Lunch at Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Bus Stops, Wilderness Explorers – 6/13/13

Lunch is at Sanaa, the ground level restaurant at the Kidani Village section of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For a more thorough look around the property, see this post.

Sanaa recently received new menus (camera phone pix!):



Drinks and Bread:




We happened to be dining on National Chardonnay Day (always a mistake), so I was taking a serious look at a bottle of the Springfield Estate, but ultimately decided to put my $50 towards Woodbridge on the couch.  I’m sure it tasted like wine.

Sanaa is a large, well-themed restaurant that is rarely, if ever, busy for lunch.  Being only a few minutes away from Animal Kingdom theme park, you often see me recommending a visit after completing an Animal Kingdom itinerary or as a break from the crowds and heat.

Be sure to ask for a window table when checking in.

This is the view from the table zoomed out.  Giraffes and zebras are common sights.  A reservation before dusk is best if you’d like to see the animals – otherwise it may be too dark to see much of anything other than your reflection.

Of course, you can request a more secluded table away from the window.

The bar is also an option should you be dining outside of the lunch/dinner hours, there’s somehow a long wait for a table, you’re dining alone, or simply prefer more informal service.

The menus are mostly the same with some subtle changes/switch outs.  Now, all nine “accompaniments” are available with the bread service for $2 over the price of three.  If you’re dining at Sanaa, I highly recommend ordering the $10.99 bread service with the nine accompaniments.  We ordered the Traditional Naan, Spicy Naan, and the Papaadum, which is the thin cracker that I’m holding up.  There didn’t seem to be much difference in flavor between the spicy and traditional naan.  All of the accompaniments are interesting and unique, perhaps with the exception of the hummus, which is rather pedestrian.  Lisa and I both had our favorites and I’m sure you will too.  My favorites (the right favorites) were the Cucumber Raita, Coconut Chutney, and Coriander Chutney.

Theoretically, the accompaniments are supposed to be arranged so the mildest are on the left and the spiciest are on the right.  But this hodgepodge presentation did lead to a few surprises.

Having heard good things, I ordered the Slow-cooked in Gravy, Simple and Well-seasoned Butter Chicken and Beef Short Ribs with Basmati Rice (or Five-Grain Pilaf )- $21.99 for lunch or dinner.  I tossed and turned over the various options.  The Spicy Durban Chicken/Shrimp sounded really good too.  At first glace, it didn’t seem like a tremendous amount of food for +$20, but there’s more chicken hidden underneaf the creamy butter sauce with a hint of curry powder.  Very good, but I’m not sure it lives up to the hype.  There is not a lot of complexity to the dish.  The basmati rice was blander than I was expecting, but tipping it into the butter chicken sauce alleviated any problems on that front.  I know you’re relieved.  The Beef Short Ribs impressed – three ribs sans bones and fat in a hearty gravy.  On a previous visit to Jiko, I paid $43 for the Short Rib entree (literally one rib) that was considerably less food with more fat and less flavor.  I cut the ribs with a fork and they were delicious.  Highly recommended on all fronts.

Not the most attractive picture perhaps.  BLAME LISA.  Actually, I’ve been trying to explain the concept of bloggability to her.  That is, we don’t do things because we want to, we do things because they’re bloggable.  And so we have the $13.99 Bison Burger – Goat Cheese and Spicy Mustard Sauce, which recently replaced the traditional beef burger.  She was a little hesitant about the mustard sauce, but it turned out to be one of her favorite dishes of all time.  Of all time.  This is more or less a fork and knife excursion with the burger toppings set on top of a piece of naan bread.  The clever and/or shameless may be able to fold it and get it into their mouths.  I don’t remember Lisa using a knife or fork.  Anyway, her comment is, “Delicious.  That is all.”  She may just have a future in blogging.  The bite I got was tender and flavorful with ripe, fresh vegetables and flavorful bison that wasn’t at all game-y.  Very good and definitely worth the $3 more it costs over a regular dazney quick service patty.

Service was excellent – personable and efficient. You can’t beat the ambiance with the giraffes and zebras just feet away and the food/service are excellent as well.  I would say it’s a hidden gem, but everyone says it’s a hidden gem.  So it’s an obvious gem.

Changing gears slightly, it’s June 13th again at 3:30pm.  This was the last day this wall was up at the bus stops.

I think the only real world differences are that Beach Club/Yacht Club (Stop 3) and BoardWalk/Swan/Dolphin (Stop 4) are now separate.  Art of Animation moves over next to Pop Century at Stop 13.  That means another three minute walk to the entrance as you may remember Art of Animation originally had the best stop closest to the entrance.

This is my favorite time of day to arrive at Animal Kingdom.  With the 8pm close, we’ve got four hours to explore the Park in crowds that only decrease as it gets later.

These Animal Guides have been available alongside the Times Guides and Maps for a few months now:

If only they stocked Red Pandas.

Wilderness Explorers is the new interactive game that debuted at the beginning of the month.  You receive your booklet at the arrowed hut.  According to the Times Guide, Wilderness Explorers beings at 10am, so you may not be able to grab your booklet until then.  But there’s no rush.

You’ll receive this pretty sweet full color, 40-page booklet for “free.”

Your first task is reciting the Wilderness Call with the resident troop leader.  They’ll answer any questions you might have and present you with a little pencil.

There are 31 badges in all.  Each is identified on the map and explained on the individual page.

Your troop leader will let you know that exploring the wilderness is a lifelong activity and you aren’t expected to complete every badge on the first day.  You certainly could if you put your mind to it, though.  Note that there’s a description of where the station is underneath the name of the badge which makes things considerably easier to find than relying on the map and large icons.

There’s a wide variety of activities, though you may be able to tell from the “Hand Washing Badge” that it’s geared towards children.  Other badges, like the Asian Culture Badge, will have kids interacting with cast members in a fun way.

It’s also a way to get kids excited about doing things they may otherwise have no interest in, like the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail.  In that respect, it’s like the World Showcase Adventure at Epcot.  The kids can chase down Perry while the adults hunt down La Cava.

Almost all of the locations use existing cast members and infrastructure.

Wilderness Explorers seems like it would be a lot of fun for kids – it’s definitely an easy way to get them more involved in the theme park experience.  And if they get really into it, they might not even whine when you drag them through the Maharajah Jungle Trek.  There isn’t a big prize at the end should you complete all of the badges.  You might promise Junior a Mickey Bar or something.  Maybe a one year subscription to would get them excited.

Animal Kingdom was a recommended Park on this website.  TouringPlans had it as their only Park to avoid.

It’ll be about two hours until Animal Kingdom really empties out, but crowds in DinoLand were already thinning.  We’ve got a 10 minute wait for Primeval Whirl here at 4pm.

That looked to be pretty accurate.  You don’t want to be here when this queue is full.  Ordinarily, I’d recommend hitting the least popular/high capacity attractions before heading over to DinoLand two hours before Park close.  That includes Pangani Trail, Maharajah Jungle Trek, It’s Tough To Be A Bug, and potentially the stage shows.  DINOSAUR had a 20-minute posted wait, but at least it’s inside and well air-conditioned.

Still 10 minutes at TriceraTop Spin.

Work continues on what should be the FASTPASS+ queue for Finding Nemo the Musical.

There’s occasionally confusion over where Expedition Everest’s single rider line is in relation to everything else.

Single Rider usually just has an “Open” sign, but may also have a posted wait.  There’s also a ride vehicle over there if you’re concerned about being able to get in/out.  The posted wait was still 40 minutes with FASTPASS out to 6:10pm.  It would drop to 10 minutes by 7pm.

The Ice Cream Truck had been missing for a couple weeks.  It’s back – probably painted and refreshed.

Feeling somewhat delirious after running around Disney theme parks nonstop for six hours, I knew it was time to stop and get something ice cold to drink when I hallucinated the monorail traveling through Animal Kingdom.

This is a $5.39 Frozen Chai from Royal Anandapur Tea Company across from Yak & Yeti.  While expensive, these frozen drinks really hit the spot when it’s hot out.  Unlike the standard Disney frozen beverage, these are easy to drink with small ice crystals mixed in with the tea rather than that blended ice/syrup combo that’s prevalent in Disney’s own artificially flavored frozen beverages.  Highly recommended, though I think I prefer the Frozen Cappuccino for the extra caffeine kick.

Kali River Rapids had been down for about three hours earlier in the day.  FASTPASSes were gone and there was no posted wait, causing a lot of people to enter the line.  With the limited capacity and elevated interest with the high temps, peak waits should be 60 to 90 minutes most days over the summer and it is a higher FASTPASS priority than Everest of Safaris.

Work continues on building the new theater for Festival of the Lion King.

While construction is related to the presumed Avatar expansion, it isn’t exactly the first example of Avatar construction.

Walls otherwise line the bridge and extend around to Tusker House.

Waits at Kilimanjaro Safaris had already dropped to 25 minutes with FASTPASS 40 minutes out.

Feels crowded with another three and a half hours of operation.

Unlike the lines out the door we saw at Magic Kingdom, there are just a few people in line at Pizzafari. Granted 4:30pm is not exactly peak meal time.

Wilderness Exploring.

Not a lot going on over at Animal Kingdom these days, despite it being host to what should be Disney’s only major construction project outside of the Mine Train.  Wilderness Explorers is a sound addition for the target age range.  And even if you’re not necessarily interested in collecting all 31 badges, you may want to pick up a Handbook to bring home or to check out some of the more interactive activities.


  1. shalom says

    My eldest thought the frozen chai was ambrosia. I’ve been trying to get her to drink chai tea for a decade and she’d never give it a shot; now I keep running out of the stuff because she drinks it too. That frozen chai is the only thing she talks about when we talk WDW.

    Maybe I should have her try the Frozen Cappuccino.

  2. cupcake says

    Those slow-cooked meals at Sanaa are supposed to be overturned and dumped onto the plate, with the rice in the middle and each meat on the side. That way you easily push your rice into either sauce of your choosing for flavor. They used to explain this whenever serving these meals awhile back, I’m not sure why they stopped, but whenever we’re there lately they never mention it, and no one around us does it. But it just makes things slightly easier.

    I need that frozen chai in my life!

  3. Disney4ever says

    We ate at Sanaa late May, and it was fabulous. We had the huge bread service too, and the sauce with the whole garlic cloves was incredible, but I agree with you on the coconut chutney, absolutely must get the bread service when dining there. We also had the salad sampler, and the butter chicken and braised bison with basmati rice. We shared these items with the addition of a shrimp app that my husband ate alone, and were so stuffed. I can’t say we got great service, because we didn’t. A shame really as we arrived right at opening 5pm. But luckily the food shined.

    As for this subscription to your site….are you going to finally charge? or is it a joke.

  4. Mary Ann says

    I’m a bit confused as to where the new theater for Festival of the Lion King is going to be. Is it over by the Dawa Bar?

  5. Carol says

    We ate at Sanaa for the first time in April. I also got the Butter Chicken, along with the Spicy Durban chicken. I wasn’t all that impressed with either. It was the first week of the new menu and we chose the bread service with all the accompaniments. This was very good, but there wasn’t nearly enough bread for all the condiments. When I asked about getting more bread, I was told that you could purchase more, which I thought was a little weird for a “nice” restaurant. Our service was so-so. After hearing so many people rave about this place, I was a little disappointed with our experience. I wouldn’t put Sanaa high on my must do list, but I would probably go back to try the salad sampler sometime.

  6. Tina Q says

    I have to recommend hitting Kali early. We were there Friday, June 7th and hit Kali about 9:15 or so. It was a walk on and we did it twice. My brother-in-law and his family decided they didn’t want to start their day that way, so they hit it at noon and waited an hour–for what, a 3 minute ride? Needless to say, we tour differently than they do!:)

  7. Anonymous says

    Animal Kingdom Villas is our DVC home resort and our favorite place to stay. We always eat lunch at Sanaa on our arrival day. SO relaxing, great food, and wonderful atmosphere. We then usually heads over to Animal Kingdom for late afternoon park fix. Thanks Josh for posting this.

  8. Christie says

    “As for this subscription to your site….are you going to finally charge? or is it a joke.”

    He refuses to take our money. This will forever be a joke.

  9. Kevin says

    Love Sanaa, thanks for the review.

    Some kids (our included) love the Pangani trail/Maharjah jungle trek. Try not to generalize too much…

  10. Jill Mac says

    In the very first picture, it looks like all the CMs are standing there clapping and possibly singing. Do they always do this or was it just because you’re a VIP?

  11. Juanita says

    I love Sanaa (it’s my favorite Disney restaurant so far). I was there Saturday, May 4th though for lunch without an ADR (we got there around 1:30, I think), and we waited over an hour for a table. We wouldn’t normally wait that long, but we trekked all the way over there just for lunch and my nephew was napping anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.

  12. pfalcioni says

    I’m having a crummy day, ate a crummy frozen dinner for lunch, and your update was a welcome bit of sunshine.

    Yay for the Animal Guide! We love wandering AK and I see a few animals listed that we’ve never seen there before. They have cavies? How the heck have I missed them every time?

    “If only they stocked Red Pandas.”

    Someone looking for some Red Panda? Here’s my favorite

    It’s a Canadian Red Panda, but don’t hold that against him.

    The Explorers Handbook is a great idea also, I’m all for anything that gets people exploring more than just the rides and shows at the park.

  13. cupcake says

    Jill Mac: Some Disney restaurants have an ‘opening ceremony’ each night, which basically consists of the CMs lining up and clapping. It’s the MOST fun at ‘Ohana, where every clapping server’s facial expression screams “kill me now.” They don’t even try and fake it!

  14. Shannon says

    So EE has a ride vehicle where one could “practice” getting in and out of… I’ve also seen one at TT. Does anyone know of other attractions with these?

  15. Dawn H says

    Hi Josh, great review, as always…we always drive to the parks, taking your advise to dine at Sanaa for lunch, would we do well to use the bus service there and back? and if so, how long should we allow to travel?

  16. cupcake says

    Shannon: EE, TT, and Sum of All Fears are the only rides with test seats. The test seats at EE and Sum are more geared toward helping riders determine if they will be able to ‘fit’ the ride, while the TT test seat is geared towards wheelchair-bound riders. The Sum of All Fears test seat seems to be the only one that gets much use, because Sum is pretty much the lone ride at WDW that is slightly size-restrictive.

  17. RebeccaMcK says

    They have the Wilderness Explorers thing at DCA in Anaheim but it’s just a brochure/map (not a booklet like DAK has) and it’s limited to the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. I have the brochure, unused, in my Disney folder. Sounds like it’s a great activity at DAK, with more to do in the booklet. Thanks for pointing out the Single Riders entrance at EE….I had never seen it myself, so NOW I KNOW, lol.

  18. Shannon says

    OK – after the SeaWorld review, I get that maybe you’re not an animal person. But trust me, there ARE animal people out there. I’m 37 and I am sorely tempted to do the Wilderness Badges – ALL 31 of them. As kids, my sis and I would love all the animal trails. In my experience working with kids, kids love animals. Zoos were some of our favorite trips. And OMG, hubby and I spent a TON of time at SeaWorld looking at all the animals.

    Granted on my last trip, I was seriously behind the rest of my group on the trails, but they flew thru WS as well so there’s no accounting for taste there. But I also had some one on one time with a cast member in the bat area that was very informative.

    But hey, each to their own. Thanks for another great informative post, love all the pics. (Avatarland,really? Really??? *sigh*)

  19. Julia says

    I went to Sanaa for lunch in January without a reservation. They told me it would be a 30 minute wait. It turned out to be over an hour. Of course I would have left if I had any idea, but I thought it would take me 30 minutes to get to somewhere else for lunch, so stayed. Then the service was really bad. By then the restaurant cleared out enough for lots of empty tables by the window, but they wanted to sit me next to the kitchen door. When I requested a window table, I had to return to the waiting area for another 15 minutes before they came to seat me at a window table. Then the service was bad too!
    The food was fine/good. Not backflips good. Not worth going through that again.
    I should have been left.

  20. Anonymous says

    I am enjoying the addition of Lisa to your dining excursions . Maybe a meal at CRT with Lisa and the rich Manhattan moms would be bloggable?

  21. anonmous says

    ^^^ This post is probably Lisa trying to get Josh to take her to CRT and a possible 3 way with a rich manhattan mom.

  22. pfalcioni says

    Dawn H. Are you planning lunch at Sanaa during an AK day? If so, then you’ll just need to take the bus from AK to AKL and get off at the Kidani stop. To return, just go back to the same bus stop and catch the AK bus back to the park.

    You can also drive if you wish, you’re allowed to park at any of the resorts, just follow the signs to Kidani and tell the person at the gate you have a lunch reservation at Sanaa.

  23. Jenny says

    My ds6 loved the wilderness explorers badges. He wants to finish the rest of them tomorrow. I like that each is a really short activity and doesn’t drag you all over places you weren’t already going.

  24. Dawn H says

    pfalcioni thanks for that bit of info..but I was wondering how long it will take to get to AKL from AK (yes, on an AK day). I would take the bus…since I drive to the parks and have never traveled between a park and a hotel for lunch, Im wondering how much time to allow to get to a reservation? bus

  25. Terri -back home is So. Cal says

    Thanks for the photos/update on FOTLK. My nephew is one of the dancers. :) Can’t wait to see the new digs!

  26. dusty cheatham says


  27. Erin says

    Sanaa is our favorite resort restaurant by far, a must-visit on each trip (usually stay at Kidani, so that makes it easy). I have serious cravings for the tomato soup with paneer cheese. So much so, that I had the pleasure of getting to meet the chef on our last trip, get the recipe, get several other recipes, be invited back during our stay so she could create some new dishes for us on the spot, and exchange emails so we could get even more recipes after we got home!! Needless to say, it was Disney customer service in it’s finest form. We will be back, and look forward to more creations from our new chef friend!!

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