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Animal Kingdom Lodge Review- A Theme Park In Itself

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a Disney Deluxe Resort that offers a truly unparalleled experience. In this review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge learn about 

  • Jambo House room types
  • Animal Kingdom Signature, Table, and Quick Service restaurants Jiko, Mara, Sanaa, and Boma House
  • Stunning Animal Kingdom Pools
  • The truly unique experience of the Savanna including the night time savanna
  • Other activities such as s’mores, art work observations, and more

This review of Animal Kingdom Lodge is brought to you by Kylee of Green Monorail Destinations and Sue from Mousequest Podcast.  First, Kylee gives us a first hand look at a stay in Animal Kingdom’s Jambo House.  Then, Sue, takes us on a tour of the Perfect Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge proving that a vacation to Walt Disney World is so much more than just the theme parks.   

Image by Loren Javier

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Introduction

Designed by the architect who brought us The Wilderness Lodge and Grand Californian in Disneyland, Peter Dominick, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is absolutely breathtaking. When you walk into the Grand Lobby you’ll be in absolute amazement of the pure grandeur and beauty. Pictures don’t really do it justice. It doesn’t stop at the lobby either. The private savanna with real, free roaming animals is spectacular. Imagine waking up at dawn with a cup of coffee and a giraffe munching on a tree, just a few feet away. It will make you feel like you’re nowhere near Florida. My heart soars whenever I step into this place. It’s somehow distinctly Disney without having a corny, Theme Park feel. If you have the budget for a Deluxe Resort, I always suggest this one first.

Image By Kylee Green Monorail Destinations

Animal Kingdom Lodge Room Rate

Animal Kingdom Lodge is considered a Deluxe Resort. Meaning, it has more amenities and costs more money than the Value and Moderates. However, I’d say it’s on the lower end of Deluxe Resorts as far as room rates. On average, rates are usually 400-600 a night. Which is sometimes as much as a high-end moderate hotel.

Jambo House Animal Kingdom Lodge
Image by D. Sikes

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Overview

The Lodge is comprised of two separate sections, Jambo House and Kidani Village, formed in large horse shoes around the savanna. Kidani is made up of DVC rooms and villas. Jambo House is the main portion of the resort and is open to everyone. You can still venture to Kidani and check out their lobby or eat at their restaurant, Sanaa. With a savanna, two pools with hot tubs, three full-service restaurants, one quick-service, a spa, three lounges, and two separate lodging areas, this resort is huge.

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Room Types

The rooms are beautiful and elegant with carved headboards, dark wooded furniture, and African art placed about. And every room gets a balcony. During my stay, I had the opportunity to stay in the Savanna View room. With your own private verandah overlooking your own private savanna, this room is a must do!

Image by Best of WDW from USA

Something else this resort offers is the choice of having a room with bunk beds. So, if you have kids (or adults) who don’t want to share a bed, you have this option.

Jambo House Room Types Available:

  • Standard View: 2 Queen Beds or 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed or 1 King Bed and 1 Day 
  • Pool View: 2 Queen Beds or 1 King Bed or 1 King Bed and 1 Day Bed
  • Savanna View: 2 Queen Beds or 1 King Bed and 1 Day Bed
  • Pool View – Bunk Bed: 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed
  • Savanna View – Bunk Bed: 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed
Image by Kylee Green Monorail Destinations

Another great way to stay in a Disney Deluxe Resort for a Fraction of the cost is to Rent DVC Points.    Click the image below or contact us for more information or for more information. 

DVC Rental

Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level

Like other Deluxe Resorts, the Lodge has a Club Level floor where you’ll get access to some luxurious amenities. When you book a Club Level room, you get access to the lounge where they serve free snacks and beverages throughout the day. This includes the deluxe continental breakfast, tea time, warm hors d’oeuvres/specialty beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and desserts. In addition to the free food, you get access to a library of DVD’s to rent and private concierges. The Club Level is located on the top floor and overlooks the grand lobby. It’s the perfect place to have a snack and watch the resort hustle and bustle below.

Club Level Rooms Available:

  • Savanna View – Club Level Access: 2 Queen Beds or 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed or 1 King Bed and 1 Day Bed
  • Standard View-1 BR Suite-Club Level Access: 2 Queen Beds and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa
  • 1 Bedroom Suite – Club Level Access: 2 Queen Beds and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa
  • 2 Bedroom Suite – Club Level Access: 1 Queen Bed and 1 Bunk Bed and 1 King Bed and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa or 1 King Bed and 2 Queen Beds and 1 Queen-Size Sleeper Sofa

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Animal Kingdom Lodge Table Service Restaurants

Animal Kingdom Lodge has three table service restaurants, one quick service and three lounges onsite. All of them very tasty and fit within the African-inspired theme.

Jiko Image by Derek Hatfield

Jiko – The Cooking Place (Jambo House) – Table Service: Jiko’s is considered a “Signature Restaurant,” which means it’s a bit more upscale and a bit more expensive (it takes two dining plan credits). The atmosphere is just as beautiful as the hotel itself with walls that change colors, imitating a sunset. The menu has a mix of American, African, and Indian-inspired cuisine. When we visited, our server recommended the Inguday Tibs in Brik (turnovers filled with mushroom, spinach, and cheese), so we decided to give it a try. This was delicious along with everything else we ate. They also have the most extensive South African wine selection in North America. I sincerely regret not writing down the name of the wine I tried while visiting.

Jiko Animal Kingdom Lodge Steak
Jiko Steak Image by Jeff Christiansen
Jiko Shrimp Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jiko Shrimp Image by Jeff Christiansen
Jiko Dessert Image by Jeff Christiansen

Sanaa (Kidani Village) – Table Service: The only restaurant in Kidani Village and highly underrated at that! This table service has more of a family-friendly vibe as opposed to Jiko, which is a little more romantic. I hear the Indian Bread Service is something you can’t miss!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Table Service Sanaa Check In
Sanaa Check In- Image by Loren Javier
Sanaa Interior Restaurant Animal Kingdom Lodge
Sanaa Interior- Image by Loren Javier
Sanaa Animal Kingdom Bread Service: Plate of Naan Bread and Sauces from
Naan Bread Service Sanaa- Image by Sam Howzit

Animal Kingdom Lodge Buffet- Boma Flavors of Africa

Boma Flavors of Africa (Jambo House) – Buffet: The best buffet on property, in my honest opinion. Again, there is a mix of American and African inspired cuisine, from pork shoulder to Spicy Nigerian Peanut Soup. Boma and Mara is where you can get the infamous Zebra Dome, a small dome shaped cake covered in a cream liquor mousse, white chocolate, and drizzled with chocolate. Just perfection.

Boma Flavors of Africa Buffet- Image by Loren Javier
Animal Kingdom Lodge Boma Desserts
Boma Flavors of Africa Desserts- Image by Mark Flickr Account

For the best in Disney Food Guides, check out Disney  Food Blog 2018 Guides!  We download them and screen shot them to our phones so we never miss a snack!

Disney Food Blog Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Snack Downloadable Guide

Animal Kingdom Lodge Quick Service Restaurants

The Mara (Jambo House) – Quick Service: This quick service location is a bit tricky to find since it has an outdoor entrance by the Uzima Pool, near Jiko and Boma. The food is great for a quick service spot. They serve the typical American foods like chicken nuggets, but also features some unique items like chicken flatbread and African stew.

Other Places for Food and Beverage:

Victoria Falls Lounge

Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar

Sanaa Lounge

Uzima Springs Pool Bar (Uzima Pool)

Maji Pool Bar (Kidani Pool)

Animal Kingdom Lodge Pools

Uzima Pool (Jambo House): This zero entry pool is often referred to as the best pool on Disney property. It has a 50 foot water slide and the best part is that the hot tub is tucked away behind some foliage, offering some privacy.

Maji Pool (Kidani Village): This is in the Kidani Village area and features a small slide and pool bar as well. It is open to all guests.

Uzima Pool by Lauran Javier
Uzima Pool by Lauran Javier

Animal Kingdom Lodge Amenities

Animal Kingdom Lodge offers all the typical amenities of a Disney Deluxe Resort. You can read more about the different types of Disney resorts and their various amenities here.   Noteworthy amenities available at Animal Kingdom Lodge include the following.

Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center: In case you need to push your luxurious experience over the top, there’s a spa located in Jambo house with a fitness center attached. Kidani Village also has a “Survival of the Fittest” Fitness Center.

Nighttime Safari: One of the coolest things this resort has to offer is the Starlight Safari. With this tour, you get your own private animal expert who takes you on a nighttime tour of the savanna in a safari vehicle. With a pair of night vision goggles, you’ll get to see the animals going about their business in the evening. This has an extra cost, but is definitely one of the most unique experiences available at Disney. This experience is open to anyone, even if you’re not staying at the resort.

Roasting S’mores: For a more economical experience, you can also roast s’mores at the fire pits!

Transportation at Animal Kingdom Lodge

You’ll hear a lot of complaints regarding transportation for this resort. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference of wait/transfer time between this resort and any others. I believe this notion has to do with the distance between the resort and Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. It’s very close to Animal Kingdom, but farther away from the other three parks. Considering the fact that the value resort busses can be so packed that sometimes you have to wait for the next bus just so you can board, this really isn’t that bad. Plus, after being in a theme park atmosphere all day, you’ll like the feeling of seclusion. There are two bus stops here: one outside the Grand Lobby at Jambo and one at Kidani Village. Since the resort is so large, depending on your room, it can be a bit of walk to get out to the bus stop.

Summary

Due the unique and authentic atmosphere, feeling of grandeur, and delicious food, I give this resort a 10/10, would stay there again. Would move in if I could! Again, if this place is in your Disney budget, you should give this place a go. And, if it’s not in your budget, then I highly advise taking a bus over to eat at Boma, enjoy the savanna, and relax in the lobby. You can get there easily if you’re already at Animal Kingdom and need a little sanctuary!

A Perfect Day At Animal Kingdom Lodge

Now that you are thoroughly familiar with all that Animal Kingdom Lodge has to offer in terms of rooms, restaurants, and amenities,  what would a resort day at Animal Kingdom Lodge look like?  Sue from Mousequest Podcast gives us a great summary of the perfect resort day spent relaxing and taking it all in at this very special Disney Deluxe Resort. 

Image by Kylee Green Monorail Destinations

Animal Kingdom Lodge: An Experience All It's Own

I could spend chapter and verse talking about the varying room types, transportation options, dining options and proximity to the parks of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge but that wouldn’t do justice to the wide-ranging amenities it offers. My family has chosen Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge on several occasions, Jambo House twice and Kidani Village once. The reason we keep returning is because it’s more than just a place to lay your head. It’s an experience all on its own.

Every trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for my family includes a dedicated resort day during our stay. We love these days because they are so relaxing and they save you a day of theme park tickets. Relaxing while saving money? Yes, please!!

Our practically perfect Disney day at the Animal Kingdom Lodge always includes sleeping in after a late night at the theme parks. We go to Magic Kingdom Park the day before our resort day as that is the park which stays open the latest and we typically stay until the “Kiss Goodnight”. It is also the park which requires the most walking. We can easily walk 20,000 steps at Magic Kingdom Park so having a day of rest after all that walking is a welcome treat.

Breakfast On The Savanna

Once awake, we order room service for breakfast which we enjoy on our verandah. With a Savanna View room, we can watch giraffes, zebras, gazelles and ostriches roaming outside our room while we eat.

Sunrise View of The Savanna- Image by Kylee of Green Monorail Destinations

Explore This Beautiful Disney Deluxe Resort

After breakfast we get ready for the day then grab our MagicBands and bathing suits to continue our African adventure. Our first stop is the lobby where there are incredible works of African art, authentic decorations and tons of Hidden Mickeys. (HINT: Look up) On the floor below the lobby there are African drums where the little ones can play to their heart’s content. 

We always make sure to stop by the front desk or check out the resort TV channel for a listing of all the events and activities taking place throughout the day such as flamingo feeding, cookie decorating, wildlife games and animal tracking. From the lobby we head out to the Arusha Rock Outlook to get an up close and personal view of even more of the savanna animals. We also venture to the Uzima Outlook as there are varying animal as each savanna has different animals. Along the way to the Uzima Outlook we stop by the flamingo pool. Both outlooks typically have cast members there to answer your questions.

The outlook visits leads us down to the Uzima pool where at 1:30pm we can play Wildlife Games before lunch which is just as stone’s throw away at The Mara quick service restaurant located right beside the pool. After lunch (sorry Mom for not waiting the obligatory 30 minutes after eating), we spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool enjoying the games (for the kids) and relaxation (for the parents)

Dessert....then Dinner..and a Show!

For evening activities, we eat our dessert first by starting with s’mores at the Arusha Rock Outlook Campfire at 5:00pm. This will give our tummies time to rest before dinner at Boma – Flavors of Africa. This all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet has items all the members of our family can enjoy – even the picky eaters. We always try to get a 7:00pm Advanced Dining Reservation so we will be finishing our meal in time for the kids’ craft activities which takes place just outside Boma at 8:00pm. (There is a small fee to the craft activities.)

After dark, we head back to the Uzima Overlook to get a unique animal viewing experience as night vision goggles are available for resort guests. Since we have an older child we stop by Victoria Falls on the way back to our room where the adults get a nightcap and our daughter gets a Disney-fied Shirley Temple before getting to bed early to rest up for yet another practically perfect Disney day.

Animal Kingdom Night Goggles Viewing of Animals on the Savannah

Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a recovering team mom who is trying to find ways to fill her time after serving secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daughter’s travel sports team for over 10 years. You can follow her pixie-dusted journey at MouseQuestPodcast.com and via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for more great Disney and Lifestyle content.

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8 thoughts on “Animal Kingdom Lodge- A Theme Park In Itself

  1. Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite Walt Disney World Resort. It does not cease to amaze time and again. Jiko used to be my favorite restaurant anywhere. When they got a new chef, my favorite meal was taken off of the menu. There are so many more amazing foods and experiences there, but that was MY thing. Haha. AKL is still my favorite resort. I remember staying there one time when a large bird landed on our balcony. That was a bit of a thrill!

  2. What a comprehensive review! I have only been to WDW once when I was small and I want to go again at some point but there is just soooo much sometimes it can feel a bit daunting. Animal Kingdom Lodge looks an amazing hotel, I love the theme-ing and would definitely stay there one day if I had the money.

  3. We only stayed one night at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but I wish we had longer. The food was SO good, and my 2 year old loved the animals. We had planned to stay there mostly because we hadn’t intended to go to the parks, and chose it for exactly the reason you mention: it’s a destination in itself. Now I want to go back:)

  4. Great review and love your photographs. Thanks for the great information. We usually stay at the Polynesian but, we really should try a new Resort. I bet my kids would love this one!!

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