In 2017, Disney opened Pandora as part of their Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando. Pandora is the mythical world featured in James Cameron’s cinematic masterpiece, Avatar.
Animal Kingdom is our favourite theme park. This enchanted alien world takes the park to a whole other level.
There are two rides in Pandora. Since this section of the park opened, both rides have had pretty epic waiting times. Recently, we got to experience Pandora this was our experience…
Na’vi River Journey
We actually didn’t have time to go on this ride. I am told it is akin to the “It’s a Small World” ride at Magic Kingdom. It has many of the glowing plants and scenery you expect from Pandora, which you see from a boat as you travel down the river. With wait times of 1-2 hours, it was recommended we make the most of the rest of the park. Maybe we will make it back to this some other time!
Before we get to the rides I have to talk about food
Pandora is home to the best food at any of the Disney Parks – it is one of my favourite parts about visiting Animal Kingdom.
The Satu’li Canteen has been set up to look like a dining hall right out of the Avatar movie. The food doesn’t disappoint either. It is probably also the healthiest you will find too. I get the beef with a sweet potato hash and herbed mayo followed by a blueberry cream cheese moose. They also have these interesting cheeseburger pods – the food and the plates, all designed to make you feel like you are on Pandora.
For a quick snack or drink, Pongu Pongu is your best bet. I particularly liked the Avatar style frozen drink that they have available – it is a bit like a frozen version of a bubble tea.
Avatar – Flight of Passage
This is my new favourite ride out of all Walt Disney World. We arrived early so that we could get in line for this ride first as that is the best way to minimise wait time. We were there before the ride actually opened so the line wound its way right through The Pandora section of the park.
Pandora really is an incredible site. Although visible from outside the park, as you get closer you can really see how much work went into building this incredible backdrop.
Centred around Pandora’s floating mountains, there are waterfalls, huge vines and real plants mixed with ornate vegetation that steams, bubbles and glows. As you move up into the line for the ride you start to climb a rise where you can get a better view back of this fantasy world the team at Disney has created.
Waiting in Line
Eventually, you enter into a cave. As you get deeper in you start to pass glowing vegetation before coming to the science facility. As you walk through you can see some pretty neat looking science experiments.
You’ll also come across a full-sized Avatar.
They’ve built the waiting section for this ride to handle a line up to 5 hours long, and they have made plenty to look at to keep you busy.
In the last chamber of the facility, you’ll see a large screen. This is where they track banshee riders as they soar through the skies above Pandora. You’ll pass the Na’vi mural before heading up (or down) the ramps to the ride,
Once you get to the front of the line you’ll enter a pairing chamber. Here you’ll be “sterilised” from bacteria (it’s kind of fun so just go with it). You’ll then enter a second chamber where you are paired with your Avatar.
The Immersive Experience
The final chamber is the ride itself. You’ll straddle something akin to a motorbike seat, leaning forward into it (this is the saddle of the banshee). You will also have special 3D glasses on. To start with it just looks like you’re facing the wall, but once you are locked into the seat, that’s when the magic happens.
The lights go down. You’ll see some flashes of light. All of a sudden the wall that was in front of you is gone. It feels like you are legitimately flying a banshee. It is a full sensory experience. You can feel the banshee breathing against your legs, breath in the smells of Pandora and feel the ocean spray against your face. If you have been on Disney’s Soarin’ ride, it is a little similar but much more thrilling. After a few minutes and a journey through the skies of Pandora, you’re back in the room and it is time to exit. But I’m pretty sure you’ll want to ride this one again.
Pandora really is an incredible part of Animal Kingdom to visit. I recommend going both in the day and in the evening, as the plants begin to glow when it gets dark. What’s your favorite ride in Pandora?