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Your Disney Vacation Specialist
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Magic Mondays: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Today we are going to look at Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This section of the park has always been there but it was originally known as Conservation Station. The only way out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch is by train, the Wildlife Express. The train is wheelchair accessible but you must leave strollers behind or collapse them to ride. The train ride itself is about 5 minutes long and it gives you a couple of chances to see the backstage and boarding areas for the animals.

Meet and Greet at Rafiki's Planet Watch

Eliza meets Pocahontas at Rafiki's Planet Watch

Once your train arrives you have a long path up to the main building. Along the path are stations set up for kids. Each of these stations have a short, interactive game on conservation, habitat or ecology for the kids to play. As the complete each station the kids are given a stamp in their Kids Discovery Clubs book (you get your book at the first station you go to, there is no set order). The Discovery Club stations and book are all free and once the child has completed all 6 stations (located throughout Animal Kingdom) they receive a special bonus prize.

The path eventually leads you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. When you enter the building you will encounter an amazing animal mural. The mural is quite impressive and it is fun just to look at all the animals. It is also rife with Hidden Mickeys, so if you are a fan of Hidden Mickeys be sure to stop by Rafiki’s Planet Watch to see how many you can spot!

Inside the building are several different areas devoted to different habitats and the creatures that live there. There are also animal cams where you can watch behind the scenes footage of the animal areas. They will even broadcast veterinary procedures live onto viewing screens in Planet Watch. If you would like to watch a procedure, they are usually done early in the day so be sure to plan accordingly.

There are also meet and greets here. We have seen Rafiki, Pocahontas, Meeko, Terk, Jiminy Cricket, an owl and a snake. For the live animal meet and greets an animal handler will come out and give a short talk about the animal, it’s habitat and diet as well as the rules for being around the animal, like no touching the owl!

Learning about an owl at Rafiki's Planet Watch

Meet and greets aren't just for characters!

We had the opportunity to experience the Year of the Bat celebration last year. Rafiki’s Planet Watch had special games, demonstrations, videos and talks about bats. The kids had a great time and at the end of our time there they each got a goody bag filled with coloring sheets, stickers, tattoos, bat masks and other crafts.

Outside of the building is the Affection Section. It is a petting zoo and aside from the cool shavings on the sheep (we saw Mickey and Minnie shaved into the sheep) this is your standard petting zoo; great for little kids, miserable for allergy sufferers. My family and I have always enjoyed Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Here are the top three reasons you should check out Rafiki’s Planet Watch on your next visit to Animal Kingdom.

1. The layout of Animal Kingdom can make it feel very crowded and there is not as much shade or air conditioning as you find at the other parks. Rafiki’s Planet Watch is usually pretty empty and the paths through the area are tree lined providing a lovely escape from the blaring sun.

2. At Rafiki’s Planet Watch you can usually find some characters that you can’t find elsewhere. If there is a character that you just have to have a picture or autograph from, you might just be able to find him or her up at Rafiki’s.

3. If you or your kids are interested in ecology or zoology there are some great chances for them to learn a couple of things! My daughter is fascinated by science in all it’s forms so when she got a chance to see a surgery on the vet cam, she was enthralled! She loves to learn and I am all for those teachable moments, Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers some teachable moments in an atmosphere that kids will enjoy and not feel like they are in a classroom.

So before you automatically skip Rafiki’s Planet Watch, give it a try – you might be pleasantly surprised. You could just meet the mandrill himself!

Eliza and Toby meet Rafiki

Rafiki at Rafiki's Planet Watch

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