Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review

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Our family’s favorite place to stay at Walt Disney World is Animal Kingdom Lodge, hands-down. There is SO much we love about it, which I will share in detail below. But what first-time visitors usually don’t know is that Animal Kingdom Lodge is actually made up of two distinct properties – Jambo House and Kidani Village.

In this post I’ll compare the two resorts, share the pros and cons of each, and likely overload you with tons of pictures.

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Jambo House Pool

The Basics

Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) opened in 2001 and is located near the Animal Kingdom Theme Park. It is a Deluxe Resort that is set on an actual 33 acre wildlife preserve. It contains both standard resort hotel rooms, as well as Disney Vacation Club rooms. For a quick primer on Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and how to stay in these rooms even if you aren’t a DVC member, check out this post.

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Kidani Village’s Port Cochere

In 2009, a second property, Kidani Village, opened adjacent to the original Animal Kingdom Lodge. The Lodge was renamed “Jambo House” to differentiate it from the new property. Kidani Village contains only DVC villa rooms and has its own lobby, restaurant, and pools.

Both hotels comprise Animal Kingdom Lodge in its entirety, which is regularly listed in the top ten family resorts in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine. In 2011, AKL also earned AAA Four-Diamond status. You will have a fantastic experience at either resort, thanks to Disney’s world-class hospitality and the outstanding amenities. Below I will compare and contrast what you’ll find at Jambo House and Kidani Village so you can decide which might be better for your family.

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Photo Credit: WDWMagic.com

Location & Transportation

AKL is located in the southwest corner of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is very close to the Animal Kingdom theme park, however you can’t walk to the park (though I would love it if they would add a walkway in the future).  The only way to get from AKL to the theme parks is by bus, car, or taxi. The travel times are less than 5 minutes to Animal Kingdom, around 15 minutes to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and about 20 minutes to the Magic Kingdom. This might be a turn off for some, especially if you are used to the 10 minute walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom, or the even-shorter walk from the Boardwalk to Epcot.

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Tropical view from one of our balconies

However, the trade off is that you really feel surrounded by nature at AKL. There is no development around the resort and this helps with the illusion that you really have been transported to a remote African wildlife preserve. The view from any room is of lush foliage or animals, instead of a concrete jungle. Our family would gladly spend a few extra minutes on the bus in exchange for the feeling that we aren’t staying  in Orlando at all. 🙂

In my experience it takes about 10 minutes to walk from the Jambo House lobby to the Kidani Village lobby. The path is marked with signs and easy to find. There is also a shuttle bus that runs back and forth between the two properties if you don’t want to do any additional walking.

Now I’ll compare and contrast the dining and amenities found at both resorts. First of all, guests staying at Jambo House and Kidani Village are allowed to use the amenities at BOTH locations. That gives you a lot of options!

Wildlife Viewing

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The amenity that makes AKL unique among all other Disney hotels is the savanna, of course! There are actually four different savannas at AKL,  with Kidani and Jambo sharing the main Sunset Savanna. More than 200 mammals and birds representing almost 40 species live there, and different animals can be found on different savannas. The savannas are the actual homes of the animals who live there and they are open 24 hours. AKL is even accredited by the American Zoological Association (AZA), which ensures quality of care for the animals. (Source – AllEars.net)

Our favorite animals to view are the Giraffe (found on every savanna), Zebra, Ankole Cattle, Okapi, Flamingos, and African Crowned Cranes. There is an animal viewing guide in every room which you can keep and even carry down to the animal viewing areas with you.

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The main viewing area for animals at Jambo House is called Arusha Rock. It is fun to explore and you can usually find a “Safari Guide” around the area who is happy to answer questions and tell you more about the animals. Most often the guides are native Africans who are on a cultural exchange at AKL for a period of time. Here are some animal pictures from the public viewing areas:

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There is also a fire pit surrounded by rocking chairs in the Arusha Rock area. You can roast complimentary marshmallows and listen to campfire tales from African Cultural Ambassadors (check the Activities Guide you’ll get at check in for the exact time). You can also use special night vision goggles to view the animals at night during the early evening hours at Arusha Rock.

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There are several areas on the second floor of the resort near the lobby where you can view animals, too. They contain rocking chairs and offer views from a little higher up, which is often better for picture taking.

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Walkway to Animal Viewing Area at Kidani Village

There is a similar animal viewing areas at Kidani Village, complete with Safari Guides, binoculars, and a fire pit. Personally, I have always seen more animals at the Kidani Village viewing areas. The animals are a lot closer than at Jambo House and I have seen a wider variety of animals. It seems like the Imagineers learned from Jambo House and years later improved upon the animal viewing experience when they designed Kidani Village.

Pool Areas

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Morning at the Jambo House Pool

The pool areas at both resorts are nothing short of spectacular. Between the two resorts you’ll find two zero-entry pools, three water slides, four hot tubs, two pool bars, three kiddie pools and an interactive water playground. We spend at least a few days just visiting the pools on each of our stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Hot tub at Jambo House

Jambo House features a large zero-entry pool with a 67 foot long water slide. There are two hot tubs around the pool area, one in a bamboo grove and the other right next to an animal viewing area. There is also a (rather uninspired) kiddie pool. You can order drinks from the Uzima Springs poolside bar (I suggest the Safari Amber beer and the Mango Margarita). Towels and kids’ life jackets are provided at the pool. You are allowed to bring your own toys into the pool, as long as they aren’t too big.

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You’ll find a nice playground and a few more animal viewing spots in the Jambo House pool area as well. I’ve seen cast members wiping down the playground equipment with disinfectant each morning. Only at Disney World.

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Kidani Village – Samawati Springs Pool

Kidani Village has a zero-entry pool that is about half the size of the Jambo House pool. However, the main water slide is 128 feet long and really fun! There is also a kiddie-sized water slide that empties into the main pool. Our little one has loved it since age one. You’ll find two nice-sized hot tubs in the pool area as well.

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The large interactive water play area at Kidani Village is called Uwanja Camp and it is really amazing. There are a few shallow kiddie pools, water blasters, buckets that periodically dump water, a playground area and more. I feel like there is something for toddlers through teenagers in this area. Here are a few more pictures:

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Overall, we enjoy both pool areas tremendously, and especially enjoy the ability to go to both pools during our stay. I tend to favor the Kidani Village pool over the Jambo House pool due to the awesome water slide and water play area, especially if you have older kids who will get the most out of these features. But one of my favorite spots in the world is the Jambo House hot tub by the animals, so there’s that. 😉

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