Opened: This area used to be called “Conservation Station,” but was renamed “Rafiki’s Planet Watch” in 2001 due to its fledgling popularity.
Location: Planet Watch is only accessible by riding the slow-moving Wildlife Express train that 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.
On-ride views are of backstage areas with some narration by a conductor. It is not possible to walk to Planet Watch.
Extra Magic Hours: No.
Type: Exhibition, back-stage look at how the Animal Kingdom operates.
Similar To: Innoventions.
Scary Factor: Zero, but 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.
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 because this is 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 is nicely air-conditioned. 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. Check your Times Guide to verify times if you’re planning to head over late as the area closes before dusk.
Expect to Wait: You will need to wait for the Wildlife Express both going and returning from Planet Watch. Expect to wait about seven minutes 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 do as many or as few as you like. Most people will want to budget 30 to 45 minutes – perhaps longer if you’re doing Wilderness Explorers or you or the kids are particularly interested in the animals.
What to Expect: Rafiki’s Planet Watch is similar to Innoventions at Epcot in that it’s a nice air-conditioned diversion from long waits in the hot sun. 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 at 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 species that are endangered or otherwise in danger for some reason. Be sure to ask the attendants about the species and they’ll tell you about what makes these animals so special.
“Sounds of the Rainforest” takes place in small, dark rooms that seat up to six people. You put on a headset that plays authentic sounds of the rainforest. Grandmother Willow from “Disney’s Pocahontas” narrates this auditory exhibit that lasts about five minutes.
“Conservation Station” is the main building at Rafiki’s Planet Watch that 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 the Animal Kingdom operates. You can view live camera feeds of backstage areas where the animals are kept 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 the area is actually used for live preparation and animal surgeries, so you never know what you’ll see.
Rafiki or another character usually meets here.
Commentary: Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an out-of-the-way diversion that is not easily accessible. You will probably want to complete most of your itinerary before you make your way over because it isn’t a make it or break it area for the vast majority of visitors. Consider Planet Watch if you have a particular interest in animals and how they are taken care of or during peak times in the Park when it’s hot and lines are long.