One of my favorite places to stay at the Walt Disney World® Resort is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas.Come along with me and enter the world of Africa!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas is made up of three parts: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village. The villas at Jambo House and Kidani Village are part of the Disney Vacation Club, but are also available to reserve to non-Disney Vacation Club members. The main hotel is located in Jambo House, with Kidani Village located adjacent to this area.
In Swahili, Jambo means “hello” and you will often be greeted with a hearty, “Jambo!” by the cast members. Kidani means necklace in Swahili, which explains Kidani Village’s name – the building is shaped like a necklace with each section representing a bead on the necklace.
When you first arrive at Animal Kingdom Lodge, you will come around the corner and see flat-top trees all around with the big thatched roofs of the front entry of the lodge that establishes the sense of being in Africa.
Enter through the doors and into the main lobby where at the far end there’s a big window that opens through to the savanna beyond. Walk through that wall of glass and you will come to an elevated viewing area for the savanna called Arusha Rock, where you can enjoy the roaming animals. Guides are stationed here to answer any questions about the animals, conservation and African culture.
The grand lobby is 6 stories high and crowned with chandeliers made of shields fashioned in the Maasai tradition with each color and pattern signifying special meaning. Part of the overall goal of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is to create an environment that celebrates Africa’s adventure while remaining as authentic as possible. Almost every piece of art at the lodge (over 800 pieces) is all uniquely done out of Africa. Even the wood shields from Zimbabwe on each of the doors are uniquely crafted and very authentic.
Concierge-level accommodations, called “Kilimanjaro Club” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, are located on the upper floors of the resort (5th and 6th) and include some regular-sized rooms as well as all Suite-level rooms: one- and two-bedroom suites, the Royal Kuba Vice Presidential Suite, and the Royal Assante Presidential Suite. Kilimanjaro Club rooms have pool and Savanna views. One-bedroom suites and the Royal Kuba Suite sleep 6 people; 2-bedroom suites and the Assante Suite sleep 8 people. Concierge-level costs a bit more, but includes Kilimanjaro Club lounge access; complimentary snacks, breakfast, wine and cheese receptions, etc.; turn-down service; and specialized concierge service, including any help you may need with reservations, tickets, and other bookings.
Other room types include standard, pool and savanna view rooms with 2 queen-sized beds or one queen-sized bed and a bunk bed. These rooms all sleep 4 (or 5 with an infant). Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas range in size from studios to 3-bedroom grand villas.
Escape to an 11,000-square-foot pool with an exciting water slide and gently sloping, zero-depth entry point similar to that of a natural watering hole. It is surrounded by large canopy trees and Floridian palms. Uzima Pool includes a children’s wading pool and 2 whirlpool spas.
Over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village you can relax at Samawati Springs Pool. Breeze down the 128-foot-long water slide or unwind in 2 whirlpool spas. Kids of all ages can explore Uwanja Camp, an animal observation site-themed water playground including gentle geysers, a squirting flower garden, water cannons and more.
The cast adds to the overall experience. At any given time there is about 50 African nationals that are called cultural representatives that come from various countries to share a little bit of themselves with the guests.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is inspired by the traditional African kraal (an enclosure for livestock) and is shaped like a series of horseshoes, each wrapping around a centerpiece – Four savannas filled with African birds and exotic animals. There are 46 acres of savanna at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with over 250 animals, 30 different species and they are out 22 hours of the day. You can wake up each morning to see the animals and have your coffee in the quiet and feel at peace.
Guests staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge have the opportunity to get right out onto the savanna with animal care specialists on a special safari which ends at the resort’s signature restaurant – Jiko – the Cooking Place.
Jiko means “the cooking place” in Swahili and the restaurant features authentic African cuisine. Disney does a lot of research to ensure that their dining atmosphere and menus are an accurate extension of the resort theme. Jiko is also known for its regional wine collection. They feature a wine list that is 100% South African. They house one of the largest collections of South African wines outside of South Africa.
A restaurant located nearby at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village is the only place guests can dine while looking out at the savanna. It’s called Sanaa, which means “art work” in Swahili. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has the largest collection of African artifacts outside of South Africa. A lot of them are on the walls of the restaurant. These artifacts include everything from drums to recycled glass and ornate gourds, plus colorful beads and African woodwork. The chairs in the restaurant are shaped like an African shield. In African villages you will always find that on the doors there will be these shield to protect the family. The floor of the restaurant is a giraffe pattern that links in with the Acacia trees on the ceiling. Acacia trees are the giraffes favorite meal time snack and it provides a lot of shade for families. If you look up, you will see the lights in Sanaa are actually weaver bird nests and the male bird makes the nests. He invites a female over to see if the nest is to her liking. If she does like the nest, they are together for life.
All the interior decor of Sanaa is inspired by East African spice markets, which also influences the menu. The menu of Sanaa is the art of African cooking with Indian influences.
Whether it’s in the food, the decor, or the experiences, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is carefully crafted to inspire guests to continue to explore even beyond the walls of the resort.
So, are you ready to take a walk on the Wild Side?
Senior Travel Planner
Tiffany is a senior travel planner with Key to the World Travel. Contact her today using the links below to plan your next vacation!