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Animal Kingdom Lodge is on many wish lists of resorts to try at Walt Disney World, and with good reason. This unique hotel offers so much that can’t be found at Disney’s other hotels—including cultural experiences and the famed savanna overlooks. We’ve visited Animal Kingdom Lodge twice since starting this site, and we’re happy to share our experiences in the Savanna View rooms!
The Basics and Booking Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort at Walt Disney World. These are Disney’s best hotels. If you’re considering Animal Kingdom Lodge, you may want to read reviews of the other deluxe resorts. Here are our reviews of all the deluxe resorts (links open in new tabs):
Review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (you are here)
Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually the second lowest-priced deluxe resort at Walt Disney World (beaten by Wilderness Lodge). For 2019, rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge start at $388 (screenshot below is pre-tax), and Savanna View rooms start at $559. When deal season is on, you can get these rooms for closer to $400.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is most known for the Savanna View rooms. While these are some of our favorite rooms on property, we really think they’re “worth it” only in deal season. This is mostly because Animal Kingdom Lodge is itself so beautiful, and you can view the animals as much as you like from public viewing points just outside the lobby.
That said, we also only ever stay in the Savanna View rooms. Basically, we see a sweet spot when you can get a good price on these rooms (or Club Level rooms). If budget is a factor, though, we totally recommend booking a room without a view if it’s the only way you can experience the resort.
Jambo House vs. Kidani Village
Animal Kingdom Lodge comprises two areas—Jambo House and Kidani Village. We’ve only stayed at Jambo House, which is what most people think of and are talking about when they say Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jambo House is both a deluxe resort and home to Disney Vacation Club Villas. Kidani Village is just Disney Vacation Club Villas.
You can book vacation club villas with cash, but you'll pay a huge markup. If you’re interested in a Disney Vacation Club stay as a non-member, we suggest renting from David's Vacation Club.
Kidani is about a ten-minute walk from Jambo House, and really the only reasons to walk over there are (1) to see their Savanna and (2) to visit their restaurant, Sanaa. The rest of this review is about Jambo House exclusively.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Arrival and Check-In
Most recently, we arrived via Uber from our nearby apartment. Most guests will arrive via Disney’s Magical Express shuttle service from Orlando International Airport. There was no line to check in, and our room was already ready at noon! Check-in was smooth, and even though we were guests of the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kilimanjaro Club Level, we went to our room before heading to the lounge (which always has special information at check-in)
This is usually the part of a deluxe review where we tell you “if your room isn’t ready, you can check your bags and easily get to…” but there’s no “easy” transportation from Animal Kingdom Lodge. Regardless, if you check in online or arrive and your room isn’t ready, you can leave your bags with bell services and hop on the bus to your favorite park!
Animal Kingdom Lodge Grounds and Theming
As we said, Animal Kingdom Lodge is broken into two parts, Jambo House and Kidani Village. We’ll be focusing solely on Jambo House in this review.
Jambo House is essentially a large U-shaped building with main “building” (not really a separate building, but you get it) at the bottom, rooms along the wings, and three savannas (west side, middle, east side).
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House lobby is one of the most beautiful spaces in Walt Disney World.
Besides beautiful design, the lobby has small displays of artifacts throughout. Honestly you could devote a substantial-sized blog post solely to the Animal Kingdom Lobby.
The lobby is actually on the third floor of the hotel. It’s hard to put into words, but the setup of the main building is very open and flowing beyond the lobby. A fire pit, the Victoria Falls Lounge (with accompanying water feature), and the two restaurants—Jiko and Boma—are located off the west side of the lobby and down some stairs/ramps on the lower two floors.
The resort is a treat to explore because you seem to get where you’re going without ever knowing how to get there—which I understand makes no sense at all, but really does reflect the “flow” element I was talking about. The “flow” feeling also results from the fact that there is water literally flowing down a rock formation from the third floor lobby to the first floor.
Also adjacent to the lobby are the Zawadi Marketplace store and the Sunset Lounge, a lounge space used for various activities at the resort.
Out the back of the lobby is the main savanna overlook, with viewing of the Arusha Savanna (we’ll discuss these overlooks more below).
From the first floor, you can walk outside to the Uzima Pool, which has a small wading pool nearby. This is also where you’ll find the Uzima Springs Pool Bar.
There’s also a playground and an overlook of the Uzima Savanna.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanna View Room
Both of our Animal Kingdom Lodge stays have been in Savanna View rooms overlooking the Arusha Savanna.
It’s funny how much a few years can change everything. A few years ago we wrote positively about how new the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms felt. Now, they are still in great shape but they are definitely part of the “old generation” of deluxe rooms.
This is most notable in the television.
I know, I know. A television is honestly the last thing you’ll give any attention to with your savanna view, but this piece of furniture is just laughable by today’s room design standards, and the TV is tiny compared even to the ones at the value resorts. That small point made, the room is otherwise nice, albeit dated.
We’ve seen rooms where the wood really struggles over time, but Animal Kingdom Lodge seems to be holding up well. The bathroom was pretty standard and had a good amount of counter space. These sinks might not be as “modern” in design as the ones we just had at Contemporary, but boy was this space 100X as functional.
A lot of people complain about how cramped some of the deluxe hotel bathrooms are, and I actually never had a problem until this visit (admittedly I’m a pretty small person). But I actually opened the bathroom door right onto my foot one night, leaving me some painful scrapes.
There is some nice detailing throughout the room.
I particularly loved the wallpaper in the vanity area, and I wish Disney did more things like this.
Also, they really should have Keurig machines in all deluxe rooms by now. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
There is some sort of ongoing refurbishment at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we have yet to see just how deep it will go. Frankly, while I love the theme, the rooms are pretty out of date.
Our biggest complaint might be the lack of outlets. Bedside outlets are a must these days, and Animal Kingdom Lodge didn’t even have a plug-in USB hub. This will almost certainly be a focus of the ongoing remodel.
The Savanna View
Both stays we’ve had the same amazing savanna view. Our view was aligned pretty much with the savanna overlook behind the hotel, which meant we had a similar, but elevated, view as you'd get from the overlook.
It can be hard for photos to do the view justice. I wouldn’t say the animals feel right at your doorstep, but they don’t feel as far in real life as in the photos.
It was nice to be able to just hang out on the balcony and watch the animals. With views like this (and some other things we'll talk about in a bit), Animal Kingdom Lodge is a great resort to stay at if you're considering a Disney resort day away from the parks.
Recreation at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge has the deepest activity roster of any Walt Disney World resort. You could easily fill a day with activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Several of these are paid, but most of them are free. Rather than list specific examples with banal commentary, we’ll just post the full January 2019 schedule here. You can see that you could pretty much fill 8AM to 9:30PM with activities at the resort.
Animal Kingdom Lodge also maintains the “standard” roster of pool activities and other kid activities, like tie-dye and movies under the stars. Here’s that schedule (also January 2019).
Probably the most well-known aspect of Animal Kingdom Lodge recreation as the savanna overlooks. There are three of these at Jambo House and two at Kidani Village. Sticking with Jambo House, the main savanna overlook is behind the lobby and looks over the Arusha Savanna.
Off the pool area is the Uzima Savanna overlook.
And from a small room off the lobby you can look into the Sunset Savanna (substantial ongoing construction during our last visit made this a bad option.) The overlooks can be hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll have a family of giraffes hanging out right outside the overlook…
…other times everyone will be partying at the back of the overlook.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Restaurants
Animal Kingdom Lodge has, arguably, three of the top five restaurants at Walt Disney World: Jiko, Boma, and Sanaa. Sanaa and Jiko are especially good for vegetarians. Jiko and Boma are located in Jambo House, while Sanaa is a 10-minute walk away in Kidani Village.
Table Service at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jiko is the signature table service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge, requiring two table service credits for those on a Disney dining plans. Both Jiko and Boma are located on floor one of Jambo House. It’s been one of our favorites for years, but the service is often slow.
Boma was our least favorite of the restaurants, but we do seem to be in the minority on this front. We’re vegetarians, so the meat offerings (which looked awesome) didn’t appeal to us. The restaurant was also quite busy and loud—a sign of its popularity, no doubt. Boma is located across from Jiko on floor one of Jambo House.
Sanaa is our favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. In fact, it converted us both into Indian food enthusiasts. Sanaa’s most famous dish is their bread service, which is five breads and 9 dips (or pick three to save money, but don’t do that).
Sanaa is now a fixture of our Walt Disney World vacations. Even when we don't stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge and it's a hassle to get to, it’s worth it. Sanaa is located over in Kidani Village, a short walk from Jambo House.
Quick Service at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House
The Mara is the quick service option at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, serving from 7AM to 11:30PM (sometimes later). While I’ve never liked it, it’s a fine quick service option. In fact, more esteemed reviewers than us consider it one of the best counter service options in Walt Disney World! The full menu is here.
Bars at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House
There are three bars at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House. Most prominent is the Victoria Falls Lounge, located on the second floor between the lobby (third floor) and the restaurants (first floor). The lounge has a fine menu, but the location is iffy. Located between Boma (a buffet) and the lobby, the lounge is very noisy. That said, the flowing water and nearby fire pit are unique, lively features.
We’ve already mentioned the Uzima Springs Pool Bar, which is a standard pool bar. Finally, there is the Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar. Don’t let the fancy name fool you, though, this is just a small bar adjacent to Jiko.
Transportation and Location At Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only deluxe resort without special transportation to a park. You have to take the bus. This is partly why Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the two cheapest deluxe options at Walt Disney World. The other is Wilderness Lodge, which has for special transportation only a (disappointing, in our opinion) boat service.
Bus transport at Walt Disney World is a source of unending complaints from us and others. For the most part, buses run every 20 minutes, and getting the Magic Kingdom (the farthest park) took 18 minutes. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, buses make two stops at Kidani Village and Jambo House. We'd still suggest budgeting a little for Uber, especially if you have a lot to see in a short time.
Shopping at Animal Kingdom Lodge
The store at Animal Kingdom Lodge is the Zawadi Marketplace. It has a standard offering of hotel necessities, Disney gear, and hotel-branded items.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review - Conclusions
Animal Kingdom Lodge is our personal favorite resort at Walt Disney World, and we rank it second among the deluxe resorts in our Walt Disney World hotels guide pretty much solely because Contemporary has the better location.
There are some shortcomings. The bars are not memorable. The rooms are way out of date (though hopefully this changes). But these aren’t anywhere near fatal to the overall experience.
Like Animal Kingdom the park, the Lodge is a noticeably alive place. There is always activity, permeating the resort, be it drummers in Sunset Lounge, animals running around the savanna, or the noise of silverware hitting plates in Boma.
Is this environment for everyone? No. We’ve seen small children yell “CAN THEY KEEP IT DOWN?!” at the noisy lobby. But if you’re willing to expand your horizons a bit, or if you’ve been on the fence for a while, a stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge is a unique (and uniquely) Disney experience.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
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Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
When it comes time to book, we've got you covered with posts on how to book cheap flights, how to get the best deal on your Disney hotel, and where to find discount Disney World tickets. And of course everyone wants to know whether or not they should get a Disney World dining plan!
Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.
Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.