In the far southwest corner of the World and adjacent to Animal Kingdom theme park, Animal Kingdom Lodge opened in 2001.
Designed by Peter Dominick of Wilderness Lodge fame, Animal Kingdom Lodge fuses African tribal architecture with the exotic, rugged style of grand East African national-park lodges. Five-story, thatched-roof guest-room wings fan out from a vast central rotunda housing the lobby and featuring a huge mud fireplace. Public areas and about half of the rooms offer panoramic views of a private 43-acre wildlife preserve, punctuated with streams and elevated kopje (rock outcroppings) and populated with some 200 free-roaming animals and 130 birds. Most of the 972 guest rooms measure 344 square feet and boast hand-carved furnishings and richly colored soft goods. Almost all have full balconies.
In 2007, in the first of two phases, Disney converted 134 rooms of the original hotel into Disney Deluxe Villa (DDV) accommodations. Disney opened part of the second phase, called Kidani Village, in the spring of 2009, and the remaining portion in late 2009. To avoid the confusion of having to differentiate two separate DDV buildings with Animal Kingdom Villas in their names, Disney has christened the units in the original hotel, as well as the building itself, as Jambo House. Thus, if you're staying in a DDV unit at Animal Kingdom Lodge you're at Jambo House, and if you're staying in the new building you're at Kidani Village. The entire complex, classified by Disney as a Deluxe resort, is called Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House offers fine dining in a casual setting at Jiko: The Cooking Place. Twin wood-burning ovens are the focal point of the restaurant, which serves meals inspired by the myriad cuisines of Africa. Boma Flavors of Africa, the family restaurant, serves a buffet with food prepared in an exhibition kitchen featuring a wood-burning grill and rotisserie. Tables are under thatched roofs. The Mara, a quick-service restaurant with extended hours, and Victoria Falls, a delightful mezzanine lounge overlooking Boma Flavors of Africa, round out the hotel's food-and-beverage service. Other amenities include an elaborate swimming area and a village marketplace. Children ages 6-14 can explore African culture through games and crafts. Cost is $70 per child; reservations must be made using a credit card.
Consisting of a separate freestanding building shaped like a backwards 3, Kidani Village comprises 324 units, a dedicated savanna, a new pool, and Sanaa, a sit-down restaurant combining Indian and African cuisines. Other features include a fitness center, an arcade, a gift shop, and tennis, shuffleboard, and basketball courts. Kidani Village is connected to the original hotel by a half-mile walking trail; DDV guests at either resort can use the facilities at both buildings.
Both Jambo House and Kidani Village have studios and one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas. Most rooms at Kidani Village are larger, however, and the difference is anywhere from 50 square feet for a studio to more than 200 square feet for a two-bedroom unit. (The three-bedroom Grand Villas at Jambo House, 148 square feet larger than those in Kidani Village, are the exception.) Because of the difference in area, one-bedroom units in Kidani Village can accommodate up to five people and two-bedroom units can hold up to nineâ€”one more each than corresponding units at Jambo House, through the inclusion of a sleeper chair in the living room.
Having stayed at Kidani Village shortly after its opening, we think it's a quiet, relaxed resort. The lobby and rooms have a smaller, more personal feel than Jambo Houseâ€™s. The building exterior isn't anything special, essentially a set of green rectangles with oversize Africanthemed decorations attached. Kidani's distance from Jambo House makes it feel even more remote than the latter. The bus stops are a fair distance from the main building, too, and it's easy to head in the wrong direction when you're coming back from the parks at night.
Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas is connected to the rest of Disney World by bus, but because of the resort's remote location, you should seriously consider having a car if you stay there.
A family of four from Lincoln, England, gives Animal Kingdom Lodge a mixed, though mostly positive, review:
We had a fab holiday, but we wouldn't recommend people paying the extra money to have a savanna room. The animals are scarce, and you don't really spend much time in your room. The pool and the kids club were fantastic and the hotel stunning. We visited Boma Flavors of Africa, but my children found the food very different and spicy. The food court was fine, although we wished they'd change the menu as after two weeks you're fed up of the same choices.
A Portage, Indiana, family begs to differ with us:
We disagree with your assessment that the Giraffe Trail is the least desirable wing of Animal Kingdom Lodge. We stayed in a pool-view room and loved it. The view was beautiful, even without the animals (which you can view elsewhere). The proximity to the pool, lobby, and restaurants was great, and a bonus was the direct exits from the hallway to the outside, which were very close to where Disney transportation picks up. And we saved about $500 over what we would've spent on a savanna view.
A British mum had safety concerns:
The room was very small and not very child-safe (REALLY high beds), but the hotel itself was fantastic in all other aspects.
Finally, from a Chandler, Arizona, couple:
Specifically wanted to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We weren't disappointed! Fantastic resort. We loved sitting on our balcony in the afternoon and watching the animals. Found the transportation to be easy and convenient from this location as well.
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas||91% (+13%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||76% (+0%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||57% (+0%)|
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas||94% (+0%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||92% (+2%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||79% (-7%)|
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas
A glance at the resort map tells you where the best rooms and villas are. Kudu Trail and Zebra Trail, two wings branching from the rear of Jambo House, form a semicircle around the central wildlife savanna. Along each wing are seven five-story buildings, with accommodations on floors two through five. Five buildings on each wing form the semicircle, while the remaining two buildings jut away from the center. The best rooms on floors three and four, facing into the circle are high enough to survey the entire savanna yet low enough to let you appreciate the ground-level detail of this amazing wildlife exhibit; plus, these rooms offer the easiest access to the lobby and restaurants. Second-floor rooms really can't take in the panorama, and fifth-floor rooms are a little too high for intimate views of the animals. Most of the fourth-floor rooms in Jambo House are reserved for concierge guests, and the fifth and sixth floors house the DDV units.
Most rooms in the outward-jutting buildings, as well as rooms facing away from the interior, also survey a savanna, but one not as compelling as that of the inner circle. On the Zebra Trail, the first two buildings plus the first jutting building provide savanna views on one side and look onto the swimming complex on the other.
Less attractive still are two smaller wings, Ostrich Trail and Giraffe Trail, branching from either side of the lodge near the main entrance. Some rooms in Ostrich Trail, on the left, overlook a small savanna. Rooms on the opposite side of the same buildings overlook the front entrance. Least desirable is Giraffe Trail, extending from the right side of the lobby. Rooms in this wing overlook either the pool (water view) or the resort entrance (standard view).
The best views in Kidani Village are the north-facing rooms near the bottom and middle of the backwards 3. Try rooms numbered 7X38-7X44, 7X46-7X52, 7X04-7X11, 7X68-7X7, and 7X60-7X67. These overlook the savanna next to the lodge's Kudu Trail rooms and beyond into undeveloped woods. West- and south-facing rooms in the bottom half of the Kidani building overlook the parking lot, while west-facing rooms in the top half have either pool or savanna views.
|Exotic theme||Remote location|
|Uniquely appointed guest rooms|
|Most rooms have private balconies|
|Views of savanna and animals from guest rooms|
|Themed swimming area|
|Excellent on-site dining, including a buffet|
|On-site nature programs and storytelling|
|Health and fitness center|
|Child-care center on-site|
|Proximity to non-Disney restaurants on US 192|
|Magic Kingdom||36 minutes|
|Disney's Hollywood Studios||26 minutes|
|Disney's Animal Kingdom||10 minutes|
|Quietness of Room||B|
|Shuttle to Parks||Yes|