We just got back from a great little trip to WDW and we are going to get back into the swing of things nice and easy. Today, we are going to take a relaxing ride on the Na’vi River Journey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
One of two rides to open inside Pandora in 2017, Na’vi River Journey is a slow moving “night time” boat ride through the bio luminescent forests of Pandora. The ride seems to have a lot of detractors but we like it quite a bit.
The biggest complaint, and its a legitimate one, is that the ride is too short. Just as you are really getting into it, it ends. It really needed about 2 – 3 more minutes to flush out the experience. As it stands now, it clocks in at just over 4 minutes in duration (not counting any backup to get back to the unload dock). Compared to other boat rides like Pirates, Small World or Splash and its definitely on the short side. Its almost a minute shorter than Frozen and and that was crammed into the ride space of an already short attraction.
Still, we are fans of the ride! It’s wonderfully detailed with lots of physical set pieces, integrates screens fairly seamlessly and its just straight up gorgeous to look at. We actually recommend rope dropping this and riding Flight of Passage with fastpass later in the day. Unless you get near the very front of the rope drop crowd (by arriving at least an hour before opening), you will still end up waiting quite a while for FoP first thing in the morning. The walk over there will also be one of the most stressful ordeals of your entire trip.
Above is a photo taken by Josh of EasyWDW of a FoP rope drop crowd from just last month. As you can see the line is already well back of the actual queue. Visit his post here to read about the whole rope drop experience here. As with pretty much everything he posts, its super helpful!
If riding River Journey first, there is no huge rush to get over there. You can take your time and likely still ride at least twice without a wait. While Flight of Passage is the overwhelming favorite among fans in Pandora (and it should be, its the better attraction by far), River Journey will still have waits between 1 and 2 hours later in the day. Waiting that long with the short duration will lead to disappointment.
The other option for a short wait is to ride at the very end of the night. If you get in line in the last 15 minutes prior to closing, your wait shouldn’t be more than a few minutes. This is also a good strategy for FoP, however there you will be looking at a 30 – 60 minute wait most likely. Still much better than the 2 – 3 hour waits it can see during the middle of the day.
With all that being said, let’s take a ride on Na’vi River Journey!
The boats are only 2 rows each, up to 4 people in each row.
You will start be maneuvering some caves. Its here you come across your first Na’vi. He is on a screen but its so well blended into the live sets that he looks surprisingly “real”.
We then make our way into the rain forest where we begin to encounter some of the unique wildlife Pandora has to offer.
I always like the shadows of these creatures playing on the plants above.
Who doesn’t love flying Jellyfish in the middle of a forest?
Again, the screens are used here to add depth to the physical sets. The effect is very well done.
At the end of the ride you’ll encounter the Na’vi shaman. People seem to like to criticize her singing but it seems fine to us. It fits the ride and the overall feel of the land perfectly. The animatronic itself is just fantastic.
The shaman is (pre-Galaxy’s Edge) the most advanced AA in all of WDW and its really quite the technological marvel. From the detail to the movements, this thing looks real, or as real as a fictional humanoid species can look anyways.
I do wish there were more than this 1 animatronic on the ride, but at least the one we got is top notch.
The ride ends with a few small set pieces and then it’s back to the dock.
Overall, while we wish it was a bit longer, Na’vi River Journey is a pleasant attraction all around and one we are glad is in Walt Disney World.
Thanks for reading! Bye for now!