Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park presents several unique opportunities for getting up close and personal with real-life wild animals. Among the many exotic encounters to be had here, Rafiki’s Planet Watch stands out as an awesome area dedicated to the care and conservation of resident animals while also serving to provide educational explorations to visiting guests. While there are many reasons to love this place, here are 10 very good ones.
10. Exclusive Train Travel
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is only accessible by the Wildlife Express Train. This journey, spanning little more than five minutes, takes off from the park’s Harambe Village in Africa and ventures on through a unique behind-the-scenes route covering more than a mile of interesting sights you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Along the way you will pass by a series of specialized veterinary and housing facilities for Africa’s onsite animals and learn several fascinating key facts about the park and specific points of interest. More adventures and learning wait as you arrive at your destination and depart from the Wildlife Express.
9. Observing Onsite Operations
The whole of Rafiki’s Planet Watch comprises of several divisions both inside and out. This includes the indoor educational resource facility known as the Conservation Station. Here visitors can experience numerous onsite operations right as they unfold, including live in-house veterinary treatments and animal wellness practices. There is a large public viewing window into the Veterinary Treatment Room, and each day between 10 a.m. and noon you can watch in-progress animal checkups and other procedures taking place. This is the primary location where routine examinations for resident animals under 500 pounds are conducted as well as operational procedures, animal rehabilitation treatments, and even radiological and clinical lab needs. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a dedicated, knowledgeable staff of veterinarians and scientists working around the clock. They’ve even discovered breakthroughs right here on Disney grounds. For instance, it was this team of scientists that discovered two new elephant vocalizations never before reported.
8. Nutrition and Nourishment
Visitors can also get a firsthand working knowledge about the many different nutritional and nourishment practices in place at the Animal Kingdom. Because there are so many diverse resident animal species to take care of, proper diet and food preparations are crucial for achieving and maintaining health and wellness. Here you can watch the food preparations in progress while discovering the many different diets of the world’s various animal populations. Also be sure to check out the nursery and see the nurturing and feeding practices administered to the Animal Kingdom’s newest residents.
7. Excremental Exploration
You’ll find tons of fascinating features and exhibits within the walls of the Conservation Station. And these aren’t the usual things you’d expect to find on display but rather very unique displays spanning a wide range of animal-related matters. On a grosser, but distinguishingly unique note, there’s even an exhibit all about poop. Why would they even include something like this? Well, effectively understanding an animal’s health and nutrition requires careful excremental examination. This exhibit teaches visitors to shake their perception of poop being “gross” with interactive approaches to learning more about animals—both inside and out. Take a closer look at those stuffed animals lined up on the “Match the Feces With The Species” table, each with their own representative poop samples. There are also different stool samples from elephants that have been preserved in resin so that guests can perform a little touch and feel without the smell and yuck! Also, check out the various poopy creations concocted using actual elephant dung. This includes poop paper you can even purchase at the Out of the Wild gift shop onsite.
6. Sights and Sounds
The Conservation Station is an overall visual and audio wonder in nature exploration. Live Animal Cams with controllable touch screens let you take behind-the-scenes views of animals throughout the park. Additionally, you can look into live conservation efforts as they unfold all around the world. There are also several small audio booths where you can sit down, relax, and listen to a peaceful audio narration called Song of the Rainforest. Grandmother Willow from Disney’s Pocahontas provides the voiceover narrative.
5. True Creature Comforts
From the moment you enter Conservation Station you’ll be in awe over the many features awaiting you under one roof! Just look at the stellar mural of myriad animal depictions greeting you on your way in. You’ll also find many large animal cutouts throughout the main room, perfect for photos. Be sure to look on the back of these cutouts to learn unique facts and fables about each animal. In addition to having the chance to see various enclosed animal displays, you will be treated to your own animal encounters as cast members make rounds within the room every hour with a featured critter friend. Don’t miss a stop by the Out of the Wild gift shop while you’re here.
4. A Place For Affection
Right outside the Conservation Station you’ll find the Affection Section—an open-air outdoor petting zoo where you can enjoy hands-on interactions with plenty of animal pals. Meet sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, cows, llamas, and a host of other new friends. You may even get a chance at grooming, as brushes are available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. There is also a stage next to the zoo area where cast members present 30-minute shows for visitors to enjoy throughout the day. These shows often feature two animals daily in an exclusive encounter just for Rafiki’s Planet Watch guests.
At the Affection Section petting, grooming, and hugging are all encouraged, but sanitation and cleanliness are vital to both humans and animals alike. So be sure to visit the cleaning station both before and after all animal interactions.
3. Hiking With Habitat Habitat
Take a trek along this outdoor pathway to discovery with various miniature exhibits and signs devoted to wildlife and everyday animal living. As a self-guided tour, Habitat Habitat lets you explore at your own pace, taking as much time needed or desired. One specific highlight even includes cotton-top tamarins at play in nature.
2. Character Meet and Greets
Rafiki’s Planet Watch has been a happy haunt for an array of unique Disney characters—many of which are hard to locate elsewhere. Chip and Dale have been known to make regular appearances along with Jiminy Cricket and of course Rafiki himself. Other characters that have visited in the past include Pocahontas, Meeko, and even Terk from Tarzan (along with many others). The most recent character addition here is Doc McStuffins from the animated Disney Junior show of the same name. She can be found right outside the veterinary clinic to meet and mingle with guests.
1. Name Appeal
Originally all of Rafiki’s Planet Watch (including Habitat Habitat and the Affection Section) was referred to as “the Conservation Station,” but in 2000 the area was renamed for the beloved baboon from Disney’s The Lion King. It’s interesting to note that the name “Rafiki,” means “friend” in the Swahili language, as this is definitely a place for all types of animal friends. On another interesting note, this is the only land named for a Disney character other than Mickey or Minnie.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a true gem not to be missed while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. So get ready for a truly wild animal experience laden with several possibilities in exploration.
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