Visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom

Yesterday I shared some highlights from our last trek on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail.  Today, staying with the Animal Kingdom theme, I want to give a shout-out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  Our family once tended to ignore this section of the park, but lately rumors have been swirling about possible changes (including the potential  demise of Rafiki’s area) which prompted us to give it another visit.  Turns out, there’s a lot to love!  If you’ve never been or if it’s been a while, here are five great reasons to…Rafiki's Planet Watch

Visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom

Relaxing Train Ride – Getting to Rafiki’s Planet Watch involves one of the coolest modes of transportation at Walt Disney World.  The Wildlife Express offers an open-air train ride in outward-facing seats which makes for a relaxing and scenic ride to and from this area of the park.  Since this section typically opens later in the morning, mid-morning and mid-afternoon are great times to visit (between FastPasses).Wildlife Express to Rafiki's Planet Watch

Rafiki Himself – Sometimes there’s a queue to meet this wise sage of Africa and sometimes you can have your picture made with Rafiki with no wait at all.  He’s one of the more entertaining and playful characters in Animal Kingdom and will gladly teach you the art of meditation or give you an autograph.Rafiki's Planet Watch - Meeting Rafiki

Veterinarians at Work – Last month (January, 2018) we had time to spare and decided to either see Festival of the Lion King or visit Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  Raymond, Joseph and I were shocked when Megan piped up in favor of Rafiki’s.  We know how much she loves the Lion King show, but she’d had such a great experience on her last visit to Rafiki’s, she wanted to go again.  Joseph’s always up for anything that involves science and animals and that day, we were not disappointed!Rafiki's Planet Watch - Veterinarians at Work

A warthog was on the operating table when we arrived and a knowledgeable Cast Member was on hand to answer questions about what we were seeing.  The warthog’s immediate need was a broken hoof that needed to be shaved down/reshaped after a mishap cause a piece to break off.  Secondary to this was a known dental issue, so a dentist had been called in to cap a bad tooth.  Rafiki's Planet Watch - Warthog DentistryWe were fascinated and could, thanks to a strategically placed camera, watch the dentist at work.  Not every visit involves such cool veterinary care in action, but we lucked out that day.

Cast Members Have Time to Talk – The Cast Members at Rafiki’s Planet Watch seem to have more time to answer questions and explain scientific displays, animal behaviors, and veterinary treatments than they do in other Animal Kingdom areas.  Outside at the Affection Section, Cast Members can tell you individual animal’s names and histories as well as fun details about a particular animal’s personality.

Science and Live Animals Abound – There are tons of great learning opportunities all over Animal Kingdom, but Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers a unique opportunity to see, hear, and touch live animals while learning about both the animals in Animal Kingdom and those in the wild who benefit from Disney’s conservation and research efforts.

For as long as it lasts, Rafiki’s Planet Watch will remain one of our favorite places in Animal Kingdom.  It’s usually less crowded and much more slow-paced than just about anyplace else in the park.  The interesting displays, animals to pet, and veterinary work make every visit interesting and educational.

Are you a fan of Rafiki’s Planet Watch?  What keeps you coming back?

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little Corner

If you’ve been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’re probably very familiar with Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  Were you aware there’s a third and often ignored trail?  There IS!  And I’m here to tell you, when the crowds get crazy, it’s a great place to escape!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Quietest Little CornerDisney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

We’d been to Animal Kingdom dozens of times and still did not notice the Cretaceous Trail in DinoLand U.S.A. until last December during Christmas week when the park was so crowded we could barely move.  Raymond, Joseph and I were working on our Wilderness Explorer badges when two of us became distracted by unusual flora.  As I’m rarely distracted by any type of plant life unless it’s edible,  I wasn’t even a tiny bit curious.  Not wanting to get left behind however, I followed the guys into the trees and found myself on the Cretaceous Trail.  And we were alone.  Thousands of people in every other section of the park and we’d discovered peace and quiet!  And some other stuff, too.

The Cretaceous Trail is short and has no live animal exhibits.  It exists to teach guests about the plants and animals alive today that survived (or can be traced back to) the Cretaceous period.  It’s short and seemingly unpopular.  The beauty of this area is the soaring, unique landscaping.  Once brought to my attention, I had to admit, the trees and shrubs and whatnot were pretty cool.  There are also some dinosaur figures here and there and benches available for folks looking for a place to rest.Disney's Animal Kingdom - Quietest Little Corner

Why visit the Cretaceous Trail?  I’ll give you five great reasons…

  1. Your baby is asleep and you’d like to keep it that way OR you want to let a little one stretch their legs in a crowd-free area.
  2. You love unusual plants.
  3. You need a break from people.
  4. You’re an aspiring paleontologist.
  5. You’re dragged there by family members while you’re trying to earn Wilderness Explorer Badges.

Have you been to the Cretaceous Trail?  If not, it’s close to the pillars for Dinosaur, so next time you’re over in DinoLand, you should take a minute (literally) to check it out!

Disney World’s Flights of Wonder

Birds in Flights of WonderThere’s not much I don’t love about Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom!  Here lately, I’ve had a lot to say about this oh-so-much-more-than-a-half-day park.  Today’s no exception.  I want to talk about Flights of Wonder.  Over along the walkway between Africa and Asia, you pass right by the theater for this very special show.  Sometimes there’s a Cast Member outside the theater’s entrance with a bird – talking about what makes that bird special, how they live, what they eat and so on.  Sometimes there’s just a sign posting the daily show times.  It’s pretty easy to just keep waking, but then you’d miss out on something pretty special and unique.  Unless you’re afraid of birds…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Flights of Wonder is worth a spot in your touring plan at Animal Kingdom.  If you took the kidsOwl / Animal Kingdom / Flights of Wonder out of school to visit Walt Disney World and they need something educational to make the teachers feel better about their absence – See Flights of Wonder.  If your feet are tired and you need a place to sit and relax for a few minutes –  See Flights of Wonder.  Do you love learning about animals or have a special fondness for birds?  See Flights of Wonder.  It’s a great show for the whole family!  Unless you’re afraid of birds…but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Animal Kingdom / Flights of Wonder / PerformersThe show, which lasts about 25 minutes, begins with a Cast Member speaking about birds – suddenly, they are interrupted by the amazing Guano Joe – tour guide extraordinaire!  Guano Joe is quite a character and as it happens…is afraid of birds!  The rest of the show involves the Cast Members teaching Guano Joe (and the audience) all about different types of birds.  Several different bird behaviors (I hate to say “tricks”) are demonstrated while Guano Joe learns how and why birds behave they way they do – once he begins to understand, he starts to overcome his fear (fake, hokey, cheesy – you name it… embrace the experience).  It’s cute, funny and straight forward.  Birds fly overhead (quite low above spectators’ heads) from trainer to trainer, but birds also perform on stage.  It’s engaging, entertaining, and, for 25 minutes out of your day, a nice break from the sun and crowds.

If you are afraid of birds:  This show may not be for you – In case I’ve not been perfectly clear:  birds frequently fly close to the audience.  If you’re feeling brave (please, try to set a good example for the children) – Animal Kingdom / Flights of Wonder / Bald Eaglesit mid-way between the first and last row to the very outside.  Based on my last visit, this will minimize close encounters of the bird kind.  (OMG!  I KILL me sometimes.  I’m laughing so hard I have to end here…..)

So?  Flights of Wonder – Yea or Nay?

If you’re really afraid, check out one of many YouTube videos of the show to get the gist.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Maharajah Jungle Trek

Details along the Maharajah Jungle TrekA visit to Animal Kingdom just wouldn’t be complete for me without a walk along both of the two fantastic animal trails there.  These trails boast a wide array of exhibits that allow guests unforgettable opportunities for some close-up animal viewing in gorgeous, highly detailed settings.  The trail in Animal Kingdom’s Africa section is the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.  The trail in Asia is called the Maharajah Jungle Trek – that’s the one I want to talk about today.

The trail’s backstory sets the mood and an impressive (spectacular, unbelievable, insert favorite-adjective-of-wonder here) number of amazing Disney details make a visit to the Maharajah’s jungle into a mysterious, magical experience.  As I tend to like to do, allow me to give you…Komodo Dragon at Animal Kingdom

Five Great Things about the Maharajah Jungle Trek

From  the Walt Disney World web site, “Venture into the mystical Anandapur Royal Forest, a tropical paradise of trees, ruins and wild animals. Legend has it the area was at one time the hunting ground of wealthy maharajahs; today, it exists as a preserve that you can explore.”

1.  Komodo Dragon – Yep, a giant lizard!  What else do you need?  Seeing this guy is like looking at a living dinosaur and Komodo Dragons are the Animal Kingdom - Bats on the Maharajah Jungle Treklargest living lizards on earth.  As he sits there with his tongue darting in and out to “smell” the air while basking in the sun, it’s incredible to think about the fact that Komodo Dragons are venomous and capable of taking down large prey.  An adult Komodo Dragon can consume up to 80% of its own body weight in a single meal!  Go here for some other cool Komodo Dragon fun facts.

2. Rodrigues Fruit Bats and Malayan Flying Foxes – The way this section of the trail is designed is genius!  The bats are on display (sleepily hanging around) in a wide-open viewing area – which makes it seem as if there is absolutely nothing separating you from the bats!  Those Flying Foxes are enormous and so cool!  (Read all about them here.) I like to Asian Tiger - Maharajah Jungle Trekimagine what it would be like if the sun set and they got to go free all night – Those huge bats with their leathery wings flying overhead would be quite a scary sight!  Hands down, this is one of my all time favorite exhibits.

3. Asian Tigers – Usually we get here too late to see the tigers doing anything besides napping, but they’re huge and beautiful to see – even if they are asleep.  Because windows are used in this area instead of bars, it seems as if you could practically reach out and pet one of these big cats!  Even snoozing, they’re amazing.

4. The Aviary and Birdhouses – I never know which gets more of my attention in the aviary – tBird in Animal Kingdomhe colorful and unusual birds- or the equally beautiful bird houses.  Spotting guides help visitors identify a variety of different bird species and the Asian bird houses located every few feet throughout the aviary are as beautiful as the  Birds House in the Aviary in Asia / Animal Kingdom Animal Kingdom Asian Aviary Bird Spotting Guidebirds!  If you’re afraid of birds, this probably isn’t the best place for you…especially since they’re kind of friendly and will walk right up to you sometimes when you’re not paying attention and make you jump.  Not that I’d know from personal experience or anything.  I’m not afraid of birds at all.

5.  The Ruins – I know, weird that I’m such an animal lover and I’ve named decaying walls as one of the five best things about the Maharajah’s jungle, but it’s true.  And I make it a point to be honest with you here at the Living a Disney Life blog.  So….in all honesty – you won’t find a better example of the wonder and genius, the unique artestry of Disney imagineering than among the ruins of Anandapur.

Because of the location of the Maharajah Jungle Trek, this trail is almost always less crowded than the Pangani Forest trail.  There are also plenty of Hidden Mickey’s to find along the way!  We try to hit this trail in the morning before the day heats up too much.  Our touring plan at Animal Kingdom usually starts with Expedition Everest, then Kilimanjaro Safari, then the Pangani Forest Nature Trail, and finally the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Do you enjoy the trails at Animal Kingdom?  Which is your favorite?  What animals do you find the most fascinating?