Are you ready to be immersed in an incredibly vivid and authentic experience? Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is now open and ready to welcome guests of all ages as eco-tourists to the Valley of Mo’ara. With massive floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and breathtaking new experiences, you’ll leave Pandora feeling one with the Na’vi. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom does a good job at making all family members feel welcome and included so it’s only fitting I start by saying that Pandora is, in fact, an attraction the entire family can enjoy.
5 Must-See Things in Pandora
Here is my list of things you must stop and see while exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar.
1. The Floating “Hallelujah Mountains”
Of course, how could you miss them, right? The focal point has to be the 135-foot (41-meter) mountaintop where Flight of Passage is located. You’ll spend a lot of your time gazing upward just trying to figure out exactly how Disney was able to pull this off.
2. The Flora
Each plant you see has a name and purpose. Take these four plants for instance: The blue Bladder Polyp plant, pink & purple Challis plant, Vein Pod, and tall Exploding Sea plant. These four unique plants grow in Pandora because, in some way, they help the ecosystem in the Valley of Mo’ara. All of the plant life is so interesting to study. When you see one, be sure to ask an Alpha Centauri Expeditions expert (aka cast members) walking around.
The Bladder Polyp:
These small rounded plants grow in clusters on the forest floor. The bladder polyp is eaten by the Na’vi for its juicy and salty taste, which is somewhat like a pickle for you and I.
My daughter calls the Challis Plant the “crazy-venus fly trap”. She’s pretty close if you ask me. Careful not to get too close because the Challis is a carnivorous plant! Thankfully, in Pandora, you’ll only find them in the middle of the rivers, far away from the walkway and bridges.
See the pod in the bottom corner of the photo? That is one of the keystone species on Pandora for their important role in maintaining the stability of the environment. In short, they help purify the air in Pandora.
Exploding Sea Plant:
If you look carefully, you’ll find just four plants around Pandora. These are called Exploding Sea Plants. When these plants mature, they will grow flowers which explode out seeds. The Na’vi use these seeds to rejuvenate their skin. The seeds are sorta like the “Pandora Fountain of Youth.”
3. The Food
There are two places to get refreshments in Pandora. There’s the fast casual eatery Satu’li Canteen and drink stand Pongu Pongu. That’s it but believe me, when I say, that’s all you need!
The main dining option in Pandora is called Satu’li Canteen. I dined on the Lunch/Dinner menu. At first, I was skeptical, and I even considered going somewhere else in Animal Kingdom. The menu is simple: Create-Your-Own-Bowls and a few other options. If your kids want chicken nuggets or a burger, you won’t find that here, so, unfortunately, you will have to make a different lunch stop for them. They do however have cheese quesadilla or a hot dog on the kid’s menu. I’m delighted I ate here. Ready for this? Satu’li Canteen has the best food I’ve ever eaten at any Disney park. You heard me. I’m not talking about the resorts, just the parks. The best. I would eat here every.single.day if I could.
When you order you get a choice of protein, base, and sauce. I chose the wood-grilled chicken ($11.49) thighs marinated with garlic and olive oil. My base is wild grains and rice with the creamy herb sauce (ranch). Other choices include beef, fish, or tofu as a protein as well as potato hash or kale mixed greens as a base. There are also two other sauce choices besides the creamy herb.
A unique dish that caught my eye on the menu are the white pods you see. You have two choices when it comes to the filling in the Boa Buns. You may have cheeseburger or vegetable curry. I ordered the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods – Bao Buns (around $5.99 when ordered a la carte) to try and they were delicious. When ordered as a meal you’ll pay $10.99 for two Boa Buns, crunchy slaw, and vegetable chips. The Boa Buns are also on the kid’s menu, but kids will only get one bun with the slaw and chips on the side.
The pods are a thick, fluffy bread ball filled with a mixture of ground beef, ketchup, mustard, and pickle. I would have eaten more had I not just finished my chicken bowl completely.
Pongu Pongu (which translates to “party party” in Na’vi) is where you’ll find the must-have drink in Pandora. The frozen “Night Blossom” — with its layers of purple and green, topped with orange boba balls — is something out of your crazy dreams, and you will wish it was real. Now I’m here to tell you that it is real, but you can only get it in Pandora.
According to the menu, it’s made up of limeade, apple and pear flavors, with the passion fruit boba balls serving as the finishing touch. My one piece of advice: Do not drink this on an empty stomach. The instant sugar rush is enough to knock down any sugar-loving-kid. I made that mistake, and I won’t repeat it. It is, however, delicious. And in the Florida heat and humidity, it does wonders while you’re checking out the sights and sounds of Pandora.
4. The Rides
I definitely have to tell you to check out the two rides that Pandora has to offer. If you’re lucky enough to get a fast pass that’ll be your best bet to fit both rides into your day. Around 10am on a Sunday when I was visiting, the stand-by wait for Flight of Passage was 128 minutes. In the 98* heat, that feels like a lot longer.
Na’vi River Journey:
The Na’vi River Journey is a peaceful boat ride, perfect for all ages. It is a dark ride so children sensitive to that may not like it. Your reed boat (which seats 8 – 4 to a row) gently glides through a series of caves and showcases the bioluminescence which is so central to Disney’s story of Pandora. After gently coasting downstream and passing by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures of the rainforest, you’ll soon find yourself face-to-face with the Na’vi Shaman of Songs.
Avatar Flight of Passage:
By contrast, Flight of Passage is an intense 3D ride through the visually stunning Valley of Mo’ara simulated to take place on the back of a banshee.
Bonding with a mountain banshee is a crucial step in the life of a Na’vi hunter—and flying on the back of one of these powerful winged creatures represents an important rite of passage. You’ll go through two pre-show areas once it’s your turn on Flight of Passage. The first is the Genetic Matching room. This room is where your genetic makeup will be taken and matched up with the perfect avatar. The next room shows you a video of the importance of banshees to Pandora and what’s about to happen. Once you’ve watched the two videos you are ready to climb atop your mountain banshee for a breathtaking, first-person flight over the moon’s incredible landscape.
You’ll then be directed to a room with 8 “bike-like” devices. Each person straddles their own “banshee” like a bike. The restraints are extremely tight against your back, legs, and chest the entire time. The height requirement is 44″, about the average height of 7 or 8-year-old. Be sure your child is prepared for the restraints, which limit movement and riding relatively separate from you and others. The next few minutes will be the most immersive experience you’ve ever had. In addition to the feeling of flight, with dips and tilts, guests will also feel wind and water effects along with so many incredible smells. The coolest part of the entire ride might be the sensation of your Banshee breathing between your legs! You will probably scream, but it will be screams of joy and excitement, not fear. You definitely will be leaving this ride with your adrenaline pumping with joy. That joy brought me back to the ride multiple times.
5. The Small Details
While taking in all that Pandora has to offer, don’t forget to slow down and take in the tiny details that Disney has put into this experience. The thriving Pandoran landscape reinforces messages intrinsic to Disney’s Animal Kingdom such as transformation through adventure and conservation and stewardship. It’s a place that’s been deliberately imbued with the emotions of awe, of wonder, of respect, of harmony.