Animal Kingdom Lodge

giraffe going up to hotel balcony

ots of people dream of taking an African safari. Yet for many, it seems otherworldly and out of reach. Of course, leave it to Disney to make dreams come true. When you stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll experience all the creature comforts of a world-class hotel while feeling like you’re on the best kind of safari. Think no canteens, eminent danger, mosquito nets or hot nights. Did we mention up close encounters with giraffes grazing and ostriches padding along the savanna?

Authentic Touches

interiorDesigned in the typical African kraal style, the horseshoe shaped resort overlooks four savannas. Although the resort’s main lure is the magnificent wildlife, Disney does a phenomenal job of integrating African art, culture and cuisine into its AAA Four Diamond rated resort. Upon entering, guests are greeted by towering ceilings strung with impressive chandeliers, a thatched roof, a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the savanna and an enormous fireplace perfect for storytelling.

Jambo House is the original deluxe resort and the Kidani Village, a Disney vacation club resort, both have the air of an exotic locale, but at the same time feel warm and welcoming as if you’ve come home. Although the savanna-view rooms are optimal, each floor offers an open-air balcony with stunning views and rocking chairs beckoning guests to unwind.

Animals aren’t the only amazing viewing. Peruse one of the largest collections of African art in the world featured throughout the resort. Behold the Igbo Ijele Mask, towering at over 16 feet and eight feet in width. Whatever you do, carve out time to chat with cast members who are actually from a wide range of African countries. These ambassadors are more than willing to share their stories and histories, which only add to the rich quality of the Animal Kingdom Lodge experience.

Majestic Wildlife

wild animalsBesides a true African safari, where else could you wake up and walk out onto a balcony and spot a zebra? A state-of-the-art barrier system allows Animal Kingdom Lodge guests the opportunity to view wildlife in a setting like no other. The four lush savannas are home to over 200 animals representing over 30 species. Be prepared to marvel at the wildlife right outside your balcony or even in the common lookout areas. For your convenience, each guest room is equipped with a Wildlife Guide Book making it easy to identify and learn about the majestic animals roaming the savannas. Animal guides are on hand to share wildlife information and even impart practical know-how on animal tracking. Some of the animals you may track are zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu, Ankole cattle, water bucks, wildebeests, geese, cranes and flamingoes.

Culinary Explorations

couple laughing and eatingIn keeping with the African theme, all of Animal Kingdom’s restaurants feature African-inspired cuisine as well as American cuisine. At Boma, it’s a buffet to beat all buffets for breakfast and dinner. Omelettes, carved ham, French toast and exceptionally fluffy scrambled eggs are big hits with the breakfast crowd. At dinner time, stroll in and watch chefs prepare savory roasted meats and grilled seafood. There’s also a nice balance of vegetarian specialties and salads. Zebra domes are a dessert standout, almost truffle-like, this sweet concoction is a combination of a thin layer of cake topped with an Amarula cream liquor mousse coated with white chocolate ganache. Chocolate drizzle forms stripes that give this yummy creation its namesake.

Distinguished as fine dining, Jiko-The Cooking Place, is not to be missed. For starters, you want to try the artisanal cheese selection along with a wine pairing from their extensive wine collection. Entrees vary from lobster tail to Bostwana-style seswaa beef short rib to maize-crusted halibut. As for dessert, the Ghanian chocolate & Kenyan coffee pot de crème is a delightful finish to a meal that undoubtedly will leave a lasting impression.

Venture to Sanaa for a variety of flavorful slow-cooked meat entrees, inventive salads and seasonal vegetarian offerings. Casual or on-the-go diners will enjoy The Mara where guests can sit down for a tasty African stew or select from plenty of American fare––salads, sandwiches and more. Best of all, they even sell packaged zebra domes for those with a sweet tooth on the go. And crafted specialty cocktail like the Mt. Kilimarita or an ice cold Casa Blanca lager from Morocco are available at Victoria Falls Lounge––a great spot to congregate before or after dinner.

The Perks

night poolRelaxation is inevitable while lounging by the pool, and this one is a zero entry 11,000 square-foot pool with a 67-foot water slide, which mimics a natural watering hole and also features a children’s wading pool as well as two hot tub areas. The Samawati Springs Pool also has a water slide and two hot tub areas. It also boasts an animal-themed water playground named Uwanja Camp, where quirting Venus flytraps, a rope bridge and water cannons make this the ultimate, fun-spirited playground. Every day families can take advantage of scheduled animal-related activities and educational workshops. At sunset, weather permitting, there’s even a Disney movie under the stars at the main pool. Adults hankering for a date night can arrange for kids aged three to twelve years of age to hang out at Simba’s Clubhouse Kids Club for dinner, arts & crafts, movies, games, etc. Amenities include a delicious dinner and a wonderful keepsake.

If shopping is your thing, then head to Zawadi Market Place, an authentic purveyor of African crafted jewelry, baskets, masks and a variety of one-of-a-kind souvenirs. And for those seeking other indoor activities, the Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center is the perfect spot to grab a quick workout or decompress with a relaxing massage. As the sun dips and night falls, you’re in for a special treat––a campfire with storytelling, sing-a-longs and scrumptious roasted marshmallows under a night sky.

Safari Dreams

girls looking at animalsAnimal Kingdom Lodge guests can upgrade their experience by adding a safari adventure to the mix. The Wanayama Safari (purchased separately) features private safari encounters with exotic animals such as giraffes, okapis, ostriches, antelopes and wildebeests. It all begins with a pre-safari reception at Jiko followed by a 90-minute safari excursion in an open-air jeep vehicle with a private guide. Upon returning from your safari, a multi-course feast at Jiko with South African wine pairings will await you.

The only resort drawback is saying goodbye. Long after you’ve packed your bags and headed home, the stories of amazing animals and adventures will remain in your heart for years to come. The best stories always do.


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