Disney Vacation Club · Disney World · Resorts · Reviews · The Animal Kingdom · The Lion King · Walt Disney World Resorts

NAAAAAANTS ingonyama bagithi Baba….

Lion-King
Start singing Circle of Life at the top of your lungs. I’m not kidding, do that right now. That’s how it feels when you pull up to Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village or Jambo House.  I want to get one thing out of the way. First, it’s an inauthentic display of a trip to Africa, have I ever had an authentic African travel experience? No. Do I want to? Heck to the yes, yes, yes. BUT I am not unaware of what Disney is trying to convey without me leaving the 48 contiguous United States. With that said, let’s get back to the fun part.
My past two visits to Disney World (10/16 and 1/17) I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village. My review will be based on my experience there although I did stop by the Jambo House! I didn’t spend enough time there that I believe I could give a fair opinion. I’ll add some of what I know at the end of the post.

The LANTERNS

Jambo House and Kidani Village Villas are reality (*re-read above paragraph) and fantasy combined. Greenery surrounds the resort, and you’re transported to a place separate from the hustle and bustle of Disney World. The overall aesthetic of Kidani Village is pure magic. The neutral colors set against the natural landscape are meant to welcome you. The outdoor and indoor thatched roof is something to see in itself. If you arrive at night, each entrance is illuminated by lanterns that give a warm, inviting glow. At night they keep the resort dimly lit because of the animals and the proximity to the Animal Kingdom. It is a refreshing atmosphere and very different than some of the other Walt Disney Resorts. The ability to truly relax was one of my favorite parts about Animal Kingdom Lodge. Two-word takeaway: inviting and refreshing.

 

kidani-entrance-lanterns
Lanterns!

Lobby

Inviting. The music is soothing, the large open arch that lets light cascade in is impressive, and it’s a breathtaking piece of art that you’ll be staying in as a guest. If you look up, you will be able to see the thatched roof from the inside, and it’s gorgeous. The seating is very comfortable, and there is the regular Disney T.V. for your kids to view as you settle yourself in for your stay or check yourselves out. In the lobby area is where you’ll also find the gift shop, small coffee bar, and a place to buy some snacks. When walking around the lobby and hallways take a good look around at the décor, artifacts, and quotes on the walls because everything created for Animal Kingdom Lodge was thought out with such ‘meticulous planning’. If you’ve been to Jambo House, you may have noticed the Jambo House lobby makes a statement. It’s an impressive entrance. It’s hard to compare the two lobbies, but I would highly suggest visiting Jambo House at least once while you’re at Kidani Village.
Kidani_Village_lobby

Rooms (Notably, ‘The Lion King’ Ensuite)

Kidani Village is developed out, and guest rooms are situated in two areas off of the main lobby. There may be a walk from the lobby to your room if you’re located at the further ends of the resort. We stayed in the one bedroom villa during both visits, and the room was beautiful. The first thing you’ll notice is the art and furniture accents; everything wonderfully influenced by the melding of African art and ‘The Lion King.’ The one bedroom villa had an eat-in kitchen, living room with a pull-out sofa, and a master bedroom with a king bed. Each separate room (living/bedroom) had a T.V. and balcony entrance, the balcony was decent in size, and at night there was no outside artificial light. Our master bedroom had an ensuite with walk-in shower and giant tub; The Lion King’s iconic savannah sunset tiled across was a beautiful touch. I loved that bathroom. My husband bought me some bath bombs from Basin (Disney Springs), and I took the most magical bath. If you’re walking until your feet fall off, just walk a few more steps to Basin…get a bath bomb…then go back to your fabulous resort and lounge in your Jacuzzi tub. It’s those little luxuries that help you appreciate The Lion King bathroom as you sink into the suds. Overall, the room was pure relaxation. You have the standard Disney amenities, but the features and décor set it apart.

Samawati Springs Pool (& Other Recreation)

I’m from New York. I’m that cold-weather pigeon that comes to warmer weather and parks itself on an open lounge chair. Give me palm trees, a chlorinated pool or an ocean, a good book and I’ll be a happy pigeon. The pool had two slides and a gradual entry, there are two hot tubs, and a water playground called Uwanja Camp. If I were a kid, I would be all about Uwanja Camp, and I was pretty jealous that I was an outsider, where are the adult water playgrounds? Oh right, it’s a pool. There was a poolside lounge bar and snack shack called Maji, you can order off a menu, and it will be delivered to a table nearby. Tasty and quick meals while you enjoy the pool. I did have three Pina CoLAVA’s one day, so I think it’s easy to say I recommend trying their drink menu. Trees surrounded the pool, it felt private, and it was an excellent place to take in the Florida sunshine.  The pool was smaller than the Jambo House pool, but I liked the quaintness of it more. Ten points to Kidani Village!
If you’re looking for fitness their fitness center ‘Survival of the Fittest’ is located right by the pool and has decent cardio and weight machines. There are tennis courts, basketball courts, pool tables, and arcades. Kidani Village also hosts Campfire Activities and Movies Under the Stars, in the main lobby I noticed certain enrichment activities and crafts throughout the course of the day as well.

Savannah

One of the biggest draws to both Jambo House and Kidani Village are their Savannah views. Although there various lookout points throughout the resort, the best ones are located right off the lobby. Each lobby viewing area gives outside access so you are able to see the animals both day and night. One of my favorite things to do was grab my morning hot chocolate or coffee and sit in the chairs while I watched the animals wake up; or wait for myself to wake up. This experience is something unique to the Animal Kingdom Lodge and is worth even a visit the resort to see. A perk to being a resort guest is the access to see the animals at any time and to cast members who are so passionate about them as well. Also, while you’re enjoying the campfire at night they have night vision goggles for your use. Pretty sweet, right? You’ll discover over 200 hoofed animals and birds, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu and flamingos (Disney.com).
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Sanaa

(Table Service)
Sanaa means “Work of Art” in Swahili, and this restaurant sure is. The menu is East African and Indian. Between the ambiance and the ridiculously delicious food and drink this restaurant is a must-try. I’ve had an appetizer lunch and two dinners at Sanaa, I didn’t participate in the Disney meal plan but through research, it is accepted, and it is 1 Table Service Credit. For our lunch, we had samosas and the Indian Style Bread Service. On both dinner trips I had the Potjie Inspired; where you choose from two from the ‘harvest,’ I chose butter chicken and paneer tikka. I also had the Kande Coconut Cooler, and we split the Dessert Trio both visits. This food is a dream. As I’m typing about it, I can taste it. It was full of flavor and became one of my favorite places to eat in Walt Disney World. If Sanaa might be outside your comfort zone I would still suggest a visit and to ask your server any questions you have about the menu, it will not disappoint. If you are at the right table, you even get great views of the Savannah. (Sanaa is located downstairs from the lobby)
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Our Indian Style Bread Service + Samosas (YUM)

The Garage

The parking is underneath the village, this was very new to me and took some time to understand. They are labeled by Lion King Characters to help direct your way and once you park there are elevators nearby. Once you’re there for a day, you will have an understanding of the garage. The best part of it? It’s very open! Maybe I’m the only one who finds garages confusing.

KUBWA Cast

Every cast member here was a FANTASTIC person, even if there was someone who wasn’t I probably didn’t notice. The greatness of the others made up for it. They erased them from my mind. I’ll touch on a few reasons how. Weren’t aware of the new reservation system? The Sanaa hostesses have your back. They’ll get a table for you, for two, for a family of four in the lounge/bar. They do enrichment activities and crafts in the lobby. The pool bartender knows that the one drink you love…you will loooove.  They’re always near outposts to talk to you not only about animals but anything. They tell stories by the fire. They make checking in and out easy.  I’m saying this because my husband and I had a conversation with a cast member named Mzile for upwards 20 minutes while we watched warthogs and okapis. We talked about Zambia, the wildlife, the ground, and what it was like to safari for 20 days and that it’s something we need to do in our life. Mzile left a lasting impression. You might be thinking to yourself “Well, that’s just excellent customer service.” No. I’m telling you I’ve worked customer service for years. I’ve been around Disney service forever. These folks hit it out of the park because they were genuine and had something extra. I hope when you visit The Animal Kingdom Lodge you take the time to go to the Savannah at night and sit by the fire or before shooting off to the pool stop and talk to someone at an information kiosk. You’ll learn so much about a different culture and/or meet a great person.

Any negatives?

Sure, and I’m leaving a lot of positives out too. But here are some:
1)    I suggested this resort to my dad who is a DVC member and sometimes will go to the resorts when he is in Florida just for the atmosphere. He liked the resort, but he was a single person relaxing on his own. His biggest negative was how far away it was from everything. That is something worth mentioning because unlike other resorts where you can walk to the parks, Disney Springs, or around the boardwalk, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge you are dependent on transportation. You will either need to take the bus or a car to any destination you want to go.
2)    Kidani Village does not have quick service. The closest quick service meal is at the Jambo House. It isn’t an awful walk, but it can be tedious after a long day. Quick service food is nice when you don’t want to spend a lot of money but are hungry. It’s something I loved about staying at The Saratoga Springs (Also, I’m from the Capital Region. That’s for another time), our villas were so close to the quick service food, or if you weren’t, you could lazily take the bus over.
3)    The hallways were super long. Like, get-a-Segway-and-take-me- to- my-room long. Then again, I like the layout of other resorts where you walk right up to your room.
And that’s it. That’s all she wrote about negatives.
Jambo House – Quick Thoughts.
Very quick! It’s just as beautiful. It was massive, overwhelming. I did like that it had an array of dining options, the JIKO restaurant looked amazing, and I want to try it. Again, it was just a large place.
See ya’ real soon!
Cassie Confetti
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