Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Review and Info

by josh on April 11, 2010

Wondering how Animal Kingdom Lodge stacks up against the other Disney World Deluxe Resorts? Check out The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts for a comparison of the eight Deluxes in a variety of categories including Best Layout, Best Dining, Best Transportation, Best Location, Best Rooms, Best Pool, and Best Overall Deluxe Resort.

Address:

2901 Osceola Parkway
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000

Direct Phone: 1- 407-938-3000, Fax: 1-407-938-4799, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class: The Animal Kingdom Lodge (occasionally referred to as The Lodge) is a Deluxe resort, the most expensive resort type.  There are ten different room, suite, concierge class, and view configurations.  The Standard rooms are much cheaper than other Deluxe Resorts, except for the Wilderness Lodge which is similarly priced.  A Standard room with a parking lot view runs $240 during Value Season which is $45 less than the cheapest room at the Contemporary Resort and $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian’s least expensive room.  Compared to the Moderates, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is about $90 more per night.  The Lodge also offers several suite configurations that sleep up to eight and Kilimanjaro Club Level rooms with Concierge service.  In addition, there are the Jambo House and Kidani Village Villas, which will be covered in full in the Villas section.

Location: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is located adjacent to the Animal Kingdom theme park.  It is the furthest resort from the Magic Kingdom and a good distance away from Epcot and the Hollywood Studios by bus as well.  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only Deluxe resort that is not located on a body of water, so there are no watercraft rentals or beaches.

Size:  The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a long, narrow resort with a “kraal African-village landscape design—a semi-circle design popular in Africa which offers expansive views of the surrounding savanna and its many animal inhabitants.”  Basically, this means that Disney designed The Lodge to have as many rooms as possible overlook savannas.  There are 1,307 rooms in total, almost all of which have full balconies or patios.  About 1,000 rooms overlook one of the three savannas, leaving only 300 or so rooms with less desirable views.  Because of the long length of the buildings, rooms at the end of both Kudu Trail and Zebra Trail are about ten minutes away from the main building and bus stop.  In addition, as you approach the Animal Kingdom Lodge from the road, you will have no idea how large the resort actually is because the front looks like a small village, rather than a 1,300 room complex.

Room Amenities and Quality: Most of the Standard rooms are about 344 square feet and can accommodate up to four people.  Note that the size of the rooms is only 30 feet larger than those found at the Moderates and about 100 square feet less than comparable rooms at the Grand Floridian.  This is one reason why the resort is cheaper than the other Deluxes.  Rooms come with all of the Deluxe amenities including: two queen-size beds or one queen size bed and a set of bunk beds or one king size bed and a daybed, small table, two chairs, ceiling fan, internet access ($10 per 24 hours), 32” LCD television, small safe, telephone, hairdryer, iron, ironing board, alarm clock, coffeemaker, refrigerator, bathroom with single sink, shower/bathtub combo, toilet, and mirror.

Standard rooms have an African theme with handcrafted furniture, carved wooden headboards, colorful patchwork quilts, and hanging artwork.  There are rooms available with a queen bed and a bunk bed for two.  These rooms cost about $40 more per night than a room with two queen beds and are available with either a pool or savanna view.  Rooms with this setup may be beneficial for families with two children (or parents???) who do not want to sleep in the same bed.  This room setup is also available at the Wilderness Lodge.

The biggest complaint about the Animal Kingdom, other than its lengthy transportation times, is the poor lighting in the rooms.  While the dark ambient lighting fits the theme, it’s too dark, especially in the bathroom.  My recommendation would be to bring a makeup mirror with a light if you’re planning to apply makeup, otherwise it will be hard to see what you’re doing.  Overall, the room amenities, quality, and size are on par with the Moderate resorts more so than the other Deluxes.

Theme and Layout: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is like no other resort in the world.  Set on 43 acres of African savanna, The Lodge is home to more than 30 species of African wildlife, over 100 Sand Live Oak trees, and 35,000+ shrubs.  There are about 250 animals spread out over the four savannas.  Disney constructed the savannas specifically for the Animal Kingdom Lodge and they are entirely separate from the Animal Kingdom theme park.  Each of the animals makes it home on the savanna and they sleep, roam, and eat many of their meals right on the land.  They are fed and checked on by staff in separate buildings as well, but the animals are usually available for viewing.

Jambo House, the Animal Kingdom’s main building, is one of the most magnificent lobbies at Disney World.  If you have seen the lobbies at the Polynesian or the Grand Floridian then you know this is no small feat.  Jambo House is six stories tall and features a gigantic 50-foot tall curved picture window that spans the entire back wall of the lobby.  There are comfortable lounge areas, magnificent carved wooden sculptures, beautiful African art, and a large mud fireplace as well.  It is truly amazing and it’s worth taking a trip to see even if you aren’t staying at the resort.

Pool: At about 11,000 square feet (equivalent to eight Olympic size pools put together), the Animal Kingdom’s Uzima pool is the second largest single pool of any resort.  Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club is a larger overall complex, but it’s technically more than one pool.  Uzima features a 67 foot long slide, zero-depth entry, and is surrounded by large canopy trees and Florida palms.  It’s a beautiful area and fits in with the overall theme of The Lodge perfectly.  However, this is also the only resort without a quiet pool.  On the plus side, it does have two hot tubs.

Transportation: Of the Deluxe resorts, the Animal Kingdom has the most limited transportation options.  Service is by bus only.  On the plus side, it does not share buses with any other resort so all trips are direct.  The problem is that The Lodge is the furthest resort away from the Magic Kingdom and not much closer to either Epcot or the Hollywood Studios.

The times below are calculated after the bus leaves for its final destination.

Hollywood Studios: about 15 minutes
Epcot: about 15minutes
Animal Kingdom: less than 10 minutes
Magic Kingdom: about 20 minutes

Best Rooms: Of course, suites located in the Jambo House are the best rooms at the resort, but that doesn’t do most of us any good because they cost upwards of $3,000 per night. As far as Standard Rooms are concerned, my recommendation would be to try to get the third floor of either the third or fourth building on the Zebra Trail side looking inward at the savanna.  I know that sounds a little complicated, but let me explain.  First of all, if you’re going to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge then you should strongly consider upgrading to a Savanna View.  I don’t usually advocate view upgrades, but the whole purpose of staying at The Lodge is to view the animals, not overlook the parking lot.  The upgrade cost is a minimum of $70 more per night, but in this case it’s worth it.  You’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful savanna and the many animals whenever it’s convenient.  It’s difficult to beat waking up in the morning, preparing a cup of coffee, and watching giraffes stroll across wide open savanna.  Outside of Africa it just isn’t possible anywhere else.

Second, looking inward at the Arusha Savanna is the best of the Savanna Views.  Some of the rooms in Ostrich Trail are technically Savanna View rooms, but they overlook a much smaller piece of land and are not preferable.  Third, Zebra Trail rooms are on the same side as the pool area and restaurants, which means shorter walks.  Fourth, rooms on the third floor have the best overall view.  Fourth floor rooms are Concierge Level and Fifth and Sixth Level rooms are reserved for Disney Vacation Club Members which means there are no Standard rooms on those floors.  The third floor is actually ideal because it will allow you to get a nice panoramic view of the entire savanna while still being low enough to the ground so you can see the features of the animals and shrubbery better.  Rooms on the second floor have an even more detailed look at the ground, but are too low to get a nice overview of the entire savanna.  Fifth, the view from rooms in the third, fourth, and fifth buildings away from the Jambo House are not hindered by the Arusha Rock Savanna Overlook which clips the view from the first and second building on either the Kudu Trail or Zebra Trail sides.  The view from the fifth building out is actually the best if you don’t mind walking the extra distance to the Jambo House, bus station, and restaurants.

Check out http://new.disneyecho.emuck.com/pics/AKLMap.jpg for a great quality map.

On-Site Dining Options: The Animal Kingdom has a variety of outstanding dining choices, including the Boma Buffet, Jiko Signature Restaurant, and the newer Sanaa located in the Kidani Village.  Boma is one of the most popular buffets at Disney World and serves a variety of traditional African dishes as well as more Americanized dishes for breakfast and dinner.  Be sure to check out the excellent soups and a zebra dome for dessert.  If you aren’t staying at The Animal Kingdom Lodge then you might try Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom Park instead.  Tusker House serves similar food and is more convenient than Boma.  On the other hand, a meal at Boma is an excellent excuse to visit this beautiful resort.

Jiko – The Cooking Place is the Animal Kingdom’s Signature Restaurant and costs two table service credits on the Dining Plan.  It’s not outrageously priced, with most entrées in the $30-$40 range.  Food and service are both excellent.  The emphasis is on beef, chicken, fish, and pork rather than distinctly African dishes.  I would suggest the barbecue chicken flat bread, either the short ribs or filet mignon, and Jiko Trio for dessert.  The wine list is extensive and many of the serversare also sommeliers so be sure to ask about wine pairings if that’s of interest.  Like most other Signature Restaurants, Jiko is only open for dinner.

Sannaa is the newest restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and is located in the Kidani Village, which is about a 10 minute walk away from the Animal Kingdom lobby.  The restaurant overlooks the savanna so I would suggest requesting a window table.  Sanaa, which means “work of art” in Swahili, “serves African cuisine with Indian flavors,” but it seems like the emphasis is on the Indian flavors rather than authentic African cuisine.  Food is freshly prepared and service is usually attentive.  I would suggest the Indian-style bread service for an appetizer and any of the Tandoori entrées if you don’t like your food spicy.  If you’re staying at the Animal Kingdom then I would definitely consider a trip over to Sanaa as it is one of the best new restaurants at Disney.

Mara, the resort’s counter service, offers several more interesting options than other resort counter services, including a variety of flatbread pizzas, pita sandwiches, and salads.  Waits for food are longer than average, especially during peak meal times.  While nothing particularly special, Mara is a convenient meal if you find yourself at the resort and in the mood for a quicker and cheaper meal than you would get at Sanaa or Jiko.

Full reviews coming soon.

Best For: Those who upgrade to a savanna view and plan to spend time enjoying the animals from their balcony.  People who will appreciate the remoteness and tranquility of the resort.

Worst For: Those who want to be close to the action.  People expecting the same amenities and room size as the other Deluxe resorts.  Those who enjoy water recreation activities.  Families of five.

Summary of Key Points: Along with the Wilderness Lodge, the Animal Kingdom is one of the more “Moderate” Deluxes.  The room size, at 344 square feet, is only about 30 feet larger than the Moderates and about 100 feet smaller than the Deluxes on the monorail system (Polynesian, Contemporary, Grand Floridian).  At about $90 more per night than the Moderates and $170 less per night than the Grand Floridian, the prices reflect its more Moderate status.  Also like the Moderates, Standard rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge only sleep four people, compared to five at most other Deluxes.  Finally, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is connected to the World via bus only and it is the furthest resort away from the Magic Kingdom and almost as far to Epcot and the Hollywood Studios.

The comparisons to Moderate resorts cease when we begin to examine the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s theme, architecture, and savanna views.  Jambo House, The Lodge’s main building, is absolutely spectacular and one of the best at Disney World.  The expansive five-story tall picture window overlooking 30+ acres of African savanna is like nothing else in the world.  The feature pool, at 110,000 square feet, is the largest of any resort at Disney.  While there is no quiet pool, the feature pool’s size is adequate and there are fewer “pool hoppers” here due to The Lodge’s remote location.

Undoubtedly, the most compelling reason to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is the view of the savannas and animals.  With 40 acres of land, 250+ animals, and 35,000+ shrubs, there is plenty to see.  A Savanna View room is almost a requirement.  If you aren’t interested in the $70 per night upgrade from a Standard View then I would suggest saving the $160 per night and staying at a Moderate resort or paying a similar rate and staying closer to the Parks at the Wilderness Lodge.  You can visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge and enjoy the views of the animals from the observation decks for free.  In fact, this is exactly what I would recommend doing if you’re staying elsewhere.  Since the Animal Kingdom usually closes at around 5pm, getting on a bus and traveling to the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a quick trip that offers spectacular views several outstanding dining options.

Overall Rank on The Best Disney World Deluxe Resorts: 7th out of 8

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

MoniqueMitcham July 17, 2012 at 3:34 am

Which resort would you recommend for my son who is in a wheelchair? Our family is planning a trip Nov. 26 and will be there for one week. Joe, our son, is tall and has a big wheelchair. We are bringing my son and his family – a three-year-old and new baby. We booked a 2 bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower and are wondering if we made the right choice. We want to be close to access to the monorail, etc. We are re-considering Old Key West but your website says to avoid it if you have someone with mobility issues and the buildings are so spread out. We are also re-considering the Animal Lodge. Is it appropriate since we have someone in a wheelchair? We are also having a hospital bed delivered there prior to our arrival. Help us! Which one would you recommend?

Reply

Cindi August 4, 2012 at 4:27 am

I don’t know what Josh would recommend, but the Contemporary sounds like a great fit for you unless you have someone who is REALLY into animals and plan to spend a lot of resort time there at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Any of the resorts you choose at WDW are going to be able to accomodate your son and his wheelchair. As far as arranging for the hospital bed, you would have to call the manager of the resort you choose, and of course being a top vacation destination I’m sure they are used to that as well and will do what they can to assist you in making your family’s stay magical and memorable. I’d stick with the Bay Lake Tower room as it is very close to the parks and with the little ones it will be handy to have your room so convenient when you are ready for some non park time or naps/rest.

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Mike January 5, 2014 at 10:58 am

We stayed in a one bedroom with the Savannah view on the 3rd floor. The animals were most active early in the morning and later in the evening. The lobby is absolutely breathtaking and the hotel is well apointed. The drive to MK is a little long but the buses never fail to transport everyone. I’d love to go back there sooner than later.

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Queenie February 23, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Josh, I am REALLY looking forward to reading about AKL villas! I hope you write this before I leave for my bucket list stay here and of course it is Savannah view :)

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Rich March 24, 2014 at 11:55 am

The pool is 11,000 square feet vs 110,000 square feet LOL. It would be like the size of 2 NFL footbal fields… Kids would be lost for days!

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Brad June 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm

The only thing you didn’t mention, that might be of interest to many Disney shoppers/browsers is the fantastic store off the lobby. Few shops on property are as interesting as this one.
It offers items you won’t find at the others, and is a little up-scale in comparison.
If you come for a dinner visit, give yourself time for a walk-thru. It’s really very nice.
And I agree about the pool. It’s great…and beautiful at night.

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