim Team but not without drama. He had to miss his promising senior year of swimming when a series of concussions (all outside the water) forced him to medically retire. PSU handled it very well as he helped the team from the sidelines. He now works as a digital marketing consultant as well as helping his cousin get his music career off the ground. Never a dull moment when Sterg is around!

with our dog Prince (Charming).


Toni - For long time readers of my reports you know that Toni and I have a special Disney connection. Many times she would be the only one up early with me to tackle the parks at opening. We have had many great adventures together in the Disney bubble. She's now technically an adult (how did that happen?) so I was going to find out this trip if the magic was still there. She's going to attend Clemson University starting next month and I couldn't be prouder.

Toni in front of the Theater her Recital was supposed to perform at.


So Covid-19 made our family suffer in many ways, but we took that lemon, squeezed it's juice out into our water pitcher, now we just needed a little Disney sugar to make our Lemonade complete.

Coming up - Our trip begins with a WDW meet-up before our flight even leaves the ground!


Premium Member
Original Poster
OK, I'm gonna need to borrow Mr. Sterg next week haha 😄

I'm getting excited too! we're getting hit with that tropical storm right now. Glad it's happening now and not the end of the week!!

Lol! I don't think he would mind.
Technically this guy is a Mandrill...he was once considered to be in the baboon family, but he must have gotten married and taken Mandrillus as his new family name. ;)

Thanks - not doing too well with animals here!


Premium Member
Original Poster
Flamingos up next!


And how about some baby flamingos!



Looking back at the elephants and the "upside down" tree.


I saw today was National Rhino Day (because there is a day for everything). So happy National Rhino Day!


Enjoy your special day my horned friend.


I wonder if there's a National Lion Day?


I loved getting the male alone on his "pride rock".


I wonder if I looked like a lamb chop to him?


Hello ladies.


I hit the jackpot this trip with Lion photos. I was smiling until...

I saw this guy. Man are warthogs ugly! Sorry Pumba.


This is one of the smallest antelopes in the antelope family and if I remember correctly (about a 50/50 chance) it was almost extinct at one time.


I hope you enjoyed your safari as that was the last photo I took from our excursion. It wasn't the last animal photo however as I was about to get close up with some big and hungry gorillas!
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Well-Known Member
Your beautiful family is so grown up now! I won’t say all grown up because even in my mid-30s I still feel like I need an adult sometimes!

Wow! Those details on the Tree of Life with the telephoto lens. Impressive work!

Gorgeous lion shots too, but goodness, that warthog looks like he is one beer away from being kicked out of a honkytonk somewhere.

And yes, I will definitely be putting together a trip report once we get back! I’ve been brushing up on my photography skills for this one!


Well-Known Member
I hate to admit it but when someone posts safari pics i tend to skip by them pretty quickly but you've captured some great photos. I love Rhino's, the expression on the male lions face in all three pictures are great, and I'm loving the warthog! I didn't realize they were that hairy!

Well done!

Minnesota disney fan

Well-Known Member
After taking dozens of flamingo pictures, I am convinced that they have the plastic ones! They always look the same to me:cautious:

Great lion pictures. I only get pics of the lion's butt (can we say butt?). You can have no fear of the male lion because the females are the hunters (so they say), LOL.


Premium Member
Original Poster
Before I move forward I need to take a step back; especially because of how I started this trip report.

Friday was our day at the pool and was a fun day for all of us, especially Val. She said it was probably the best day she had at WDW. Hanging out at the resort, spending time all together at the pool, going to Disney Springs and then dinner at the Brown Derby. She really had a good time. She even went so far as to say that she overall this trip was the most enjoyable Disney trip she's taken and happy she was part of it. She's in no hurry to come back mind you but the ending of this subplot was much better than the beginning.

Now on to the gorillas.

The men were out and they were hungry. Munching on all sorts of leaves.


Looks healthy.


I was stationed on the bridge with my camera and lens. I noticed they would come forward, grab something then scamper back.

This guy was the biggest.




He grabbed onto a big 'ol leaf/branch...


Then he spotted me. Turning his back he went back onto the rocks and I never saw his face again.


"They seem pretty shy." I commented to the CM stationed there.

"Eye contact is a sign of aggression to them." She told me. "They don't like being stared at. That's why he's got his back turned. Believe me, they're not shy."

Yeah, pretty good idea not to look aggressive to an animal that could literally rip my arm off and beat me over the head with it.

"Oh ok." I replied. Soon after I said farewell to Kerchak and his mates and made my way back to Harambe.


Asia was my next destination.

The "back side" of the Tree of Life.


More folks showing up.


I didn't think this was running but would find out later it was. Never saw the "UP" version and can still say that.


I wonder how much this parking space cost?



Premium Member
Original Poster
The morning sun was shining in Asia.


and I was in the mood to see more animals.


I fell in love with this trail on our last trip and was looking forward to walking through again. Hopefully the Tigers would be as accommodating as the lions were.

But first, I had an encounter with a dragon.


Don't stick your tongue out at me!

Actually I wanted her (pretty sure it was a female) to show her tongue and was stationed with my camera waiting for it.


Following the sign to tigers!


Monkeys were playful that morning.


Bats were hanging out.


Details abound on this trail.





I met a fellow photographer on the trail. He appeared to be a regular as he knew the CMs and gave me a few good tips on the best places to stand for clearers shots of the animals; like these guys.


The soft light from the rising sun played wonderful games on the different surfaces.




Hi Ducks! Where are the tigers?


I found a mural of a tiger hunt, but no sign of any real striped felines.



Well-Known Member
Those early morning departures are tough ones when you're actually leaving WDW for home! The pictures from your balcony watching the sun rise are stunning and it's one of my favorite moments when we stay at WDW. You really got some incredible pics of the gorillas in action. The CM also made the same comment to me about the behaviors of the gorillas when they turn their backs. Looks like the perfect morning at AK so far! :)


Well-Known Member
I was just abe to catch up. Work has been crazy these days. I love your stories, and your photos, and I love how your family has such a great time (including Val, even if she doesn't admit it most of the time). I followed you on Instagram a couple days ago, thanks for the follow back!, although you're probably just finding out it was a fellow wdwmagic-er you followed 😁

What I love the most about reading these TRs is being able to see WDW through the eyes of others. Whenever I go, I only have one day per park, so I just try to pack everything I like into a single day. I never have time to just walk around and take everything in, no time for that! I love all the details that make up the theming in every park, especially in AK, but I mostly see them as a "snapshot", a whole "landscape", I haven't been able to just walk and take an actual look at all the little things that are part of this awesome theming job, so looking at your pictures for instance, I find myself surprised remembering my most recent trip and thinking "I remember I walked through there, but how did I not see that cool (insert name here)?".

I agree with you about the current state of epcot with all those walls. Back in January we managed to squeeze in an extra park day, so we decided to go to all the parks once, and then decide which one we would visit again at the end. My husband and I had our minds set on epcot since before we traveled to the US, but after a day there, we felt a bit overwhelmed by all the walls. It felt like you were walking through a maze, everything was so far away, and you couldn't enjoy the walk because you were surrounded by tall walls (even taller to me, I'm only 4'11).

In the end we decided to visit MK again, and that was just a blessing because the first time we watched Happily Ever After and left the park, so we missed Once Upon a Time which was the show I got engaged to. It was also a good decision because we tried those corn dog nuggets from Caseys on our first day there and we were hooked! so I got to enjpy them a second time.

I can't wait to read about the rest of your trip. This has turned out to be pretty good lemonade!


Premium Member
Original Poster
More Tiger Hunt murals.


So much to discover...


I made it to the final Tiger viewing area. It was now or never. I looked around and no tigers to be found. Finally the sympathetic CM came up to me and point to the way, way back and I got a glimpse.

Not the greatest photo, by a long shot but at least I got something.


Up next was the "bird cage". This apparently is the apex of the pigeon species - just look at the eyes, the beautiful colors of his feathers, the ornate crown...but probably wouldn't last long in Central Park.


These birdies actually were singing "tweet, tweet-tweet, tweet-tweet" - or something close.


And now to one of the coolest bird feeders I've seen.


Seemed very popular with these white "doves". I was watching them for awhile land, take-off and interact as I searched for a better photo. One big plus of photography is that many times it does force you to stop, slow down and just observe things you normally wouldn't.


Eventually it was time to move on as I had other photos to capture that day.

Goodbye coolest pigeon ever; stay away from park benches.



I met this interesting character and his children on the way out. Kinda reminded me of my pictures in the pool with the rest of the family jumping on top of me. I can relate fellow.



Premium Member
Up next was the "bird cage". This apparently is the apex of the pigeon species - just look at the eyes, the beautiful colors of his feathers, the ornate crown...but probably wouldn't last long in Central Park.

What a beautiful bird. Never seen a blue pigeon before!! :jawdrop: :)


Premium Member
Original Poster
Kali River? Thought about it for a second but passed.


I did stay on the bridge and took a few photos.



"Hi coke bottle."



Sterg and Toni love Kali. I was thinking of them while on the bridge, almost expecting them to show up.

2009. There was a time we thought Toni might end up taller than her brother.






Oh wait, that's not them.

But by they way they were hooting and chirping, those swinging apes (yes apes - no tails as I've learned at this spot over the years) sounded like my children arguing over who's turn it was to empty the dishwasher.

They were fun to watch that morning as the put their acrobatic skills on full display.





And they were make a big racket up in this tower! My video was during a more mild time in their "good morning" calls.

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