*DIS Contributors review meals, resort stays, and entertainment that they have paid for during their own vacations. They only utilize discounts and offers if they are available to the general public, such as annual passholder discounts, Tables in Wonderland, or DVC membership discounts. They receive no additional compensation for dining experiences or events, so that they may give their honest opinions about price and value.
While we have a strong loyalty to the BoardWalk Villas for our Disney vacations, it is in high demand and sometimes does not have availability. After many successful waitlist openings on previous trips, we finally met our match when our DVC waitlist for the BoardWalk turned up empty-handed. This was a good way to force us to try a new place to stay. Having heard the praises of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, a last-minute opening afforded us the chance to experience it for ourselves. Needless to say, we were extremely impressed with our stay at Kidani Village and want to share the reasons why with you!
1) Two-For-One Resorts
Staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge means you have access to two different resorts: Jambo House and Kidani Village. This is one of the reasons why we like the BoardWalk area so much, as it allows you to explore multiple resorts. While both Jambo House and Kidani Village are themed to the Animal Kingdom, each offer different things to entice guests. There are four savannas total (two at each resort), and there are different animals to see at each. The pools are also different, creating separate environments to enjoy. Dining options at both Jambo House and Kidani Village offer guests meal options. There is a shuttle that takes people back and forth between resorts, or guests can choose to use a walkway that takes approximately ten minutes.
2) Immersive Theming
With areas that seem to take guests out of Orlando and into another world, Animal Kingdom is often referred to as one of the most immersive parks; the Lodge is no different. Traveling to South Africa is on my bucket list, and while I am well aware it is still Florida, the savannas at the Lodge felt as close to what I would expect a savanna to be. The experience in the lobby and in the overlook areas is simply transformative. Of our three day trip, we spent over half a day just exploring all of the nooks in the resorts and could have easily devoted more time doing so.
3) Dining Options
Some of the best dining on Disney property can be found in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa and Jiko. If you are looking for an elevated dining experience, the food and service are exceptional at these establishments. We ate twice in the Sanaa lounge and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, even seeing people get the popular bread service as take out (brilliant idea)! Boma and The Mara are available for more casual dining options. There are pool bars at both resorts that offer food and beverages, as well as at Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar and Victoria Falls Lounge for small bites and drinks. We personally enjoyed how wine-focused the locations are, serving South African wines with extensive lists at both Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar and Jiko. Jiko also offers Wednesday wine tastings. Want something more adventurous? Hop on one of the safaris offered at the resorts that include a meal in the savanna!
4) The Animals
An obvious benefit of staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the animals! As I mentioned earlier, there are four savannas (two at each resort), and, in addition, there are multiple overlook areas that give guests optimal viewing of the animals all day. Each guest room comes with an animal viewing guide to assist in spotting all of the animals on the property. Make sure to ask cast members for the best times of day to see certain animals, such as feeding times. Don’t forget that there is activity on the savanna at night, and you can sign up for a nighttime safari to see it up close! There are also activities throughout the day at both resorts that help educate guests and help them identify all of the animals throughout the savanna. It is truly amazing how close the animals are and how entertaining watching them can be. We sat on an overlook every morning with our breakfast just enjoying the moments of this unique environment.
5) Relaxed Environment
One of the reasons we are drawn to the BoardWalk is the immediate access to two of the four theme parks via walking paths. One of our hesitations about staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge was the heavy reliance on Disney bus transportation with no walking access to anywhere, and, while this is certainly a draw back, it shed light on another benefit of staying here that we did not expect. The guests who stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge are not aggressive, park-hungry people. Those guests preoccupied with maximum park access are at the deluxe resorts at Epcot and Magic Kingdom in order to have close proximity and alternative forms of transportation to the parks. Everyone we interacted with had a level of chill that is sometimes difficult to find in the “must get everything done” Disney vacation mode. It really felt like a secluded destination away from the craziness of the Disney parks (and boy were they crowded!).
If you haven’t tried staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, it is certainly worth a visit. Staying at a new resort is the perfect way to shake up a routine Disney trip and try something different to keep the magic exciting and new!