While Disney World offers a vast variety of different resorts to choose from for guests staying on property, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas offer even more options and experiences, particularly when it comes to room sizes! During my last few trips to Disney World, I had the opportunity to enjoy stays at several different DVC Villas; but today, I’m zeroing in on Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in this review of an Animal Kingdom Lodge DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at Kidani Village.
First of all, the Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s own timeshare program where members purchase and use points for their vacation experiences. It can be difficult to understand, but Disney Vacation Club (DVC) 101: What is DVC? can help fill in the gaps. If you are not a Disney Vacation Club Member, the good news is that you can still stay at a DVC Resort! You can do so by booking through Disney, just as you would any other resort; however, other guests like to rent points from a 3rd party or directly from other members. If you chose the latter, we recommend that you go through a reputable third party or from a member you know personally (as opposed to a random person on the internet).
My family and I had never stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge before. We had dropped by the resort in years past for a dinner at Boma and to do some exploring, but that was the extent of our experience. However, for many years, we had been hearing from others that Animal Kingdom Lodge was one of the best resorts at Disney World and a big favorite; and so when we got the opportunity to stay a week in a DVC Deluxe Studio Villa at the resort’s Kidani Village, we couldn’t turn down the chance to check it out for ourselves.
During our stay, I quickly learned that Animal Kingdom Lodge is different from other DVC Resorts in several ways. In addition to be right next door to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, Animal Kingdom Lodge is also divided into two separate complexes: Jambo House and Kidani Village.
Jambo House was built first as a non-DVC resort. Part of the building was later converted to DVC villas. Because rooms were converted rather than purpose-built, the villas in Jambo House are slightly smaller than those at Kidani Village. Kidani Village was built as all DVC villas. Both resorts have studios, one- and two-bedroom villas, and three-bedroom grand villas, but the floor plans differ between the two resorts.
Now there are actually three different savannas at Animal Kingdom Lodge and different animals can be found in each one. However, Kidani Village only has access to two. Giraffes are the only animals that occupy all three. This leads me to the resort’s famed savanna views. A number of villas and standard rooms at both Jambo House and Kidani Village offer prime views of the different savannas, meaning your room balcony looks over the space where African wildlife are spending their day! It was also the type of view that my family enjoyed during our stay at Kidani Village; and while each type of villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge has a number of savanna view rooms, do be aware that you will probably pay a little extra for it.
After arriving for check-in at Kidani Village, my family and I quickly discovered a few things that every guest staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge should know. For instance, the resort is more isolated from the rest of Disney World, which some guests enjoy, but others may not. Also, resort guests at Kidani Village park in a parking garage located underneath the resort. The section of the parking garage you’re assigned to corresponds to the section of the resort where your villa is located. For example, our family car was parked in the Pumbaa Section, and we took an elevator right down to it when we needed to use our car. Pretty cool, right?
Also, there is quite a bit of distance between Kidani Village and Jambo House. You can walk the distance if you prefer. It’s about half of a mile; although, Kidani Village does provide a van which shuttles guests between the two campuses throughout the day. Guests can also take Disney transportation buses between both resorts. Guests at Kidani Village who want to go to Jambo House take any theme park bus, which picks up and drops off at Jambo House before heading onto its final destination. To reverse the trip, take any Downtown Disney bus from Jambo House, which will pick up and drop off at Kidani before continuing its trip. This set-up is somewhat different from other DVC Resorts where the resort’s main building is only a few steps away.
Kidani Village Dining Options
Transportation between the two sections of Animal Kingdom lodge is an important consideration because Kidani Village does not have a quick service restaurant. There is a pool bar which will deliver selections from Sanaa, but for a snack or breakfast The Mara at Jambo House is your only choice. Kidney Village also home to Sanaa, a popular and delicious restaurant that serves lunch and dinner! The other full service restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge are Boma, a buffet that serves breakfast and dinner, and Jiko, the signature restaurant which is dinner-only, which are both at Jambo House.
Finding Your Way Around Kidani Village
We also learned that Kidani Village is arranged in the shape of two horseshoes with the lobby connecting them in the middle; and while Kidani Village’s lobby isn’t as jaw-dropping as that of the cavernous Jambo House, the thatched roof and wood beam architecture is still something worth seeing.
For this trip, our Deluxe Villa was located at the far end of one of Kidani Village’s horseshoe shaped wings. This meant a long walk to get to our room from the lobby. This was probably the biggest downside to our stay at Kidani Village and was especially taxing after a long day at the parks. Fortunately, large windows could be found down the halls which offered different views of the savannas and the animals. It took us twice as long to reach our room at times because we kept stopping to see the zebras or ostriches that might be passing by!
As we headed to our villa, we saw that each villa door was adorned with its own shield!
Deluxe Villa’s are similar to standard resort rooms in that your space consists of a bedroom/living space and a bathroom. What makes Deluxe Villas more luxurious is the extra quality and space, plus a kitchenette!
Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Deluxe Villas have queen-size beds only; and I must admit, ours was probably one of my favorite beds ever at Disney World. For one, it was very comfortable and the extra throw pillows were so soft, an added plus for those of us who like extra pillows! The design was what really impressed me though, particularly the intricately carved, dark wood headboard and frame, and the draped mosquito netting overhead. Also, the sconces on each side of the bed were perfect for reading in bed at night.
The living space was very well done and made us feel right at home. As we had four people staying in this room, we used the convertible sofa at night; and while it wasn’t as comfortable as the bed, and sometimes a hassle to fold back the next morning, it still got the job done. However, do be aware that the sofa bed, when unfolded, does take up quite a bit of space.
Another view of the couch and living space. The wood coffee table in front of the couch is actually two. They are sturdy and a great compliment to the room, but also lightweight so that they can be moved around easily for your convenience.
Across from the couch and queen-size bed was the dresser featuring a flat screen television and a DVD player. We loved the carved detailing of the dresser, plus there were carved Hidden Mickeys in the corners!
The living space also had a small table and chairs; and when we first arrived, we found this free wildlife field guide laying there. It was fun to mark off what animals we saw throughout our stay, and to learn their actual names and facts about them. It’s still one of my favorite souvenirs.
Across from the bed was this beautiful carved, spacious armoire for extra storage. I loved being able to put our bulky suitcases out of sight.
One of the biggest perks of a Deluxe Studio Villa is the kitchenette. Ours was located right across from the bathroom door in our villa’s entryway. Needless to say it could get a little crowded getting ready in the morning in this small space; but the luxury of a mini-fridge, an extra sink, a toaster, coffeemaker, microwave, and more was a big plus. We loved being able to store cold drinks and breakfast items for when we were on the go. We also appreciated being able to bring our leftovers back to our villa to enjoy for later. It actually saved us money being able to have food and drinks on hand so that we weren’t constantly running to the food court or the nearest snack cart all the time.
Another view of the kitchenette…
It’s important to note that staying in a DVC Villa is different than staying in a standard resort room in more ways than just room size and amenities. For instance, housekeeping and trash service is not offered every day of your visit if you are paying with DVC points. Let me explain. If you are staying seven nights or less and paid with points, you will receive towel and trash service on the fourth day; and if you are staying eight days or more, you will receive a full cleaning service on the fourth day. So this means you won’t get clean towels every night like you would in a standard resort room. However, you can pay extra for daily cleaning service.
If you are paying for your villa with cash instead of points, or you booked through Disney, you will still receive daily housekeeping.
Finally, Deluxe Studio Villas do not have a washers and dryers. Fortunately, Kidani Village does have a laundromat for guests planning on doing laundry during their stay.
Our Kidani Village bathroom was beautiful and so spacious! I always appreciate counter space, especially when several people are sharing a bathroom. The layout of the bathroom was helpful as well. When standing at the sink, there was a door to the right and the left. The door to the right led into the space for the shower.
My family is always picky about shower heads at hotels and resorts; but if I remember correctly, this one met our approval.
A close-up of the shower tile. Isn’t it great how Disney carries the resort’s theme even into the bathrooms?
The door to the left of the sink led into a another closed-off room which contained the toilet. The space was surprisingly large and we used it as a dressing room. Having a bathroom with three separate spaces allowed for three members of our family to be in the bathroom at the same time, which is more of a big deal than you know!
The best part of our villa at Kidani Village wasn’t even the room itself, but rather the balcony with its savanna view. Few places on earth allow people the chance to enjoy their own private view of African wildlife just yards away from where they sleep, and the memories we made watching the animals together were priceless.
It also made getting up in the morning so much easier because we couldn’t wait to pull aside the curtain just to see who or what might be outside!
Now our balcony at Kidani Village wasn’t huge, but it did have enough space for the four of us to be out at one time, along with two chairs. From the railing we could see the resort on either side of us, but fortunately there were barriers so that we couldn’t see directly into the balcony of the villa next door and they couldn’t see us.
Throughout our stay, we noticed that at different times of day Cast Members would drive through the savanna and put out leafy branches and other goodies to draw the animals into view. Cast Members do close down a section from time to time for clean-up, and they do a great job because we never encountered any bad smells coming from the savanna; but most of the time, there is always an animal or two to see.
The most common animal visitors we had during our stay were ostriches, zebras, and giraffes; and several times a day, a group of giraffes would come wandering down to our end of Kidani Village for the shade and whatever Cast Members had laid out for them. They were our favorites and the most fun to watch!
While our balcony was close to the wildlife, it wasn’t too close. The resort itself is situated a safe distance from the animals and Disney has employed creative ways to keep a barrier between us and them. For example, in the bottom of the above picture, an almost invisible barrier has been constructed to make sure that no harm comes to guests or to the animals.
Overall, our Deluxe Studio DVC Villa experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village was probably one of the best resort experiences we have ever had in regards to the quality and theme of our room, the excellent bathroom, and the incredible experience of having our own view of live African wildlife roaming freely just outside!
However, we did have a few complaints too, mainly that of distance. Kidani Village serves as a quiet retreat, which we appreciated, but the fact that it was a considerable distance from Jambo House and dining was a bit of a hindrance. While transportation was provided, it was still a hassle waiting for a bus or a van and dealing with a crowd of other guests also trying to get where they wanted to go. If I were to stay at a villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge again, I would prefer staying at Jambo House for this reason.
Secondly, Kidani Village’s long, lengthy layout meant that there was quite a distance between the lobby and our villa. The distance often felt even longer after a long day of walking at the parks. Now, we did have the convenience of our car being parked right below us; but when using Disney’s free transportation, we had a hike to contend with.
Even so, I would still recommend Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village to others, just as long as they were aware that they would be more isolated than if they were staying at the Contemporary Resort or the Yacht and Beach Club.
Have you ever stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge? How about in a Deluxe Studio DVC Villa? Do you prefer Jambo House or Kidani Village?