Adventures by Disney: South Africa Departure Hosted by Joe Rohde and Dr. Mark Penning

© Disney Destinations

If theme parks are not your thing & you want to explore this wonderful Earth that we love on, you should certainly consider an Adventure by Disney vacation.  Adventures by Disney offers vacation within the United States and reaching the furthest corners of the globe and the announcement of this new South Africa trip makes my heart race just to think about the amazing experiences that await guests.

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, Adventures by Disney® just announced a special adult-exclusive Safari to South Africa departure for Nov. 30, 2018. On this unique trip, guests can explore Africa with special hosts Joe Rohde, Portfolio Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, and Dr. Mark Penning, Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, who will share their expertise on storytelling, wildlife and conservation.

Throughout the trip, Joe will share his insight on this magnificent country through the lens of an artist. Your Clients can learn from Joe as he leads sketching sessions (no prior art experience required!) at iconic locations in South Africa. He’ll also share the experiences in Africa that inspired him to create Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

Meanwhile, Mark, a native of South Africa, will share his expertise on South African natural history. Your Clients will learn about the unique species that live in the areas visited on the trip, including the birds at Cape Point; the elephants, birds and monkeys in Knysna; and the abundant wildlife found during the game drives at Kapama Private Game Reserve.

Take a sneak peek at what’s in store in this video!

Let me help plan the details of your Adventure by Disney Vacation!

  • Itinerary plans and printed itinerary booklet that will service as a guide for your day to day activities as well as a fun keepsake when you return.
  • Fee-Free Planning. All of my planning assistance is complimentary when you book your trip through me, you will get all of the services that Disney offers, plus the personalized service that I offer.
  • Custom Client Portal – I always like to stay on top of the newest technology and once you are booked, we can set up a free client portal where we can share documents & you can view details about your vacation.

You get all of this complimentary planning, and more, when you book your Disney vacation through Melissa of Pixie Dust Adventures (me).  Click here to visit my website & get started with a no obligation quote.

Thank you for reading.  My name is Melissa and I am a Disney fanatic, I’m also a travel agent.  You will find me almost every weekend in one of the Disney theme parks with my family exploring all of the newest things that Disney has to offer.
Melissa Mathies – Pixie Dust Adventures
Mickey-and-Me_June2017-WEB  MCC logo

Pixie Dust Adventures - Disney Focused Travel Planning

Pandora, World of Avatar Preview

Avatar is a movie that has touched my soul.  There are people that love Star Wars, Marvel, Star Trek & more.  Myself, I am more of an Avatar gal.  I love animals, nature & the message of this movie.  Pandora in Animal Kingdom really brought all of this to life for me and I may have or may not have squeaked a tear when I rode the Flight of Passage attraction; there is no proof.  Disney has done a phenomenal job of bringing this movie off of the screen & into reality.  It feels like standing on another planet; the design is flawless, the sounds of the indigenous species surround you and some of the plants are interactive.  If you are an Avatar fan like I am, you must not miss this new land in Animal Kingdom!
Be sure to scroll all the way to the end of this article for a video of my Pandoran preview experience.

156-foot-tall “floating mountains” are the centerpiece of the Valley of Mo’ara
Pandora Preview Map
Pandora preview Map inside

One of the first things that we came to as we entered Pandora was a giant plant that smoked & made sounds when you touched it.  Right next to the plant was one of two brand new Wilderness Explorer stations located in Pandora.
For those of you that are not familiar with this program, you can pick up your Wilderness Explorer guide at various locations around the park and work through the (now 32) learning experiences throughout Animal Kingdom and earn badges (stickers) for each experience and a completion sticker at the end.


Wondering through the Valley of Mo’ara was visually stunning.  Floating mountains, bright plants from another world, waterfalls and sounds of the Pandoran primates  from all directions immersed me in this distant world.


We stopped for a few pictures before heading off to use our fastpass on the Flight of Passage attraction.  On the way we encountered an Amplified Mobility Platform, which is the huge motorized suit that the soldiers drove on Pandora.

The elaborate queue design for the Flight of Passage attraction is entertaining in itself.  The science lab in the queue was not operational during our visit & I look forward to seeing the Na’vi, growing in the fluid filled tube, on my next visit in a few weeks when the park opens to the public.  As we passed through the queue, we were given numbers & separated into different chambers to be ‘debugged’ for our link with our avatar.  Jackie Ogden appeared onscreen and took scans of our bodies and brain waves.  We proceeded from one room to the next where we were instructed by Sigourney Weaver on what to do for our experience with the Banshee flight.
The height restriction for Flight of Passage is a minimum of 44″

One of the preparation rooms for the Flight of Passage.  You are asked to move around & as they scan you on the screen.

Once you are prepared and handed your flight glasses, you enter the room where you will link with your Avatar which is already seated on a Banshee high in the mountains.  You straddle the seats’ bike style’ and the back of the seat comes up behind you to hold you in.  Get ready for an amazing flight!!!  You can feel the Banshee move & breath as you ride.  (I’m not tearing up writing about this truly unique, amazing experience! really… I’m not)


During your unbelievable flight through the stunning landscape of Pandora, every one of your senses is engaged.  The visually stunning landscapes rush past as you smell, feel and hear each and every minute of your flight.

Once your flight is over you exit into Windtraders gift shop where you will find numerous unique souvenirs.  My kids could not resist adopting their own banshee from the Rookery while we were there.

Spending time in Windtraders is an experience in itself.  Parents be cautioned, the Banshee Rookery will draw you in & you may just leave with a new member of the family for the bargain price of $49 + tax
I almost expect Disney to eventually release a new version of the Banshee that is interactive with the Pandora park surroundings.


Next Stop… the Na’Vi River Journey.  This peaceful boat ride takes you on a journey down the sacred river where you encounter bioluminescent plans, spinning orange disks, moving silhouettes of lizards and more.  Perhaps the star of this attraction is the anamatronic Na’vi Shaman singing toward the end of your journey.  This is the most advanced anamoatronic I have seen so far in a theme park; the Na’vi is so real & life like that you have to wonder if it is not a person in costume.
Scroll to the bottom on the article for a full ride through video of this attraction in my Pandora video on YouTube



By the time we were done with the River Journey, our time in Pandora was almost over.  We wanted to be sure & stop for a few Photopass pictures to remember the night.


near the entrance / exit of the park is a musical set of trees with drums embedded in the tree stumps.  Drumbeats will respond to you when you interact with these trees.

Although the restaurants were closing for the night, we took a few minutes to wander through them and look at the menus.  The food is unique and something that you will not find anywhere else.  You can pre-order your meal through the Disney Parks app & pick it up once you arrive to avoid the wait at the order counter. (another first in Disney tech)  I guarantee I will be eating a few meals there when the park has officially opened.


As the sun set for the day, the pathways lit up with bioluminescent plant life.  They were still working on the details and not all of the affects were available.  Another reason for me to return in the near future.

If you would like to follow me through some of my Pandoran preview, feel free to watch the YouTube video below:

Thank you to all of my fans for reading and following as I share my adventures with you!
I am a HUGE Disney fanatic and I’m also a Travel Agent.  I charge NO additional fees to help you plan your next vacation, it costs exactly the same to book through me or directly through Disney.  Why not take advantage of a little free planning assistance?

My name is Melissa and you will find me almost every weekend in one of the Disney parks with my family.  We never run out of things to do, taste, try, experience & explore.  I look forward to helping you plan your own adventure to Pandora!

Melissa, Travel Designer & Destination Specialist


Explore Pandora – The World of Avatar with Nightly Extra Magic Hours

For a limited time, May 27-July 4, 2017, Guests staying at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels can explore Pandora – The World of Avatar beyond regular Park hours.

Nightly Extra Magic Hours will take place from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. only in Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. This offering will provide Guests with an additional opportunity to enjoy everything Pandora – The World of Avatar has to offer – including navigating a mystical river, flying on a back of a banshee and walking under floating mountains. Please note valid Theme Park admission and a Resort ID are required.


In addition, Guests staying at select Walt Disney Resort hotels can reserve Disney FastPass+ selections for attractions, including those in Pandora – The World of Avatar, up to 60 days prior to check-in beginning March 24, 2017. Disney FastPass+ service will be available at the two attractions within Pandora – The World of Avatar during regular Theme Park hours. Guests may select only one of these two attractions in their first set of Disney FastPass+ selections, subject to availability.

There’s so much excitement surrounding the debut of this world beyond belief, guests should take advantage of Nightly Extra Magic Hours to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar. Then, they can reserve Disney FastPass+ experiences to enjoy the rest of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park during regular hours.

*Valid Theme Park admission required. FastPass+ attractions and entertainment experiences, the number of selections you can make and available arrival windows are limited. Certain features and benefits require online registration. 

Thank you for reading.  My name is Melissa & am I am Disney addict; I am also a travel agent.  You will find me almost every weekend in one of the Disney parks with my family exploring the newest attractions.  If you would like to plan a journey to Pandora, I can assist you & no additional cost.  That’s right, I don’t charge any fees to book & plan your Disney vacation.  It all starts with a free quote.
Melissa Mathies – Pixie Dust Adventures
HeadShot-fix  clia_acc_logo-black



Details Released for Pandora

You can now plan your adventure to visit Pandora: the World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.  The opening date is officially set for May 27th, 2017 and there will be some special preview dates Beginning May 13th.  I will personally be previewing Pandora the night of May 15th and will be writing a full review.
Disney has released specifics about some of the attractions in Pandora.
Below is what has been released on their websites so far…

Pandora – The World of Avatar

Journey to an all-new, awe-inspiring land that celebrates the magnificent power of nature.
Located within Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, Pandora – The World of Avatar provides eco-tourists the opportunity to join Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) for the transformational experience of a lifetime—filled with unforgettable expeditions, floating mountains, a bioluminescent forest, winged mountain banshees and more.
In partnership with ACE, visitors of every age will have the chance to explore the values and culture of this exotic place, and celebrate the striking beauty and overwhelming power of the natural world.
Welcome to Pandora—a world similar to Earth… but distinctly unique in so many ways!

Avatar – Flight of Passage

Otherworldly Aerial Adventures Await
Soar on the back of a mountain banshee during a thrilling ride above this vast moon
Height Requirement: 44 inches
Fastpass+ attraction
Get a banshee’s-eye view of the beauty and grandeur of Pandora on a rite of passage you won’t soon forget!
Deep in the heart of the Valley of Mo’ara, discover Avatar Flight of Passage—an all-new expedition that lets interstellar explorers like you climb atop a mountain banshee for a breathtaking, first-person flight over the moon’s incredible landscape.
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.
Now, as a visitor to Pandora, you’ll finally have the chance to test yourself in a similar way!


Na’vi River Journey

A Family-Friendly Adventure
No height requirement
Fastpass+ attraction
Glide down a gentle, mysterious river and feel a sense of wonder as the full beauty of Pandora reveals itself. Located within the Valley of Mo’ara, Na’vi River Journey offers explorers an experience that has to be seen—and heard—to be believed!
As your expedition begins, climb aboard a reed boat and drift downstream. After coasting through a series of caves, 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.
The adventure comes to a conclusion as the Shaman demonstrates her deep connection to the life force of Pandora—and sends positive energy out into the forest through the power of her music!


Valley of Mo’ara

Hike amid floating mountains, glowing fauna and flora, a native drum circle and many other wonders at Pandora
Behold A Land That’s Beyond Belief
No height requirement, family friendly, walk through the land
No Fastpass+
Walk about through the Valley of Mo’ara and get ready to discover a world like no other!
There’s more to Pandora than expeditions like Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey… much more! All around its enormous floating mountains, you’ll quickly uncover the valley’s one-of-a-kind dining and shopping experiences—along with sights, sounds and experiences that include:

  • Exotic plants that come to life with beautiful bioluminescence each night
  • A Na’vi-built drum circle, containing instruments playable by all
  • Na’vi totems and other cultural items found throughout the land
  • Brand-new Wilderness Explorers challenges and badges to collect

You may even come across tour guides from Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE), scientists from the Pandora Conservation Initiative (PCI), or even an eclectic expat or two!


Watch this video to see how Pandora will fit into the philosophy of Animal Kingdom:

No Disney experience would be complete without a taste of excitement.  Here is what Disney has released about the food locations opening in Pandora:

Pongu Pongu

Beverages from Beyond Our World
Quick Service Restaurant, no reservations required
Quench your thirst the Pandoran way at an otherworldly pit-stop offering Na’vi-inspired refreshment.
Are your expeditions at Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey leaving you parched? Hike to the corner of Windtraders where you’ll find Pongu Pongu—when you spot a friendly expat serving out-of-this-world drinks, you’ve come to the right place.
Meaning “Party Party” in the language of the Na’vi, Pongu Pongu welcomes weary travelers to try our bioluminescent frozen cocktail, indigenous beers—or even a sweet snack you won’t find elsewhere!

Satu’li Canteen

Indulge in the art and culture of the Na’vi while dining inside this former RDA mess hall
This fast-casual restaurant will be the first to offer Mobile Order, a new convenient option to order and pay for meals on-the-go within the My Disney Experience app, allowing guests to bypass the queue to order when they arrive at the restaurant. Using the app, guests can select menu items, customize their order and pre-pay for their meal. When they arrive at the restaurant they will tap an “I’m here” button in the app, which will notify the kitchen to prepare the meal. When ready, guests will be alerted through the app to pick up their meal at a designated window..

A Menu Inspired by Pandora’s Bounty
Discover healthful dishes and familiar flavors from another world—wholesome grains, fresh vegetables and hearty proteins.
Between your aerial adventures on Avatar Flight of Passage and family-friendly voyages aboard Na’vi River Journey, tuck inside the Quonset-hut structure called Satu’li Canteen—long ago an RDA mess hall, now a peaceful dining facility adorned with Na’vi art and cultural items.
Owned and operated by Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE), Satu’li Canteen supplies travelers all the comforts of home—courtesy of a unique, fast-casual menu that’s been crafted from Pandora’s natural abundance.
Featuring international-inspired cuisine, vegetarian options and specialty libations, it’s the perfect place to refuel as you venture through the Valley of Mo’ara.


If you already have your adventure planned to Pandora, Fastpasses are now open 60 days in advance for Disney World Resort guests.  As an added bonus for summer 2017, there will be an extra magic hour when only resort guests are allowed into Pandora.  I have no doubt that dining reservations will be opening soon.  If you have booked a trip through me, stay tuned and I will keep you informed & updated on the new, added options.

If you are dreaming of your next trip to Pandora, take advantage of a little Free planning assistance to be sure that you are well informed before entering this fascinating new land.
Thank you for reading,
Melissa – Travel Designer & Destination Specialist

HeadShot-fix  clia_acc_logo-black


Rivers of Light: Animal Kingdom Nighttime Show

Disney’s Animal Kingdom park has been promising us a new, amazing show on Discovery River for years.  Last year the show, Jungle Book – Alive with Magic, temporarily took it’s place because the opening had been postponed.  Wait no longer, this show is now open to guests visiting Animal Kingdom Park.


It’s finally here the date is set for the River’s of Light show to premier on February 17th at 7:15pm on Discovery River.  Although the theater seats 5,000 guests, you may want to grab a Fastpass or a dining reservation now to get a good spot to see this highly anticipated show.  Fastpasses & dining packages are now available.

My photo from the soft opening of the show on February 10th 2017

Disney Parks Blog has discussed the theme of this nighttime water show saying, “Rivers of Light combines live performance, floating set pieces, a soaring musical score, fountains and more in a celebration of animals and nature. The story magically unfolds on the broad natural stage of the Discovery River, conveying the uplifting spirit of an ancient and timeless lantern ceremony and filled with symbolism, storytelling and plenty of heart.”

Discovery River Theater in Animal Kingdom

February 10th, Disney surprised us with a soft opening of this new show.  I will tell you that it is an beautiful show with a wonderful message!Spoiler Alert:  Full length video of the soft opening below:

Show Times and Dates are as follows:

Showtimes begin at 7:15pm:
February 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, March 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 & 11
Showtimes begin at 8:45pm:
March 12, 14, 16, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, April 1, 2, 4, 6 & 8
Showtimes will vary and can change without notice.
Check the Disney parks hours & schedule for details
April 16, 17, 18, 19 at 9:45 nightly
April 21 & 22 at 8:30pm & 10:00pm
April 23 at 8:45pm & 10:00pm
April 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 at 8:45pm
April 30 at 9:15pm
May 1 – 23 nightly at 9:15pm
May 24th – none on schedule, park shows it closes at 3:30pm
May 25, 26 at 9:15pm
May 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at 9:15pm & 10:30pm
Showtimes begin at 9:15pm & 10:30pm:
June nightly

Dining Packages are Available at Tusker House & Tiffins:

Tusker House Breakfast: $39 for adults & $23 for children 9 & under
Tusker House Lunch or Dinner: $52 for adults & $32 for children 9 & under

Tiffins Lunch or Dinner: $67 for adults & 26 for children 9 & under
*Signature dining location

If the new experiences in Animal Kingdom make you want to visit this park, contact me today for free planning assistance when you book your trip.  When booking your trip with me, my planning service never comes at an additional cost to you and you will get experienced planning assistance based on the countless hours I spend in the Disney World parks almost every weekend.  Need more reasons to book?  Read through my article below my photo…
You next trip starts with a free quote.  Visit my website or email me today!
Melissa – Pixie Dust Adventures
HeadShot-fix clia_acc_logo-black

Why use a Travel Agent for Your Next Disney vacation?
Free experienced planning, free goodies and more….

Destinations by Melissa


Pandora – World of Avatar Opening Date

This highly anticipated land in Disney’s World Animal Kingdom finally has an official opening date.  Today CEO Bob Iger shared the news that Pandora – The World of Avatar will open on May 27th, 2017.


Here you will enter the stunning world of Pandora where you will be able to walk under the floating mountains and among the bioluminescent plants.

This is a current photo of what Pandora looks like from my most recent trip to Animal Kingdom in January.  You can see the Floating Mountain above the walls.

Two major attractions have been announced.  The first is the family friendly Na’vi River Journey.  The second major attraction takes guests for a ride atop a Banshee for a “jaw-dropping” experience while exploring the World of Pandora.

There will also be a dining location called the Satu’li Canteen or if guests are on the run, they can grab a drink at Pongu Pongu.  Windtraders will be the shop for everything Avatar; such as cultural items, toys science kids and more.

Is anyone else as excited as I am for this new world in Animal Kingdom?  Stay tuned, I will be visiting Animal Kingdom as the opening date gets near.  Maybe they will have a soft opening or a sneak peak that I can share with everyone.

If you’re dreaming of a trip to Pandora, contact me today for free planning assistance.  When you book though me, my planning service never comes at an additional cost to you and you will get experienced planning assistance based on the countless hours I spend in the Disney World parks almost every weekend.  Need more reasons to book?  Read through my article below my photo…
You next trip starts with a free quote.  Visit my website or email me today!
Melissa – Pixie Dust Adventures
HeadShot-fix clia_acc_logo-black

Why use a Travel Agent for Your Next Disney vacation?
Free experienced planning, free goodies and more….

Destinations by Melissa


Animal Kingdom Nighttime Entertainment Ending Soon…

As part of Disney’s “Summer Awakens” promotion, Animal Kingdom Park offered nighttime offerings for the first time since it’s opening in 1998.  The summer park hours have been extended until 11:00pm and new nighttime attractions have been added.  Those attractions include a nighttime safari ride on Kilimanjaro Safari as well as street performances and musicians throughout the park and more.

The sunset is beautiful from our seats as we look out over the water and stages for the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show.

Are these nighttime attractions coming to an end?  Disney has announced that the Jungle Book: Alive with Magic show will be ending on 9/5/16 and park closing will be changed from 11:00pm to 9:00pm.  Park hours will be further shortened in October to 7:00pm and in November to 6:00pm.  I suspect that the park hours will be shortened for the winter months and then may possibly be extended again next summer.  Maybe Disney is suspecting a lot of the Avatar Land attractions to take center stage in 2017?

Be sure to enjoy the nighttime attractions in the next few months if you possibly can.

My personal favorite nighttime activities are Jungle Book: Alive with Magic and the Tree of Life Awakenings.  Jungle Book: Alive with Magic temporarily took the place of the much anticipated Rivers of Light attraction, and has gotten mixed reviews.

I have been to the new show several times and am always entertained and never disappointed.  The music surrounds and immures you in a way that can only be fully experienced in person.  Getting good seats to this performance is important and you can do that in one of 2 ways…  Get a fastpass for the show or purchase a dining package that includes special tickets to the show.

Another of my favorite nighttime offerings is the Tree of Life Awakenings.  These occur on the front of the tree that is the icon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.  Each & every leaf plays a part & the tree is beautifully lit.  Every 15 minutes a different display of spectacular film making will be projected onto the tree.  There are 4 different short films, so be sure to stick around & watch each one.  I would love to hear which is your favorite.  I personally like the montage of the Disney movie clips with noticeable pieces & music from Avatar.

I can’t imagine this would mean the end of all of Animal Kingdom’s nighttime entertainment.  Especially with the the new updates & fiber-optic installations into the Tree of Life.  I like to think that these shortened hours let them better prepare to open the Rivers of Light show as well as the new Avatar Land.  As for the Rivers of Light show, there is still no opening date set.

Animal Kingdom remains one of my favorite theme parks.  I enjoy the connection with nature, animals & the conservation message it brings forth.  I can’t wait to see what Disney has in store next & until then, I will sit tight & continue to enjoy the food and attractions that continue to entertain me.

If you will not be able to get to Animal Kingdom before September and would like to watch my YourTube video of Jungle Book: Alive with Magic CLICK HERE

Thank you for reading,
My name is Melissa and I have been a Disney lover all my life.  I recently relocated to Florida to be closer to the magic.  I am also an annual passholder and a travel agent.  The magic of Disney never ceases to impress myself or my family.  If you are considering a Disney vacation in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions.  I can book your trip for you & no added cost to you.

Why Book your next Disney vacation with a travel agent?  Click thought to read more….

Free Quote, Disney, Travel, Vacation, Disney, Cruise, Disneyland, Disney World
Visit my website today Fill out the quote form for a free, no obligation quote.