Here’s my detailed Animal Kingdom Lodge review with everything you need to know about this amazing Disney Deluxe resort.
Our family’s favorite place to stay at Walt Disney World is Animal Kingdom Lodge, hands-down.
We’ve stayed here almost 10 times and we keep coming back for the amazing rooms, restaurants, pools, activities, and animals!
I’m sharing everything I know about the resort in this review so you can have the best possible experience.
Overview: What is Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) is a Disney World Deluxe Resort hotel. It is located near Orlando, FL and opened in 2001. What makes is unique is that the hotel is set on an actual 33-acre wildlife preserve!
In 2009, a second property, Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village, opened adjacent to the original Animal Kingdom Lodge. The Lodge was renamed “Jambo House” to differentiate it from the new property. This section only contains Disney Vacation Club villas (more on those soon).
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.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Map
Here is a map that shows Animal Kingdom Lodge in its entirety. You can see the two parts of the resort (Jambo House and Kidani Village), the four savannas, and the location of the pools.
It is about a 10-15 minute walk between the lobbies of the two sections. There is also a shuttle bus that runs back and forth between the two sections if you don’t want to do any additional walking.
You may notice that (particularly at Kidani Village) your room can potentially be a LONG way from the lobby! For this reason, I strongly suggest making a room request whenever you stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge (read all about how to make effective room requests in this post).
Location and Transportation
Animal Kingdom Lodge is located in the southwest corner of the Walt Disney World Resort, close to the Animal Kingdom theme park. It is about a 15-minute drive from AKL to the parking for Magic Kingdom (to give you a sense of distance on this map).
Can you walk from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Animal Kingdom theme park?
Animal Kingdom Lodge is very close to the Animal Kingdom theme park, however, you can’t walk to the park from the hotel. I would love it if they would add a walkway in the future, though!
How do I get to the theme parks from Animal Kingdom Lodge?
The only way to get from Animal Kingdom Lodge to the theme parks is by bus, car, or taxi/Uber.
We love to use the bus service when we stay at AKL. The bus 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. You can expect a 5-10 minute waut for the bus, though sometimes there is no wait and the longest you can wait is 20 minutes.
You can walk to certain theme parks from some other Disney Deluxe Resort. 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, you might consider this a downside to AKL.
However, the tradeoff of being a bit farther from the parks is that you really feel surrounded by nature at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
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.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Rooms
There are two distinct room types at AKL – regular hotel rooms and DVC Villa rooms.
In this section, I’ll explain the differences between these room types, go into more detail about the many room options, and compare costs.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House has a mixture of standard hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas.
A standard hotel room at Jambo House is around 350 square feet and contains two queen beds, or one queen and a set of bunk beds. It has a standard bath with two sinks, a little coffee maker, mini-fridge, table with two chairs, and a balcony.
There are several types of room views which vary in price – Standard View (view of a rooftop or parking area), Pool View, and Savanna View.
The rack rate for Standard View rooms in the fall season (read why that’s my favorite time of year to travel to Disney World here) is $479 (including tax).
However, Disney always has a discount available as long as you book a few months in advance. The discount for Deluxe resorts is usually around 30%, plus if you book on Orbitz you can get an additional 15% off these prices. These are super expensive rooms, in my opinion. Keep reading to learn how to stay at AKL for far less!
Alternatively, there are several different Disney Vacation Club (DVC) villas at Jambo House and Kidani Village. DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare, but you don’t have to be a DVC owner to stay in these rooms.
Studio Villas (which sleep four) are about 375 sq. feet and feature a queen bed and a full-size sleeper sofa. They also feature a small kitchenette with a microwave, sink, toaster, mini fridge and cabinets with some food preparation items.
In other ways, they are similar to the regular resort rooms – including beautiful artwork and the wildlife preserve theme running throughout all of the details of the room.
There are also one, two, and three-bedroom villas AKL Jambo House.
One bedroom villas feature a fully furnished kitchen (including a stove, full refrigerator, dishwasher, etc,) living room with a full-size pull-out couch, dining area, separate bedroom with a king bed, washer and dryer, and bathroom with a huge spa tub and tiled shower area.
Two bedroom villas are 1,175 sq. ft. and have two bathrooms (at Jambo House) or three bathrooms (Kidani Village). They sleep up to 8 people. I have stayed in one of these two bedroom villas at Kidani Village and they are spectacular!
How To Book Rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge
There are four different ways to go about booking rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge:
- Book directly with Disney through their website
- Book through a Disney travel agent
- Book through a third-party site such as Orbitz
- Rent DVC points through an indivual or broker
The first and most obvious choice is to book on the Disney website – but that is actually the worst way to book a stay at AKL!
Booking with a travel agent
If you want to stay at AKL and take advantage of a package with a dining plan, then I strongly suggest booking with an experienced no-fee Disney travel agent. The reason is that a good travel agent will automatically apply any new discounts to your package and save you money on your trip!
When you book with Disney you will have to monitor their discounts and call to ask any new deals to be applied to your package. A travel agent will do this for you and your final amount due will decrease if any new deal is released.
I recommend Destinations in Florida to all of my readers because I think they are the best Disney-focused travel agency out there. You can get a free no-obligation quote for your trip here.
As far as cost goes, I always recommend renting DVC points for stays in these rooms, and in the fall season a standard room would cost between $150 -$180 per night. These rooms have a pool view or partial Savannah view. Rooms that guarantee a full Savannah view will be about $50 more per night.
Booking through a third-party site
If you know that you don’t want to use the Disney Dining Plan (here is a post to help you decide if the Dining Plan a good fit for you), then I suggest booking your stay through a third party travel site to save additional money on your trip.
I always book my stays through Orbitz to take advantage of their promo codes which can save you an additional 10-15% off of Disney’s prices. This savings is on TOP of any Disney-released discount, so the savings can really add up.
Here is a link to my full post on how to book Disney World resorts on Orbitz with promo codes. There is a little extra work involved but the savings of many hundreds of dollars may be worth it to you!
Renting DVC Points
We are able to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge so frequently because we mostly rent DVC points for our trips.
I detail the process for renting DVC points in great detail in this post, so I won’t repeat it here. We have paid as little as $120/night to stay in a room that costs $400/night when booked directly with Disney. I know it seems too good to be true but trust me – you can do this, too! Learn more here.
One important note on staying in the DVC villas at Jambo House: They are very popular and there are far fewer here than at Kidani Village. This means they tend to get booked up quickly, especially during popular times of the year.
I have been unable to book a four-night stay in a Studio Villa at Jambo House seven months prior to our trip because there was no availability. So you must plan WELL in advance of your trip to secure these rooms.
Savannah View Rooms
One question that I am often asked is “Should I spend the extra money on a savanna view room??” That really depends on how much time you will spend in your room and how badly you want to see the animals.
There are many public viewing locations around the resort, so you can check out the animals there. You’ll find rocking chairs with great views of animals that are open to anyone anytime.
That said, there is something magical about watching animals while you drink your morning coffee or an evening cocktail. On average you’ll pay about $150 more per night to have a room with a balcony that opens on to the savanna, so you just have to decide if you are willing to pay that for a guaranteed view of the animals.
If you are going to be spending a lot of time at the theme parks (such as on your first trip) and are trying to keep costs down, I suggest opting for a standard view room. If you plan on spending more time in your room or a full day at the resort, then it would make more sense to upgrade to a savanna view.
My family has mostly stayed in standard view rooms to save money. This allows us to visit more often, which is more important to us!
I have had lots of luck requesting a room with a partial view of the savanna even when I’m only paying for a standard view room. Read about how I manage to see animals from standard rooms by making effective rooms requests here.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Wildlife Viewing
The amenity that makes AKL unique among all other Disney hotels is the savanna, of course! There are actually four different savannahs at AKL, with Kidani and Jambo sharing the main Sunset Savanna.
What animals are at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge?
More than 200 mammals and birds representing almost 40 species live there, and different animals can be found on different savannas.
Our favorite animals to view are the Giraffe, 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.
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 the quality of care for the animals.
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 from Africa and are on a cultural exchange at AKL for a period of time. Here are some animal pictures from the public viewing areas:
You can also use special night vision goggles to view the animals at night during the early evening hours at Arusha Rock.
There is a similar animal viewing area at Kidani Village, complete with Safari Guides, binoculars, and a fire pit.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Pool Areas
The pool areas at both resorts are nothing short of spectacular.
You can use both pools when staying at either Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort property – many people don’t know this and stick with just the pool at their section!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
And to compare with another Disney Deluxe resort, click here for a review of the Swan and Dolphin hotel pool.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Restaurants
I can’t believe I made it this long without writing about the incredible dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Between the two properties, there are four restaurants, two lounges, and the pool bars I already mentioned. In my experience, they are all excellent. Here’s a quick summary:
Sanaa is a table service restaurant at Kidani Village that serves African inspired food with some Indian influence. It’s open for breakfast (fast casual), lunch and dinner (table service). You can use a quick service credit on the Dining Plam for breakfast and table service credits for dinner (learn all about the Disney Dining Plan here).
It has gorgeous design and theming. It’s the only restaurant from which you can view animals while you dine. Sanna has one of the more adventurous menus at Disney World, though you’ll find a standard strip steak and chicken entree. I most recommend the bread service and cheese plate.
Boma – Flavors of Africa
Boma is a buffet at Jambo House that serves breakfast and dinner. It has outstanding quality and selection.
Though the food is African-inspired and you’ll find some dishes you’ve never heard of, the food appeals to a standard American palate. It’s one of my top three restaurants at Disney World and is not to be missed!
Jiko – The Cooking Place
Jiko is a high end (Signature) table service restaurant at Jambo House open for dinner only. It boasts wood-burning ovens, seasonal menus, and the largest selection of South African wines outside of Africa.
While it is pricey, the quality and flavors will knock your socks off. I like to make a meal out the extensive appetizer menu and enjoy a glass of South African wine. Jiko is a special dining experience for sure.
The Mara is the quick service restaurant at Jambo House that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I love that it opens for coffee and pastries at 6 am.
It has great food at reasonable prices (for Disney World). My favorites are the African Stew, Butternut Squash soup, and Zebra Domes for dessert. You can find standard quick-service fare (hamburgers, fries, etc.) right alongside food with some African flair. Special cupcakes unique to AKL for you cupcake aficionados.
You’ll find a lounge at both Jambo House and Kidani Village. Victoria Falls Lounge is found on the second floor of Jambo House, below the lobby and above Boma. It is a great place to grab a drink and relax.
There is also a lounge at Kidani Village, found just inside the entrance to Sanaa. It has some nice cozy seating and is a little tucked away from the bustle of the restaurant. It boasts an impressive wine list featuring African wines.
I think the restaurants at Animal Kindom Lodge are some of the best in all of Disney World. They are not to be missed if you are staying at AKL, and are even worth a trip to the Lodge to eat if you are staying elsewhere!
The resort activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge are so incredible, I’ve written an entire post just about them here!
For a quick summary, you’ll find the following resort activities at AKL every day (most free but some paid):
- Cookie decorating at Boma
- Culinary tour of Jiko & Boma
- African face painting
- Poolside games
- Craft activities in the old Simba’s Clubhouse
- Educational wildlife games
- Talks by cultural ambassadors visiting from Africa
And every night you can roast unlimited free marshmallows at the fire pit in the Arusha Rock area (Jambo House). I think this my daughter’s favorite thing at Disney World, LOL. Read about all of the free resort activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge here.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Review: Lobbies, Gift Shops, & Art
It’s kind of a good thing that pictures don’t do these places justice. There is nothing like experiencing the Jambo House lobby in person for the first time – I remember it literally took my breath away.
The towering ceilings, light fixtures, four-story glass window that looks out onto the savanna… there is truly a majestic feel to the place.
Kidani Village’s lobby is equally gorgeous but scaled down from the Jambo House lobby.
In both lobbies, you’ll find check-in desks, concierge, and Magical Express airline check-in areas (read all about Disney Magical Express in this post).
Jambo House features Zawadi Marketplace, a huge store that functions as both a gift shop and general store. It has everything from sunscreen to t-shirts to basic groceries. You can buy gallons of milk for not much more than you’d pay at home (thank you for not gouging us on milk, Disney) and groceries for making basic meals.
The gift shop at Kidani Village is about one-tenth the size of Jambo House’s, though you’ll still find all of the same basic groceries there. If you are looking for souvenirs, you are way better off walking over to Jambo House.
In the lobby and throughout the resorts you’ll find genuine African art on display. This is another of my favorite parts of visiting these resorts. It is almost like visiting an art museum to boot!
In fact, these resorts hold one of the largest collections of African art in the world outside of Africa. Take some time to notice the artwork when you walk to and from your room and even stroll around the resort to see all that’s there.
I have neglected to mention the outstanding hospitality and service ethic of the Cast Members at these resorts.
We have stayed there many times (seven at the time I write this) and we have only had excellent interactions with folks there. On many occasions, they have gone out of their way to help us out, from soothing a sick kid to changing travel plans.
Animal Kingdom Lodge FAQs
Here are answers to a few more common questions about the resort.
Can you feed the giraffes at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Unfortunately, no, you can’t feed or touch any of the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge. The closest you can get it is to take the Wanyama Safari and Dinner which is offered on select nights. Get more info on this special experience here.
Can you see fireworks from Animal Kingdom Lodge?
No, you aren’t able to see fireworks from any room at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Actually, this a reason that I love it here. At many Deluxe resorts, you are woken up multiple times each night from fireworks noise. I love being able to escape that at AKL!
Are there fitness centers at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Yes, there are fitness centers at both properties. The one at Jambo House is a bit bigger and also contains a spa where you can get a massage and other (very pricey) treatments. Get more info here.
Is there childcare available at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Yes, both hotels offer in-room babysitting services for ages six months through twelve years old starting at $18 per hour. You can get more info from Disney World here.
The child care center (Simba’s Clubhouse) is no longer. There is still a child care center at the Contemporary called the Pixar Play Zone.
Is Animal Kingdom Lodge worth it?
I’m guessing you can figure out my answer to this – ABSOLUTELY YES! Animal Kingdom Lodge is not just my favorite hotel at Disney World, but my favorite hotel in the world. I can’t imagine another place having this combination of unique experiences, amazing cast members, outstanding dining, and gorgeous surroundings.
Do you have any questions about Animal Kingdom Lodge? Please leave a comment below join the discussion in my free private Facebook group for readers called The Budget Mouse!
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