When we arrived at Pandora – our very first time seeing the new “World of Avatar” at the Animal Kingdom – our first sight was…
…our own soggy sneakers.
Because we happened to arrive in the middle of the pouring rain.
The humid air was sweltering, and the rain was coming in heavy gusts.
Wearing just our jacket hoods over our heads (for protection from the rain) but definitely not the coats themselves (way too muggy for that!), our heads were bowed down.
The last thing we wanted to do was look up.
We decided the best course of action was to hurry into a restaurant to wait out the storm.
So our second sight was the Satu’li Canteen, Pandora’s quick service restaurant.
I didn’t enter with big expectations for a counter service restaurant, but Satu’li totally surprised me with its impressively beautiful surroundings.
Satu’li had very high ceilings and expansive intricate artwork made of leaves, twine, and beads suspended from the ceiling.
I believe this was meant to be the “native artwork” of the Pandora people, the Na’vi.
It was calm and refreshing. The opposite of the typical fast food place. And the perfect break from the torrential storm outside!
And our lunch at Satu’li was actually my favorite counter service meal of the entire trip.
Satu’li serves healthy rice bowls that come with fresh veggies, flavorful sauce, and your choice of protein (chicken, beef, fish, or tofu).
Chris and I thought everything was delicious. Trevor hardly touched the food, but that indicates nothing about the restaurant. I don’t know how Tru survives on what little food he’s willing to eat! We loved the dessert too, which was a blueberry cream cheese mousse.
Avatar Flight of Passage
Next, we raced over to the Avatar Flight of Passage ride in order to make it on the ride in time for our Fast Pass window.
The wait time was three hours, and I believe that’s very typical for Flight of Passage.
I don’t think I would have the patience for that amount of standing in line for one ride.
My parents took Tru since he was far too little to make the height limit.
We waited about 15 minutes or so, which really caused our anticipation to build.
And it turned out the ride is definitely a thrill ride, although you hardly move at all.
You simply sit – leaning forward and holding onto handle bars – on a Pandora “mountain banshee” and watch a 3D film on an expansive screen.
It just feels as though you’re actually jumping off cliffs, surfing ocean waves, and soaring through the skies as the “banshee” moves up and down.
I read on Disney’s website that Pandora is meant to “celebrate the magnificent power of nature.”
That is a perfect description of what this ride does.
Touring Pandora stirs up so much awe and wonder, you wish so much that you could go there.
And yet, it hits you, you already are there. Pandora is an almost exact replica of everything beautiful about planet Earth.
Valley of Mo’ara
The good thing about storms in Orlando: they tend to pass quickly.
So we finally had the chance to wander and take in all the lush greenery, natural gardens, waterfalls, and stunning cliffs that seem suspended in air.
And snap some photos, of course!
There were several Disney PhotoPass stations around Pandora to get family pictures.
Na’vi River Journey
Next, we waited about one hour for the Na’vi River Journey. I was relieved to have our whole family on this ride to keep Tru entertained while we waited in line.
The ride was a calm and serene boat ride (all inside rather than outdoors), again focused on the natural world of Pandora.
There are no thrills, but the music is beautiful and the lighting and special effects are all around, above and below you!
Since it’s in the dark, everything is illuminated in beautiful, deep hues of blue, purple, and green.
Pandora: The World of Avatar After Dark
Chris’ parents took Trevor back to the hotel for his bedtime, so Chris and I had the chance to wander through Pandora without any fussing or whining or little arms reaching up to be carried.
The sun set, the intense humidity dropped, the crowds thinned.
We watched the nighttime show, Rivers of Light. The show is not in Pandora, but is very new and worth seeing while you wait for Pandora to light up after dark.
The show is on the Discovery River and involves huge floats in the shapes of animals, fountains, lasers, lights, vivid colors, and music.
We wandered back to the World of Avatar after the show.
And every part of the Pandora landscaping – from the plants, to the highest peaks, to the waterfalls, to the stone walkways beneath our feet – all of it was illuminated in glowing purples and blues and pinks.
As the crowds thinned, Chris and I found a quiet spot.
We sat down on a park bench, watched the vivid colors of the “bioluminescent” trees light up the dark, and just sat in peace for ten minutes.
As thrilling as all the rides and shows are, that was one of my favorite parts of the trip.