Monday, February 14, 2011

Hidden Treasures - Rafiki's Planet Watch


On previous trips to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we had a short list of must-see attractions: Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and the Kilimanjaro Safari.  This trip changed all of that.  

We headed to Animal Kingdom on our 2nd day of park hopping to realize that we only had a couple of hours in the park before it closed.  Then, we headed the wrong direction to Everest, going straight to the Kilimanjaro Safari.  Even with level 1 crowds, there was still a 50 minute wait and no more fastpasses available.  We love the ride, but didn’t want to waste our entire afternoon in DAK waiting in line.  So, we walked right next door so I could ask a Cast Member about Rafiki’s Planet Watch and Conservation Station.

I’d seen the sign before, but really had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t even know if it was age appropriate.  The Cast Member informed me that it was absolutely appropriate for young children, and even had a petting zoo for them to get up close and personal with some of the animals.

What we discovered was so much more than a petting zoo.  A short train ride, with passengers facing out to see the backstage habitats and veterinary areas, takes guests from Africa to the Conservation Station, a hidden gem I had no idea existed.

Arriving at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, we followed the paths up towards the station and the outdoor petting zoo.  Loaded with goats and sheep, there were kids running around trying to pet or brush the animals (brushes provided).  There were several other animals in a non-petting part, including a large cow, a camel, and more. 
Noah showed a little interest in the animals, enough to spend probably 25-30 minutes out there before we decided to check out the inside of the Conservation Station.  As we had been informed on the train ride over, there were over 100 hidden mickey’s inside the station, so we had to stay on alert!  Inside the station, there was much more than just hidden mickey’s; there were labs where kids could see what veterinarians do, as well as live exhibits.  We happened to see a live exhibit of a baby alligator that we could get up close and personal with, though no touching on this particular day because the handler was new to working with these little babies. 

The Cast Member’s working there knew a lot about the animals, answering questions and offering their own information.  I had a great conversation with a Cast Member telling me differences between the Alligators and American Crocodiles, offering information that I would have never known, or even thought to ask.  Plus, after our conversation about pin trading (and how I’m always on the lookout for a new Mickey Mouse for Noah), she found 2 for me to see and gave me one, no trade!

Animals, science, conservation aside, there was another magical aspect to RPW - CHARACTERS.  First, we saw Jiminy Crickett, standing with a short line taking pictures.  Jiminy was incredibly friendly and played with Noah multiple times during our stay.  Then, we walked around and saw Pocahantas standing alone smiling.  We took several pictures with her as well (Adam definitely loved taking pictures with her!).  Then, we saw Rafiki himself!  With NO LINE waiting to meet him.  How is that possible?  I don’t know.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Disney won’t release the Lion King.  Or, maybe  it’s just that there are so many amazing things to see in the Conservation Station that you can experience everything with  no rush or lines.

After spending a good bit of time there, we realized we’d used up all of our park time there and the park would be closing soon.  And, more surprisingly, we were absolutely okay with that.  Everest will still be there next time for us to ride when we have more time.  But, that time spent at RPW letting Noah run around, interact with characters, and explore was worth skipping all of our must-sees.  If anyone says that DAK is not kid friendly, RPW alone refutes that argument. 
Samples of snake skin in one of the labs!
There is a rumor that DAK might be expanding to include Australia, which would potentially lose the train aspect of the RPW attraction, but not affect the station itself.  I really did enjoy the train, but I’m always okay with good upgrades, as long as they don’t take RPW away!  I highly recommend stopping there, or spending some quality time in between fast passes!

For more pictures from our trip to Rafiki's Planet Watch, make sure to check out our facebook page!  I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on the Conservation Station, as well!  Thanks for stopping by!
~Jenn  

3 comments:

  1. My wife and I last visited RPW back in 2000. We really enjoyed it, and I hope it doesn't go away. It's a wonderful place to take kids. Although adding Australia to DAK would be super too.

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  2. We missed that on our last trip... will put it on the top of the to-do list next time! All that & Jiminey Cricket too!

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  3. I hate to admit this, but we have always skipped this. Now reading this, we will definitely be checking it out in October! Thanks for all the great info!

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