Animal Kingdom Lodge Review DVC Villas Jambo House PLUS Money Saving Hack for Deluxe Resorts

Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World featuring rooms for Disney Vacation Club owners and guests. There are two buildings at Animal Kingdom Lodge: Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo house is considered the main building for Animal Kingdom Lodge and is also where you will find a large majority of the DVC rooms. We recently stayed in a DVC studio in Jambo House during Christmas week and loved our time at this beautiful lodge. Keep reading for everything you should know in my Animal Kingdom Lodge review.

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Overview of Animal Kingdom Lodge: Jambo House VillasAnimal Kingdom Lodge Review

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a deluxe resort hotel at Walt Disney World located directly near Animal Kingdom Park. This African inspired hotel is surrounded by four savannas that are home to over 200 hoofed animals and birds. You have the choice of being lodged in Jambo House or Kidani Village based on your booking. Both these buildings offer dining, pools and recreation, and savanna views. Many guests tend to prefer Jambo House since this building is home to the main lobby at Animal Kingdom Lodge plus has a more impressive presence in terms of African inspired design.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is also home to one of the largest collections of African art in the United States which you can find displayed all around the hotel with some of the most majestic pieces in the main lobby.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

You can enjoy the savanna views throughout the entire resort meaning you are never far from a spectacular view. You can see both sides of the savanna in the hallways that lead up to the hotel rooms in Jambo House which offer tall windows at certain points in the walkways. There are also plenty of animal overlooks outside the main lobby where you will often find an animal expert cast member ready to share their knowledge about the animals that call Animal Kingdom Lodge home. The pool area also featured a great view of flamingos that you could position yourself to view as you sunbathe.

Everywhere you turn around in this resort there were animals to find! It's a great resort for any animal lover. Since my son and I both love animals this is was a great perk for us. We had so much fun wandering the resort finding as many animals as we could and learning more about them.

Animal Kingdom Lodge review

Guests also have the option of opting for a savanna view room so you can view the animals directly from your balcony. This is the view we had during our stay and I highly recommend it. I can't imagine staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge without a savanna view! We saw so many giraffes and zebras very close to our balcony. It was a great way to wake up in the morning, enjoying a cup of coffee, while looking out at all the animals. The cast members at Animal Kingdom Lodge are also deliberate on where they feed the animals so you can see them closely from your hotel room. We happened to be in the room when they were feeding them dinner (around 5PM) and I noticed that the food was placed close by the viewing areas near the hotel rooms to entice the animals to get closer. This was our favorite part of our stay, it always kept a smile on our faces to look out at these animals all the time.

Animal Kingdom Lodge offers a range of room types from queen beds, king beds, studio suites plus 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom, and 3-bedroom villas. All room types have the option of upgrading to a pool view or savanna view. There is also club level service offered for the villas and deluxe studios.

Money Saving Hack for Deluxe ResortsAnimal Kingdom Lodge Review

During my trip we stayed in a deluxe studio with a view of the savanna. This room would normally average around $800 per night during the Christmas week season that we were staying. We stayed for a total of eight nights so the rack rate for this room directly from Walt Disney World would have come about $6400 for our stay. In reality, I only paid $2970 for our stay because I rented Disney Vacation Club points seven months in advance of our stay. That is a savings of about $3400! We literally paid less than half of what our stay would have normally cost because I rented DVC points.

For more information on how to rent DVC points, you can read our full guide to renting points for Walt Disney World resorts here!

This is a great way to save money on your trip and enjoy deluxe amenities for the price of a moderate hotel. This was one of the best hacks we've used on a trip and it worked out so well for Christmas. Be warned though that it isn't always easy to find availability for your stay and there is a fair amount of additional work required to make this work (as detailed in our guide above).

Along with those savings, I also purchased discount Walt Disney World tickets and Universal Orlando park tickets from our travel partner Get Away Today in advance and locked in our prices. Which was good because Walt Disney World raised their ticket prices in the Fall before our trip! I would also recommend using Get Away Today (via the form below) if you do not want to go through the extra steps of renting DVC points.

To get a FREE quote from Get Away Today on park tickets or a full Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando package, fill out this quick and easy form here. You'd be surprised at how doable a Walt Disney World trip can be even for the most conservative of budgets.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Amenities

Animal Kingdom Lodge offers the typical set of amenities you can find at Walt Disney World resorts along with the addition of higher end services for guests staying at club level rooms.

Animal Kingdom Lodge lists their resort amenities as including:

  • Disney Bus Transportation
  • Minnie Van Service
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet
  • Online Check-In
  • ATM
  • Banking for exchanging foreign currencies
  • Designated Smoking Areas
  • Housekeeping Service
  • Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
  • Mail Services
  • Merchandise Delivery and Pickup
  • Resort Concierge
  • Disney Signature Services for Club-level rooms

Animal Kingdom Lodge Recreation

The pools are Animal Kingdom Lodge are impressive and everything you'd expect from a deluxe resort with water slides and plenty of comfortable seating. We also utilized the arcade during our visit but did not make time for the other activities which you can often find at most other Walt Disney World resorts.

animal kingdom lodge review pool

We used the Uzima Springs Pool during our stay and the hot tubs located nearby.

This is a gorgeous pool with plenty of space, nearby pool bar, food-service location and view of the savanna from certain areas.

And flamingos!

My son enjoyed the waterslide and I appreciated the choice of two hot tubs to utilize since it was a bit chilly during our stay.

The full list of recreation options at Animal Kingdom Lodge include:

  • Pools at both Jambo and Kidani Village
    • The largest pool is the Uzima Springs Pool at Jambo house facing the savanna with a zero-depth entry point and a 67-foot-long waterslide. Two hot tubs are also located nearby.
    • The second pool is Samawati Springs Pool at Kidani Village with a 128-foot waterslide and a water playground called Uwanja Camp with three different zones for kids of all ages.This pool area also features a water playground for smaller children to enjoy.
  • Jambo House Campfire Activities
    • Located at Arusha Overlook 7:00-8:00pm – 7 days a week
  • Movies Under the Stars
    • Watch favorite Disney films in the fresh evening air by the Uzima Pool.

  • Hakuna Matata Playground
    • Located at Jambo House
  • Pumbaa’s Fun and Games Arcade
    • Located at Jambo House
  • Wild About Painting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Locker Rentals for $1 per use near Uzima pool
  • Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center- a workout facility featuring equipment, massages and more.

Plus there's also a large gift shop in the main lobby offering a good selection of souvenirs and must need items. One thing that's great about hotel gift shops is you can often find sold out merchandise at the parks in the hotels.

Never forget to check your hotel gift shop if you've been looking for a specific item!

Animal Kingdom Lodge DiningJiko Cooking Place

We only took advantage of the quick-service (The Mara) and bar service (Victoria Falls Lounge) during our stay as we had a pretty packed itinerary since we were there for Christmas week. The food from The Mara was quick and easy, especially being located right next to the main pool.

Most guests rave about all the dining options at Animal Kingdom Lodge, next time we will definitely spend more time enjoying them. We heard from other guests that Sanaa over at Kidani Village is especially good.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House Dining

  • Jiko – The Cooking Place
    • Dinner
    • Be transported to Africa as you taste the fragrant spices and bold flavors of this amazing continent’s cuisine.
  • Boma – Flavors of Africa
    • Breakfast, Dinner
    • Feast on an all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet in an atmosphere inspired by a lively open-air marketplace.
  • The Mara
    • Get a snack to go or grab a seat in the dining room and enjoy a meal under a canopy of banyan trees.
  • Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar
    • Bar Service
    • Enjoy an aperitif prior to dining at nearby Jiko – The Cooking place––or stay put and order an appetizer to enjoy with your cocktail.
  • Victoria Falls Lounge
    • Bar Service
    • Park yourself by the glow of a fire pit or sink into a sofa while sipping a selection from the full bar menu.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village Dining

  • Uzima Springs Pool Bar
    • Bar Service
    • Linger over libations at this inviting retreat while relishing wildlife sightings at nearby Arusha Savanna.
  • Sanaa
    • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    • Discover exquisite East African cuisine and enjoy views of Sunset Savanna—home to some 30 wildlife species!
  • Sanaa Lounge
    • Bar Service
    • Try a flight of African wines surrounded by the warm hues of an Old-World spice market.
  • Maji Pool Bar
    • Lunch, Bar Service
    • Sip on a cocktail at this romantic open-air oasis serving up signature drinks, sandwiches and salads.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Transportation Review

Animal Kingdom Lodge only offers bus transportation to the theme parks which is often seen as a large drawback for some guests considering booking this deluxe hotel. It is true that it is definitely a con in comparison to some other deluxe resorts that offer monorail or Skyliner service in addition to bus transportation. This is due to the location of Animal Kingdom Lodge as it's located too far away to utilize the monorail or Skyliner as it's next to Animal Kingdom park.

We gladly took this trade for our amazing savanna view room and I hardly noticed the difference in distance with the hotel. The main perk that this distance was most noticeable was Magic Kingdom as Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit far away. However, the bus service was constant and we never waited long at the hotel or the parks. The My Experience App under the ‘Resort' section will show you the time when your bus will arrive at your resort and arrival to each park giving you a good idea of how to plan. I suggest allowing for extra time if you plan on going to Magic Kingdom since this will be the longest bus ride!

But my rule of thumb for rope drop, for any Walt Disney World resort, is to line up at your transportation at least 60-90 minutes prior to park opening.

Overall, I did not find the distance of Animal Kingdom Lodge to be that noticeable of a drawback despite it often being the loudest compliant I have ever heard about this resort. The bus transportation was so timely and efficient that it never made a difference to us. Like I noted previously, we are animal lovers so the trade off of being so close to the animals was one we gladly made. We never used rideshare or the Minnie Van Service to get to the parks and relied solely on bus transportation. We didn't need to call rideshare because the buses were so efficient!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review & Room Tour

We stayed in a deluxe studio (comes with a kitchenette and balcony!) with a savanna view during our stay. This was the perfect size for two people but we could have easily fit two more people, the room was plenty spacious.

View of our deluxe studio from by the balcony

View of our deluxe studio from by the balcony

Plenty of place to store clothes- wardrobe and big dresser

Plenty of place to store clothes- wardrobe and big dresser

Bed was extremely comfortable

Bed was extremely comfortable

Couch pulls out into a bed- this wasn't quite as comfortable!

Couch pulls out into a bed- this wasn't quite as comfortable!

Plenty of space to get ready in the morning with double sinks

Plenty of space to get ready in the morning with double sinks

Lots of counter space

Lots of counter space!

Bathtub and shower

Bathtub and shower

H20 products

H20 products

Kitchnette which is part of the deluxe studios. Included toaster, larger mini fridge, coffee pot, microwave plus paper towels, dish soap, paper plates/napkins. This was great to have!

Kitchenette which is part of the deluxe studios. Included toaster, larger mini fridge, coffee pot, microwave plus paper towels, dish soap, paper plates/napkins. This was great to have!

View from our room!

View from our room!

Beautiful view!

Beautiful view! The balcony also had two chairs and a table so we relaxed out here often.

The deluxe studio with the kitchenette was great for an eight night stay. We had groceries delivered (bell services will bring these up for you, you can have them delivered before you arrive!) and this helped us save money on eating breakfast and evening snacks. The only compliant for our room was the sleeper sofa- my son found it extremely uncomfortable and by the end of the trip he was ready for a real bed!

Fire pit in lobby

I loved our stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and it was made extra special since we stayed during the holiday season. We enjoyed the hotel in its full holiday glory with an enormous sparkling Christmas tree in the Jambo House lobby and glittering garland all over the resort.

The lobby also featured a gingerbread sculpture of a giraffe and zebra which was a nice touch. If you've ever stayed at the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland during the holiday season you may find this hotel reminds you quite a bit of that atmosphere!

The distance of Animal Kingdom Lodge also plays out in your favor during the holidays as we rarely saw our lobby as crowded as some of the other deluxe hotel lobbies get! Especially if they have a gingerbread display. The lobby always felt peaceful.

I would absolutely stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge again. There were so many additional things you can add to your stay to make it magical that we just didn't have time for like enjoying the table-service dining, spending more time talking to cast members about the animals on the savanna, or enjoying the art classes offered. Kids love this resort, we saw so many kids exclaiming with joy when they'd see a giraffe grazing out the window. I highly recommend it.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Review Final Thoughts

Pros

  • Savanna view of animals throughout the resort and offered at hotel rooms.
  • Disney quality level of service.
  • Beautiful African artwork.
  • Unique themed design that ties in with Animal Kingdom.
  • Deluxe resort recreation and amenities (table-service restaurants, waterslides, club level service offered, etc.)
  • I loved staying in the Disney bubble, I will always stay on-site when we come to Disney World for this reason. I felt like we had truly escaped reality at this hotel to the African savanna.
  • Beautiful Christmas decorations during the holidays and gingerbread display.
  • Less crowded lobby so hotel guests can relax.
  • Indoor firepit lounge area which came in handy on cold evenings.
  • Resort felt safe and secure. Depending on your comfort level, you could feel free to let your pre-teens/teens roam without worrying. Some nights my son would go enjoy the arcade while I had a glass of wine by the firepit in the lobby. And that arcade was packed with other kids his age every night so it quickly became the hangout place making for some great vacation memories for him.

Cons

  • Only bus transportation offered.
  • Furthest hotel from Magic Kingdom.
  • High price compared to moderate/value resorts.
  • Depending on your room location, can be a bit of a walk to get to the lobby and pool area.
  • African theme doesn't fit the tropical vibe that some guests might desire from a vacation to Florida, the theme may not appeal to all guests.
  • Table-service options for lunch/dinner may not appeal to picky eaters as mostly African cuisine is served.
  • No on-site cafe.

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About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the editor of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and writing Disney culture pieces on DisneyDose.com- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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