Resort Rundown: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Overview

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No other resort on Walt Disney World property recreates and presents an immersive cultural experience the way that Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge does. It may be known for being home to a collection of beautiful African animals, but this is only the beginning of the immersion. A breathtaking collection of art, exotic and delicious cuisine, and cultural representatives invite you to experience the incredible cultures of Africa. This Deluxe Disney resort has some highly devoted fans, and for good reason. While its location can sometimes be a minus, the overall experience make the sum of a stay here something that is hard to compare to anywhere else.

The resort has two sections: Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House is the original part of the resort and is considered the main building. In 2007, a portion of the hotel rooms were converted into DVC Villas, and Kidani Village–a dedicated DVC building with a pool, restaurant, its own special savanna, and other DVC amenities–was built.

Come tour Kidani Village with us in our video:

Location

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is sits on the Western edge of Walt Disney World property. Although Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park is nearly next door, there is no special entrance or connection to the park from the lodge. This really seems like a missed opportunity considering the theme and proximity.

Because of its location, without any attractions or other resorts that can be walked to, it feels somewhat isolated. In a way this helps the immersion factor, but on the other hand it presents a challenge for some guests. The only way to access any of the theme parks, water parks, or Disney Springs is with complimentary bus transportation (or pay for a Minnie Van, taxi, ride share, or use your own personal vehicle). The bus rides themselves, especially to Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs, can feel much longer here. On average they are just five minutes more than other resorts. Still, for some guests the location is a drawback, particularly when compared to other Deluxe resorts.

Rooms

Warmly decorated with authentic touches, the rooms at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge are some of the most well themed on property. There are a lot of room types at this resort, so it can be hard to keep them straight. For clarity’s sake, let’s review the regular room types and save the Deluxe Villa rooms and Suites for the next section. The regular rooms have three view types: standard, pool, and savanna. You can imagine that the savanna view rooms are the most popular. If you decide not to book a savanna view room there are plenty of common areas for you to enjoy a view of the savanna.

Speaking of views, you can use the awesome TouringPlans Room Finder to help you narrow down the exact room location you would like. You can plug in your preferences and find rooms that match your needs. Then, when you make your reservations and check in, you can request your desired rooms. This tool is free to use.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Room Finder

Two queen beds are standard, however, a king bed is available in select rooms. A recent refurbishment has resulted in the addition of vinyl flooring instead of carpet, a walk in shower, and an upgraded beverage area including a Keurig coffee machine and elegant finishes with a The Lion King motif on the inset. A select number of rooms retained a bathtub, so if that is an important feature to your family make sure you request a room with one when making your reservation.

Club Level

The Club Level at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge rises high above the rest of Jambo House. The Club Level lounge (The Kilimanjaro Club) itself is perched at the top floor of the resort, with a view looking down below to the massive lobby. There is an air of sophisticated relaxation. Club Level rooms include evening turn down, secured key access to the club-level lounge (serving refreshments 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily), complimentary newspapers in Club Level lounge, and health club access. Select Club Level rooms are just a few steps from the lounge.

Club Level rooms are savanna view, though there are larger suites that have standard views. There are also a select amount of Disney Vacation Club villas at Jambo House that are Club Level. This is a first for a DVC resort.

Disney Vacation Club

In 2007 Disney Vacation Club’s presence at Animal Kingdom Lodge branched out to include a whole new building with its own amenities, Kidani Village, as well as reconstructing some of the hotel rooms at Jambo House to become villas. The entire spectrum of Deluxe Villas from studios all the way up to three-bedroom Grand Villas is offered at both Kidani Village and Jambo House.

Because Jambo House’s villas were originally hotel rooms they have less square footage than Kidani Village. This also presents the limited category of Value Studios, which are the smallest villas, but are a great value for the amount of DVC points they use. It is important to note that this resort does not have pull down beds in its studios. The decor of the DVC Villas at both buildings matches the resort with dark Earth tones, however there are quite a few references to The Lion King making this a favorite among families.

The three-bedroom Grand Villas are one story at Jambo House, another unique feature. The three-bedroom Grand Villas at Kidani are two story, which presents a large floor-to-ceiling two-story window for viewing the savanna. Kidani Village has a smaller lobby than the jaw-dropping lobby at Jambo House. There is more of an intimate feel at Kidani Village. There is only one restaurant – Sanaa, which is a favorite among Disney fans, and the only restaurant at the Lodge that has a savanna view. The Kidani Village pool has a great water playground and a fun water slide, but can feel small during peak times. An outdoor pool bar also offers food and snacks.

You can tour a studio at Kidani Village in this video:

Dining

Exploring the beautiful African cultures that are offered at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge makes for hungry guests. The variety of flavors and dining options, from quick and casual locations to full-service signature restaurants, is a safari unto itself. Sip signature cocktails or delectable African wine at the Victoria Falls Lounge at Jambo House or the Sanaa Louge at Kidani Village. Jambo House and Kidani Village each have their own pool bar – neither one is all that spectacular, but still a nice enough outdoor spot for a cold poolside beverage, and a snack if desired.

The only true counter service location is The Mara, at Jambo House. It is offers a fair balance between exotic flavors and traditional basics. Also at Jambo House are two full-service restaurants – each with their own devoted fans. Boma – Flavors of Africa, offers a beautiful breakfast buffet each morning, and a delectable dinner buffet each night. Jiko – The Cooking Place is a fine dining restaurant known for offering the largest collection of South African wines in the U.S. Sanaa, the signature restaurant at Kidani Village, offers a quick-service-style breakfast in the morning. It offers lunch and dinner, and boasts the only savanna views of any restaurant at the Lodge. Of course, if you’re in the mood to relax in your room there’s in-room dining too.

Securing dining reservations at popular full-service restaurants like Sanaa and Boma can be frustrating and time consuming. You can use the TouringPlans Reservation Finder to help you secure dining reservations and save time. Simply select your desired restaurant, then plug in your desired date and time or meal period, then select to be notified either via email or text message and viola! This incredible tool is available with or without a TouringPlans paid subscription, but you do need to create, or have, a TouringPlans login.

Sanaa – Savanna view tables

Pools

There are two pools at this Deluxe resort, though it is just one pool to each campus. Jambo House’s Uzima Springs Pool is zero depth entry and steps away from one of the resort’s savannas. The waterslide leaves a bit to be desired compared to other resorts. The pool is a relaxing setting, and the recreational offerings like an afternoon dance party sometimes feel out of place here. Kidani Village’s Samawati Springs Pool has a more energetic setting with its large water playground and bigger waterslide. It does require a walk outside the lobby’s front entrance down along the porte cachere to the recreation outpost where the pool and fitness center are located. Guests from either campus can use either pool. It is a few minutes’ walk, or you can make use of the internal shuttle which runs back and forth constantly throughout the day.

Uzima at Jambo House

Recreation

This resort has some of the most unique recreational offerings of any resort in Orlando. Beautiful fire pits at both campuses, movies under the stars, an arcade, and a playground are the basic recreational offerings. But what sets Animal Kingdom Lodge apart from the other resorts are the cultural activities. Through each day there are activities scheduled that enable you and your family to learn about animals, African art, music, and more. Most activities are free, while a few are a nominal fee which come with a memento. These activities are enriching and truly bring out the special character of this resort. For DVC Members there is also Community Hall at Kidani Village full of additional activities including video game consoles, board games, a savanna viewing balcony, and more.

Transportation

Transportation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is quite simple: take your own car, take a Disney bus everywhere, or pay for a taxi/rideshare service, such as a Minnie Van. Buses are shared between Kidani Village and Jambo House. You can walk between both campuses or there is an internal shuttle. Theme park buses stop at Kidani Village first, then Jambo House. Disney Springs stops at Jambo House then at Kidani Village. Some guests use the buses to go between the two campuses if there is a wait for the internal shuttle. Sadly, there are no attractions within walking distance.

More Information

It might be helpful to note that both Kidani Village and Jambo House are not very tall. This helps with the theme of the resort and savanna views. This also means the hallways, especially at Kidani Village are very, very long. If a long walk is a concern for you, consider using our Room Finder to help you narrow down the rooms that fit your needs and be sure to request your preference when booking your reservation and at check-in.

We sure ran through a lot of information about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, so here’s a handy-dandy infographic that sums it all up:

Are you a fan of Animal Kingdom Lodge? Do you prefer Jambo House or Kidani Village? Let us know in the comments.

Dani

Born and raised in the land of sunshine and dreams come true, Dani is a proud Orlando Native who loves sharing her hometown with others. She's worked in nearly all of Orlando's theme parks, on board Disney Cruise Line, and in hotel management. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @thisfloridalife

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