Living the Safari Dream: A Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review

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The Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most unique of Disney’s upper-tier deluxe resorts. The vast property of thatch-roofed buildings is neatly gathered across the space of 3 savannas, which are home to more than 200 hoofed and feathered African animal species.

If you’re dreaming of taking an African Savannah but want to stay a little closer to home, Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World may help fulfill some of your safari day dreams.

Savannah Living at Disney World

Walt Disney World Animal KIngdom Lodge savanna
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The Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge provides one of the most immersive hotel guest experiences on all of Disney World property. Rich theming begins as soon as you enter the lobby, where floor to ceiling windows provide a view of the savannah, and intricately carved woodwork brings the feel of Africa to this Florida vacation paradise.

However, leaving the extensive extravagance of the lobby for one of the simple hallways, it’s easy to feel like you’ve left the extravagant guest amenities behind. Maybe the effect is by choice. After all, African safaris can be simple affairs, conducted in tents, with days spent in open air vehicles, hoping to spot the elusive African mammal.

In that respect, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge propels guest several light years, but there is no escaping the fact that the resort was initially built to create a more affordable tier in the deluxe ranking. In fact, in the early post-911 years, it wasn’t uncommon to see rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge advertised for as low as $129 a night, while sister properties were at least twice that.

At the time, Animal Kingdom Lodge consisted of Jambo House, what is now the main building at the resort. At $129 a night you had to feel that you were getting a steal, but these days, the sprawling hotel does detract from some of the grandeur of the resort’s simpler days.

Today, Animal Kingdom Lodge is comprised of the main building with additional wings supporting Disney Vacation Club rooms, including a club level floor offering upgraded amenities. A separate vacation club property, known as Kidani Village, is located nearby on the same campus. Both locations share similar theming, though the lobby at Kidani Village is lacking in the grandeur and level of detail as the original resort.

Throughout Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll find ample viewing areas to catch a glimpse of one of the resort’s savannas, several with sitting areas to relax and watch the animals as they enjoy their home. There is also a large patio sitting area off the lobby at the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom resort.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Rooms

Standard room at Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge
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Whether you’re staying at Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House or Kidani Village, you’ll find the rooms are themed in much the same style. Some have described the intricate carving on the headboards and the deep savannah tones as African-inspired, and while this may be true, rooms here are not on the same scale as other deluxe resorts. Walls appear to be the same basic painted cinder block construction as you’d find in many budget hotels, and rooms are small and cramped for a deluxe, barely able to accommodate the two queen beds.

Rooms with one queen and a bunk bed will provide a slightly more spacious feel, but the aesthetic is cheapened by the lack of integrated theming. Bunk beds appear more at home to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge than the savannah inspired state of the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Bathrooms do tend to make up for some of the lost grandeur in the sleeping area and certainly offer more space for your buck. While many deluxe resorts separate the sink and shower-toilet areas, dual sinks in stone counters are paired with the shower at Animal Kingdom, making it harder for families to get ready. When it comes to amenities, you’ll find the standard H2O toiletries in ample supply.

If this were all there was to the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom resort, I’d tell you to save your money. AK is no longer priced as a budget hotel, and rack rates run akin to other deluxe resorts. And it’s certainly what I’d tell you if you are thinking about staying in a standard view room.

Rooftop and parking lot views may not come any cheaper than at Animal Kingdom, but there is always the feel of being left out, knowing that your neighbor across the hall is likely oohing and aahing at exotic animal species right off their balcony.

Savannah view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are where it’s at and well worth the upgrade in cost if you plan to spend any amount of time in your quarters. While the resort in its entirety offers 3 separate 10-acre savannahs, most views from the Walt Disney World Jambo House will center on the Arusha savannah, where giraffes, zebras and multiple other species have been known to frolic and play. Other rooms may face either the Uzima Savanna or the Sunset Savanna.

While it is rumored that giraffes frequent all three of the savannas, during our stay overlooking the Sunset Savanna, we saw little more than several species of birds, and the occasional Okapi. However, since these animals didn’t enter the savanna until late afternoon, we rarely saw them in daylight.

Pool-view rooms make up the final class of accommodations at the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge. Overlooking the resorts richly extravagant splashing grounds, you’re bound to feel transported to an oasis far from the dry and dusty savanna. Pool-view rooms are less costly than those with animal views, but will make a bigger dent in your wallet than standard view rooms. It’s a nice middle ground if you’ve always dreamed of taking an African safari, but can’t quite swing the upper view.

Rooms at Jambo House come in multiple sizes. While standard guest rooms offer two queen beds, it is possible to step up into a one- or two-bedroom suite by reserving one of the Disney Vacation Club rooms located on the property. Keep reading below for more on Disney Vacation Club resorts.


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Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village

Kidani Village at the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge was opened in 2009 as yet another of the ubiquitous Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts. If you aren’t familiar with the term, DVC resorts make up a unique tier on the Disney World resorts list, offering the same amenities as the deluxe resorts with a slightly homier feel.

The Disney Vacation Club allows members to buy a share in one of the DVC resort properties. These are purchased as points which can be redeemed for stays in a vacation club resort.

Often, leftover rooms at the DVC resorts can be reserved by regular Disney World guests. This is the case at Kidani Village.

Rooms at Kidani Village offer multiple levels of space and amenities. Studio rooms are the smallest of the bunch, barely able to squeeze in the queen size bed and similarly sized sofa bed. In contrast to other DVC studio resort rooms, Kidani village does not offer a day bed, meaning rooms here are limited to four guests.

However, rooms do provide a kitchenette with sink and microwave for heating meals and eating in-room. The central store in the main lobby for Kidani Village even provides several frozen entrees if you feel inclined to take advantage of this option.

For those needing more space, you can opt for a one-bedroom villa. One-bedroom villas at all Disney World Animal Kingdom villas offer a bedroom with king bed, with a separate living area featuring a pull-out sofa bed.

Larger rooms are also available, including two- and three-bedroom units. Two- and three-bedroom units offer an additional bathroom, making it easier for large parties to get ready for the day.

One of the biggest amenities of the larger rooms at Kidani Village or Jambo House is the addition of a full-size kitchen, complete with refrigerator or stove. Depending on your eating habits and the number of people in your party, the ability to cook your own meals could be enough of a boost to your Disney World budget to nearly compensate for the extra cost of these rooms.

All rooms in Kidani Village feature many of the same amenities as the rooms in Jambo House, complete with H2O toiletries. However, DVC rooms at both Kidani and Jambo do not provide daily housekeeping service.

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants

Boma Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge
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Some of the best restaurants featured on all of the Disney World property are housed at the Animal Kingdom Resorts. Boma features African-inspired fare in an all-you-care-to-eat buffet. Dinner offers freshly carved meats and other entrée dishes paired with uniquely seasoned sides.

Breakfast at Boma serves up your typical egg dishes but also provides a healthy dose of the unusual, making a morning meal at Boma an experience in and of itself. If you’ve ever enjoyed a character meal at Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom park, you’ll be excited to find that Jungle Juice is also available at Boma and the tap runs freely.

Jiko the Cooking Place runs rife with delights for omnivores and herbivores alike, featuring a seasonally changing menu cooked over a fire-brick oven. The atmosphere is relaxing as you sip wine and watch chefs prepare your meal in the open show kitchen. Just a word to the wise, however. Jiko is a signature restaurant, so dressier attire is required. According to Disney, that means:

Men must wear khakis, slacks or dress shorts and collared shirts. Jeans may be worn if in good condition. Sport coats are optional.

Women must wear Capri pants, skirts, dresses or dress shorts. Jeans may be worn if in good condition.

The final notable entry on the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant list is Sanaa. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this delightful but small eatery offers a view directly onto the Arusha savanna. While we enjoyed our breakfast there, we were joined by a crowned crane dancing and bobbing at us through the window.

Food at Sanaa is unique to the American tastebuds, mimicking the African, Indian and Mediterranean inspiration of Boma, only on a smaller scale. You’ll find the space small but intimate and far quieter than the larger restaurant over in the main lodge.  

If you’re looking to grab a bite on the run, The Mara located at Jambo House is your best option.

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Pools

When it comes to pools at Disney World, it’s hard to beat the deluxe resorts, and the watering hole at Jambo House is no exception. Featuring a zero-depth entry, it’s a refreshing spot for waders and younger children, but a good-sized waterslide zig-zagging through tropical-themed foliage provides a bit of adventure for those seeking a greater thrill.

The best part about swimming at Jambo House is how naturally the pool blends into its surroundings. You feel as if a long and dry dessert trek across the savanna has led you to a beautiful oasis, and any respite here is well worth it.

Another pool is located near Kidani Village for guests stayingt here. Though it is smaller and awkwardly situated near the main parking area, once you enter the gates, you’ll forget the world outside your little oasis exists.



Transportation Options at Animal Kingdom

Disney World’s complimentary transportation service is available to whisk you from your hotel to any of the Disney theme or water parks, as well as the Disney Springs area. Given the extensive distance of AKL from most of the parks, transportation anywhere is provided by Disney buses.

You can also take advantage of public ride-sharing services to get you from the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge to any of the parks or to take a trip offsite. While Lyft is the official provider for Disney World, you can hail an Uber if you prefer.

We used Lyft extensively during our stay at Kidani Village and rarely waited more than 5 minutes for a car to arrive, despite the fact that the resort is at the far edge of Disney World property.

Minnie Van service (suspended during COVID) was also available.

For a complete review on all of the options available from Animal Kingdom Lodge, read our comparison of Disney World transportation options.

A few things to note. While you can drive a car to Animal Kingdom Lodge, you will be charged a hefty fee for each night you park in the Animal Kingdom hotel. Also, if you take an Uber or Lyft to the Magic Kingdom, expect to be dropped off at the Transportation Ticket Center (TTC). Non-Disney vehicles are not allowed in the pick up or drop-off section of the Magic Kingdom, so you’ll need to hop on the monorail or steamboat from the TTC.

Overall Impressions of Animal Kingdom Lodge

Windows overlooking savanna at Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge
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The Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge certainly has its devotees, and with savanna views, it is hard to beat the environment for animal lovers. However, the rooms are small and can feel dim given the abundance of dark wood used in the furnishings and the overall color palette.

You’ll also log a lot of steps with a stay at AKL. Rooms are spread out, and with only one central bus stop for each of the lodging areas (Jambo and Kidani), you’re likely to walk a fair distance to and from your rooms to visit the parks.

Quick-service or to-go food is also lacking at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but particularly Kidani Village. While take-out breakfast can be ordered from Sanaa, preparing the meals takes quite a bit of time, so it isn’t an option for those wanting to grab a bite on the way to the bus stop. If you’re looking for something fast, you’ll have to walk over to The Mara at Jambo House. For most, that’s a five-minute stroll.

Once you get past the drawbacks, however, Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge has a lot to offer with richly themed public spaces and multiple animal viewing opportunities. If you do decide to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, we recommend reserving a room in Jambo House where you are closer to the main pool and a better selection of restaurants.

To find the best savanna view rooms, you can view the Walt Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge resort map below. If you have a subscription with Touring Plans, you can also utilize their room finder tool to view actual room views. They will also take care of faxing your room request directly to the resort.


More about Disney World Animal Kingdom


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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.
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