Living the Safari Dream: A Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge 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. Find out if it’s right for you in our Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge review.

Savannah Living at Disney World: Animal Kingdom Lodge Theming

Walt Disney World Animal KIngdom Lodge savanna: Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge review.
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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.

Rich woodwork throughout the lobby, combined with a soaring multistory ceiling evoke the spirit of a luxurious African setting. This is certainly no camp tent hidden away on the safari.

However, leaving the extensive extravagance of the lobby for one of the simple hallways, it’s easy to feel like you’ve left the luxurious 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 guests 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.

Today’s non-discounted rack rate for a standard room begins at $469 per night in 2024, topping out at $1,485. Even though current pricing represents a significant increase from the early days, Animal Kingdom Lodge remains one of the most economical of all the Disney World deluxe resorts. The only other deluxe property to compare in pricing is Wilderness Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Jambo House Vs. Kidani Village

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge exterior
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Today, Animal Kingdom Lodge is comprised of the main building—including the magnificent lobby and restaurants—with additional wings supporting Disney Vacation Club rooms. This includes a club level floor offering upgraded amenities.

In addition to Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a separate vacation club property, known as Kidani Village, is located nearby on the same campus. Since both locations share similar theming, it’s easy to roll them both into a single Animal Kingdom Lodge review.

While the lobby at Kidani Village is lacking in the same level of grandeur and detail as the original resort, you certainly know where you are when walking in. African-inspired details and art are everywhere, helping weary travelers to feel at home fast. It’s as if you left the plane, and while traveling the Florida freeways, hit a wormhole straight to the savannah. You’ll even find the same soaring windows in the lobby, with a perfect view of one of the animal sanctuaries beyond.

Both properties have their own pools, but you will find the watering hole at Jambo House much more of an oasis, while Kidani’s offering feels like a typical Disney pool.

Throughout both Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom resorts, 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. However, the best public viewing areas are located at Jambo House, where you’ll find a large patio sitting area off the lobby.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Exploring Guest 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 can feel dark and heavy when compared to other deluxe resorts.

Walls appear to be the same basic painted cinder block construction as you’d find in many budget hotels, but if you look closely, you’ll see it’s a finish more resembling stucco. We’re sure this is by design, intended to bring to life the more rustic feel of the African savanna.

We found the rooms to be small for a deluxe resort, barely able to accommodate the two queen beds. Part of the reason is the oversized bathroom included in each room.

Bathrooms certainly offer more space for your buck than many other Disney deluxe resort but are less functional. While other deluxe resorts, such as Disney’s Beach Club or Boardwalk Inn, 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.

Upgrades in 2020 replaced the carpet with wood-grained laminate flooring, modernizing the appearance and enhancing cleanliness. The African-inspired wallpaper in the bathrooms was also replaced with plainly painted walls in neutral hues. Again, the aim was modernization, though devotees of the resort will always resist even small changes in favor of nostalgia.

If this were all there was to the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom resort rooms, I’d tell you to save your money. AKL 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.

Deluxe resort rooftop and parking lot views may not come any cheaper than at Animal Kingdom Lodge, 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.

Staying in a Savannah View Room at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

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.

Since the Arusha Savannah is located right off the main lobby at Jambo House, it’s far more visible to guests visiting the resort for dinner or tours. As such, we found it always lively with animals, whether day or night. If you’re going to pay extra for a savannah view room—and we do think it’s worth the upgrade cost—seek a room at Jambo House, where you will be more likely to overlook the Arusha savannah.

Staying in a Pool-View Room at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge

Pool-view rooms make up the final class of accommodations at the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge. Overlooking the resort’s 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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Rooms at 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 offer a bedroom with king bed, with a separate living area featuring a pull-out sofa bed. A full-size kitchen comes standard as part of the booking.

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

One of the biggest amenities of the villas 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. Dinner guests particularly enjoy the bread, featuring five different options with nine dips.

If you’re looking to grab a bite on the run, The Mara located at Jambo House is your best option. For vegetarians, Jiko and Sanaa have been most often ranked as the best choices.

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.

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: 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.

The limited transportation options, combined with the distance of Animal Kingdom Lodge from other parks, such as Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, have led to some less than complimentary scores when ranking transportation options. For instance, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge offers similar nightly room rates, but its closer location to Magic Kingdom allows for boat transportation to this park.

Despite the transportation limitations at Animal Kingdom Lodge, most guests (ourselves included) do agree that bus service restrictions do not attract from the overall guest experience, especially when other paid options are available. While many Disney Animal Kingdom reviews score the hotel low marks for transportation, the same also score it high for overall experience.

As for us, we found it easy to skirt the transportation limitations by taking advantage of public ride-sharing services from the Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge to any of the parks or offsite. Fortunately, the lower room prices at Animal Kingdom Lodge, compared to other deluxe resorts, allow rideshare services to fit more easily into guests’ budgets.

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 was also available and offered the best way to reach the Magic Kingdom. However, expect to double, and sometimes triple the cost of Uber or Lyft when using this exclusive Disney service. Morning availability may also be spotty, since many guests now reserve a ride ahead of time.

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

A few things to note. You can drive a car to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it is free to park in this Animal Kingdom hotel. Guests at Disney World resorts may also park free at any Disney park during the length of their stay.

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. For this reason, we splurge on the Disney Minnie Van service if we aren’t taking the bus to Magic Kingdom.

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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 for animal lovers to beat the atmosphere. The lively aenvironment is another draw, with eco-friendly classes on offer, and African drumbeats echoing across the resort.

However, the rooms are small and can feel dim given the abundance of dark wood used in the furnishings and the overall color palette. Other reviewers have also noted that the bars and lounges feel uninspired. Since we rarely have time to visit these areas during a Disney vacation, we will have to take their word for it.

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 from Kidani Village or the farther reaches of Jambo House.

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.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: What to Know Before You Go

Before making your final decision to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge or to pass it by, here are some additional tidbits of information that may enhance your decision making.

Guest Perks Available at Animal Kingdom Lodge

As with all Disney World resorts, guests of Animal Kingdom Lodge have access to Early Theme Park Entry, permitting each person in your room to enter one Disney World park per day at least a half hour before published opening.

Since Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort, guests will also have access to Extended Theme Park hours. This perk allows guests of deluxe resorts and DVC villas to attend one park per week after hours. Typically, these parks include Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. However, during Halloween or Christmas, when Magic Kingdom hosts after hours parties, you may see extended hours at other parks.

Is Animal Kingdom Lodge a Good Resort for Children?

No Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge review would be complete without considering the resort’s suitability for children and families. We found this resort to be an excellent Disney hotel for both.

Animal lovers in particular will enjoy the opportunity to see exotic animal species from their room or other public viewing areas, but there is more to Animal Kingdom Lodge than views. Animal keepers are often onsite to answer questions and provide insight on the animals you see. Children can also take advantage of games and other activities that teach about the animals and conservation through fun engagement.

While many of the enrichment activities are free for resort guests, you’ll also find additional tours available for a fee. The Starlight Safari is open to all guests at Disney World but departs directly from Animal Kingdom Lodge, for a nighttime adventure beneath the stars. Night visition goggles are provided, so you’ll be able to spot some of the 30 species out on the savannah. Best of all, you’ll be alone with your tour group and have the best chance of spotting the animals just being themselves as they embark on their nightly activities.

Evening campfires on the patio overlooking the savannah are also a special treat, particularly when you’re joined by a cast member sharing vibrant stories about African wildlife. Overall, Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the most rich and immersive experiences for children and families of all Disney resorts, making it a top choice for many.

While much of the theming details may pass by children, adults will appreciate the details, and the soaring grandeur of the public spaces at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney Animal Kingdom Resort Address

If you’re driving to Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can find the resort at the following address:

2901 Osceola Parkway

Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830-8410

(407) 938-3000

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Our Final Say

While we found the rooms to be on the smaller and dimmer side, the overall ambiance and array of amenities compensated for any perceived limitations. Notably, the impressive selection of dining options, including culinary gems like Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa, which offer a diverse and flavorful menu, make this resort a destination, instead of just a place to lay your head for the night. When combined with the unparalleled animal viewing opportunities, grandeur of the resort public spaces and the many enrichment activities, Animal Kingdom Lodge emerges as a solid hotel choice for adults seeking a one-of-a-kind stay that seamlessly blends luxury, wildlife, and exceptional dining experiences into a memorable Disney World visit.

Families will appreciate the value price point, when compared to other deluxe resorts, and the chance to watch animals living their life carefree across the different savannahs.

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Pictures

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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


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 daughters. Kathleen has been a professional writer for more than a decade, helping businesses craft compelling content to advance organizational goals.

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