Is Na’Vi River Journey Scary?  Assessing the Scare Factor

1906 Animatronic” by mliu92 licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re planning a trip to Disney World, and you know you’re going to visit the Animal Kingdom, then you just might be asking yourself the following question: Is the Na’Vi River Journey scary?  That’s the question we’ll answer today, as we examine this ride’s speed, reveal if it has any drops, and help you determine the best age guests should be to experience this attraction.

How Scary is the Na’Vi River Journey?

Theming Scary Level — 1:  The visual theming for Na’Vi River Journey is just beautiful. From the moment you enter the Pandora section of the park, you’ll feel transported to the faraway planet with all of its exotic plant and animal life. Just like in the movie, many of the plants are bioluminescent. They glow in vibrant colors and are especially lovely to see after dark. 

The only reason this ride might have a scary level of 1 is that the ride along the river is dark, even in the daytime. If you have very small children/toddlers who are afraid of the dark or aren’t familiar with the strange characters from Avatar, they might be a tiny bit uncomfortable at first.

Story Scary Level — 0: The story for this ride is pretty simple, and it is not the least bit scary. Basically, you’re on a river journey in the Valley of Mo’ara to find the Shaman of Song. There are no conflicts, scares, or hints of “danger” along the way.

Ride Speed Scary Level — 0: This is a slow, smooth ride in a comfortable boat. It’s not scary at all. In fact, it’s very relaxing.

Drops and Intensity Scary Level — 0: There are no drops, quick turns, or fast sections on this ride. The entire ride is very comfortable and relaxing. It’s an especially nice ride if you need a quieter moment away from the noise and crowds.

Age Appropriate: Na’Vi River Journey is appropriate for all ages. There are no height requirements. The Walt Disney World website describes this as a slow ride for all ages. 

Na’Vi River Journey Theming and Premise

Na’vi River Journey, Disney’s Animal Kingdom” by mliu92 licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Na’Vi River is located in the Valley of Mo’ara on the exo-moon Pandora. Before entering the ride queue area, there are paths to explore the impressive beauty of the surrounding Valley of Mo’ara landscape. The Disney Imagineers have outdone themselves in creating an area that truly feels like you’re on another planet. Look up, and you’ll even see the famed floating mountains! 

The area is meant to portray what happened to the Valley of Mo’ara after the destruction shown in the 2009 science fiction film, Avatar. This is the renewal and rehabilitation of the valley’s flora and fauna. As you stroll through this area, you’ll see cascading waterfalls, as well as an impressive array of exotic plants. Some of the plants are actual live plants integrated into the exhibits alongside the plant life from Pandora. 

There is a soundtrack that plays as you explore the Valley of Mo’ara landscape, where you can hear the distinctive calls of Pandora’s wildlife such as the Direhorse and the Banshee.

There are several interactive activities along the path, including a Na’Vi drum circle that guests can play with. You may meet a couple of “Tour Guides” from Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) there to provide information about this fascinating world.

If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, then you’re sure to remember the breathtaking bioluminescence of the jungle plants. Disney did an outstanding job of portraying this, especially at night! The plants are not simply accented with lights, they actually seem to glow from within. Day or night, the pathways through the Valley of Mo’ara are beautiful, but after dark, the scenery is nothing short of amazing. Even the walkways glow in an assortment of beautiful colors once the sun goes down.

Once you’re done exploring the exotic scenery along the pathways, you’ll come to the entrance to the Na’Vi River Journey. The tour is run by Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE); an inner planetary eco-tourist company that is working with the Na’Vi to promote peace between cultures and ecological awareness.

The Na’Vi River Journey boats are made to look like vessels woven from reeds. They are easy to step in and out of, and the seats are spacious and comfortable. The river journey, as described on the sign at the entrance, is a quest to encounter the Na’Vi Shaman of Songs. The Shaman of Songs is a mystical figure whose songs are supposed to send positive energy throughout the rainforest.  

Once you board your boat, be aware that the ride will very quickly become darker. It’s not meant to be scary or spooky, the darkness is to highlight the glowing plant life throughout the forest. It’s absolutely beautiful but might seem unsettling at first to small children who are uncomfortable in the dark. There are so many multi-colored flowers and glowing lights that the atmosphere feels more peaceful than anything else, though.

Your boat will almost immediately encounter a friendly Na’Vi warrior, who nods at the boat in greeting. Then, you enter the first breathtaking scene in this otherworldly journey. The landscape is filled with glowing bioluminescent plants all around. Pay attention, and you’ll see many of the unusual creatures of Pandora running through the jungle, as well as a few traveling Na’Vi off in the distance. 

Don’t forget to look above you, too! Small animals can be seen scampering on the broad leaves hanging over the river.  The realistic effect of the animals running through the jungle is achieved using state-of-the-art projections on to fine screens. The realism is quite impressive.

You can hear faint music as soon as the journey begins, and it gets louder as the boats move along the river. This is a sign the Shaman of Songs is close by! Towards the end of the ride, the boats glide past the Shaman, who is singing a sacred song. The song, sung in the Na’Vi language, is lovely and may stick in your head for a while after the ride is finished.

The Shaman of Songs is one of the most impressive animatronic characters in any Disney park. She is shown sitting in a grove singing and playing a musical instrument. If she were standing, she would be nearly 10 feet tall! Her movements are fluid and very natural looking. It’s her facial expressions that set her apart from other animatronic characters. Tiny movements in her skin, and in the “muscles” around her eyes and mouth help to convey the emotions expressed in her song.

After the encounter with the Shaman of Songs, your journey along the Na’Vi River ends. After leaving the ride, you can spend more time exploring the pathways through the Mo’ara Valley, or visit the nearby Windtraders gift shop for a souvenir. You can round out your visit to Pandora with a healthy meal at Satu’li Canteen, or a light snack and refreshing drink from the Pongu Pongu drink stand.

Na’Vi River Ride Speed

This is a relaxing, slow boat ride. The boats don’t speed up at any point during the ride. Having them move slow is perfect for taking in all the details of the incredible landscape around the river. 

Na’Vi River Drops and Intensity

There are no drops or sudden turns on the Na’Vi River Journey. It’s one of the most gentle rides you will find at any Disney Park. The pace is slow, and the ride itself is very smooth. This ride is very relaxing, and it’s perfect if you need a break from the crowds and the more hectic pace of other areas of Animal Kingdom. 


If you’ve been planning to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, then you certainly may have been wondering: is Na’Vi River Journey scaryWell, in my opinion, you can sleep comfortably knowing that this ride doesn’t have much of a scare factor at all.  

The atmosphere is dark as your boat travels along the river, but that is to showcase the beauty of the colorful, glowing plant life in the Pandora rainforest. The ambiance is not meant to be spooky or scary. There is never a point in the ride where the story experiences a “conflict” of any kind. If you have small children who are uncomfortable in the dark you might want to warn them about that, but they’ll probably be more fascinated by the colorful flowers than scared of anything.

This ride, and the entire Avatar section of Animal Kingdom, is wonderful any time of day, but the surrounding pathways are especially lovely after dark. This area does tend to get more crowded after the sun goes down, though.

The ride’s story is very simple. In fact, this is one aspect of the Na’Vi River Journey that Disney could expand upon. While the basic premise is that guests are tourists on Pandora who are hoping to encounter the Shaman of Songs, there isn’t much of a narrative for the ride beyond that. It would be nice if there were more information about who the Shaman of Songs is, and why she’s an important figure in the Na’Vi culture. The fact that the story premise is so simple doesn’t detract from the beauty of this ride experience in any way though. It’s a very popular attraction at Animal Kingdom Park.

Na’Vi River Journey is appropriate and enjoyable for all ages, and there are no height restrictions. Guests who use a wheelchair or electric convenience vehicle (ECV) need to transfer from their wheelchair or ECV to step into the boat. There is a small ledge to step over to get on and off the boats, but it’s very easy and the boats are stable. 

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