Our Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review + Guide

Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is such a unique Disney experience! I mean, imagine waking up and walking out to your balcony to find a giraffe or a zebra! Here’s our full Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review + a guide to help you understand the ins-and-outs of this Disney World resort!

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge At-a-Glance

Resort Category: Deluxe and Deluxe Villas
Date Opened: April 16, 2001
Rooms Last Renovated: 2020-2021

Number of Buildings: 2 (Jambo House and Kidani Village)
Number of Rooms: 1300+
Number of Pools: 2

Disney Transportation: Disney buses

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Back of Jambo House
Back of Jambo House

Booking Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a Deluxe Disney Resort, so booking it will cost you a lot more than a stay at a Value Resort like Pop Century.

I definitely have a few tips to help with booking though:

Savanna View rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are the most in-demand rooms, but they are also the priciest. Booking a Savanna View room can easily cost you hundreds more a night.

However, there are a few tricks to up your chances of getting a Savanna View even if you book a standard room. There are several rooms in each building that face the savanna but are technically classified as Standard Rooms because there is some kind of obstruction that prevents Disney from classifying them as Savanna.

For instance, during our stay, we had a Standard View room that looked out over the savanna but had a large corral in front of it. (Fun fact: these are actually evacuation corrals for people in case they need to evacuate in an emergency!) And it didn’t bother us one bit.

To find these standard rooms, you can use Touring Plans room finder. You can then put in a room request. My recommendation is to request a standard room in the Kudu Trail building, since pretty much all of these rooms face a savanna in some way.

Remember, requesting a room is NOT a guarantee that you will get the room you want! But also remember that if a room becomes available during your stay, you can switch rooms. When we arrived for our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, our room faced the parking lot. The next day though, we were able to move to a room in the Kudu Trail.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby & Check-In

The lobby of Jambo House in Animal Kingdom Lodge is absolutely GORGEOUS. The theming is beautiful and there’s a huge window overlooking the savanna and seating area. Definitely spend some time here.

Outside there is a large savanna overlook where you can enjoy watching the animals.

The check-in desk is to the left when you enter the lobby. However, if you check into the resort using the My Disney Experience app, you won’t need to visit the check-in desk unless you need to change something about your reservation or make a request.

You’ll also find bell services near the check-in desk, where you can store your luggage if needed, or pick up strollers or wheelchairs you may have rented from third-party companies.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

Animal Kingdom Lodge Location & Layout

Animal Kingdom Lodge is comprised to two HUGE buildings: Jambo House and Kidani Village. There are savannas surrounding both buildings.

Depending on where in each building you are staying, you may have to walk A LOT to get from the lobby to your room.

Jambo House vs. Kidani Village

So what’s the difference between Jambo House and Kidani Village?

Jambo House is mostly made up of standard resort rooms, while Kidani Village is mostly made of DVC rooms and villas (including villas with 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms).

Jambo House is also the main lobby you will see pictures of and has more dining and shopping options. Kidani Village has one main Table Service restaurant and a much smaller (but still beautiful) lobby.

You can visit both parts of the resort no matter which one you are staying in. There is a small bus at the front of each lobby that will take you back and forth from Jambo House to Kidani Village. (Although, it didn’t seem particularly Disney themed, which I thought was odd. But it works!)

Animal Kingdom Lodge Theming

I love a good resort theme, and the theming at Animal Kingdom Lodge is just incredible. Because it’s styled after a safari lodge, it’s full of African patterns, warm woods, and reds and browns and yellows meant to invoke the savanna.

Be sure to look at all the details when you visit, from the light fixtures to the flooring. Everything has been so perfectly thought out.

And be sure to take a look at the artwork around the lobby and displays throughout the hallways, which gives context and history for various regions of Africa and traditions of certain African tribes. They really have embraced being both beautiful and educational at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Rooms

The rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge are so spacious and clean. They were redone during 2020 and 2021, getting rid of the carpet and some of the more dated looks, adding wooden headboards instead of mosquito nets, and updating the furniture.

The rooms now are so clean and beautiful and I absolutely loved our stay here. The beds were comfortable and rooms had plenty of space. Standard rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodges are 344 square feet (this is about 80 more square feet than some of the Value Resorts!).

Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanna View Room Beds

There’s plenty of storage in the room, with both a dresser under the TV and a closet near the front door. There’s also a counter with a coffee maker and drink fridge. The coffee station is Lion King themed, but I think it’s done in a really nice and classy way with just a landscape picture of the sunrise. (But you know it’s from The Lion King.)

The bathroom is also clean and beautiful. And it had deluxe touches like double sinks and thoughtful lighting. And of course, you get those favorite Disney H2O shower and bath products.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Bathroom

As I’m typing up this review, I really am trying to think of something less-than-stellar to point out, because I always like to go through the pros and cons. But I really had no complaints about this room!

Everything felt deluxe, even down to the room’s lighting. I loved our whole stay here!

Savanna Rooms vs. Standard View Rooms

We’ve already talked about this earlier when discussing booking this resort. But if you are planning a stay here, it’s is absolutely 100% worth it to get a room with a Savanna View. At least if it’s your first time here!

There is nothing like waking up and sitting on your balcony to see what animals are out. And I will never forgot getting back from the park one night and walking outside to see a giraffe hanging out under a full moon outside our window.

(One thing to note: Some people think that animals can come close to their rooms. They cannot! There are barriers set up to prevent them from getting too close to the buildings.)

While you can take a chance like we did and book a Standard Room and request a partial Savanna View, there are no guarantees that it will work out for you. And you should count it more as a lucky break than as something you expect. If you book a Standard View, you could also end up with a view of the parking lot.

(Again, one great way to get that Savanna Room with a lower price is through David’s Vacation Club Rentals!)

Our obstructed Standard Room with savanna view
Our obstructed Standard Room with savanna view (zoomed in)

Animal Kingdom Lodge Dining & Restaurants

Animal Kingdom Lodge has some absolutely fantastic dining options. We’ve got a whole breakdown of the Animal Kingdom Lodge dining here. But here’s a short and sweet summary.

Table Service Restaurants

There restaurants are truly fantastic experiences. We ate at all of them during our stay and loved our meals at every single one.

  • Boma — Flavors of Africa. Buffet restaurant open for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is more traditional American while dinner has more African dishes.
  • Jiko — The Cooking Place. Fine dining with African, Indian, and Mediterranean dishes. Jiko is only open for dinner, and be aware that they do have a dress code.
  • Sanaa — The Table Service restaurant located at Kidani Village. This is an Indian restaurant and DO NOT miss their bread service. They’re open for lunch and dinner, and for breakfast they are open as a Quick Service restaurant (which is helpful for the people staying at Kidani Village since they don’t have another Quick Service spot).
Fish at Sanaa
Fish at Sanaa

Quick Service Restaurants

The Quick Service options at Animal Kingdom Lodge are somewhat limited. But remember that if you are staying Kidani Village, Sanaa operates as Quick Service for breakfast.

  • The Mara — Counter Service restaurant located near the Uzima Springs pool in Jambo House. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bars and Lounges

Since this is a Deluxe Resort, there are several bars and lounges where you can get drinks and some food options.

  • Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar — Small bar at the front of Jiko.
  • Victoria Falls Lounge — The main bar in Jambo House. It’s located above Boma, but because of it’s open design it can get pretty noisy in here at certain times of the day.
  • Uzima Springs Pool Bar — The poolside bar at the Uzima Springs pool at Jambo House.
  • Sanaa Lounge — The bar at Sanaa in Kidani Village. You can get the bread service here without having to have a full meal and reservation at the restaurant!
  • Maji Pool Bar — The poolside bar at the Samawati Springs pool at Kidani Village.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Pools & Amenities

Since AKL is a Deluxe Resort, you’re going to find more deluxe amenities here, including a spa and fitness center. Plus the pools have waterslides! (Only Deluxe and Moderate Resorts at Disney World have water slides…Value Resorts to not.)

Pools at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Uzima Springs Pool
Uzima Springs Pool

There are two pools at Animal Kingdom Lodge. One is located at each building.

You’ll find the Uzima Springs Pool at Jambo House. It’s located downstairs from the lobby, and it features a waterslide and a zero-entry point. There’s also a small wading pool and a spa pool in the area. And there is an observation area nearby where you can watch the animals on the savanna.

At Kidani Village you’ll find the Samawati Springs pool. This pool is smaller than the Uzima Springs pool, but it has a larger water slide and a splash pad area for younger kids called Uwanja Camp. There are also two spa pools and a savanna overlook.

Hakuna Matata Playground

Hakuna Matata Playground

Near the Uzima Springs pool at Jambo House, you’ll find the Hakuna Matata Playground. It’s a small playground with slides and areas to climb and is for children ages 2-5.

It’s also right next to the savanna overlook, which is pretty cool!

Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade

Also near the Uzima Springs pool and right next door to The Mara is Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade. Here you’ll find video arcade games, air hockey, pinball, and other similar games.

You will have to purchase game card to be able to play. But these game cards work at ANY Disney World Resort arcade, so hang on to them if you have money left on them.

Recreation and Activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge

There are always TONS of activities going on at Animal Kingdom Lodge! Besides the normal Campfires and Movies Under the Stars that are offered at most Disney resorts, you’ll also find activities specific to the theme of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

There are often art classes offered around the resort, from painting to tie-dye to African-themed crafts.

Animal Kingdom also has a special program called String of Memories. For this, you can visit African Cultural Representatives around the resort and collect beads. There are different talks offered on different days, ranging on topics like Animal Tracking to African Wonders to Animal Enrichment. You’ll find the times posted on the recreation activity signs in the lobbies of the resort.

Both Jambo House and Kidani Village have family activity centers too, where you’ll find games and crafts. At Jambo House, this is Simba’s Activity Center and at Kidani Village it’s called Community Hall.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Shopping

Both Jambo House and Kidani Village have their own gift shops.

Zawadi Marketplace is the main store for the resort. It’s located in Jambo House, and it’s significantly bigger than the shop at Kidani Village.

Display at Zawadi Marketplace
Zawadi Marketplace

At Zawadi Marketplace you’ll find merchandise for both Disney Parks and Animal Kingdom Lodge, plus a small selection of grab-and-go groceries or park necessities you may have forgotten (like sunscreen).

The shop at Kidani Village is called Johari Treasures. It is significantly smaller than Zawadi Marketplace, but it still has a selection of souvenirs, merchandise, and grocery necessities.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Transportation

One of the biggest drawbacks of Animal Kingdom Lodge is the transportation. The only way to get to any of the theme parks and Disney Springs is by bus.

And because Animal Kingdom Lodge is pretty far away from all the parks except Animal Kingdom, the bus rides can be kind of lengthy. Between waiting for the bus to arrive and actually riding it to the parks, I would give yourself at least 30-45 minutes.

The good news is that because buses are the only mode of transportation at Animal Kingdom Lodge, they run pretty frequently. I’m not sure we ever waited more than 5 minutes for a bus to arrive in the mornings when we were staying there.

Also, there is another smaller bus just outside the lobbies of each building that will take you back and forth between Jambo House and Kidani Village.

Pros & Cons of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

To be honest, it’s really hard to find cons for Animal Kingdom Lodge. But here’s a break down of what I think the pros and cons are.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Pros

  • BEAUTIFUL resort with spacious rooms and amazing theming elements.
  • Views of animals on the savanna—a truly one-of-a-kind experience!
  • Fantastic Table Service dining options.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Cons

  • As a Deluxe Resort, it can be pricey, especially for a Savanna View room.
  • Far away from most of the theme parks relative to other resorts.
  • Only has buses for transportation.

Our Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

So, would we stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge again? ABSOLUTELY!

We loved our stay here. It felt luxurious and relaxed. And there is truly nothing like walking outside on your balcony to see the savanna animals.

However, it can be pricey, and unless we were purposefully taking a “splurge” trip, this probably won’t be first on our list. (Honestly, especially because there are also so many other resorts we want to try on Disney property!)

I do think that next time we want to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge I’ll keep an eye on the David’s Vacation Club “Confirmed Reservations for Rent” page to see if any good AKL deals pop up. (I love this feature because it shows your bookings that are already made instead of you having to request a stay and cross your fingers it will get fulfilled.)

Animals outside of Jambo House

Animal Kingdom Lodge FAQs

What restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge can you see animals from?

Sanaa at Kidani Village is the restaurant where you can see animals while you eat. Note that not every table will have a great view though. The best views will be the tables by the windows.

Are the animals always out at Animal Kingdom Lodge?

Yes, the animal are out day and night, but they may not always be in your section of the resort. The cast members do try to put incentives (i.e. food) out in strategic places for the best viewing though.

What animals can you see at Animal Kingdom Lodge?

While you won’t find lions or elephants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, there are tons of other animals! Here are some of the most popular that we saw during our stay:

  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Okapi
  • Ankole Cattle
  • Wildebeest
  • Ostrich
  • Kudu
  • Flamingo

Is there a spa at Animal Kingdom Lodge?

While there is a spa at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Zahanati Massage and Fitness Center) it is not currently open. The only place where you can get spa services at Disney currently is at The Grand Floridian.

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