Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Review
Jambo! Animal Kingdom Lodge is unlike any other resort. It transports you to the heart of Africa with four surrounding savannahs filled with a variety of wildlife making you feel like you’re really on a safari. It’s a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the parks to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Here at Magical Adventure Co., picking out where to stay is part of the fun of planning a Walt Disney World adventure! Though every explorer has different needs when booking their stay, it’s best to weigh a few options: Theming, Price, Food and Drink, Transportation, and Pool.
As you enter the lodge, the intricate architectural details draw your eyes up to the jaw dropping expanse. Don’t get caught looking up for too long though, or you’ll miss the historical African artifacts spaced throughout the lobby. In fact, Animal Kingdom Lodge has one of the largest collections of African art and artifacts in the United States. As you reach the opposite end, you’ll be amazed by the spectacular 180 degree views of the savannahs.
When staying here, make sure to get outside the walls of the resort and meander down the outdoor pathways for the most surreal and up close sightseeing opportunities of giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches, and more. As the day ends you can relax in rocking chairs watching the sunset with the wildlife. After dark, make sure to grab some night vision goggles (provided free by the lodge) to watch the wildlife as they explore their darkened wilderness. You can also head out to the bonfire where you can grab a s’more and stargaze the night away.
One of the best parts is knowing that the habitats developed by Disney have been expertly crafted in consultation with conservationists. You can rest assured the animals you see are being cared for in an ethical way to ensure the animals are thriving. Read more about Animal Kingdom and Walt Disney World’s conservation efforts here. The lodge also employs cast members from numerous African countries who are able to expertly speak about the different animals and their native habitat.
When booking hotel accommodations, WDW divides its properties based on price range. Animal Kingdom Lodge is considered a Deluxe Resort Hotel. What that means is it is about $400+/night to stay at one of these high level hotels, with Animal Kingdom Lodge generally being a tad cheaper than its other Deluxe counterparts. Additionally, this means the amenities (size of room, service, etc.) are about on par with a Hilton or Marriott.
Since the main point of staying here is to see the animals, it is definitely worth it to get a savannah view. You can even request a room to the right of the lobby so you can get a view of where the animals are fed. It's a pretty amazing experience to see them all together in one place! Also, Animal Kingdom Lodge recently updated their rooms, greatly improving the overall quality of the stay.
Animal Kingdom Lodge has some really great dining options. Boma, the main restaurant, is an all you can eat buffet with a very diverse set of food options. If you’re worried about trying something new, each dish is labeled with what’s in it, and it’s country of origin! Additionally, there are more familiar dishes for the less adventurous palates. With it’s marketplace theme, Boma is fun for the whole family as you take a tour of the African continent’s most popular dishes. Located next door in the Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas, Sanaa also has a lot to offer from a dining perspective and is a great cheaper sit down option for lunch or dinner. We recommend making an early dinner reservation at either of these locations and requesting a table by the window to take advantage of the outdoor views of the savannah.
If you want to step up your dining experience, try out Jiko - the Cooking Place, a fine dining experience. Offering a blend of African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine, this restaurant is one of the top rated options in all of Disney World with a price point and dress code to match. Plan a date night or evening getaway here to top off a great stay. Jiko also offers an additional package where you can enjoy a private safari encounter around the lodge before dinner.
If you don’t have the time, or you’re spending the day at the pool, The Mara is the to-go option nestled outside. It’s a little tricky to get to, but has some grab and go meal options for a day at the parks or pool. And make sure you don’t forget to check out the Uzima Spring Pool Bar, where you can grab a quick meal and some fun cocktails for a relaxing afternoon or evening.
As with all Disney resorts, complimentary bus transportation is provided between the resorts and theme parks at WDW. However, Animal Kingdom Lodge is quite a bit removed from most of the other Disney World parks due to its need for a quiet habitat for the animals. This means that most trips to Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios will take around 20 minutes once on the bus. Therefore, make sure to plan your days accordingly, especially for “rope drop”/park openings.
Don't forget, Disney's Magical Express is complimentary and your best option for getting to and from Orlando International Airport when staying in any Disney hotel. While it may take a little longer, the convenience of checked bag delivery all the way to your room and always friendly Disney service is well worth your time.
The Uzima pool is not to be missed. Modeled after a watering hole, this beach entry (or zero entry) pool is as scenic as the savannahs that surround it. Meandering under rustic bridges, the two slides and waterfalls continue the outdoor African experience. Get there in the early afternoon to claim a cabana though or enjoy the sun in one of the many surrounding poolside lounge chairs. And don’t miss the chance while you're there to continue to enjoy scenery at the nearby overlook.
The biggest drawback of this resort is how far away it is from everything. With long bus rides required to most parks, it's often a little more challenging to get back to the hotel for a midday rest or time at the pool. Additionally, much like Disney’s Beach Club Resort and most other Disney Resorts, reservations fill up quickly. So, it is recommended that you book your stay well in advance (9 to 12 months).
Overall, Animal Kingdom lodge is a great resort whether animal lover or not, and a great chance to find a real respite away from the crazy that often is Disney World.