“Don’t dawdle. Hurry up!” – Rafiki
A day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is usually scheduled around a ride on Kilimanjaro Safari, escaping a Yeti on Expedition Everest, or time traveling back to prehistoric times on DINOSAUR. However, tucked far behind the most popular Animal Kingdom attractions is a true gem of the park, accessible only by train. This area is called Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and it gives Guests a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the animal care and conservation efforts at Animal Kingdom. It is one of the most interactive and overlooked attractions the park offers.
In order to get to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Guests must take the Wildlife Express Train, located near the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris in Africa. The Wildlife Express Train runs frequently. A Cast Member announced wait times to keep us updated. The unique train opens to one side and features two long benches that stretch from the front of each train car to the back. The train ride, which lasts approximately seven minutes, travels past several animal housing areas and veterinary facilities. On our train ride, we spotted a baby rhinoceros, who was not yet old enough to join the others in one of the outdoor housing areas. It was adorable! We also caught a glimpse of Pride Rock, the lion habitat on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
Once the train stops, Guests take a short walk down a tree-lined path to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Along the path, look for an area featuring Cotton-Top Tamarins. There were also Cast Members offering challenges to earn badges through the Wilderness Explorers program.
DIStracted Tip: The walk to Rafiki’s Planet Watch from the train is approximately five minutes. We found our stroller extremely handy! The train easily accommodates a folded stroller, and we were grateful to have ours once we arrived at the walking path. The walk and heat would have completely exhausted our little ones.
The first building you approach is Conservation Station. The façade of the building is beautiful, featuring an animal collage. Take a close look at the murals on the wall upon entering, as they contain lots of Hidden Mickeys! Inside, you will find many exhibits pertaining to animal care and conservation.
There are ten care areas available to explore. One is the Animal Encounters Stage. On our last trip, a Cast Member gave a presentation on distinguishing a venomous snake from a non-venomous one. His presentation included a real snake. My son loved it; I was terrified!
The Veterinary Treatment Room allows visitors to view hands-on care of the park’s animals. Our visit allowed us to see a young cheetah receiving a basic checkup. Additionally, there is a Science Center, an Amphibian, Reptile, and Invertebrate Window, a Nutrition Center and several other hands-on exploration areas. Song of the Rainforest offers a 3D audio journey through the rainforest, narrated by Grandma Willow. Cast Members are available throughout the center to answer questions.
In addition to Conservation Station, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is home to Affection Section. This area is an outdoor petting area. Our kids loved the opportunity to pet, brush and interact with goats and sheep. Upon leaving the Affection Section, Guests are provided with a convenient hand washing area.
Perhaps one of the best things to do at Rafiki’s Planet Watch is to meet Characters! On our visit we had the opportunity to meet Chip ‘n’ Dale and Rafiki. The lines for the meets were the shortest of our entire trip. Additionally Guests can tour Habitat Habit, an outdoor discovery trail. When ready to leave, guests follow the same path back to the train station to return to Africa.
While not a thrill ride or a safari adventure, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a fun and interactive experience to explore while visiting Animal Kingdom. You can spend as much or as little time there as your plans allow, and we enjoyed our time discovering all that Rafiki’s Planet Watch had to offer.