Walt Disney World In Focus – Animal Kingdom Lodge

This is the fifth in a series of articles by our resident photographer, Craig Hood.  See his other works in the Photography section.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”  – Walt Disney

As somewhat of a change in direction from my previous articles, I thought I would start to focus more on specific areas of Disney.  In other words, instead of trying to cover such a wide array of subjects geographically in one article, I will keep the focus on one subject and cover it as well as I can without getting too long and drawn out.  Be it a ride, a show, a restaurant, a resort or even a restroom, pretty much anything on Disney property is likely to be covered.  Hence the title of this series of articles, “Walt Disney World In Focus – insert subject here”.   I’ll show what I think are unique aspects, or maybe not so unique.  I’ll tell a little about the photo technically or just  give some general overview.  I’ll try to show you more than you might see on other WDW websites.  At heart, I think we all just want to enjoy good Disney photos while dreaming about the next trip.

I think one of the most unique and beautiful resorts on Disney property is the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Animal Kingdom Lodge opened in April 2001 as the latest addition to Disney’s line of “Deluxe” accommodations.  In May 2009, it expanded to include Kidani Village, the “Vacation Club” side of Animal Kingdom Lodge.  With the opening of Kidani Village, the main lodge building was renamed “Jambo House.“  For this article, we’re going to focus on Jambo House property.  I always look forward to wandering this resort inside and out with my camera.  Also not to be overlooked is the expansive collection of African art and architecture of the main buildings.

(Click any image to expand)

Walking into the main building of Jambo House is always inspiring.  Such a grand space!

The Jambo House suspension bridge – but not so obvious.  Different angle, different perspective.

There are so many items worth a look in the main Jambo House lobby that you’ll just have to explore them for yourself.  There are side rooms and quiet spots scattered throughout the space that are filled with African art work and artifacts.  You could literally fill a book using just the lobby as a subject.

Jambo House has one of the coolest Gift shops on Disney property, Zawadi Marketplace.  The décor is heavily themed in African/Disney style.  They also have items specific to Animal Kingdom that are not available at other resort gift shops.  Lot’s of neat things here to photograph.

Sometimes the lighting can be a challenge even in a gift shop.  This is one of those with very low lighting that required wide open aperture + high ISO to maintain a usable shutter speed for a handheld shot. In a space this big with a shot this wide, on-camera flash is ineffective and won‘t produce good results, in my opinion. The natural lighting is much more pleasing to the eye.

The grounds of Animal Kingdom Lodge are quite possibly the most beautiful on Disney property.  Every single plant and tree looks as if it has always been there.  Nothing looks out of place or freshly planted.  It’s obvious Disney’s intent was for Animal Kingdom Lodge grounds to look as authentically rustic and natural as any lodge would on the real African Savanna.  There are just as many photo opportunities outside the building as inside and there is so much of it to explore.

If wildlife photography is your thing, there is an abundance on Animal Kingdom Lodge property, even mice.  Look closely…

Framing your subject with something in the foreground can give your shot more depth and interest.

Where else on Disney property can you have a view like this right outside your room?  This is facing the main building of Kidani Village.  I took this shot from our balcony at night, obviously. This was a 20 second exposure at F7.1, tripod mounted. The 3 Elands were good sports and remained perfectly still for the entire 20 seconds.

I didn’t know water was so plentiful on the African Savanna, but it does make a beautiful subject.  Must be the rainy season.

So there’s a very small sampling of the megapixel delights that await you at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  If you’re staying on Disney property, or can take a day to visit, it’s definitely worth a photographic “safari.”

Josh’s Note: As most of us are aware, Animal Kingdom (the theme park) regularly closes at 5pm, 6pm, or 7pm.  One of my favorite things to do is to stay right up until Animal Kingdom closes and then ride the resort bus from the Animal Kingdom over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Crowds thin significantly in the final hour of Park operation and it’s a great time to return to Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and whatever you may have have skipped over during the day.  At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll find great table service restaurants in the form of Jiko – The Cooking Place (signature restaurant), Boma (Africa/India inspired buffet), and Sanaa (Africa/India inspired table service restaurant).  Even Mara, the Lodge’s quick service, serves excellent food that is different from what you might find at your own resort.   There are also public savanna “overlooks” throughout the resort where anyone visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge can enjoy the animals on the savannas.  The Arusha Rock Overlook is not to be missed.  If you’re looking to save money and forgo the Park Hopper upgrade, but still want to have fun after the Animal Kingdom closes, then a visit to the Animal Kingdom Lodge might be just the ticket.

Jiko is my personal favorite “date night” restaurant on Disney property.  Its understated elegance, extensive wine selection, and quiet atmosphere combine to make a memorable night that is as far away as you’ll get from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks (without returning home, that is).


  1. says

    What a fantastic review of this resort. I was so happy to read it as my hubby and I are thinking about purchasing DVC there…I think you convinced me. :0) Thanks a bunch for sharing!! By the way…you take excellent pics.

    • Craig Hood says

      Thanks Kelly, glad you enjoyed it. Animal Kingdom is one of our favorite places to stay. It’s always so quiet and relaxing there. You definitely won’t be disappointed choosing AKL as your “home”.

      Take care,

  2. Connie C says

    “At heart, I think we all just want to enjoy good Disney photos while dreaming about the next trip.”

    Exactly! We can go less often now with our budget, so seeing it through your eyes helps to hold us over ’til the next trip. Thank you for that.

    • Craig Hood says

      You are quite welcome Connie, and thank you for taking the time to read. Sharing Disney through pictures is one of my favorite past times and it helps us get through those “dry spells” as well.

      Have a Magical Day!

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