Rafiki’s Planet Watch Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Rafiki’s Planet Watch Reopened On: July 11th, 2019, after shutting its doors temporarily at the end of October 2018. What you see inside Conservation Station will look a lot different than it did before the closure, while Affection Section, the Animal Encounters, and other parts of Planet Watch remain largely the same.
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Location: Rafiki’s Planet Watch is only accessible by riding the slow-moving Wildlife Express train.
It boards in the Africa section of the Animal Kingdom to the right of the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
The Wildlife Express ride is about seven minutes each way in a relatively comfortable train car. All of the seats, with backs, face the same direction.
During the ride, you’ll enjoy views of backstage areas with a cast member offering limited narration. It is not possible to walk to Planet Watch.
Extra Magic Hours: No.
FastPass+: Only for The Animation Experience in Conservation Station. It’s a low priority.
Type: Exhibition and backstage look at how Disney’s Animal Kingdom operates. The Animation Experience is now a big part of…the experience.
Similar To: A classic version of Innoventions.
Scary Factor: Zero. Some visitors may not appreciate the live animal surgeries that go on during the day, particularly before noon. They are easily ignored if that is the case.
What to Expect: Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a nice air-conditioned diversion from long waits in the hot sun. Guests who visited before the 2018 closure are probably accustomed to entering the main building through these doors ahead. Currently, the restrooms are the only thing accessible through there.
For The Animation Experience or to enjoy any of the exhibits inside Conservation Station, you’ll need to go around.
Inside, you’ll find a variety of exhibits that you’ll need to take some time with if you want to get anything out of them. There are no rides or character meets at Rafiki’s Planet Watch – just educational exhibits.
Here’s what’s available:
“Affection Section” is a petting zoo of sorts. While the sheep and goats that are usually present may seem ordinary, most of them are actually endangered species.
Be sure to ask the attendants about what makes the animals so special.
Also outside, you’ll have an opportunity to watch a brief show featuring an animal encounter called “Care Story:”
Disney typically schedules these 15-minute shows on the hour, beginning at 10am.
The shows are about as casual as it gets with only a handful of guests typically attending each.
Typically at the end of the show, guests have an opportunity to see the animal up close. Here, we have an opportunity to touch this snake. I took his word for it that it felt like a snake.
“Conservation Station” is the main building at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. It houses the majority of the live and hands-on exhibits. Veterinarians and wildlife experts will be on hand to answer your questions and give insight into how Animal Kingdom operates and takes care of the thousands of animals. You can view live camera feeds of backstage areas where Disney keeps the animals as well as a variety of other exhibits featuring a wealth of information on conservation efforts around the globe. Exhibits and activities can change on a daily basis because Disney uses the area for live preparation and animal surgeries, so you never know what you’ll see.
The Animation Experience is a major addition to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Conservation Station. The seating and presentation take up at least half of the usable space inside. If you’re not interested in attending the interactive drawing seminar, then there’s less of a reason to make the trek back to Planet Watch.
When To Go: If you are particularly interested in talking with the veterinarians and wildlife experts, consider making your trek here early in the morning. That’s when the majority of the procedures and surgeries take place. The area will also be much less busy. Otherwise, an afternoon visit is best. Wait times and temperatures will be at peak levels and the Conservation Station enjoys cool air-conditioning. Planet Watch opens 30 minutes after the rest of the Park, so you could ride Kilimanjaro Safaris first and get on one of the first trains to Planet Watch after disembarking. The first Animation Experience is at 10am, so you’ll be able to take part in that too should you wish to do so. Check your Times Guide to verify times if you’re planning to head over late as the area closes early – usually around 5pm.
Expect to Wait: You will need to wait for the Wildlife Express Train both going and returning from Planet Watch.
Expect to wait about seven minutes each way (for a total wait of about 15 minutes) unless you time it perfectly and the train arrives just as you walk up.
Length: There are a variety of exhibits and you can take in as many or as few as you like. Including The Animation Experience, most people will want to budget 60 to 90 minutes. That number may rise if you’re doing the Wilderness Explorers activity. You may also want to spend more time at Affection Section or with a second Animation Experience demonstration.
Rating and Commentary: It probably depends on what you’re looking to get out of the visit. The Animation Experience is pleasant, and likely a big part of why guests would make the trek out here. The petting zoo may also be of particular interest. For most guests, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is entirely skippable. For guests interested in what Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers, it should deliver, particularly if you “luck” into a couple of interesting veterinary procedures. Overall, it’s probably a 5/10. It just depends on what you’re looking for, but the fact that so many people skip it probably points to low overall interest.