Nestled in the south-west corner of Walt Disney World, you'll find Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge - a deluxe resort hotel and villa which is right next to Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. Designed in the style of an East African lodge, the resort is full of intricate carvings and a portion of rooms offer views towards a private wildlife reserve that spans more than 43 acres.
Since opening in 2001, the resort has become incredibly popular with visitors to the most magical of places on earth. It's the perfect base from where you can experience all that Disney has to offer and to get up close to a variety of wildlife including Flamingos, Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu and Gazelles.
The resort is split up into two areas - Jambo House and Kidani Village, the latter of which is home to most of the Disney Vacation Club villas and opened in 2009. Both locations are linked by a walkway which spans half a mile and guests are able to use the facilities across the resort.
I was staying in Jambo House; the original part of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge which features a stunning five-storey lobby.
Located on the third floor, the lobby area is full of comfortable places to sit down and take in the intricate details that surround you. Admittedly, this was a perfect place to escape the heat and relax in a cool air-conditioned environment.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge features several room types that range from a standard or pool view, to one overlooking the Savanna's - which of course is the most popular type of room. The majority of rooms can sleep up to four adults and may consist of one of a mixture of king, queen, bunk and sofa beds.
For an extra treat, Club-Level rooms feature access to the club-level lounge, where an array of complimentary refreshments are served between 7am and 10pm each day. Additionally, you will receive evening turndown service, complimentary newspapers and the assistance of the concierge team along with many other benefits.
I stayed in a pool-view room located on the second floor of the hotel which featured two double beds, a table and chairs, double vanity, bath with shower, WV, wardrobe, refrigerator, telephone and a TV.
Here is a partial view from the balcony of room 2426. Below is the children's pool and to the far right and beyond you will find the main pool area.
The resort features a variety of dining options to choose from which range from quick service to unique and fine dining establishments.
Jiko - The Cooking Place has been named as one of the best signature dining experiences across the Walt Disney World resort. This is where you can enjoy a series of African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine in a setting which resembles an African sunset.
Boma - Flavors of Africa is an all-you-can-eat buffet venue open for breakfast and dinner serving up a variety of traditional African dishes in addition to classic American favourites.
Located at Kidani Village; Sanaa is an East-African themed restaurant with views overlooking one of the savanna's where you can enjoy African cuisine with an Indian twist. I enjoyed a celebratory meal at Sanaa and it was simply superb.
The Mara is a quick-service casual dining venue at Jambo House that serves a variety of fast and fresh food between 06:30 and 01:30. It's also the place where you can purchase your rapid fill refillable mug and enjoy these beauties, because everything tastes better when it's shaped like Mickey, right?
Additionally, you'll find a pool bar at both locations offering drinks and light snacks, the Victoria Falls Lounge and Cape Town Lounge & Wine Bar at Jambo House, and the Sanaa Lounge at Kidani Village which are open from the early evening until late. The perfect location to enjoy a pre- or post-dinner drink.
If you ever felt the need to, room service is available from 06:00 to 00:00 and features a number of specially prepared dishes in addition to traditional favourites.
You could spend all day at the resort standing on the overlook watching the wildlife roam freely, or why not go for a swim?
Located just beyond the trees in the photo I took below, you'll find the 11,000 square foot Uzima Pool area at Jambo House which features more than 234,000 gallons of water, a waterslide and zero-depth entry point into the pool. It's like you are wading into the sea!
Kidani Village features a 128-foot waterslide, 4,700 square foot pool area again with zero-entry and plenty of loungers where you can relax and soak up the Floridian sunshine.
Families visiting with kids between the ages of 3 and 12 will be delighted to find Simba's Clubhouse; a fun supervised environment open from 16:30 to midnight where toddlers and tweens can play with toys, video games, make arts and crafts and meet new friends. Other features include nightly themed events and Disney movies, souvenirs and even dinner (between 18:00 and 20:00) and snacks. The cost for this service is $15 per hour, excluding tax; and includes everything I mentioned above. Reservations are recommended but not essential, and it's worth noting a two-hour minimum visit applies.
Additionally, the 24-hour Hakuna Matata Playground is reserved exclusively for children up the age of 12; where they can monkey around to their hearts content. This area is a pretty cool area for the adult's to hang around and supervise their little ones... it overlooks one of the Savanna's and the area housing the Flamingo's too!
For the young and young at heart, there is nothing better than a good old arcade. Pumbaa's Fun and Games Arcade is located right next to The Mara; and believe me the games are a lot of fun. It's like your own little slice of Disney Quest right at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. That's the indoor, interactive theme park you'll find at Downtown Disney in-case you didn't know.
If it's Disney merchandise, sundry items or animal-inspired souvenirs; head over to the Zawadi Marketplace which can be found just off the lobby area. It's the perfect place to pick up a little gift or two.
Benefits of staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
One of the primary benefits of staying at the resort is having the unique opportunity to get up close to so many animals, you could even tell your friends at home that Giraffe were in your backyard for a couple of days or so!
As with any Disney Resort, there are a number of additional benefits which makes staying on-site a wise thing to do. Some of the complimentary offerings include:
Disney motor coach transportation throughout the Walt Disney World Resort.
Airport transportation with Disney's Magical Express to and from Orlando International Airport.
Parking at the Disney theme parks and resort hotels.
WiFi access in the hotel and throughout the Disney theme parks.
Merchandise delivery and pick up.
Extra Magic Hours - spend extra time in the theme park before or after the regular operating hours.
You are also able to charge items purchased at a number of Walt Disney World owned and operated locations throughout the resort to your folio. Just tap your Magicband, enter your 4-digit pin and it's all done!
It's not just that, but staying on-site allows you to be immersed in the Disney experience around-the-clock and experience the legendary guest service for which Disney has been renowned for. There are simply so many reasons why I like to stay on-site at a Disney resort hotel, but I feel the above are some of the most important and hope to have convinced you too.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is truly a unique deluxe resort hotel found at the Walt Disney World Resort, or in-fact at any Disney property around the world. It's literally next to Disney's Animal Kingdom park and the bus ride to the Magic Kingdom is only around 20 minutes; but the opportunity to be so close to wildlife is something that you must experience. It's like having a slice of East Africa right in the heart of Central Florida.
From the detailed carvings found in guest rooms, to the dining options, pool areas and fabulous Disney service. A stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is thoroughly recommended. Now... I'd better start planning my next adventure!
Room rates start from $284 per night for a standard view room and can be booked at Disneyworld.com