Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Yesterday I wrote a review of our most recent stay at Disney’s Beach Club Villas. Today I want to share with you another review of probably our favorite Disney World resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!

Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge by Loren Javier is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Entering the Animal Kingdom Lodge by Loren Javier is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

This place makes me very happy. For full disclosure, I must admit that this review may be a bit biased. We are DVC members (Disney Vacation Club) and Animal Kingdom Lodge is our home resort. This is also the very first resort we ever stayed at on Disney World property.

Savanna

Probably the biggest attraction to Animal Kingdom Lodge is the savanna. You can even get rooms that overlook it. The animals are quite active in the mornings and again in the evening. It is really neat being able to sip coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening with your own private view of Anikole Cattle, Bongo, Blesbok, Eland, Grant’s Zebra, Greater Kudu, Impala, Reticulated Giraffe, Thomson’s Gazelle, Waterbuck, Red River Hogs, and White-Bearded Wildebeest.

Animal Kingdom Lodge by Dave & Margie Hill is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Animal Kingdom Lodge by Dave & Margie Hill is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Unfortunately there are no lions. They would eat the gazelle and you would probably have a crying child.

If you are not fortunate enough to get a savanna view room there are plenty of places for you to view the savanna from within the resort.

There are actually four savannas at the resort. Pembe which is along the Northern tip of Kidani Village (more on Kidani Village vs Jambo House later), Sunset which is sandwiched between Kidani Village and Jambo House, Arusha which is in the “horseshoe” of Jambo House and Uzima which is in the south east portion of Jambo House.

All four of the savannas will have animal activity. They all also have savanna overlooks (viewing areas) and there are frequently qualified cast members talking about what animals are in the savanna. It’s great for kids of all ages.

Rooms

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is enormous. It is actually split into two building. The first is Jambo House. Jambo House actually started as a Deluxe Disney World hotel. Some years later it was transformed into villas. What this means is that the Jambo House rooms are slightly larger than the Kidani rooms but will be shorter one bathroom for both one and two bedroom villas.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Room by DebMomOf3 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Animal Kingdom Lodge Room by DebMomOf3 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The image above is a picture of a studio. The possible configurations are as follows.

  • Studio – Two Queens (or a queen and a pullout sofa) – Sleeps 4
  • One Bedroom – One King, One Queen Sleeper Sofa, One Pullout Chair – Sleeps 5
  • Two Bedroom – One King, Two Queens, One Queen Sleeper Sofa, One Pullout Chair – Sleeps 9

There is also a 3 bedroom bungalow that is two floors, sleeps up to 12 and has 4 bathrooms. You should also note that the two bedroom is a lockout meaning it is a one bedroom and a studio with an interior door between them.

When deciding to book between the two buildings I usually think Kidani is better for a couple of reasons. The first is, as I mentioned before, the one and two bedrooms get an additional bath as compared to Jambo House. That is important when you have a few teens traveling with you.

Kidani is also a little bit quieter than Jambo House is. Jambo House’s lobby is incredibly impressive. If you are there from November – January you should stop by to see the Christmas decorations. The tree is very impressive.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Wide Angle by MBL Photography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Animal Kingdom Lodge Wide Angle by MBL Photography is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

As you can see in the picture above, the tree stretches three stories high. There are other nice touches as well during the Christmas period.

Dining

The dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is excellent. I know I say that about nearly every resort but Disney does take its dining seriously. There are three table service restaurants on the grounds; Boma, Sana and Jiko.

Boma – Flavors of Africa is a buffet located on the lower level of Jambo House. It has a carving station with a few different meats. They are roasted in a traditional American style, but then there are about five African sauces to kick them up if you want. They are both good by themselves and with the sauces.

One of our favorite things on the buffet is the lamb curry, but it is not always there. Even when it is not there you are sure to always be able to find something that you like, even if African food is not your cup of rooibos (African tea).

Deserts at Boma Restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World by Mark is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Deserts at Boma by Mark is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Two of our favorite deserts can be found at Boma: Zebra Domes and Kenyan Coffee Tarts. Be forewarned that the coffee tarts do pack a punch. One of our daughters ate a dozen of them once and was bouncing off the walls for several hours.

One other warning on Boma: be prepared to eat. On one occasion, I ate so much that I could barely walk back to our room. I almost laid down in the bushes to wait for the pain to stop.

Boma is open for breakfast and dinner. I cannot speak to the breakfast menu as we have never eaten it there. Also, Boma is very similar to Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom theme park.

Sana is a more traditional Indian restaurant located in the lower level of Kidani Village. Its seating allows for a view of the Sunset savanna which makes for a thrilling dining experience. My favorite dish there is probably the butter chicken, but don’t pass on the naan bread (Indian-style Bread Service). You get your choice of three different types of naan and they are all delicious.

Finally, there is Jiko – The Cooking Place which is located across the hall from Boma. Jiko is a Disney signature (fine dining) restaurant. That means that it is very good but you will fork out a few extra dollars for it. April and I ate there for an anniversary dinner a number of years ago and we were not disappointed.

There are also a few counter service dining options as well as a few lounges. This is one place I would like to see them improve, though.

Pools

There are two great featured pools at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Samawati Springs at Kidani Village and Uzima at Jambo House.

I have mentioned this briefly in other posts, but one great thing about DVC (Disney Vacation Club) membership is that you can pool hop. That means you can enjoy the pools at any resort with a few exceptions (like Storm Along Bay at Beach Club Villas).

One really nice thing about Animal Kingdom Lodge is that you get two featured pools and you can use either of them, even if you are a “regular” guest as long as you are staying there. At Uzima they usually show movies at night so you can take a dip and enjoy a movie on a large projector screen.

Both pools have a bar that also serves sandwiches and snacks (Maji at Samawati Springs and Uzima Springs at Uzima). The Mara is also not far from Uzima.

Uzima Pool at Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge by Loren Javier is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Uzima Pool at Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge by Loren Javier is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

I do tend to prefer Samawati Springs. One reason is we usually stay at Kidani. The other is it is a bit quieter, which is important to me. Either are great options though. Both pools have slides and kiddie play areas.

Proximity

I do hear a lot of people complain about the location of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is on the edge of Disney’s property, but very close to Animal Kingdom itself. Also, because there are two buildings, the transportation can get a bit chaotic, particularly at Jambo House.

The way the buses run, the parks pick up first at Kidani Village then swing down to Jambo House. That means that if there are long lines at both buildings it may take a while for you to catch a ride.

animal-kingdom-lodge-bus-stop
Waiting for the bus at Kidani Village

We have seen a few times when the bus filled up at Kidani Village so there was no room left for guests to board at Jambo House. This is typically not the norm in low season but it can be a real problem when Disney World is busier.

The bus ride is probably in the neighborhood of 20 minutes or so to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios and 5 – 10 minutes to Animal Kingdom.

One quick note on transportation between the buildings: as I mentioned before, all of the theme park buses stop at Kidani first then go on to Jambo. Downtown Disney Disney Springs stops at Jambo first then goes on to Kidani. So if you want to hop a bus between the two buildings, jump on a Disney Springs bus if you are at Jambo or any park bus if you are at Kidani. We usually walk but it can be quite a hike depending on where in the building you are.

Pros

  • Savanna views
  • Close to Animal Kingdom
  • Good dining options
  • Large resort with lots of rooms
  • Two featured resort pools to choose from

Cons

  • Longer travel distances to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios
  • Large resort means busy transportation
  • Only Disney transportation is by bus
  • Due to the size of the resort you may have a long walk to the pool, especially at Kidani Village
  • Limited counter service dining, especially at Kidani Village

Would we stay here again? Absolutely. In fact we have a trip booked for December, 2015 that we are really looking forward to. I actually do not view the cons of this review of this resort to be that big of a deal. But I have heard other people complain about them so I felt they are definitely worth mentioning. I can see the size being an issue if you have difficulty walking for long periods of time.

Have you stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before? Leave us a comment with your experience.

 

13 Replies to “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge”

  1. Hello

    Excellent article, I was just browsing when I came across your article. Thank you for sharing this information with us, I have found some very useful pointers to take away with me. I know others will also benefit from it. You clearly know your stuff.

    You make a good point if there where lions you would have many crying children, the rooms look nice as well how many can they sleep ?

    again thank you for sharing, I know many people will benefit from knowing this now. I hope to hear from you soon, I will pop back in a few days to hear your response.

    -Jack

    1. Hi Jack, thanks for your comment. As I mentioned in the post, the rooms can sleep anywhere from 4 to as many 12 adults. They are all spacious. We usually get a one bedroom which sleeps five. We are a family of five and find that it is plenty of room for us.

  2. Hi there.
    I have to tell you that whenever I hear the word Disney, the child in me comes alive and goes crazy.The second I saw that first image of the sign of this place , I got excited and wished I was going.I have read about this lodge, but never had I gained a better picture of what this place looked than after reading your article.

    I am a huge fan of national geographic shows with widlife and the savanna is what fits perfectly for my kind of relaxation.Out of curiosity, how long in advance do I have to book to get a room with a view of the beautiful animals.I refer to getting a room during off peak season.

    Thanks for a fantastic review, I really enjoyed it.

    1. Hi Roopesh, thanks for your comment. Regarding booking, the earlier you can the better chance you have of getting the room that you want. With that said, it also really depends on the time of year. I think you’ll probably have a pretty hard time finding a savanna view booking for a stay in July unless you book at least six months out. Conversely, if you want a stay in February you could probably book a month in advance.

      With that said, what I usually tell people is book what you can. If the room you want is not available start checking back about a month before your arival date to see if there have been cancelations. There frequently are and room types that were sold out when you first tried to book may become available.

  3. Hello!
    Very informative article with a lot useful information and for sure one day I will go and see it with my family.
    Please, can you tell me how much money do I need, of course a proximate budget. I know depends on my standard but just to make some idea.

    Thank you very much and please keep going with I will come back for more!
    Diego

    1. Hi Diego, it is very difficult to say how much money you would need. Right now a studio starts at about $321/night but that price is for a standard view for a weeknight stay. It will go up exponentially. However, that is full rate from Disney and there are ways to mitigate that cost.

      Check back soon. I’m actually working on a guide that will save you money by purchasing your lodging through a third party. I will also be adding another guide on where to buy discounted park tickets shortly.

  4. Hey there Christian, I have always gotten the impression that this is somewhat magical trip but never investigated what it really took to make it happen. Somewhere in the back of my head I am saying that this must be pretty expensive but from all indications it seems to be worth it.

    1. Hey Elliedan, it really is magical for kids of all ages (including grown men). It can be costly but there are a ton of ways to save a few bucks. We are working on a low budget Disney World guide now, so please check back soon for that.

  5. This looks fantastic! I want to find a destination in Florida for my family to go for vacation this summer, which includes my (now) 9 month old baby, partner, my mom and sister. I have only been to an amusement park once in my entire life (Jamaica only has water parks), and I really want to go to another before I get too old. I don’t mind long walking distances….how far is the theme park from the lodge in terms of minutes to walk?

    1. Hi JeAnn, I don’t think you can walk to any of the parks from Animal Kingdom Lodge. All of the travel ways to get there are freeway style with no pedestrian lanes. Via Disney transporation (bus) they range from 5 to 20 minutes.

  6. I had no idea Disney had places like this. I’ve been talking a lot lately to my husband about places I’d like to visit. I’ve been to quite a few states. However, it wasn’t until I moved to ND (the land of few things to do), that I’ve really had the traveling bug. The Savannah is beautiful. I think my son would really enjoy it. He’s such an animal lover, he’s turned vegetarian.

  7. Hi Christian

    Wow, what an amazing place, you’ve given so much detailed information that I feel like I’m there already. I was thinking to myself ‘I wonder if there are any dangerous animals in the savanna’ and then I read that line about the lions and realised what I was thinking, I was laughing away to myself as I read it. Anyway, I’m definitely putting this on my places to visit list. Thanks for all the information.

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