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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 special 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 lodge. The second resort is one of the Disney Vacation Club Villas.

That resort is called Kidani Village. It is a short walk from Jambo House and is commonly referred to as Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. You can read more about the Disney Vacation Club Resorts here.

The 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. The lodge’s savannas offer 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.

On the flip side, this Disney Resort is located right around the corner from groceries and off-property dining. You can literally 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 192, there’s a Target, Publix, pizza, numerous fast food stops, and chain restaurants within a few blocks.

There are so many reasons why we consider Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge a top pick for a Disney vacation. Here are some of the topics we’ll cover in this resort review:

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge does fall under the deluxe resort category. It has more guest rooms than any other resort within its category. Additionally, room rates here tend to be 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. A room at the resort with a standard or parking lot view could come in considerably close in pricing to somewhere like Disney’s Gran Destino Tower. And while I love the new tower, it would be hard to turn down a stay at the Lodge if there wasn’t much price difference.

Now, if your budget is more significant, you might consider an upgrade to a savanna view room. 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 extra cost of the upgrade will be worth it for them.

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 of the 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.

If you want a Disney look and feel, you would need to visit a value resort. Check out our review of Disney’s Art of Animation to learn more. That’s where you’ll find the actual Lion King theme.

What you are going to find is that this resort offers a truly immersive and tranquil place to escape after a long day in a Disney theme park. It 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 Lodge’s lobby is breathtaking. This central hub leads to every space you’ll want to enjoy during your stay. I find the layout of the resort’s recreation and dining areas to work well. Perhaps, we could call it utilitarian if it wasn’t so stunningly beautiful.

Normally, cultural representatives are poised throughout various parts of the lobby and grounds, adding to the authenticity. The representatives are from various parts of Africa and help educate guests by sharing stories about various aspects of their homeland.

You’ll even find African-themed activities available at scheduled times throughout the day. And the resort itself is somewhat of an art museum. We’ll hopefully get around to doing a more formal art tour here and at the Riviera Resort one of these days. (They have a significant amount of art as well.)

Related: Disney’s Riviera Resort Review

There is something special to be noted about the theming that makes this place come alive and operate in this manner daily. So, if you elect to stay here, make sure to plan some downtime or a resort day to enjoy all of it.

Rooms

When staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, there are several room types and views to choose from. Standard view rooms come with two queen beds and 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.

Pool view rooms and club level rooms are additional upgrades. You can also request a king bed. However, these rooms are somewhat limited.

Club level service is when you stay on a private floor and have access to a lounge that 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 type of 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 its own wing of Disney vacation villas. These are not to be confused with Kidani next door. These 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.

A few years back, we received a room containing a queen bed and bunk bed pairing. This is a nice option for a family with two children who don’t want to share a bed. If this interests you, I recommend checking with an authorized Disney vacation planner to see if they can make this special request.

Let’s look at one of the standard rooms with 1 king bed and an upgraded savanna view. This room was located on the Sunset Savanna, the largest of the 4 lush savannas shared between Jambo House and Kidani Village.

In case you were wondering, the lodge’s savannas are:

  • Arusha
  • Sunset
  • Pembe
  • Uzima

Here on 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 a nice 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 fairly easy to get around. However, some of the hallways can be rather long.

For comparison to the studio rooms, you might want to check out the deluxe studio room at Boardwalk Villas.

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.

Recreation

If you aren’t already sold on a trip to Animal Kingdom Lodge, this next section will probably seal the deal. This is one of the few places across Disney property that you can say, “Who needs to visit a Disney park when they have all of this outside their room?”

The Lodge 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. This is because the land surrounding the resort is mostly 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.

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 Top 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 more serene feeling. You might luck up and find a whirlpool tub all to yourself one evening. I can tell you it will be absolutely relaxing at the end of a long day from my own experience.

Additionally, there is a second large feature pool, Samawati Springs pool, located 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.

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 for me.

If outdoor jogging is your thing, I would highly recommend going over to Crescent Lake and making the trail around the Epcot Resorts Area.

Related: The Best Jogging Trails at Disney World

Anyway, this gym 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 day when accommodations aren’t available.

Anyone with interest can reserve massages during normal business hours. If these things interest you, make sure to check them out. The list of spa and salon services is available here on Disney’s site.

An arcade is available out in the main recreation area. Pumbaa’s fun and games is a fairly large arcade with several fun things to do on a rainy day or when you have some extra time to kill.

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.

Another tip, there’s an outdoor locker area around the pool for guests. 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.

The lockers are a great place to store a change of clothes and spend the day at the pool until it’s time to leave. Leave your larger carry-on items with bell services.

Around the pool area, there are several tabletop games available. 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.

I have had more luck seeing animals on the Uzima savanna than any other. Funny thing, I don’t think that the majority of guests know that it is back here.

Often I will see a giraffe in this area. Sometimes more.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is unlike any other when it comes to resort activities. There is typically an abundance of items to experience daily.

Normally, there are cultural specialists in the Jambo House lobby, The Mara, the Jambo House Sunset Lounge, Zawadi Marketplace, Asante Terrace, Arusha Rock, and more!

Animal Programs and Wildlife Discoveries

Here is an example of the different activities that were available 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 even great places to sit and watch your children burn off all that energy that you probably wish you still had.

This 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.

Below is the flip side of a recreation calendar.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Recreation Calendar

Usiku Festival

The Usiku Festival is an activity that is held nightly at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The festival is a lot of fun, and I briefly participated one evening.

The festival’s 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!

This is one of those simple things that 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 is located outside the fenced-in pool, so you don’t have to worry as much about watching kids around the water.

Dining

Before we wrap things up, I felt it would be good to look at the dining options available here briefly. I have a full guide to the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants that goes into detail about 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.

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. 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 to be a true hidden gem. In fact, 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. Pick up your meal inside, and then enjoy it out here.

The Mara ranks close to the top of our best Disney World Resorts quick-service restaurants.

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.

Back out around the pool, you will find a separately fenced bar area. This is the Uzima Springs pool bar.

They have 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.

Transportation

Transportation at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit lacking. As mentioned at the beginning of this review, it’s due to the overall location. It’s not 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, there is valet parking available at the main lobby if anyone wants to take advantage of it when driving a car.

And you have probably heard that Disney’s Magical Express service from the airport will end in late 2021. Have your travel agent make arrangements for you to and from the airport.

Gift Shop

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 normally open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. It’s a good place to pick up resort-specific merchandise.

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 make sure to check The Mara also.

Laundry Facilities

Animal Kingdom Lodge offers several laundry rooms. Unlike many of the other Disney hotels, they do not have a laundry area at the pool. Here they are spaced out on different floors of the hotel. Make sure to reference the map for the one nearest your room.

The positive thing is the laundry rooms are located closer to individual guest rooms. The laundry facilities here have extra seating and a television. 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.

Animals

Below is a copy of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Wildlife Spotting Guide if you have any interest.

These are the animals you can expect to see out on the savanna during your stay. 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.

Final Thoughts on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

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 so long when I first started working on it. And this is the fourth time I have fully updated it since the original. The funny thing is, I still don’t feel like I’ve done the resort full justice.

And I probably never will. It’s just that special of a place.

There are so many pictures I could add of the animals on the savanna, resort grounds, lobby, and art displays. The list goes on and on.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a unique resort that offers a lot of different value in comparison to others. If you consider yourself a resort person, like me, then you will find yourself happy here. 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. Maybe you will try a stay here soon and find out what I mean.

And if you have already stayed here, then I’m confident you understand my sentiments.

For those that need help planning and booking your next Walt Disney World Resort vacation, contact our friends at Firefly Travels. Their planning services are always helpful.

If you are considering resorts, you might enjoy browsing our full list of Disney Resort Reviews. Or try these individual reviews:

And my favorite (other than this one) is my review of Disney’s Beach Club.

Thanks for joining along for this review. Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts on staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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