We’ll continue on to Jambo House.
If we can free ourselves from this cage.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite resort to visit. It’s beautiful and there’s so much to see and do even if you’re not dropping the $300+/night to stay there.
Those visiting the resort can partake in many of the resort activities.
Blurry unfortunately, but it will give you an idea about what’s available, including free tours of Boma, cookie decorating, and an inexpensive $15 wine tasting at Jiko every Wednesday at 3pm. Both Kidani and Jambo offer night vision animal viewing out on the savannas at 9pm too.
Pool activities, some of which would more or less require you to be a guest of the resort. But anyone can stay for the movie.
A dinner reservation is probably the #1 reason non-guests travel to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Through the glass is Jiko, the resort’s signature restaurant. The menu changes often:
I guess if we’re going to whine about Le Cellier’s $9 cup of cheddar cheese soup, we need to harp on Jiko for rocking a $10 cup of squash soup. Or $16 micro salads.
I read somewhere that the smart money on Jiko was on the Short Rib. So that’s what I ordered. It ended up being about six bites of fatty meat with an off-putting wine reduction. I think they’re tired of people substituting the fabled macaroni on the filet as the side we requested came cold and dry as a bone. And service was as lousy as I’ve ever experienced on Disney property. But Jiko does get very good reviews!
Visit DisneyWorld.com’s version of the menu here for an idea about what you can expect from the dessert and specialty drink menu. But going back to how often the menu changes, you’ll notice that Disney’s is already out of date starting with the first item on the appetizer menu. At least they try. Jiko also has like 9,314.5 African wines they’d be happy to tell you about too.
Boma is the immensely popular breakfast and dinner buffet. No characters are offered, but with 45+ items for breakfast and dinner, it’s one of Disney’s best. I have a complete review with lousy pictures from a while ago here. Menu:
I would guess you could request a bottle from Jiko while dining at Boma, but I’m not certain.
Animal Kingdom Lodge can be a bit of a hassle to get to on Disney transportation if you’re not staying at the resort or coming from Animal Kingdom theme park. The easiest way to get there would be to take the bus to Animal Kingdom and then take the Animal Kingdom Lodge bus from there. Heading back, you may just want to take the first theme park bus that comes and then transfer to your resort from that theme park. Be mindful of the time of day and when the theme parks close – you don’t want to arrive at a theme park looking for your resort’s bus right after the Park closes. A taxi from Coronado Springs or one of the All-Stars would not be a lot of money.
Victoria Falls is the resort’s lounge. It’s located on sort of its own level in between the lobby level and ground floor, where you’ll find Boma and Jiko. As you enter the front of the resort, the stairs down to Victoria Falls, Boma, Jiko, and then outside to the resort pool, Mara, arcade, etc. are located on the right. You can also take an elevator down to the ground floor.
Victoria Falls is one of my favorite resort lounges with its dim lighting and relative privacy. Because it’s on a separate level as the waiting area for Boma and Jiko, it doesn’t tend to be full of kids and their parents waiting for their buffet buzzers to go off like you’ll find at the Polynesian and Contemporary. And it’s not as stuffy as Mizner’s or as boring as Martha’s Vineyard. You’d still find me at the Belle Vue Lounge first, but Victory Falls is right up there.
With the robust options downstairs, it might be a shame that the lounge doesn’t offer more in the way of food, but what’s offered would pair nicely with a glass of wine or cocktail.
Comfy, intimate seating with some privacy. Well, as long as some creepy guy in a golf polo and cargo shorts isn’t taking your picture from afar. It certainly beats the uncomfortable cluster seating in the corner that is the Tambu Lounge.
Outside near the pool you’ll find the resort’s quick service, Mara. As far as I know, you have to exit the main building to get over there, but the walkway is all covered, unlike the walk to Gasparilla Grill at the Grand Floridian.
Wow, a lot of this stuff looks good. Check out those scones, candy bar brownies, and chocolate torsades. Actually, I’ve had my eye on one of those torsades for years and never ordered one. Are they good?!!?!!!?
Bottle pricing here isn’t ridiculous. I’ve bought a bottle or two of the Goats do Roam at Publix for $10/bottle. Jam Jar is a $12 bottle of wine at Total Wine. If you can find them, the MAN Vintners, Six Hats, and Ken Forrester are all around $9/bottle in stores. The Star Tree Shiraz looks to have the lowest markup – just $13.95 here or $10.95 at Total Wine. The Indaba rounds out the options, running $9.95 at the store.
Ordering at Mara is somewhat unique. At most resort quick services, you walk up to one of several stations and place your order. At Contemporary and Polynesian, you select what you want to order from a digital kiosk, pay, and then receive a pager that buzzes when the food is ready. At Mara, you relay your order to a single cast member who checks boxes on a paper order sheet and then hands you a buzzer that buzzes when the food is ready. You can either pay for your meal at that time or wait for the buzzer to go off first. I mention this because there can be quite the backup if someone is confused about what they want to order. Or in my experience, the person in front of you is using the Disney Dining Plan, has no idea what it is, doesn’t speak English, and is trying to point at items they want to order.
Anyway, Mara offers a few interesting items along with the run-of-the-mill burger, nuggets, Caesar salad, pepperoni flatbread, and chicken. Just about everything is made to order, so don’t be shy about asking for substitutions.
Archival footage of the African Stew – With Beef, Turkey, Ham, Carrots, Potatoes, Peas, Chickpeas, and Raisins Served Over Basmati Rice: $7.99. Archival review: “My assumption is that this is “African Stew” in the same way that a Hamburger is a Dutch Pizza, but I digress. It was pretty good. Not particularly appetizing as far as just looking into its eyes. A little spicy, but not overly so. Served very hot, which is always nice. This would certainly be a nice change of pace if the kids have you eating Mickey Burgers and Nuggets at most other meals. It’s a bigger portion than it might look like on first inspection (assuming you can look at it, it’s kind of hard). It’s worth noting that this iteration of the African Stew is completely different than the previous version, which was much more “stew-y” and served in a bread bowl rather than over rice. I prefer this one, personally.”
This time I oped for the Falafel Pita – Falafel served on a Warm Pita with Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus, Cucumber, Tomato, and Mixed Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce – $8.99. The “Chef’s Choice” for the Carved Sandwich was Corned Beef, which sounded good too, if not particularly African. I ordered a side of squash soup, which we’ll discuss later.
I’m not worldly enough to have consumed a lot of falafel in my life, but I’ll weigh in anyway. This is another messy meal unless you want to attack it with a fork and knife. I just went to town.
The mint yogurt didn’t seem to have much flavor and the (hidden, waiting) tomato on top of tomato hummus seemed to be the predominant flavor. I don’t think falafel generally has a lot of flavor on its own, so you’re really relying on the condiments to carry the dish. The falafel was softer (and a lot slippier) than I would have liked, but had a bit of spice to it. Overall, I enjoyed the sandwich pretty well and hoped it was fairly low on calories and high in protein. I’m sure it would be popular among the vegetarians and it’s certainly a more interesting choice than the usual salad or veggie burger.
The sandwich was served alongside french fries or couscous, so I went with the more bloggable option. This was a hearty portion of couscous with peppers, onions, and I want to say dates or raisins or something of that sort, which seemed to be the predominant flavor. It’s served cold and was a nice complement to the vegetarian pita. I’d order both items again without hesitation.
The soup was served nice and hot and seemed like a good portion for the $2.99 or so that it cost. It is purportedly the same soup that’s served at Boma. It was not to my taste – I think because of how the coriander was contrasting with the sweetness of the squash. I’m not a coriander guy and it certainly tasted like there was some sugar added. I’m not saying it was bad by any means – but I didn’t finish the cup. A few bites would have been plenty for once.
Mara has a decent amount of indoor seating along with a small condiment bar with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onions. You’ll also find two large beverage dispensers and plenty of Nescafe (for a limited time).
Outdoor seating is also available immediately outside.
While we’re out here, we’ll creep on the pool area.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is somewhat unique in that it only has one pool. There are no quiet pools on property.
Luckily it’s large, at 234,980.0 gallons, with zero-depth entry on one side.
The slow moving 67-foot water slide may leave something to be desired, but at least it’s chill enough that anyone should be able to slide down. It would be funny if you yelled “SUMMMIITTTT PLUMMMEEETTTTTTT” while sliding down.
Nearby is the usual pool bar with the thatched roof I love so much:
The usual drink menu at the Uzima Springs Watering Hole. The addition of bottled African imports is a nice touch.
They usually stock Tusker out of Kenya, which is a decent enough lager. Coming in at just 4.2%, it would be a fairly light beer to enjoy on a hot day. It is from Africa after all.
Kingfisher Premium is another common beer when Disney is trying to be “African.” This one originated in Bangalore, India, but as you can see from the bottle, is brewed in Saratoga Springs, New York. I’ll have to check the bottles at Animal Kingdom next time – I’m 99% sure they’re the version brewed in Saratoga Springs. But still very Disney with the Saratoga Springs Resort on property! My favorite beer over at Animal Kingdom is the Bedele Pilsner, a 5.5% beer out of Ethiopia. I’m not sure if they have it at the Lodge as well.
Anyway, back on track. The small Hakuna Matata playground area behind the pool.
Also behind the pool is an always available view of the flamingos.
And a ground level view of the Uzima savanna, where you’ll usually find the smaller animals. The 40 acres of savannas found here are supposed to boast over 30 species of animals.
One of two hot tubs behind the pool.
A pool view would run you an extra $10-$13/night over the Standard View. I think I would prefer the asphalt – quieter and ummmmmmmm…February isn’t exactly beach body season at Disney World. But then, June isn’t exactly beach body season either. Or July. Or August.
The pool area is otherwise quite pleasant, though I’m a sucker for the exotic theming.
The small splash pool is nicely secluded near the arcade entrance near the front of the pool.
Speaking of the arcade, here it is. The entrance to Mara is straight ahead and the splash pool and then the feature pool are to our left along with the pool bar.
It’s pretty standard.
The usual pinball. No adventures here.
Back inside, we’re looking at the main entrance with resort services on the right and the stairwell down to the restaurants and pool on the left.
Just off the lobby is this room that I believe is called the Sunset Lounge. It’s home to some African artifacts and paintings and there’s a balcony looking over the savanna in the back.
In the opposite direction.
View of the Sunset Savanna from the balcony. I haven’t had much luck seeing animals out here.
The free Culture Safari meets here nightly. The time may switch to 8:30pm in the summer.
The Arusha Savanna in the back of the resort is the star of the show.
Like Kidani, you’ll find nice outdoor outlooks on each side of the lobby level.
With denser vegetation nearby, the views of the animals aren’t quite as clear.
A look down at the fire pit.
But anyone is welcome to head out to the ground floor lookout to gaze out at the animals.
The campfire is scheduled nightly around sunset. It would obviously get later and later as the sun sets later and later.
Another fun, free activity for the kids – MARSHMALLOW ROAST.
Otherwise, the birds like to hang out here.
The upgrade to an Arusha View will cost you a pretty penny – $109 to $140 a night.
It’s probably the most expensive upgrade I would consider. There’s definitely something about having your own “private” balcony to step out on in the morning after you wake up, in the afternoon to relax after hitting the Parks hard, or just before bed. But you could put that $120/day to good use elsewhere too. A couple could visit Jiko and order a bottle of wine every night for the same price. Or a family of four (with two kids under the age of ten) could visit Boma or just about any other restaurant. It’s a tough call – if you can afford it, it’s the one upgrade that would be difficult to pass up.
On the other hand, you can come out here and enjoy the savanna whenever you want.
Or enjoy a lazy scotch inside looking out at the savanna.
Animal Kingdom Lodge merchandise looked to be the same as the last time we visited. Which was interestingly exactly one year ago to the day. It must be a sign.
You’ll have to get your BPA somewhere else.
Otherwise, Zawadi Marketplace is a large store located off the lobby near the front of the resort, offering a lot of Disney’s most generic theme park merchandise with an emphasis on the Animal Kingdom theme park.
If you prefer your MAN Vintners or Idaba white wines chilled, you can pick them up here instead for the same price.
So that’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. If you’re interested in any of the activities, just head over to the resort concierge and request a list when you arrive.
As much fun as Animal Kingdom Lodge may appear, I would caution trying to get over here during a first trip. There’s plenty to do at the theme parks without trying to take the time to tour the various resorts as well. Trust me, they aren’t going anywhere. Once you become more familiar with the theme parks on a second or third trip, then you may want to consider hopping over to one of the resorts for lunch or a look around.