Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Finding Peace and Beauty with the Beasts

Over the past month or so, you have probably noticed that Brenda, Kelly, Debbie and DeAnna have written articles describing a number of the Disney resort hotel properties. I thought I would join them today with a review of one of my favorite Disney resorts, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

As a Deluxe resort and Disney Vacation Club property, this resort hotel will not be the least expensive option for your Disney vacation. But just as with the Contemporary or Polynesian, this beautiful property offers so much that you just may find it worth it to include this in your budget, just once, even if for only a night or two. And if you can’t, you owe it to yourself to at least make a visit to Animal Kingdom Lodge, even if just for a few hours: plan a meal, tour the resort, relax for a while….and then don’t be surprised if you forget that you are even at Walt Disney World.

We had the opportunity to stay here, in a Disney Vacation Club studio, several years ago, for 2 nights, over the New Year’s holiday. I hadn’t especially requested AKL, but when it became available…especially with a Savannah view room….I jumped at the chance to try this resort.  Once we got there, and I started experiencing how magnificent it is, I honestly didn’t want to leave. There is just so much to explore at Animal Kingdom Lodge that you could spend quite a bit of time here and really not even go to the parks. In fact, I would highly recommend this resort as a place to go to get away from it all for a lovely, relaxing weekend….no theme parks required.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodgephoto via http://www.flickr.com/photos/disneyworldsecets/2830884499/

So what all will you find at the Animal Kingdom Lodge?

The Theme, Design and Experience

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is an African lodge-style resort that is set right in the middle of a 43-acre wildlife preserve. Thatched ceilings, large beams, hand-carved golden-tone furnishings, real African artifacts and an enormous mud fireplace in the main lobby leave no doubt when you walk in: you are in Africa!  Take the time to explore this area, as there are so many wonderful pieces of art that have come directly from Africa, and they are fascinating. For example, there is a 16-foot mask in the lobby that is the first of its kind ever to leave Nigeria. And if you are lucky enough to go over the Christmas holidays as we were, you will have the added bonus of a huge and magnificent Christmas tree right in the middle of it all, and decorated with more African items.

Most people think “animals” when they think of Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it is true that you can’t….nor would you want to….escape the fact that you are staying in a wildlife refuge. For those of you who are like me, and unlikely to ever actually go on a true African safari…this is an amazing experience. We knew what to expect but even so, we were truly amazed as we were walking past windows on the way to our room…..to see animals grazing right outside. (Priceless Disney memory: DD, then a typical teenager of 14, momentarily forgetting her age and squealing like a 4 year old: “OMG Mom there is a GIRAFFE RIGHT OUTSIDE THE WINDOW!”. 🙂  )

And nothing, and I mean nothing, compared to the experience of sleeping with our balcony door open, and waking up to this soft, muffled sound right outside of our balcony……. What IS THAT sound? As I got up to see what was making this gently breathing noise, I discovered….. a herd of wildebeests contentedly grazing, just feet from where I was standing. In the middle of the night. Right outside my door. Seriously. Words just can’t describe what an amazing experience this was, and it is one that I will truly never, ever forget.

Even if you can’t stay overnight, there is so much to explore at this resort, that I truly encourage you to take some time to visit.  Just outside the main lobby, there is an elevated rock platform—Arusha Rock—where you can animal watch, in addition to getting a magnificent view of the resort. Or explore the many alcoves that overlook various parts of the savannahs, offering more animal views.

But Wait, There’s More

Then there is, of course the food. You can enjoy authentic African cuisine at the resort’s two award-winning restaurants, Jiko – The Cooking Place and Boma – Flavors of Africa. But if these don’t appeal to you or your family, you will also find The Mara, a Quick Service food location, where you will find a selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, pizza and burgers, and where you can enjoy your meal either indoors or poolside.

Boma at Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodgephoto via http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenjavier/5025117849/

Personally, I think all of that is *plenty*, but it’s Disney, so of course there are tons of activities too. In our brief stay, we didn’t come close to experiencing everything this resort has to offer (hence my desire to go back there and do nothing else), but you will also find:

  • Uzima pool, an 11,000-square-foot zero-depth entry pool that offers a 67-foot-long slide
  • A Wading pool
  • 2 Whirlpool spas
  • 24 hour high-tech game room
  • Playground
  • Animal-themed activities and programs, including the chance to watch animals via night vision, watch animal handlers feed, become a junior researcher, listen to African storytelling or go on a “safari”.

The Rooms

Animal Kingdom Lodge offers 1293 rooms, in a number of different sizes and styles, allowing families of up to 8 to stay in either a standard room or 1 or 2 bedroom suite.  Included in each room is a:

  • Refrigerator
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe
  • Iron and Iron Board
  • Coffee Maker
  • Pack ‘n Play Playard
  • Club Level rooms also include an alarm clock with CD player, DVD player and microwave

Experiencing Animal Kingdom Lodge Affordably

So how can you have the opportunity to experience this wonderful resort, in a way that you can afford? Here are some suggestions that I have:

  • Watch for Disney room-only discounts or special pin codes that will provide a good hefty discount for this deluxe resort. AKL is one of the deluxe resorts that tends to get good discounts, sometimes as much as 40-45% off. If you book your trip with a travel agent, the agent will notify you if new discounts come out, even after you book, and can then re-book your trip with the new savings.
  • Consider splitting your stay and planning just one or two nights here.  Changing Disney resorts is not difficult at all, and many folks find this strategy to be a great way to save money and still experience deluxe resorts as a special “treat” for say, the last night or two of their trip.
  • Go visit for a few hours or a day. It’s a great place to take a break from the parks! Go for lunch or dinner, and plan to spend some time animal-watching, or listening to stories by the big bonfire at night.  Relax in one of the big comfy chairs in the lobby. You will love it.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth an entire vacation all it’s own. I hope you will plan some time in your next trip to explore and enjoy.

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10 Responses to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Finding Peace and Beauty with the Beasts

  1. laurie says:

    I just stayed there in the beginning of March – got a great discount by booking it in early December….wasnt much more than staying at a moderate in a busy season – was a little bit of a splurge, but so worth it…..I loved waking up and working out at the gym on site and then sitting on balcony enjoying hot cup of tea and watching the giraffes and the zebras every morning.

    • Nancy says:

      It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it Laurie? Glad you were able to get a great discount, and could do a little splurge to get some great memories! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. Kelly says:

    Nancy, I just love this article! I want to go….right now! :0)

  3. Beth Green says:

    Hey Nancy! I wanted to say hi and welcome to the Blogorail family! I’ve been following you for a while and love the planning guide and tips emails you provide to readers! I look forward to getting to know you better and hearing more of what you have to share!

    • Nancy says:

      Thanks Beth for stopping by and for the kind words! So glad you are enjoying our site! I’m really looking forward to having fun with the Blogorail folks, and getting to know more awesome Disney bloggers! 🙂

  4. Amy Cummings says:

    We were able to stay in a 1BR Savannah view @Kidani last September and absolutely loved our stay there. Wish Kidani had a real counter-service eatery, but the walk over to The Mara at Jambo was nice. And having Zebra Domes available there- fabulous!!

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  6. Diana says:

    In all the times I have been to WDW we have stayed at AK, we have often thought about it, but after reading that report I am going to change my DVC booking in march so we can stay at AK before we go on the DCL Dream, thank you so much, can’t wait now.

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