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Animal Kingdom Lodge Ultimate Guide

Here’s my detailed guide to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge pool, dining, rooms, wildlife, and more!

Animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

Our family’s favorite place to stay at Walt Disney World is Animal Kingdom Lodge, hands-down.

We’ve stayed here over 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. 

What is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Sign

Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) is a Disney World Deluxe Resort hotel. It is located near Orlando, FL, and opened in 2001.

What makes it 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. This section only contains Disney Vacation Club villas (more on those soon).

The Lodge was renamed “Jambo House” to differentiate it from the new property. 

Kidani Village

Kidani Village

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.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Map

Animal Kingdom Lodge Map

Here is a map that shows the layout of Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can see the two parts of the resort (Jambo House and Kidani Village), the four savannas, and the location of the pools. 

rent disney vacation club points here

It is about a 10-minute walk between the lobbies of the two sections. There is a shuttle bus that runs back and forth between the two sections if you don’t want to do any additional walking.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Rooms

There are two distinct room types at AKL – regular hotel rooms and DVC Villa rooms.

Jambo House Bunkbed Room

Jambo House Bunkbed Room – Photo Credit Disneyworld.com

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House has a mixture of standard hotel rooms and Disney Vacation Club villas.

There are several room categories such as Standard View, Pool View, and Savanna View.

The 2024 rack rate at AKL is around $500 per night – but please don’t pay that much to stay here!

Keep reading to learn how to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge for far less.

Room interior at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Alternatively, there are several different Disney Vacation Club (DVC) villas at Jambo House and Kidani Village.

We have paid as little as $150/night to stay in these rooms which cost $500/night when booked directly with Disney.

DVC is Disney’s vacation ownership program,  but you don’t have to be a DVC owner to stay in these rooms. 

giraffe at animal kingdom lodge

We can stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge so frequently because we 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.

I know it seems too good to be true but trust me – you can do this, too! 

Kidani Village Studio Villa

Kidani Village Studio Villa

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.

Spa Tub and Shower in a One Bedroom Villa

One-Bedroom Villa

Living/Dining Room Area in a Two Bedroom Villa

Living/Dining Room Area in a Two Bedroom Villa

There are also one, two, and three-bedroom villas AKL Jambo House.

If you want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge for far less than you’ll pay when booking directly with Disney, be sure to check out this post about renting DVC points for your Disney World vacation. 

Animal Kingdom Lodge Pools

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge pool at Jambo House

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Pool

The Animal Kingdom Lodge pool is nothing short of spectacular.

You can use the pools at both resorts 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 day just visiting the pools on each of our stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

animal kingdom lodge pool

Morning at the Jambo House Pool

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).

Animal Kingdom pool area hot tub at Jambo House

Hot tub at Jambo House

Towels and kids’ life jackets are provided at the Animal Kingdom lodge pools.

You are allowed to bring your own toys into the pool, as long as they aren’t too big.

playground near animal kingdom lodge pool

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.

animal kingdom lodge pool Kidani Village - Samawati Springs

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.

interactive water area at the animal kingdom lodge pool

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 of the Animal Kingdom lodge pool areas:

interactive water area at animal kingdom lodge pool
play ground and splashpad near animal kingdom lodge pool
little girl playing in the rock waterfall area

Overall, we enjoy both Animal Kingdom Lodge pool areas tremendously and especially enjoy the ability to go to both pools during our stay.

And to compare with another Disney Deluxe resort, click here for a review of the Swan and Dolphin hotel pool

Location and Transportation

map showing disney locations

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 wait 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.

view of animal kingdom resort from room balcony

Tropical view from one of our balconies

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.

My 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. 🙂 

Animal Kingdom Lodge Wildlife Viewing

animals at animal kingdom lodge

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.

giraffes at animal kingdom lodge

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:

animal at animal kingdom lodge

zebra at animal kingdom lodge

animals at animal kingdom lodge

You can also use special night vision goggles to view the animals at night during the early evening hours at Arusha Rock.

Walkway to Animal Viewing Area at Kidani Village

Walkway to Animal Viewing Area at Kidani Village

There is a similar animal viewing area 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.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants

Sanaa Restaurant booth at Kidani Village

Sanaa at Kidani Village

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:

Famous bread service at Sanaa

Famous bread service at Sanaa

Sanaa

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). 

It has gorgeous design and theming. It’s the only restaurant from which you can view animals while you dine.

Sanaa 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.

The famous Boma Zebra Domes at Sanaa

The famous Boma Zebra Domes

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!

Appetizer at Jiko

Appetizer at Jiko

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.

Cupcakes at The Mara

Cupcakes at The Mara

The Mara

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.

 

Victoria Falls Lounge at Jambo House

Victoria Falls Lounge at Jambo House

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!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Activities

Recreation Calendar for animal kingdom lodge

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):

face painting

  • 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

little girl roasting a marshmellow

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 Lobbies, Gift Shops, & Art

Jambo House Lobby

Jambo House Lobby

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 Lobby

Kidani Village Lobby

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).

Animal Kingdom resort lobby

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.

african art display

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!

african art on display

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.

This is one area where Disney excels and something that keeps us coming back year after year.

Savannah View Rooms

giraffes at animal kingdom lodge

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.

A public savanna viewing area at Kidani Village

A public savanna viewing area at Kidani Village

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 onto 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. 

view from balcony

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

So it is really up to your family if it would be worth the extra cost for a guaranteed full savanna view, or if you’d rather use that money on some other part of your vacation.

Animal Kingdom Lodge FAQs

Here are answers to a few more common questions about the resort. 

Can you feed the giraffes?

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 the fireworks?

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 the resort?

resort gym

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? 

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.

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). 

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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Jambo House vs. Kidani Village: Where To Stay At Animal Kingdom Lodge - The Frugal South

Friday 22nd of February 2019

[…] In this post, I’ll share the differences between the two hotels and the pros and cons of each to help you decide where to stay. If you want a thorough review of Animal Kingdom Lodge, check out this post.  […]

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