Animal Kingdom Pandora Rope Drop to Navi River Journey – 10/3/17

The website has spent a considerable amount of time covering Animal Kingdom touring since Pandora opened over Memorial Day Weekend back in May. We started here with a post back on June 1st that tracked opening week crowds headed towards Flight of Passage. I followed that up with a morning touring plan that did not go particularly well the next week in this post, with Part 2 here. Then a few days later, I returned with a better plan of action in this post. July saw another update on how things were progressing with part 2 here. Then in August, I offered a detailed update on wait times inside Pandora and around the Park.

The above picture was taken at Animal Kingdom’s entrance at 8:17am on the morning of Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 with a regular 9am open. We’ll pick things up there.

If you accidentally clicked “like” on the website’s Facebook page, you may have seen this update from a couple of weeks ago:

Disney released tens of thousands of Flight of Passage FastPass+ experiences back on September 22nd for dates beginning later in the month and continuing through the end of November. We saw a similar phenomenon at Frozen Ever After and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train where Disney released a ton of FastPass+ availability on a seemingly random day a few months after those rides opened.

New attractions obviously have theoretical hourly capacities based on load time and attraction duration, but the real world capacity is going to be some number less. People take longer to load than expected. Downtime needs to be tracked. Disney is typically conservative in the number of FP+ experiences that it initially releases. Once Disney gets a handle on a new attraction’s throughput, they can distribute a number of FastPass+ experiences closer to 70% of the attraction’s actual capacity. My estimation is that’s what we saw Disney do on September 22nd – they got a handle on how many people could ride Flight of Passage per hour and increased the number of FastPass+ experiences offered for any specific window to be in line with those numbers.

I bring this up in part because each of our recent Animal Kingdom rope drops have begun with the clustercuss that is heading to Flight of Passage first thing. And each time, I assured you that visiting any other attraction, including Na’vi River Journey, would be no hassle at all. With more people able to book FastPass+ for Flight of Passage, I thought it would be prudent to run down a more relaxing Park arrival.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing. Bag check took all of one minute and we’re approaching the tapstiles where guests are already being let inside. You may see a long line stretching back in between the ticket window buildings, but just go around to one side or the other and fill in to a much shorter line. Typically, Disney opens the tapstiles between 8:15am and 8:30am with a regular 9am open. On a morning Extra Magic Hour day that starts at 8am, the tapstiles are typically opened closer to 8am.

The Annual Passholder line is located on the far right.

I found a spot in line down to the left, though I held my bright yellow Annual Pass high above my head so everyone still knew. I arrived at bag check at 8:17am and was in line at my tapstile at 8:19am.

And two minutes later I’m inside.

8:25am on the walk towards the Tree of Life with Pandora to our left.

The rope is still up on the walkway towards Asia and DinoLand and it won’t be dropped until much closer to regular Park open. Very few people will be headed in that direction and those that do probably still think they are headed towards Pandora. You could have Expedition Everest basically to yourself for at least a half hour.

For Flight of Passage, I suggest arriving at bag check 75 minutes before official Park open for the easiest experience. That puts you in the front of a tapstile with a clear path towards the bridge that leads into Pandora.

For Na’vi River Journey, I’d arrive between 35-45 minutes before official Park open – 45 minutes if you’re serious about hustling and maximizing your time or closer to 30 minutes if you’d like to experience a short wait at Na’vi, but don’t care that much if the wait at your next attraction is two minutes longer or not.

The “hordes” heading in at 8:27am.

I purposefully let everyone on the bridge head to the Pandora attraction of their choice before proceeding. Everyone was released right around 8:26am, which is 10-20 minutes earlier than usual.

This is the back of the Flight of Passage line at 8:30am, when the actual wait should be between 75 and 90 minutes.

And here at Na’vi River Journey, where it might “look” like the line is backed up all the way outside, but the reality is that cast haven’t yet opened the queue.

It looks like about 50 people have decided to make this their first stop of the day.

This would also be a good time to snap some quick photos around the Valley of Mo’ara.

It’s not like there’s going to be a sudden rush coming up in behind you.

Don’t let the lack of people stop you from practicing your elbow-throwing skills. You can always wait less and other people don’t deserve to be in front of you.

Otherwise, I was in line at 8:32am and past the standby/FastPass+ merge point at 8:34am.

And taking pictures of screens before 8:40am:

And back out front at 8:50am, for a total experience time of 18 minutes.

With a 15-minute posted wait, there’s maybe 20 people walking the queue.

I got back in line…not because I wanted to…but because you might want to…

I was back on in under five minutes, which was less of a wait than the first time. Why people wouldn’t want to get right back in line and ride again…

And back out front at 9:04am for a total experience time of 14 minutes with what is now a 20-minute posted wait.

People have now filed into the extended Flight of Passage queue there on the left, but the Valley remains pretty quiet in and of itself.

The backup for Flight of Passage actually isn’t all that bad just after 9am, though now that the entire queue is full, you’re looking at a solid 2-hour wait.

Not a lot of people heading in.

As a reminder, if you don’t arrive at least an hour before open or have the ability to weasel your way to the front of the fracas heading towards Flight of Passage, the website dissuades you from joining the back of the line for the simulator ride. If you’re going to wait two hours for Flight of Passage, it might as well be in the middle of the afternoon when waits are longer everywhere. Outside of Pandora, every other ride will have a wait of 15 minutes or less during the first hour of operation.

If you look over the website’s published touring plans, all of which include Pandora, you’ll notice that they typically start in the alien world and then move to Expedition Everest immediately after, before moving on to DinoLand. The thinking there is that Everest is going to build waits faster than the other non-Pandora rides, so it’s the top priority. DinoLand is going to be dead until at least 10am, so there’s no rush there. Then we can use FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris and another attraction, whether you want it to be Kali River Rapids or perhaps a re-ride on Everest later in the afternoon. The third FP+ would typically be used at one of the Pandora rides and ideally Flight of Passage.

That was my original plan of attack as well, but I decided to call an audible and head off to Africa for Kilimanjaro Safaris.

You may elect to do something similar if you’re looking on cutting down on walking or if you subscribe to the thought that the “animals are more active in the morning.”

I arrived at 9:10am to a 15-minute posted wait.

And it initially “felt” like I’d be waiting a while given the backup.

But “literally” four minutes later, I was past the standby/FastPass+ merge and on my way towards a truck.

And three minutes later, I took this picture, followed by these:

And back out front at 9:43am for a total experience time of 33 minutes, which is about as short as possible.

Otherwise, it was an entertaining safari with the giraffes galloping around and the fight for food between the ducks, flamingos, and other birds, in addition to the painted dogs out and about.

A trickle of people headed this way.

If you were looking to cut down on walking and wanted to see Festival of the Lion King, the 10am show is a smart choice. Shows between 11am and 6pm will likely fill to capacity.

I was interested in seeing what DinoLand looked like, so I retraced my steps back in that direction.

Moderate crowds headed towards Pandora.

And a good number of people headed towards us.

Zero people at The Boneyard.

TriceraTop Spin with nobody waiting and only half the dinos filled.

Primeval Whirl at 10 minutes.

With surprisingly.

Both sides operating.

And four people in line.

One of which, unfortunately, was me.

Every computer-generated touring plan I’ve ever seen.

I arrived at 9:55am and was back out front at 10:02am, for a total experience time of seven minutes.

I go back and forth on whether it makes more sense to ride Primeval Whirl or DINOSAUR first and in this instance, it won’t matter whatsoever. But given much heavier crowds, it probably makes sense to ride Primeval Whirl first. The capacity is much lower and the experience duration is much shorter since DINO has the pre-show video and the second wait after it.

DINOSAUR is posted at 10 minutes at 10:05am.

And it’s a straight-shot to the pre-show room.

It occurred to me that I probably would not want to go to any part of the Cretaceous period in an open-air jeep.

Ignoring the potential for an extinction-inducing meteor shower, even a light drizzle would cause me to have to continuously dry my glasses. But perhaps going back in time, you also lose all of today’s “conveniences.”

I was back out front at 10:20am, for a total experience time of 16 minutes, which is just about the minimum possible.

Looking over waits at DINO from September:

Larger: Here.

On October 3rd, the day of this visit, DINO does peak at 50 minutes for a brief time, but still doesn’t hit 20 minutes until 11am and is 20 minutes or less again from 2pm through close. Looking over all of these dates, the wait at 11am only exceeds 20 minutes on about 20% of dates.

Let’s check Primeval Whirl:

Larger: Here.

Wait times are even more negligible with the 15-minute overall average as seen in the lower right hand corner of the chart versus 18 minutes at DINO. The posted wait is over 20 minutes at 11am on only about 15% of dates. Primeval is also one of the easiest FastPass+ experiences to select later in the afternoon. You don’t want that FP+. But it will be there.

In Part 2, we’ll finish up in DinoLand, head over to Asia for Everest and Maharajah Jungle Trek, grab some ribs at Flame Tree, return to Pandora, take an afternoon ride on Safaris, and consider some more wait times and overarching strategy.


  1. Monica Missaghi says

    so…..not really enough time to have 8:00 Tusker house breakfast and still get to Navi River by open the way you’ve done here, I guess?
    (but I am adopting the idea of riding River back to back)

    • Samantha says

      I was there last week they are not letting people through Africa you have to walk around. On our early breakfast at tusker Pandora did not open till 11am. The next day on our way to mk we heard the bus drivers announce that it would not open again for at least 2 hours again. My advice ask the bus drivers and cast members before heading to Pandora.

  2. RebeccaMcK says

    I’ll be in AK this Sunday. This was the hardest day to book (easy to plan, thanks to your notes, but hardest to actually get the FPs I wanted), and I keep trying daily for the FoP FP with no luck. My mistake was not booking the AK day’s worth of FPs at my 60 day mark right away. I was up early and all, as usual (5 am in Colorado!), but I did my Epcot day’s FPs first – DOH! I do keep trying daily to switch out NRJ for FoP, but I’ll wind up sticking with my set FPs of EE, Dinosaur, & NRJ (which are all gone now for that day, unless they suddenly release more by this weekend)…then lunch and I’ve cleared the rest of my day to wait Standby for FoP and read a book (while constantly trying in line to get the 4th FP for FoP). Too bad the new baby tigers aren’t out for the public to see yet. FoP was my only unsuccessful FP try for this trip. And I used your tip about getting the Landry’s Select member card and am ready to use it at either Y&Y or RFC outside AK….it’ll be nice to redeem that $25 welcome bonus & save the rest of my money/gift cards for F&WF, etc.

    • joel says

      FOP still hard to get at 60 days. You can book FP for your entire stay at Disney hotel at 60 days from your arrival. So if you are staying for 7 days, you can actually do your selections at 61-67 days in advance as well.

      • RebeccaMcK says

        I know I tried at 4:59 am Mtn at the 60 day mark for the start of the trip and nothing would happen on the site until exactly 5 am (7 Eastern). I had a feeling the FOP passes would be the first to run out, too, so even if I’d tried for the AK day first I might not have found FoP. For just one person, even.

  3. kristin says

    Was this a 9am opening day? If so, how early does Animal Kingdom typically let guests in prior to “official” opening? I knew Magic Kingdom let guests into Main Street before official opening time, but didn’t realize other parks do this as well. Trying to rope drop Navi in November and need to figure out what time to show up on a “normal” opening day and also an early magic hours morning (8-9am).

    • Kathy says

      From the article:
      “Typically, Disney opens the tapstiles between 8:15am and 8:30am with a regular 9am open. On a morning Extra Magic Hour day that starts at 8am, the tapstiles are typically opened closer to 8am.”

      All the other parks open the tapstyles prior to official open, but none are at ‘set’ time like MK. The actual dropping of ropes to most lands/areas in all other parks happen right around open, but they have been letting people into Pandora a little earlier to line up for FOP.

  4. Sarah says

    Would this plan (Navi standby and then Kilimanjaro) work for a non-EMH day in early December?? I was able to get a FP for FoP in the afternoon and KS in the morning. Wondering about timing of one for EE before we have to head back in the afternoon. Booking today and getting anxious about getting it right for our family of 6!

  5. Jess says

    If EE is a must do, would you recommend RD EE and then heading to Pandora? We have FPs for Navi/FoP at 10:30, but it means two of us don’t get to ride Navi with a FP. Or, RD Navi and FP EE?

  6. Bobby says

    I got to AK about 75 min before open on Friday 9/22 and went to River Journey first even though I could have got to FoP as I was close to the front of the pack. I had a FP+ later on in the day so I wasn’t worried for that day. Turns out I was the first one on the ride and had a boat that was just my wife and I. It was actually a really cool experience to be the only people in the ride. Also had a nice time with 3 cast members walking the 2 of us to River Journey.

    Had a much worse time the next day when RnRC was down at open at DHS and I had chosen TS:MM as my tier 1 and had planned to rope drop RnRC

  7. Shannon says

    We went last January and used your tip of riding EE over and over in the evening. Going again this January. With the opening of Pandora and ROD do you still see the walk ons at EE and Dinoland in the evenings? I believe the recommendation last year was for any time after 5 pm and it was spot on. We loved riding EE over and over at night with no line. Thanks for all of you hard work. We followed all of your tips on our first trip to Disney World last year and had an amazing trip!

  8. Eric says

    Sorry I’m a little confused. The park open was 9AM, but you got to actually ride NRJ prior and out by 8:50? I’ve always understood rope dropping as getting let into park earlier, partitioned to certain areas, and then shortly before open, allowed to go to specific attraction and getting in line but I always thought the first person in line couldn’t actually hop on until the park was officially open.

  9. Lorri says

    We have an 8:15 ADR at Tusker House which is non-negotiable for our family. We love that place and early breakfast. Our plan as of now, for Tuesday 10/17, is to hustle it to Na’Vi as soon as we are finished with breakfast, hopefully arriving there around 9:30. Any thoughts on whether we are better off waiting until near park closing to do Na’Vi or stick to our current plan and go directly there after breakfast and pray for a 30 minute or less wait?

  10. Sandy says

    Not surprising that there was nobody in the Boneyard at 9:50, since it doesn’t open until 10. I learned this the hard way since it’s “literally” my kids’ favorite thing at AK.

  11. Tammy says

    Sorry I missed you by 2 days Josh! I was at Animal Kingdom on 10/5/17. This was my first solo WDW trip ever. I was on a non-park rented ECV and was there at opening. I raced as fast as my new wheels could get me to the Flight of Passage line (almost tipped over taking a corner too fast, LOL). I was in what I refer to as the line after the extended line. They said in a warning tone, “2 and a half hours”…but I would not be swayed. I was there for Pandora and I was getting on Flight of Passage no matter what! I even made sure my FP’s were for 3pm & later to ensure it. They underestimated. I was in line, thankfully on my portable seat aka. ECV, for 3 hours. THREE. It’s the longest I have ever waited for any ride ever. And I would love to say, “don’t bother…not worth it” – but I can’t. I just LOVED it! I really did. Sure I lost 3 hours of park time at one of my 2 favorite parks, and I didn’t get to do as much as I wished I could. But I got in all but 1 new experience, and I have been before and will certainly be going again. Na’vi River Journey was okay. I don’t know, I wished it were…more. But nice all the same. And seeing it all at night, WOW. Pictures & descriptions won’t do it justice. See it yourself people! Amazing.


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