Na’vi River Journey Review at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Na’vi River Journey Opened On: May 27, 2017.
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Location: Na’vi River Journey is located inside of the Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. As you enter Pandora from the main walkway into the Land, you’ll find it straight ahead on the left. First thing in the morning, most guests will hurry to the right towards Flight of Passage instead.
Traversing Pandora is actually pretty easy once you get your bearings. Basically, all of the major points of interest are straight back from the main entrance and run along this path. I’m taking this picture from just outside the entrance to Avatar Flight of Passage. For guests successfully rope dropping Flight of Passage, riding Na’vi River Journey next makes the most sense. You’ll simply need to walk to the other side of Pandora to do so. Windtraders, Pandora’s major store, and Pongu Pongu, the takeaway bar, are located between Flight of Passage and Satu’li Canteen on the same path behind where I took this picture.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with Animal Kingdom’s layout, here’s where the main walkway into Pandora is located. After entering the Park, walking through The Oasis, and approaching The Tree of Life, take a left past the Island Mercantile Store, and then another left at Pizzafari. In the morning, 97.3% of the people will be headed in this direction.
Extra Magic Hours: Morning.
Ride Length: 5 minutes.
Type: Boat Ride.
Similar to: A shorter Pirates of the Caribbean with a smaller boat and fewer Animatronics.
Requirements: Only your ability to lower your expectations or leave disappointed. Some people really love it though! There is no height requirement.
What to Expect:
The Standby and FastPass+ entrances are located next to each other straight ahead from Pandora’s main entrance.
About 90% of Na’vi River Journey’s queue is located outdoors, with about half covered.
Both standby and FastPass+ queues offer views of The Valley of Mo’ara that aren’t available from any other point in Pandora. This angle is particularly picturesque.
The covered portion of the queue is reminiscent of a hut with switchbacks intended to obfuscate the true length of the line.
Depending on the time of day, the queue will either be a little brighter or a little darker. There are certainly worse places to be with the fans and overhead cover keeping things cooler.
A fuller queue.
Na’vi River Journey is a slow-moving boat ride through…well, they don’t really tell you.
But some sort of Pandoran jungle. You can sort of make out the presence of the boat in front of mine to the bottom left of the screen. Above, it looks like we have some sort of glowing pink jellyfish flying around.
The ride is dark.
But it’s never ominous.
Whether that makes the ride a beautiful, peaceful five minutes, or a boring, pointless five minutes is in the eye of the beholder. There’s no doubt in the impressiveness of the technology. In the picture above, there are several layers of screens mixed with several physical set pieces.
Most guests probably aren’t aware that this is a projection.
Likewise, these animals are projections layered on top of physical sets.
The ride culminates in passing by the Shaman of Songs, who is never introduced during the attraction. Also, despite singing the same song for about three straight years, she’s still off-key.
Scary Factor: Low to medium.
You could probably push the boat faster than it travels along the water. There are no drops during the ride and no safety restraints.
Still, it’s nearly pitch black along the ride’s path, and the flora and fauna are intentionally alien.
Only the very young may be apprehensive about riding, and you can reassure them that there is nothing overtly scary on the ride. Just be aware that it’s basically pitch-black in there other than the bioluminescence of the various plants and the brightness of the screens.
Where to Sit: Each boat seats a maximum of four guests in each of its two rows, for a total of eight riders per boat.
This is the setup before load. Up to four guests board each row with two boats loading at the same time. To increase capacity, it’s likely that single riders and pairs of guests will be grouped with others so there are at least three guests in each row. The front row offers a slightly better, head-on view. Request it if it’s your only opportunity to ride, but most of what you’ll see is off to the sides, where both rows enjoy an equal opportunity to take in the sights and sounds. If you would prefer not to share a row with other guests, ask the cast member if it’s possible when they ask you how many people are in your party at the very front of the line. They may be able to accommodate that request.
FastPass+: Yes. Animal Kingdom FastPass+ attractions are broken up into two tiers. Tier One comprises the two Pandora rides – Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Most guests may initially select only one of these two attractions. Avatar Flight of Passage is easily the better choice because it saves more time in line and FastPass+ availability is much lower. However, Flight of Passage FastPass+ are routinely unavailable 60+ days in advance. If Flight of Passage isn’t available, then Na’vi River Journey is your next best choice, and will save more time in line, on average, than any attraction from Tier Two. Book Na’vi River Journey if it’s available and you’re riding during a non-recommended time.
What You Miss Using FastPass+:
Not much. You’ll walk a much shorter distance through the queue and bypass all of the switchbacks, instead heading straight inside for a short wait before boarding.
Total Average Experience Time with FastPass+: 15 minutes.
4th FastPass+ Availability: For the most part, only other people’s FastPass+ cancellations will be available on the day-of. River Journey FastPass+ do become available more often than you might expect as people change their plans. Disney may release some day-of FastPass+ for Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. Refresh availability consistently at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm for a couple of minutes on the day of your visit and you may see Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey FastPass+ become available.
Expect to Wait:
While the wait times at 8:30am and 9:30am may already appear long, only a very small fraction of those present at Park opening head to Na’vi River Journey first thing. This makes it incredibly easy to visit Pandora’s boat ride at Park open with a wait that’s under ten minutes. A second ride with a short wait is also usually possible. Those who are among the first couple hundred people to ride Flight of Passage first thing should also find a short standby wait for Na’vi River Journey immediately after disembarking. About 30 minutes after Disney’s Animal Kingdom opens, expect to wait at least a half hour.
When to Go: Within 20 minutes of the Park officially opening, in the last hour of operation, or with FastPass+. If you’re visiting the two Pandora rides in standby in the last hour, visit Na’vi River Journey an hour before the Park officially closes. Then, ride Avatar Flight of Passage last thing.
Josh’s Take: Na’vi River Journey is a polarizing attraction. Once you know what it is, it should meet your (lowered) expectations. Those who experienced the ride early on, or didn’t know what to expect after riding Avatar Flight of Passage, were largely disappointed by the short boat ride with no apparent storyline or purpose. Others find it a beautiful, peaceful excursion. I fall somewhere in the middle. It’s perfectly pleasant, but the storyline is virtually nonexistent, and the ride relies too heavily on screens. It’s still worth experiencing for yourself.