Na’vi River Journey Review and Strategy at Pandora World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

“Sorry” about the number of ads over the pictures at the moment. I sent in a request to the ad network to reduce them, but it likely won’t be filled until Monday.

We continue preliminary coverage of the Pandora: World of Avatar opening with a look at the Land’s secondary attraction, Na’vi River Journey. An in-depth review of Pandora’s principal quick service, Satu’li Canteen, is available here in case you missed it.

As with Satu’li, I offer a largely spoiler-free, picture-free overview of what to expect from the boat ride here, in addition to some preliminary touring strategy. Obviously it can’t be completely spoiler free without offering some background on what to expect. If you’d like to see some pictures etc. there’s a lot more commentary below.

Na’vi River Journey is located in the far left corner of Pandora, almost straight back from the main entryway. This sculpture sits in front of the ride entrance, which is on the left, and the ride exit, which is on the right.

River Journey offers FastPass+, but does not have a single rider line.

An issue moving forward is going to be capacity. Each of the reed boats holds a maximum of eight guests across two short rows that should prove to be tighter than the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean or Gran Fiesta Tour.

That means three medium-size adults and a child may fit in one row or perhaps two adults and two children.

But three adults across a row is probably about all that’s possible and while we’ll see what loading looks like once the Land opens at the end of May, it seems likely that two groups of two people will be placed in individual rows rather than right next to each other. In other words, a lot of boats are going to be sent off with four or five people in them rather than eight.

Two boats in a row are loaded at a time and then dispatched in short order, making the ride almost like an omnimover on water without the track attachment. And while there is no height requirement, the boats are low to the ground and may prove difficult for those with mobility issues to get in and out of. There isn’t a whole lot to hold onto – we’ll see what accommodations can be made moving forward.

While the capacity numbers are preliminary based on “what I’ve been told,” the theoretical maximum capacity is around 2,600 riders per hour, but it seems like the actual capacity will be closer to 1,300 or 1,400. That’s right around Toy Story Mania, which is about 1,350 riders per hour, or about 65% of Expedition Everest, which is around 2,100 riders per hour. Flight of Passage is optimally around 1,550 riders per hour, but is currently running just one theater as overheating issues persist.

That should equate to long standby waits.

And while the initial walk through the queue offers some panoramic views of the Land…

This is where you’re going to spend most of your wait.

It’s nicely covered and relatively cool (at least with nobody else in line), all things considered, but there isn’t a whole lot to it other than the switchbacks and ceiling decorations.

The 4ish minute ride blends screens, “bioluminescent plants,” and a single animatronic:

The following is my (negative) take on the ride:

Originally, it was my understanding that this concept was supposed to be used to transport guests into Pandora from Discovery Island. And that would have been an epic introduction into what is a breathtaking outdoor space with giant floating mountains and cascading waterfalls. As a 4-minute boat ride with what will likely be a 60+ minute wait, it doesn’t stand on its own so well. There is no story to speak of – you simply get in the boat and float downstream while looking at pretty things in the dark for a few minutes. But it’s never really clear what you’re looking at or why you’re looking at it, particularly without any narration outside of the singing (out of tune) animatronic alien at the end.

But life is an expectations game and I was hoping for something more akin to Shanghai’s Pirates of the Caribbean, which looks to push the envelope as far as what a dark ride can achieve both in terms of technology and storytelling. And this is decidedly not that. You’ll certainly leave Pandora with plenty to talk about, including the fantastic Flight of Passage ride, but I don’t think River Journey is going to register permanently on a lot of radars. But it is worth experiencing and once your expectations are lowered to a suitable level, you might even enjoy it.

Touring Strategy

My harsh review is based largely on the payoff compared to the time/effort investment necessary to experience it. At the moment, FastPass+ experiences for the boat ride are hard to come by less than 30 days in advance. And with what will likely be a lousy capacity, scoring a day-of FP+ will likely be akin to finding a Frozen Ever After or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train cancellation- possible with constant refreshing, but difficult to acquire. And with most guests having to initially choose between Flight of Passage and River Journey for their initial FP+ allotment, anyone with the ability to get the flight simulator attraction should choose it. Sure, a 75-minute wait for River Journey is rough, but Flight of Passage should easily see 120 to 180+ minute peak waits. The queue is unbelievably long.

But with Animal Kingdom being open from 8am-11pm daily over the summer and with Pandora hosting evening Extra Magic Hours nightly from 11pm-1am from May 27th through July 4th (with the possibility that those dates will be extended), there should be opportunities to ride the attractions with short waits. If you’re able to secure FastPass+ for Flight of Passage, you may want to start the morning with River Journey in standby, where a second ride with a short wait may be possible. If you aren’t able to obtain FP+ for Passage, you likely want to start there and then potentially use FP+ at River Journey after. Flight of Passage will likely take 30 minutes first thing, even without anyone else in line, given the length of the queue, pre-show, ride, and exit through the gift shop. 30 minutes after opening, the standby wait for River Journey may already be prohibitive.

But we’ll see how things shake out in a couple of weeks.


  1. Lynn says

    Looks gorgeous. I hope it clicks with guests. I don’t see any ads over pictures. All I see over the pictures is red crayon scribbles. 😛

  2. Danielle says

    As someone with mobility and vision issues: Are the boats lower than Pirates? Also darkness wise, is it, as far as loading/unloading, close to Pirates?

  3. Rachel says

    Super jealous we are currently down at Disney til the 12th and are sad it doesn’t open up to public while we are here :(

  4. Kelly A says

    My plan when I chose FP+ without knowing what was actually happening, I chose River for FP+ with he intention of going to Flight first. Hope this works out ok…

  5. Ava says

    Thank you for the review. I was planning to choose River Journey for our Pandora FP+, because my youngest is too short for Flight of Passage, and just skip FoP this trip. If FoP takes 30 minutes to experience, that makes me even less inclined to want to Rider Swap for it. Hopefully the rest of the park will be relatively empty in the mornings as people head to Pandora first to try to experience both rides there.

  6. Carol says

    Thank you for the review. The pictures look amazing.

    HOWEVER, the ads over each picture are unbelievably annoying! If you decide to continue with them, PLEASE OFFER A PAID OPTION so that we may choose to avoid them.. (You deserve to make money doing this & I do appreciate that).

    • Sarah says

      Yes, literally made this unreadable for me. I would rather pay a fee than have to deal with the ads. I don’t mind them being in the margins or between paragraphs, but over the pictures is too much. Especially when said pictures are so gorgeous.

  7. Mark says

    Josh, I believe I spotted you inside FoP, it appears that you weren’t able to experience it?.

  8. Boski says

    Man I was expecting so much more from this ride. Where is the story? And it seems rather short. It looks good but is lacking a great deal.

  9. DwarfPlanet says

    Thanks for the objective view, going through your pictures I was already into “is that all there is” mode. Plus seeing waterfalls from sky rocks where there should be no water unless it just rained brought abit more unbelievable to the area.

  10. judy morgan says

    i dont know what you all are talking about what ads? just use ad blocker if you are having problems

  11. katkat says

    Thank you for the excellent pictures and about what to expect especially capacity and how the boats load and sit in the water. I didn’t think about that but it was relevant because I have a family member with back issues. This might be a problem for him getting in and out of the boat if it is so low in the water.

  12. says

    Thanks for the review. I watched a video of it and felt exactly how you described – looks like a lot of glowing things but no story. Kind of a disappointment because dark rides are usually my favorite rides.

  13. Sam says

    I’ve been terrified of animatronics, wax figures, taxidermy things etc for most of my life. Animatronics and water rides especially freak me out. In the past few visits to Disney I’ve gotten over it very very slightly but ever since I saw the footage of that animatronics I’ve literally had nightmares. It’s so creepy and weird and I’m going to need to hold on tightly to whoever is sitting next to me when we pass it.

  14. Dorliss Chambers says

    Doesn’t do much for me, I’ll still be devoting most of my Disney time to the other three parks.

  15. Will says

    My hopes were perhaps too high. After seeing the China “Pirates” footage and reading Imagineers’ comments, I was expecting more of a cohesive and “wow”-inspiring experience. Instead it seems like a dark series of tunnels through glowing plastic shrubbery and some clever screens, Underwhelming in this day and age.

    Why not make this a little slice of Pandora History? Start out with the machinery and structures the humans left behind on Pandora. Then, gradually show the plants growing over the human things, so then you can dramatically immerse the riders in a fully reclaimed jungle. They could then reveal the Shaman working on encouraging the plants to grow. That would give it a nice story, and the progression to full jungle could be quite impressive and in keeping with the overall Animal Kingdom theme.. As it is, there is no change, the Shaman doesn’t seem to be affecting the plant life all that much, and we spend much of the time looking at static displays. A few audioanimatronic animal heads peering out of the foliage would not have been amiss either.

  16. Jessica says

    Honestly, I’m disgusted with Disney for creating from scratch a boat ride and not making it wheelchair-accessible. I was understanding of the Frozen ride because they were retrofitting Maelstrom and the drop prohibits it, much like in Pirates. But this ride? There’s no excuse. Even old rides like Small World and the ride in Mexico are accessible. Ridiculous.

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