For many (us here at Park Savers included), where you choose to stay for your Walt Disney World vacation is half the magic. From themed rooms and dining to perks like not having to track down your car in the Epcot parking lot, staying at one of the Disney resorts doesn’t just make your trip easier, it can also be an attraction in and of itself. That is especially the case at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Right next door to Animal Kingdom Park, the resort is basically a Disney safari hotel tucked away in the largest theme park in the world. And honestly, what’s not to like about that? So, we decided to stop by the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge and check out what the resort has to offer. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge, and our take on what you can expect during a stay there.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, as we mentioned earlier, is located next door to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and is split into two main parts: the main hotel, called Jambo House, and Kidani Village, the resort’s Disney Vacation Club villas. In fact, if we’re getting technical, these are actually considered two separate Disney hotels, namely Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village.
Both are what Disney calls “deluxe”, which is basically just code for expensive. Yes, deluxe resort hotels and villas are among the costliest stays on Disney property. And while laying your head at Animal Kingdom Lodge will certainly cost you a pretty penny (more on that in a bit), it’s also certain to be a trip that you won’t soon forget.
Although a night at this Animal Kingdom hotel is steep, we’d argue that it’s totally worth it, thanks to some amenities that are completely unmatched by other Disney resorts. We’re talkin’, sweeping views of lush savannas and over 30 species of African wildlife, specialist-led animal programs and exclusive safaris, and award-winning dining all squeezed into an environment that makes you feel as if you’ve been plucked from the tourist jungle of Central Florida and transported to lodge a bit closer to South Africa or Kenya. If you think that sounds like a pretty amazing place to stay whether you’re at Disney World or not, we can’t agree with you more.
Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas During COVID-19
During these COVID-19 times, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Is Animal Kingdom Lodge open?” According to Disney’s website, the Jambo House section of Animal Kingdom Lodge is currently closed for overnight guests as a result of the pandemic. Kidani Village, the resort’s DVC villas, is open, albeit with a pared-down menu of recreational offerings.
Dining options are depressingly slim right now, with two of the resort’s most popular restaurants – Boma and Jiko – closed due to COVID-19. While Sanaa, the African-Indian fusion restaurant located at Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and finally getting more of the attention that it deserves (much to the chagrin of the us longtime Sanaa fans – we loved your bread service and savanna views way before it was COVID cool). Aside from that, you can also eat at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-service restaurant The Mara, at Jambo House, but only for breakfast, as well as the Maji Pool Bar and Uzima Springs Pool Bar.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, the resort’s normal slate of recreational activities and other special experiences have also been restricted. This specifically includes the Sense of Africa and Starlight Safari behind-the-scenes tours, dining with an animal specialist at Sanaa, and a wine tasting at Jiko, as well as campfires, arcades, spas, and salons parkwide.
It’s also important to note that while this is what’s currently open at Animal Kingdom Lodge, there are a few amenities that have also been suspended across Walt Disney World including Disney’s Magical Express, FastPass+, and Extra Magic Hours, Minnie Vans, and valet parking.
These other resort-specific amenities are also on hiatus or greatly reduced:
- Club-level services
- Bell services (reduced)
- In-room dining
- In-room celebrations
- Package delivery
- Airline check-in service
In spite of all the closures, there are still some amenities available for resort guests to look forward to including the pools, fitness centers, merchandise locations, the bus service, and even pin trading. However, it’s very likely that these will be operating with reduced hours, so be sure to double-check with the resort when you arrive. And of course, housekeeping measures have also been increased across the board.
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE ROOMS
Everyone has different priorities when picking a hotel room. Some are ok with bare-bones accommodations, while others want it all – the more bells and whistles, the better. Even though nothing about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will ever be considered bare bones, guests shouldn’t expect traditional luxury.
Given that you’re meant to feel like you’re at a grand lodge on a nature preserve somewhere in Africa, the vibe does feel a tad rustic, which is a welcome departure from many of the other resorts on property. You can also expect a variety of African or African-inspired touched throughout, from the fabrics and patterns that are chosen to the art of the walls. In fact, the resort boasts one of the largest collections of African art outside of Africa.
Even the design and layout of the resort is inspired by a kraal, or a traditional South African village made up of huts and surrounded by a fence. Not only is this a subtle nod to the resort’s inspiration, but it also ensures that a fair number of the guestrooms have a view of the savannas, some of the highlights of the resort.
Up at Jambo House, rooms are enveloped in warming tones like oranges and reds. It’s like the opening scene from the Lion King made real. You know the one – where a golden sun rises to meet a rust-red-turned-burnt-orange sky, and the animals scurry to greet the day. Intricately carved, dark wood furniture can also be found throughout.
Jambo House currently boasts a 4.5 on TripAdvisor, coming in in the top 15% of all Orlando hotels. Guests can decide from a variety of room types, but in general, the main thing you’ll want to keep in mind is the view.
- Looks out over a rooftop, landscaping, or parking area
- Available with one king bed, two queen beds, one-bedroom suite (two queens plus a queen-sized pullout sofa), value studio (one queen plus a double sleeper sofa), deluxe studio (one queen plus one double-sized pullout sofa with a kitchenette and a balcony), value villa (one king bed plus a queen-sized sofa sleeper with a washer and dryer, and a full kitchen), and a one-bedroom villa (one king bed plus a queen-sized sofa sleeper and a twin sleeper chair with a dining room, washer and dryer, and full kitchen)
- Views of one of the resort’s pools
- Available with one king bed or two queen beds
- The Rolls Royce of Walt Disney World resort views – Looks out over one of four savannas
- Available with either one king or two queen beds (both with and without club-level access), as well as a one-bedroom suite (see above), a two-bedroom suite (one king, two queens, and a queen-sized sofa sleeper), and the Royal Asante Presidential Suite
Kidani Village – Disney Animal Kingdom Villas
If Jambo House looks like it’s been inspired by a South African sunrise, then over at Kidani Village and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas with taupes and darker browns coming into play, it feels a bit closer to dusk.
Kidani Village also touts a 4.5 on TripAdvisor, landing it in the top 23% of all specialty lodging in Orlando. As at Jambo House, the view should be a deciding factor when considering your room type.
- Looks out over a parking area or the pool, in the case of the Deluxe Studio
- Available as a deluxe studio (see above), one-bedroom villa (see above), or a two-bedroom villa (one king bed, two queen beds, a queen-sized sofa sleeper, and a twin sleeper chair with a dining room, washer and dryer, and full kitchen)
- The Rolls Royce of Walt Disney World resort views – Looks out over one of four savannas
- Available as a deluxe studio (see above), one-bedroom villa (see above), two-bedroom villa (see above), or three-bedroom grand villa (one king and four queen beds plus a queen-sized sofa sleeper)
Amenities offered in your room will vary depending on whether you’re staying at Jambo House or Kidani Village. Basic amenities are offered in the guestrooms and suites at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, but you can always expect to find a blow dryer, coffee machine, ironing board and iron, mini-fridge, and an in-room safe. A villa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, in contrast, will have many of the conveniences of home including a toaster, microwave, TV, DVD player, and whirlpool tub, as well as everything listed above.
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE PRICES
As we already mentioned, both Jambo House and Kidani Village are considered deluxe Disney hotels, making them among the most expensive Disney resorts. Aside from which room type you choose, your room rate will also depend on when you travel to Disney. Holidays and marathon weekends can be especially pricey.
Jambo House is currently closed due to COVID-19, but during normal times, you can expect rooms to run anywhere from $434 for a standard view room in off-season all the way to $5,228 for the Royal Asante Presidential Suite in between Christmas and New Year’s. In general, for the hotel’s basic king and queen rooms, a standard room will run from the mid-$400s during low season up to almost $700 per night or more over peak dates or holidays. Pool-view rooms run from the upper-$400s to $700 plus, while savanna-view rooms max out at around $1,000 and drop to the low- to mid-$600s.
In contrast, rooms rates at Kidani Village increase drastically with each additional bedroom, running from $434 for a standard-view Deluxe Studio during the low season up to $4,123 for the three-bedroom, savanna-view Grand Villa. Rates for the standard- and savanna-view Deluxe Studios are similar to the basic king- and queen-rooms over at Jambo House, running between the mid-$400s to $700 plus and mid-$600s to around $1,000, respectively. The villas reflect a similar pattern, with the savanna-view options clocking in between $100-200 more per night on average than the standard views. To that end, savanna-view rates are as follows: mid-$800s to mid-$1,300 for a one-bedroom villa, mid-$1,200s to mid-$2,500s for a two-bedroom villa, and mid-$2,400s to low $4,100s for the three-bedroom Grand Villa.
ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE AMENITIES
Disney’s deluxe resorts boast some of the best resort amenities in all of Walt Disney World, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge is no exception. In fact, we’d argue that these offerings are what make the whole resort. Here’s a quick rundown of everything guests can look forward to (keep in mind that some of what is listed below is currently suspended or operating at a decreased level due to COVID-19):
Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurants
As a deluxe resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom hotel is blessed with an abundance of dining options. Even better, most of them are really, really good. Whether gorging yourself on Disney-friendly takes on African favorites (and Zebra Domes!) at Boma, eating your weight in naan as you watch the zebras and giraffes at Sanaa, or sipping on a South African vintage or two at Jiko, there are enough memory-making meals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas to make you want to come back again and again.
The Mara (Decreased hours due to the pandemic)
The Mara is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-service restaurant and is located in Jambo House. Although typically open throughout the day for meals, it is currently only serving breakfast due to COVID-19. Fun fact: if you develop an addiction to Zebra Domes while dining at Boma, you can also buy them here.
Boma – Flavors of Africa (Currently closed due to the pandemic)
Located in Jambo House, Boma serves breakfast and lunch and is the resort’s all-you-can-eat buffet. Although a boma refers to a fortified outpost in Swahili, this table-service restaurant feels more like a bustling marketplace.
Dinner features a rotating menu of African-inspired favorites, with buffet islands themed around a specific food item like breads, soups, salads, meats, and desserts. While this may sound intimidating to some people, we can assure you that this is African food presented in the most American-tastebud-friendly way possible. This is Disney, after all! With a buffet stand for kid-friendly options like chicken bites, mac and cheese, and pasta with meatballs, there’s also a considerable safety net.
Although you might be tempted to load up on all the meat at Boma, don’t! Trust us, you’ll want to save some precious stomach space for all that delicious soup just a few steps away. Yes, soup. From chicken-corn chowder and seafood gumbo to peanut stew and coconut-chicken-curry soup, you will not want to a miss a bowl or three of these. Personally, the carrot-ginger soup is basically the nectar of the gods. Oh, and just try to not eat more than one Zebra Dome. We dare you.
Although breakfast at Boma does include some more exotic options, it is decidedly more familiar than the dinner menu. Be sure to ask for a glass of Jungle Juice to go along with whatever it is you’re eating. Yes, it’s the same blend of pineapple, orange, and guava juices that you can get at most restaurants at Disney just with a different name. Do we care? Nope! It’s still just as delicious.
Overall, as the top Disney restaurant for many Walt Disney World fans, this writer included, we highly recommend giving Boma a try if you’re at all curious. And if you do go for dinner, remember that the menu rotates daily, so if you’re hoping for something specific, be sure to see if you can find the relevant menu online to make sure you won’t be disappointed.
Jiko – The Cooking Place (Currently closed due to the pandemic)
Located next door to Boma, Jiko is the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s signature dining option. A jiko is a stove in Swahili, so, it’s only right that Jiko’s menu features dishes cooked in wood-burning ovens.
Although flavors from across the continent appear throughout – Ethiopian tibs, Moroccan lamb, Botswana-style short ribs, and Cape Malay seafood curry are all on the menu – South African flavors are evident throughout thanks to elements like peri peri, biltong, braii spice, and, of course, South African wine.
Jiko also plays host to a signature wine tasting event during non-quarantine times, where South African varietals are expertly paired with an assortment of cheeses.
Tucked away in Kidani Village, Sanaa offers guests African-Indian fusion cuisine with a view of the Sunset Savanna. As you might imagine, the view is the star here. Fortunately, the windows are huge and plentiful, creating tons of room to see the animals even if you aren’t right next to the windows.
Currently, the restaurant serves table-service breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While breakfast at Boma is pretty standard, Sanaa’s breakfast is filled with more adventurous flavors like French toast with saffron-scented raisins and chai whipped cream or a breakfast sandwich with masala potatoes. So, if you’re trying to decide between the two, be sure to plan accordingly.
Lunch and dinner offer an array of Indian-inspired dishes like curries, biryani, and samosas. However, no meal at Sanaa is complete without the bread service. This sampler is a great way to try a ton of flavors, and still have some leftover to wipe up all that tasty sauce with.
When a pandemic isn’t happening, guests can also reserve a special Dine with an Animal Specialist experience at Sanaa. This intimate, four-course meal is sure to give a whole new meaning to your stay at the resort.
In addition to the restaurants, Animal Kingdom also has a number of lounges and pool bars perfect for unwinding with a drink after a long day of park hopping. These include the Maji Pool Bar, Uzima Springs Pool Bar, Victoria Falls Lounge, Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar, and Sanaa Lounge.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Pools
When you can’t make it to a beach, no trip to Florida is complete without a pool, and luckily, guests of the Animal Kingdom Lodge are lucky to have two to choose from. The Uzima Springs Pool can be found near Jambo House. This sprawling 11,000-square-foot oasis has a 67-foot waterslide and a zero-depth entry like that of a natural beach. Plus, the whole pool looks out on the Uzima Savanna. Talk about a view! In between trips down the slide, guests can relax with a drink or a snack at the nearby Uzima Springs Pool Bar.
The smaller, 4,700-square-foot Samawati Springs Pool can be found over in Kidani Village. Though smaller, what it lacks in size, it makes up for with waterslide that is almost twice the length of the one at the Uzima Springs Pool. Kids can also play at Uwanja Camp, a water playground divided into three, age-specific zones. Guests can also unwind at the Maji Pool Bar nearby.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has two shops: Johari Treasures at Kidani Village and Zawadi Marketplace at Jambo House (currently closed due to COVID). Both stock an array of Disney merchandise, sundries, snacks, and even African art and crafts. These include milk, cereal, bread, butter, jam, eggs, condiments, donuts, ice cream, beer and wine, soda, medicine, personal items and more.
Of course, you can rely on any Disney World resort to have the basics: at least one pool, at least one dining outlet, and at least one shop to pick up Disney merch and whatever else you forgot. But depending on which resort you stay at, you might also have access to a whole bunch more.
Adult guests looking to get in a workout or take their relaxation to the next level can actually do both at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, with the Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center in Jambo House and the Survival of the Fittest Fitness Service at Kidani Village.
As for the kiddos and teens, they can get a break from mom and dad (or is it the other way around?) at one of the resort’s arcades or playgrounds. Kidani Village also houses a Community Hall filled with video games, ping-pong, and billiards, as well as basketball and tennis courts. Campfire activities and Movies Under the Stars also take place at both parts of the resort, when COVID isn’t happening.
All of these are pretty standard amenities at Disney deluxe resorts. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, however, it’s the special programming that really sparkles. Thanks to the resort’s savannas, all Walt Disney World guests have the opportunity to go on not one, but two unique animal adventures: Sense of Africa at Jambo House, a behind-the-scenes tour with breakfast at Boma, a morning safari, and up-close animal encounters, and Starlight Safari at Kidani Village, an after-dark game drive. Guests specifically of Animal Kingdom Lodge also have exclusive access to the Wanyama Safari and Dinner, a multi-course meal followed by a tour of the savannas.
Finally, for those who would rather observe nature from afar (and with a drink in-hand), Wild About Painting is basically Disney’s version of paint-and-sip, except your inspiration is the savanna you’ll be gazing out upon (and your complimentary, alcoholic beverage).
Keep in mind that due to COVID-19, many of the activities listed above are currently suspended. Check with an Animal Kingdom Lodge cast member when you arrive for an update on what’s available.
Have a burning question about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas that we haven’t answered yet? Keep reading below.
Can you see animals from Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Yes! In fact, animals are basically the highlight of the entire resort. Much of the resort is surrounded by savanna, with viewing areas, restaurants, pools, and even guest rooms looking out over the animals. Nature lovers can also opt to enjoy a variety of animal experiences including special safaris and other programming.
Can you feed giraffes at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Before you get too excited, Giraffe Manor this is not (for those of you who don’t know what that is, look it up on Instagram – you’ll thank us later). The only time you might get a chance to feed giraffes is on the Sense of Africa backstage tour we mentioned above, and even then, don’t quote us on that. However, we think that all the opportunities to see these beautiful creatures both close-up and from afar more than make up for it.
Can you see fireworks from Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Nope! Animals are the focus at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and for anyone who has ever had a dog knows, fireworks may not be the best idea if you want to keep all those animals happy. Fortunately, there are plenty of other spots around Walt Disney World where you can view one of the nighttime spectaculars without being in a park.
What is the best room at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
Without a doubt, the resort’s savanna-view rooms are the cream of the crop. After all, what’s better than looking out your window after waking up to see zebras walking by? Not much. Best of all, a variety of room types are available with a savanna view, so it’s easy to pick one to fit the size of your party.
Is breakfast included at Animal Kingdom Lodge?
No. While breakfast is available at multiple locations throughout Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, it is not included with your stay there. An exception would be if you booked a Disney Dining Plan with the rest of your vacation. Unfortunately, Disney Dining Plans are currently suspended due to the pandemic.
Which popular attractions are close to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?
As you can guess from the name of the resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge is located right next door to Animal Kingdom Park. It is also near Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park and the Winter Summerland Mini Golf Course. Of course, the rest of Walt Disney World is just a short drive or bus ride away.
How long does it take to get from Animal Kingdom Lodge to Animal Kingdom Park?
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is just a short drive away, approximately eight minutes, from its sister resort. Guests of the resort can also take shuttle bus to and from the park, however the ride will likely be longer due to stops and needing to wait for it to arrive.
Can you walk from Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge to Animal Kingdom Park?
Although it’s possible, we wouldn’t recommend it. First, it would likely take you almost an hour to get there as there isn’t a direct walking path available between the two. Second, there aren’t really any sidewalks, so you’d have to scoot to stay out of the way of traffic. Best to be safe, save time, and stick to a car or bus.
IS THE ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE WORTH IT?
Definitely! If you can afford it, anyway. As we’ve already established, staying at Disney’s safari hotel has the potential to be very expensive. Even the most basic room will run you over $400 for a single night during the low season. That’s pretty steep considering a Disney vacation normally lasts at least a few days. But for those who can do it, we’re sure you won’t regret a stay there.
Fortunately, many of the perks Animal Kingdom Lodge provides can all be enjoyed if you’re staying at another Disney resort or are even off-property altogether. If you’d like to experience Animal Kingdom Lodge without those pricey room rates, you just need to get a little creative. Consider a dinner at Sanaa overlooking the savanna or the Starlight Safari. Even though both of these options are still at theme-park prices (i.e. expensive), they are much more accessible than a full stay.
Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed our overview on all there is to know about Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is an incredible resort with lots to do and see, and we highly recommend you stopping out to visit, even if it’s just for a meal and to see the animals.
If you do go, why not make the most of your trip with our one-day plan for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park? We’ll help you make the most of your time, and make sure you knock everything off your must-do list along the way. And for those of you looking to save cash on Walt Disney World tickets, we can help with that too!
Finally, if you’ve stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge before or are simply devotees of Boma’s soup rotation, we’d love to hear from you! What tips and tricks did we miss? How about any FAQs? We’d be happy to add it to the list.
Amber is a proud former Walt Disney World Cast Member, an unabashed travel addict, and a hospitality and tourism specialist with over 10 years in the industry. She likes getting her wanderlust fix by sharing her favorite park tips and tricks with other Disney fans. When she isn’t working, you can usually catch her in a hot power yoga class or spending way too much money at Disney Springs.