The first time I watched James Cameron’s Avatar film, l fell in love with its breathtaking world: a world that had me captivated by its vivid landscape and otherworldly residents (Na’vi) and creatures (mountain banshees). So when I got the opportunity back in June to experience Pandora — The World of Avatar, Disney Animal Kingdom’s newest and most wildly talked about park attraction, I was buzzing with excitement.
When the day finally arrived, it was a scorcher: muggy, windless and of course, cloudless. As I made my way through the park, along with some other Canadian journalists, finally — one drenched sports bra later — we reached Pandora.
Strikingly beautiful, we entered and stood in awe underneath the Valley of Mo’ara’s floating mountains as soothing waterfall and insect sounds filled the air. Then, with one quick scan, we located Avatar Flight of Passage (Pandora’s main attraction). The next thing I knew, we were in a research colony being linked up to our very own avatar so that we could fly on the back of a banshee and explore the beauty of Pandora Na’vi-style.
Game for the experience, I hoisted my right leg up and over a motorcycle-like bike (my banshee), put on my 3D glasses, and all of a sudden I was diving into an exotic forest, riding a ginormous barrel wave, skimming over a stampede, weaving through floating mountains, and soaring sky-high over the most breathtaking scenery I’d ever seen. With the combination of the wind blowing through my hair, the “banshee’s” real animal-like motions, and the cool mist dusting lightly across my face, I felt as though I was one with the Na’vi.
In those final moments of the expedition, as I sat on my banshee overlooking Pandora’s picturesque sunset ocean view, suddenly it hit me: “I’m present!” (Now this may not seem like a big deal but for the first time, in a long time, I actually recognized that I was living in the now.) You see, with life pressures, work stresses, and just everyday worries, it becomes easy to not be in the moment when your energy and attention is constantly focused on something or somewhere else. But for those four short minutes, I was mindful; completely transfixed on this wondrous world, and it was surprisingly beautiful.
Editor’s Note: Be prepared for a significant line at Avatar Flight of Passage (plan for an hour or more), but it’s well worth the wait. Plus, even the queue line offers plenty to look at.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay while in Kissimmee, Florida, Magic Village Resort is less than a 10-minute drive from the park.
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