A Journey to the Valley of Mo’ara
The moon of Pandora is found in the Alpha Centauri A system, located approximately 4.37 light-years away from Earth. Human interest in the moon used to center around the superconductive element known as “unobtainium.” For a time, the Resource Development Administration led efforts to mine unobtainium from the planet. Under the leadership of Colonel Miles Quatrich, little consideration was given to how these efforts might affect the Na’vi, the indigenous humanoid species living on the moon.
A century has passed since the human and Na’vi conflict on Pandora, and now humans have developed a healthier relationship with the peoples of Pandora as well as a respect for the incredible biodiversity of the planet. Guests are able to visit thanks to Alpha Centauri Expeditions, ACE’s self described dream is, “that all those who crave exciting adventures in nature can find that with ACE. We look forward to helping you discover the wondrous beauty that the world of Pandora has to offer.
On the surface, it may seem odd to have a science fiction adventure set in the middle of Animal Kingdom, a park dedicated to celebrating the ecological diversity of Earth and human being’s place within it. However, Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde brilliantly describes why it is such a brilliant marriage. He stated, “ “If you think about the intrinsic value of nature, transformation through adventure, and personal call to action — these are the values of Animal Kingdom. But if you say them again, those are the themes of the film Avatar. So Avatar and Animal Kingdom will nest into each other very, very neatly.”
When describing the design of Pandora: The World of Avatar, Rohde said, “Animal Kingdom is a place about the kind of realism that derives from those animals. We really want to live up to that state of realism to the detail, to the complete immersion which is part of the signature of that park to the sense that these are events that are really happening to you – that it is your adventure. When we translate that into the world of Avatar it presents a whole new series of technical challenges because of the very nature of that world itself.”
Stepping into Pandora, it’s hard not to feel that you’ve actually been transported to an alien terrain. The floating mountains in the Valley of Mo’ara are perhaps the most visible and iconic aspects of the moon’s topography. Visitors would be hard pressed to take a bad picture of the twenty two mountains that hang above them. Covered with moss, plant life, and twisting roots, they are an awesome sight. Even better? You can hike through the valley and get an up close look at the exotic flora and fauna found on Pandora.
The wonders don’t stop with the mountains. The curious botanist can find 250 different species of plants throughout Pandora, along with plants found only on Pandora. You can catch a glimpse of the “vein pods” (known in Na’vi as “varument” or “bad smell tree”) or the dapophet (known in Na’vi as the “paywll” or “water plant). One of the largest examples of exotic flora is the Flaska Reclinata, a giant plant that is vital to the Pandora ecological system. The plant helps clean toxic gases from the planet’s atmosphere. It’s a stunning object to see, but be wary. From time to time it must expel the toxins it has gathered, shooting them out in a deadly stream of liquid.
You can also catch a glimpse of Pandoran wildlife whilst travelling through the Valley of Mo’ara. Look in the ponds scattered around, and you’ll likely catch a glimpse of the Sagittaria. A cephalopod-like creature with tentacles. A sign near the pond warns the unwary visitor of getting too close. It reads, “This pond contains animals that shoot powerful jets of water into the air to hunt small flying creatures. Sudden arm movements close to the pond may trigger this hunting response. You may get wet!”
Perhaps the most stunning time to visit the Valley of Mo’ara is after the sun has set. Many features of the moon take on a bioluminescent glow in the dark, completely transforming the experience. Not only do the plants light up in the night, but the ground beneath your feet takes on an ethereal hue.
It’s possible to completely lose track of time simply enjoying the natural delights. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the cultural experiences such as visiting Swotu Wayä ( the “Sacred Place of Song”), taking part in a Na’vi right of passage by flying on an Ikran (or banshee) in Flight of Passage or listening to the haunting music of the Shaman of Songs in Na’vi River Journey.
No matter how you choose to spend your time on the moon, it’s impossible to return to Earth unchanged.