Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort offers a unique opportunity to vacation in a setting unlike most of us will ever experience. The resort is so unique that it deserves distinction from the rest of the Walt Disney World Resorts.
In this Animal Kingdom Lodge review, we’ll take a look at dining options, rooms, amenities, recreation, and the animals you might see. Yes, animals.
This resort is even our top choice for the best deluxe Disney Resort. If you have ever visited the Animal Kingdom Lodge before, you probably understand why we rank it highly. The resort is truly one of the best places to spend your Walt Disney World vacation.
For the sake of this review, we’ll specifically look at Jambo House, which is the actual main portion of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
The second resort, Kidani Village, is one of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts. Kidani is a short walk from Jambo House. It is commonly referred to as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas.
Related: Disney World Villa Resorts
This Animal Kingdom Lodge Review was updated on February 16, 2022.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is located on the outskirts of Walt Disney World property. It sits adjacent to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, making it a less than 5-minute bus ride from the resort to the park.
The hotel’s location is further out from the rest of Disney to provide the space necessary for the African animals that call it home. In addition, multiple savannas surround the resort, providing the opportunity to view many of these beautiful animals during your stay.
Since Animal Kingdom Lodge is located a little further out, it will add a few minutes of driving time to reach other on-property destinations. However, the privacy and serenity of the resort tend to make up for the extra travel time.
On the flip side, this Disney Resort is located right around the corner from groceries and off-property dining. You can pull out from the main entrance, take an immediate right on Sherberth Rd, and be on Highway 192 within 2 minutes.
If you turn right on Highway 192, there’s a Target, Publix, pizza, numerous fast food stops, and chain restaurants within a few blocks.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge falls under the deluxe resort category. As a result, it has more guest rooms than any other resort within its category. Additionally, room rates at the resort are often more reasonable than the other deluxe hotels.
When comparing Disney vacation packages, those looking at the moderate resorts might want to consider Animal Kingdom Lodge. Often some of the Lodge’s standard view rooms are comparable to an upgraded moderate hotel room.
For example, you might find a room at Disney’s Gran Destino Tower that’s comparable in price. While I love the new tower, it would be hard to turn down a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if the prices were similar.
Related: Disney’s Gran Destino Tower Review
Now, if your budget is flexible, you might consider an upgrade to a savanna view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. These rooms have balconies that look out onto the savannas.
It’s wonderful to be able to look out at any time of the day and see the animals grazing down below. Think about it, what other domestic destination offers this kind of experience?
Those of you with children who are animal lovers probably already know the cost of the upgrade will be worth it. Every time you get back to the room, they’ll head straight out to the balcony to see the animals.
On the downside, the only form of Disney transportation available is the bus system. We’ll take a closer look at this in the transportation section further down.
One of the best things about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is the theming. It’s almost unreal! If you have visited any of the Walt Disney World Resorts, you know that each one has an underlying theme associated with it.
You aren’t going to find a lot of “Disney” at Animal Kingdom Lodge. But the same holds for any other moderate or deluxe resorts on property.
For example, the Wilderness Lodge is a woodsy retreat. Meanwhile, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is modern and minimal.
Related: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Review
If you want a resort with a Disney look and feel, you need to stay at a value resort. Disney’s Art of Animation is a good example. They have resort areas themed to The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Cars.
Related: Art of Animation Resort Review
You are going to find that Animal Kingdom Lodge offers a truly immersive and tranquil place to escape. It will feel like a refuge after you’ve spent a long day in a Disney theme park.
The resort has the feel of a higher-end vacation with the chance to experience African wildlife and other cultural experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
The lobby, which is the hub of the resort, offers a functional layout. You can easily access dining, recreation, savanna viewing areas, and more from the lobby.
Perhaps, we could call it utilitarian if it wasn’t so stunningly beautiful.
Usually, cultural representatives are poised throughout the lobby and grounds, adding to the authenticity. The representatives are from various parts of Africa. They help educate guests by sharing stories about different aspects of their homeland.
Additionally, African-themed activities are scheduled several times throughout the day. And the resort itself is somewhat of an art museum.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to over 300 African art pieces. The resort has the most extensive collection of African art outside of Africa.
Eventually, I plan to provide a formal art tour of the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village. Both resorts have significant collections of art on display.
Additionally, art collectors might enjoy touring the Riviera Resort on their next vacation. They, too, offer several fine-art paintings. You can ask someone in the lobby for a copy of the self-guided art tour.
Related: Disney’s Riviera Resort Review
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has various room types with room views. Standard rooms come with two queen-size beds. A standard view offers a view of the parking lot or roof lines.
Savanna-view rooms are considered an upgrade. As mentioned earlier, they look out onto one of the lodge’s four savannas. So if you have anyone that will spend a significant amount of time in the room, a savanna view is indeed worth it.
Pool view rooms and club-level rooms are additional upgrades. In addition, you can request a king bed. However, rooms with a king-size bed are somewhat limited.
Club level service is when you stay on a private floor that offers access to a special lounge. The lounge provides food and beverage options throughout the day. In addition, complimentary concierge service is provided.
The club level at Animal Kingdom Lodge is called the Kilimanjaro Club. You can learn more about this experience from our club level stay at the Beach Club.
The following suites are also available:
- 1 Bedroom
- 2 Bedroom
- Royal Asante Presidential Suite
Additionally, Jambo House has a separate wing of Disney vacation villas. These are not to be confused with Kidani next door. Villa rooms are a little different in design, consisting of the following:
- Deluxe Studio
- 1 Bedroom Villa
- 2 Bedroom Villa
- 3 Bedroom Grand Villa
All of the deluxe rooms come with a kitchenette at the minimum. In addition, a deluxe studio at Jambo House comes with a queen bed and a queen-size sleeper sofa. Below is a preview of this room type.
We received a room containing a queen bed and bunk bed pairing a few years back. This room type is an excellent option for a family with two children who don’t want to share a bed.
Let’s look at one of the standard rooms with one king-size bed and an upgraded savanna view. This room was located on the Sunset Savanna, the largest of the four lush savannas shared between Jambo House and Kidani Village.
In case you were wondering, the lodge’s savannas are:
The main wall is the king bed with end tables on each side. There is an additional reading chair with an ottoman and side table.
Below is a view of the foyer area.
But, I have to admit, the best part was the savanna view. Unfortunately, I never got a great photo because I had trouble with the lens fogging from the coldness of the room to the outside transition.
The table and chairs provide an excellent area for working or in-room dining.
As far as storage goes, a large armoire provides plenty of space to hang clothes. At the top, there is an extra blanket that you will probably need if you are like me and turn the air down a bit at night.
The room has a coffee maker and standard amenities.
A mini-refrigerator is available.
Below is the guest bath. There are double sinks and a ledge over the vanity to place personal items.
The newer baths have a walk-in shower with a removable shower head.
This style of bath might be a bit hard with bathing small children. But you can use the removable shower head for rinsing and washing hair.
Disney does provide built-in toiletries. They are conveniently located in the shower.
As for room requests, you might consider being near an elevator or close to the lobby if desired. This hotel is relatively easy to get around. However, some of the hallways can be rather long.
For comparison to the villa rooms, you might want to check out the deluxe studio room at Boardwalk Villas. And we recently added a room tour of the deluxe studio at the Polynesian.
And the nicest deluxe studio we’ve stayed in was at Grand Floridian Villas. That room had a bath with a TV in the mirror, a shower on one side, and a bathtub on the other. It definitely felt grand.
If this review hasn’t already sold you on a trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge, this next section will probably seal the deal.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the few places on Disney property where one can say, “Who needs to visit a Disney park when they have all of this outside their room?”
The resort has a swimming pool, daily pool party, playground, game tables, African animals, and so much more.
Unlike other Disney resorts, Animal Kingdom Lodge does not have a quiet pool. The resort does not have a quiet pool because the land surrounding the resort is primarily savannas, where the animals graze.
However, the resort’s feature pool, the Uzima Pool, is more than adequate to accommodate guests. The pool has a zero-entry area and a fun water slide.
Related: Uzima Pool at Animal Kindom Lodge
The majority of recreation available at the resort is strategically placed around the Uzima pool.
Here is a view from the back of the water slide. Below you can see it’s only a few steps up to the start of the slide.
This picture provides more of a look at the slope and length of the slide. It’s very family-friendly and a fun slide for all.
Related: The Best Pools at Disney World
Around the outskirts of the pool, there are private hot tubs. I believe there are four spread out over the entire area.
There is fencing around all of the pools at Disney for safety measures. As you can see below, added landscaping helps provide a little privacy.
You might luck up and find a whirlpool tub all to yourself one evening. I can tell you it will be relaxing at the end of a long day.
Additionally, a second large feature pool, Samawati Springs pool, is located at Kidani Village. This pool area has a substantial aquatic play area that children adore.
Related: Samawati Springs Pool at Kidani Village
If you are the type to take in a workout on your trip, then you will be pleasantly surprised with the Zahanati Massage and Fitness Center around the pool.
There is an entrance from the outer edge of the pool. Or you can access it from the interior lower level floor of the hotel.
Related: Fitness Centers at Disney World
As you can see, it’s a sizable gym for a hotel and offers anything one could ask for as far as equipment goes.
If you prefer to jog, there is a dedicated area between Kidani and Jambo House.
Unfortunately, it involves too much traffic from the parking lot and crosswalk areas.
If outdoor jogging is your thing, I would highly recommend going over to Crescent Lake and making the trail around the Epcot Resorts Area. Now, that’s a scenic place to jog.
Related: The Best Jogging Trails at Disney World
Anyway, Zahanati offers much more than meets the eye. It has a full sauna, changing room, showers, and bath tucked in neatly to the back area of the gym.
Some of the items are convenient for guests on check-in or check-out days when accommodations aren’t available. For example, you can use the areas to shower and change as needed.
Additionally, guests can reserve massages and other services during regular business hours. The spa and salon services list is available here on Disney’s site.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has an arcade that sits around the outskirts of the pool. Pumbaa’s Fun and Games is a fairly large arcade offering a ton of arcade games. The arcade is a perfect place to remember if you’re at the resort on a rainy day.
For the sake of this review, I stepped inside and took a photo of the space. This should give you an idea of what kind of games are available.
Outdoor lockers are located around the pool. The lockers are free to use and are a great place to store personal items while at the pool.
You can use these on the check-out day if you have a late flight. Store a change of clothes in a locker until it’s time to leave.
Then use the facilities at the Zahanti Fitness Center to change. The rest of your luggage can be stored in guest services.
Several tabletop games are placed around the outskirts of the pool deck. You might notice in the background that there are loungers and tables with chairs set up. These are all outside of the fenced pool area.
At the back of the feature pool area is the Uzima Savanna viewing area. It is home to a flamboyance, AKA a flock of flamingos.
I have had good luck seeing animals on the Uzima Savanna. Funny thing, I don’t think that most guests know that it is back here.
It’s not uncommon to see a few giraffes back here.
This wouldn’t be a complete review of the Animal Kingdom Lodge without an overview of the cultural experiences that might be available on your trip.
Cultural representatives are usually available at scheduled times throughout the day in these locations:
- Jambo House Lobby
- The Mara
- Jambo House Sunset Lounge
- Zawadi Marketplace
- Asante Terrace
- Arusha Rock
Animal Programs and Wildlife Discoveries
Here is an example of the different available activities during my last stay. Keep in mind these schedules usually change monthly. Make sure to pick up a current schedule at the front desk.
- Meet a Savanna Guide: Daily from 8:30–9:00 p.m. at Arusha Rock
- Meet a Savanna Guide: Daily from 10:00–6:00 p.m. at Pembe Savanna Overlook
- Flamingo Behavior: Daily 9:00-10:00 a.m. and 1:00–2:00 p.m.
- Animal Tracking: Daily 10:00–11:00 a.m. and 4:30–5:30 p.m.
- Bio Blocks: Daily different times (balance the biodiversity blocks that make up a strong African ecosystem)
- Animal Enrichment: Different Days of the week at Jambo House and Kidani Village
- Have you heard? Daily 2:30 p.m. Interactive poolside listening game
- Wildlife Games Daily 3:30 p.m. Test your animal knowledge.
- Primal Parade Daily 8:15 p.m. Join in at the Zawadi Marketplace
Cultural Immersion Experiences
Additionally, there were even more items listed in the Cultural Immersion section of the recreation calendar. These events are daily at different locations around the property. They include the following:
- Medallion Rubbing
- Meet a Lobby Greeter
- Inkoma (collecting animal stamps)
- Pin Trading at Zawadi Marketplace
- African Face Painting
- African Wonders
- Cultural Tour of Sanaa
- Jambo House Art Tour
- Kidani Village Art Tour
- Music of the Savanna
- Drum Cafe
- Cultural Safari
- African Journey
Hakuna Matata Playground
Those planning a stay with smaller children will want to keep the playground in mind when visiting. The Hakuna Matata playground is located toward the backside of the Uzima Springs pool.
The playground equipment is friendly for all ages. The flooring is cork or rubber style that is parent-approved.
There are several places to sit and watch your children burn off all that energy that you probably wish you still had.
The playground is another great place to remember for check-in or check-out days when you have extra time.
Movies Under the Stars at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jambo House and Kidani Village participate in the popular Movies Under the Stars program. However, it is a little different here.
Jambo House hosts movies three nights a week, and Kidani Village hosts movies the other four nights. They rotate on an every other day schedule.
Movies Under the Stars is an excellent program and a great way to relax after a busy day in the parks.
The Usiku Festival is an activity that is held nightly at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The festival was a lot of fun. I briefly participated one evening.
The festival is held around the outskirts of the pool area. Cast members set up a speaker system with flashing lights and have fun glow-in-the-dark items for the whole family. On my visit, they had glow necklaces, hula-hoops, dancing, and several glow crafts!
These simple things can make a child’s vacation. Plus, if you are weary from your park day, there are plenty of lounge chairs to sit around and observe.
Note: This activity is located outside the fenced-in pool. So you don’t have to worry as much about watching kids around the water.
Before we wrap things up, we’ll briefly discuss the dining options available at the resort. I have a complete guide to the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants detailing each offering.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has counter service, a buffet-style restaurant, and signature dining. A short walk down to Kidani offers additional table-service dining at the ever-popular Sanaa.
Jiko, The Cooking Place is the resort’s signature dining establishment. The restaurant is located on the lower floor of Jambo House and faces out to the pool.
Here is a small preview of a bison dish I had on my last visit. The food is of excellent quality and the service exceptional.
Related: Signature Dining at Disney World
And anyone that likes a large breakfast will want to make reservations at Boma, Flavors of Africa. They have a breakfast buffet that offers close to 75 individual items. It’s so good, a true guilty pleasure. So be prepared and go on empty stomachs!
The restaurant also offers an evening dining experience. But with the late breakfast running until around noon, they don’t have a lunch service.
As far as counter service goes, you will find The Mara a true hidden gem. It’s one of the best quick services on all of Walt Disney World property and has been for years.
The Mara is located out around the pool, and the menu items at the pool bar are prepared here. There is a covered walkway to this entire outdoor area in the chance that it might be raining.
You can review the online menu here on Disney’s site. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are also kids’ meals and a variety of grab-and-go-type items. So pick up your meal inside, and then enjoy it out here.
Next, we have Sanaa down at Kidani Village. You can walk down or take a bus over. It’s about a 10-minute walk. If you know anything about Disney dining, you have probably heard of the restaurant.
Sanaa is where you get the popular bread service with traditional African and Indian dipping sauces to sample. The picture below is the order from our last visit.
Lunch or dinner here is unique and worth a visit.
Meanwhile, back at Jambo House, you might care for a cocktail before or after dinner. Victoria Falls Lounge is a lovely lounge that sits between the lobby and ground floors of the resort.
And an additional look below at the types of seating offered.
You will find the Uzima Springs pool bar near the pool in a separately fenced area.
The pool bar has bar-style seating plus umbrella-covered tables and chairs. Below is a picture of the menu.
The Lava Smoothie is one of their popular kid-friendly poolside concoctions. It is a mix of raspberry puree, coconut, and pineapple. The smoothie was sweet yet enjoyable on a hot summer day.
However, for quick service food items, you’ll likely want to mobile order from The Mara. It’s located a few steps away from the pool.
Transportation at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit lacking. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, it’s due to the resort’s overall location.
This is not necessarily a complaint because there wouldn’t be this kind of hotel without all the land surrounding it for the animals.
Unfortunately, the bus service here is slow, and from my experience, it’s always slow. Looking back to all my stays here, it’s the one consistent negative factor. Granted, you could have excellent timing and luck up on a waiting bus every time you go to leave.
The Disney bus system picks up at both Jambo House and Kidani Village. From there, you will head out to a Disney theme park, Disney Springs, Blizzard Beach, or Typhoon Lagoon.
Additionally, valet parking is available at the main lobby if anyone wants to take advantage of it when driving a car.
I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the gift shop in this Animal Kingdom Lodge review. Zawadi Marketplace is to the immediate right when entering the main lobby of Jambo House. There’s also a separate outdoor entrance by the bus stop.
Zawadi Marketplace is ordinarily open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. It’s an excellent place to pick up resort-specific merchandise.
Related: Animal Kingdom Lodge Gift Shop
It’s one of the largest gift shops at the Disney Resorts. I like to stop in and browse from time to time.
In the back corner, you will find a mini grocery selection. Below is a look at some of the items they have on hand.
The cold case offers a decent variety of items. If you can’t find what you are looking for, check The Mara.
Animal Kingdom Lodge offers several laundry rooms. However, unlike many other Disney hotels, they do not have a laundry area at the pool.
The laundry rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are spaced out on different hotel floors. Make sure to reference the map for the one nearest your room.
If you need to do laundry on vacation, you won’t find a better place. The only other place I’ve visited at Disney with similar laundry rooms is Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Below is a copy of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Wildlife Spotting Guide if you have any interest.
The animals on Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savanna include Ankole Cattle, Zebra, Somali Wild, Giraffe, Okapi, Red River Hog, Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture, African Greater Flamingo, Waterfowl, Blue Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Native Birds, African Spoonbill, Marabou Stork, Northern Ground Hornbill.
Another fun mention is an attendant will usually have a pair of night-vision goggles in the evening in the public savanna areas.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review (Final Thoughts)
Overall, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a tremendous property offering unique amenities with a boutique feel. By boutique, I mean that the functional layout makes it easy to get around, considering the massive size of the resort.
I never imagined this Animal Kingdom Lodge review being this long when I started working on it. The funny thing is, I still don’t ever feel like I’ve done the resort full justice. No matter how many times I’ve updated it.
And I probably never will. It’s just that special of a place.
I could add so many pictures of the animals on the savanna, resort grounds, lobby, and art displays. The list goes on and on. But I’ll let you experience a few of those things for yourself.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a unique resort that offers many different values compared to others. If you consider yourself a resort person, like me, you will find yourself happy here.
Or if you have dreams of one day visiting Africa, this is kind of a mini-experience with the benefits of modern convenience.
It’s a special place, and I always find my mood much improved when I stay here. So maybe you will stay here soon and find out what I mean.
And if you have already stayed here, I’m confident you understand my sentiments.
For more information, our entire list of articles related to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is available here.
If you are considering other resorts, you might enjoy browsing our complete list of Disney Resort Reviews. Or try these individual reviews:
- Disney’s Yacht Club Review
- Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort Review
- Contemporary Garden View Rooms
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Review
- Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Review
- Disney’s Beach Club Review
In the comments: What do you think about this Animal Kingdom Lodge Review? Does it provide enough information to make you consider a stay here? Or are you leaning toward a resort that’s closer to the parks?