Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a Walt Disney World resort inspired by traditional African savanna lodges and brilliantly themed with the adjacent Animal Kingdom theme park. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our first visit to Disney World in May 2017 and thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience at this deluxe resort.
About the Animal Kingdom Lodge
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll find family-friendly facilities, outstanding cultural activities and animal programs, and rooms overlooking four savannas with over 200 animals and birds.
The resort’s lobby has been designed to capture the look of an African savanna lodge. The Animal Kingdom Lodge has one of the largest collections of African art in the United States, with traditional decor, tapestries and artwork displayed throughout the resort.
Savanna View Rooms
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is arranged in a horseshoe design, with rooms and public areas that overlook the 33 acre wildlife preserve where over 30 species of African species graze and roam about.
It’s worth booking a Savanna View Room to enjoy the view of the animals from your balcony. During our stay, we’d head out to watch giraffes, zebras, cattle, gazelles, cranes and more. Each room has a guidebook to help with identifying the animals and birds.
We stayed in a standard Savanna View Room, which is 344 square feet, with two queen beds. Other options are to have one king size bed, or one queen size bed and a bunk bed.
The room also included a small table with chairs, a flat screen TV, a dresser with three drawers, a small refrigerator, coffee machine and a wardrobe with an iron, ironing board and small safe.
The bathroom has a split design, with the vanity and two sinks outside the small room that consists of a toilet and shower with a bathtub. Complimentary Disney toiletries (shampoo, lotion and shower gel) were provided, but only enough for one person.
Overall, the standard Savanna View Room was a comfortable size for the three of us and we enjoyed our stay, especially the great view watching the animals from our balcony.
My only complaint would be that housekeeping was inconsistent and we were often missing certain items – clean coffee mugs, some towels, new toiletries. We also had two days when we’d return to the room in the late afternoon to find that housekeeping still had not tended to the room, and we ended up having to skip those days.
Disney Resort Benefits
There are more than 25 resorts at Walt Disney World that cater to all budgets, from value to moderate to deluxe, all offering the following benefits for staying on-site;
- Early access to FastPass+ Planning (60 days before arrival, instead of 30 days)
- Extra Magic Hours access to parks, before they open or after they close
- Tailored prepaid Disney dining plans to add to your vacation package
- Complimentary Magic Bands
- Complimentary transportation (includes airport shuttle and services around Walt Disney World)
- Complimentary parking at Disney theme parks, Disney Springs and resort areas
- Delivery of purchases, from the Disney theme parks or Disney Springs, to your hotel gift shop
The Magic Bands are worn as a bracelet and are used to unlock your hotel room, enter theme parks, check in for FastPass+ reservations and charge food and merchandise purchases. I found the Magic Bands very handy throughout the trip especially at the parks.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge has two areas: Jambo House, the original resort and main section, and Kidani Village, a Disney Vacation Club resort. Resort guests can use the facilities, i.e swimming pools and fitness centers, throughout both areas and a shuttle van goes back and forth between the two every 8 minutes.
Uzima Springs Pool, Jambo House
At the center of Jambo House’s recreational area is its main swimming pool, featuring a zero-depth entry point, a 67-foot-long waterslide and nearby beach bar. A small wading pool, perfect for toddlers, is located in an enclosed area to the side, near the restrooms and showers.
Swimming Pool and Water Playground, Kidani Village
For young children, I’d recommend heading next door to Kidani Village for its Samawati Springs Pool and Uwanja Camp water playground. The swimming pool features zero-depth-entry and two waterslides – a small one and a 128-foot one.
Uwanja Camp consists of three zones for children of all ages. Base Camp has a water slide, water cannons and sloshing buckets.
At Departure Zone, water shoots from all directions, leaking from the water tower and spraying from the flowers.
And Observation Station is designed for children 4 and under, with a shallow wading pool, bubbling geysers and a play area. It all makes for a great little water park at the resort that Little T loved!
Hakuna Matata Playground, Jambo House
Back at Jambo House, children will also love the Hakuna Matata playground that overlooks the flamingo pond and savanna.
Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade, Jambo House
The arcade is open from 7am and full of classic arcade games and popular video games. You can use your credit card to receive an arcade card and purchase play points, which start from $1.00 for 50 play points.
Zahanati Massage and Fitness Center, Jambo House
The resort has a fitness center which, though small, has all the basic equipment – cardio machines, some free weights and weight machines – to get a good workout during your stay. There’s a spa that offers a range of massages and facials.
There are a few laundry rooms around the resort that are efficient and easy to use. You select a washer and/or dryer then pay $3 per each load using your credit or debit card (not the Magic Band or cash).
The Kid’s Club at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Simba’s Cubhouse, is open from 4:30pm to midnight, for children aged 3 to 12 years old. It is set up as a supervised free play space with plenty of toys and dolls, coloring and crafting, and TVs with video games for older children. Cultural ambassadors stop by to involve the children in a fun educational activity before dinner.
There isn’t a quiet room for children to rest or sleep, and instead there’s an area with bean bags in front of a TV. Not ideal, however, the resort also offers in-room babysitting services if you’re looking for late night childcare for a young child. We picked Little T up in time to go to bed.
The price is $15 per hour for each child, with a minimum of 2 hours. Children must be potty-trained (no pull-ups). Meals are included and served between 6pm to 8pm, with options including turkey sandwiches, chicken fingers, hamburgers or cheeseburgers, and macaroni and cheese. Snacks include apple slices, yogurt and unsweetened applesauce.
We booked Little T one evening at Simba’s Cubhouse and he really enjoyed it. He loved learning about frogs with the cultural ambassador, using a sticky hand to catch bugs, and did lots of arts and crafts, such as making a cardboard giraffe on wheels. During our visit, there was also an offer of a free hour if you show a dinner receipt from Sanaa, one of the resort’s restaurants.
Animal and Cultural Programs
I was impressed with the resort’s calendar of activities, which included African culture immersion, poolside games, wine tasting, cookie decorating, music sessions and animal programs. At an additional charge, there are even afternoon and nighttime safaris for ages 8 or 10 years and up. (Click on the images below for the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s May 2017 recreation calendar as an example.)
We participated in three activities: helping to prepare food for the savanna birds, learning about the feeding strategies of pelicans and flamingos, and playing musical instruments and participating in the evening “Primal Parade”.
The cultural ambassadors and animal experts were all very informative, friendly and did a fantastic job engaging the guests in each activity. I highly recommend making time to get involved with the many activities on offer at the resort.
Animal Enrichment Activity
The Animal Enrichment activity we participated in involves helping animal experts as they prepare and present interactive objects to the animals and birds on the savanna.
Little T helped the experts prepare a stimulating way for the savanna birds, such as cranes, to catch their food. The children were given trays and bamboo sticks with holes to fill with hay then mealworms. We then watched as an animal expert brought the bamboo sticks and trays into the savanna for the birds to peck at and catch the worms.
Every morning, by the flamingo pond, the animal experts demonstrate the feeding strategies of pelicans and flamingos in a fun, educational activity. Here, the children use combs to represent flamingos that feed by filtering shrimp from the water, while pelicans are represented with pouches to demonstrate how they dip their large beaks into the water to scoop out fish.
Part of the activity also educated about the importance of protecting the environment, and how birds are endangered by pollution when rubbish ends up in the waterways and is accidentally eaten.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge offers several dining options, from award-winning, African fine dining to quick service restaurants serving class American favorites. The highlights for us were the breakfast buffet at Boma and the African cooking with Indian flavors at Sanaa.
Boma – Flavors of Africa
Boma offers family-friendly buffets with a great selection of food from over 50 African countries along with typical American classics. Here’s a look at what was served at the breakfast buffet during our visit;
Selection of muffins, scones and banana bread, along with bagels, breads and croissants
Bread pudding and sticky buns with caramel sauce and pecans
The classic Mickey – and Simba – waffles
Chocolate chip pancakes and plenty of syrup
Selection of cold cuts and cheese, smoked salmon, capers, egg whites, egg yolks and a tray of sliced vegetables
West African plantains (my favorite), roasted potatoes, pork sausages and bacon
Scrambled eggs and biscuits with gravy, in addition to a create your own omelet station
Carving station with meats spit-roasted over a blazing wood fire: roasted turkey breast or ham, with African-spiced corned beef hash
Side dishes such as grilled tomatoes and asparagus, pap (similar to grits) and chakalaka, a tomato stew
We ate very well at Sanaa, which is described as an East African-inspired eatery serving African cooking with Indian flavors.
The Indian-style bread service came highly recommended – it comes with 9 accompaniments that include mango chutney, roasted red pepper hummus, spicy jalapeno-lime pickle and red chile sambal.
The kid’s menu has a good selection – for Little T, we ordered the butter chicken with green beans and rice. The butter chicken was delicious.
I ordered the Berbere braised lamb shank, which was served with hominy mash, scented greens and tandoor vegetables.
Mr. G enjoyed the Braaivleis – South African Braai sample plate which consisted of a trio of grilled meats – lamb and pork – with seasonal vegetables.
Little T’s meal came with a dessert, and he chose the chocolate brownie, which was served on a plate with colored icing and a paintbrush – a nice touch!
I would recommend the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a unique Disney World resort experience with family-friendly facilities, great restaurants and an excellent activity program with fantastic cultural ambassadors. My only complaint would be the occasionally disappointing customer service, particularly at reception (where we first booked into the wrong room – which still had a guest in it) and with housekeeping. Otherwise, we were very pleased with our stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and miss those views watching the giraffes and zebras from the balcony!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Walt Disney World Resort
2901 Osceola Parkway
Orlando, FL 32821
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