Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Review

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Jambo House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a themed hotel at Walt Disney World. This review features room photos, thoughts on the ambiance, and our opinion on for whom this resort is best suited. Fair warning: what this review mostly consists of is us gushing about Jambo House.

It should come as no surprise that this review is going to be pretty positive. We praised Kidani Village in our review of that, and Animal Kingdom Lodge ranked as our #1 Deluxe Hotel at Walt Disney World. We’ve stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge a few times in different room categories–including both Disney Vacation Club Studio rooms and standard hotel rooms–so this review is long overdue.

One of the big reasons why we love Jambo House, and Animal Kingdom Lodge as a whole is because it achieves an unrivaled level of cultural and thematic authenticity. With Animal Kingdom Lodge (as with Animal Kingdom), it’s clear that Disney strove went the extra mile to avoid cultural appropriation with an idealized version of Africa. There’s more to Animal Kingdom Lodge than theming, you are actually inspired and educated by the resort.

In our Kidani Village Review, I called it EPCOT Center: The Hotel, and I think that is apt. Both Jambo House and Kidani Village aspire to more than simply transporting guests to a different time and place. The presence of “Cultural Representatives” at the Lodge really drives this home, and free daily tours help gain a greater appreciation for the resort.

Thanks at least in part to this, Animal Kingdom Lodge has developed a reputation as the hotel at which you stay when you want a Walt Disney World trip that emphasizes the resort rather than the parks. It’s a lot like Aulani (Disney’s Resort in Hawaii) in that regard, as a destination unto itself with so much to see and do that you won’t feel you’re missing anything by staying in the resort.

While Aulani and Animal Kingdom Lodge are very different thematically, both share that–and authentic design by Imagineer Joe Rohde and his team–in common. Without question, Jambo House is the resort I’d pick if I were doing a long “no parks” weekend at Walt Disney World.

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There’s a flip side to that, though. Disney fans often view Animal Kingdom Lodge as the “no parks” resort because of the perception that it’s isolated, and really far from every park (aside from Animal Kingdom). As we indicated in our Wilderness Lodge v. Animal Kingdom Lodge post, Jambo House is actually closer to every park than Wilderness Lodge, aside from Magic Kingdom. The same would hold true between Jambo House and any monorail loop resort and while I’m not going to run the numbers on every hotel, I’m betting it’s also true of a few others.

I think this misconception about Animal Kingdom’s distance from the parks lies in two things: the seclusion you feel at the resort and the fact that you have to take a bus to every single park. Being able to take a monorail, boat, or walk to even one park can make a big difference, and break up that feeling that you’re constantly on a bus. There’s nothing magical about struggling to fold up a stroller to get on a bus, or having a standing room only bus ride during which you and other sweaty tourists are constantly stumbling into one another as the bus starts and stops.

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While I doubt Animal Kingdom Lodge will ever shed its reputation as being far from all of the parks, I do think that the opening of Pandora: World of Avatar and Animal Kingdom’s nighttime entertainment will minimize this for a lot of people.

Now, being close to Magic Kingdom or Epcot is the “big deal” for most Walt Disney World guests. Those new offerings should tip the scale towards Animal Kingdom a bit more, especially until the “new attraction smell” of the rides in Pandora wears off.

Okay, let’s jump into the review, starting with a look at the guest rooms…

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While the rooms in Jambo House do differ from Kidani Village (I know this because I studied the photos), the differences are minimal to my eye.

I’m sure there’s some deep-cut backstory explaining the significance of these subtle thematic tweaks, but it’s probably not going to be obvious to the average guest.

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In fact, I can say that if you showed me photos of each room tomorrow without context as to which was which, I’d have no better than a 50/50 shot at guessing correctly.

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In terms of decor, these rooms are really a matter of personal preference. They could be described as drab as the color palette isn’t exactly light and inviting, but I love the look. I think it works perfectly for the resort, and not every hotel needs to have an “uplifting” visual motif.

Moreover, these feel nice while not breaking theme. The Jambo House rooms have a distinct character that stay true to theme without going over the top into garishness. There’s a lot of texture and patterning here, from the detail in the woods to the carpet and in the art on the walls. Jambo House’s rooms work really well.

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In a resort where every functional design element also manages to reinforce theme, that’s important. Jambo House’s rooms really offer the best of both words, in my estimation.

A quick glance at these photos will probably give you a pretty good idea as to whether this style appeals to you…

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In addition to standard/villa room sizes, Jambo House also offers 1-Bedroom, 2-Bedroom, and 3-Bedroom Grand Villas. Additionally, there are multiple classes of rooms within each size, most notably the savanna view and Kilimanjaro Club.

The latter can actually be booked with Disney Vacation Club points (as a DVC room), and offers the most perks of any Concierge Level experience at Walt Disney World. (We haven’t done it yet, but it’s on our list of things to do.)

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We’ve never had a bad view at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Due to the way the resort is laid out, the vast majority of rooms offer a savanna view. We’ve done the savanna view once, and received a pool view 2 other times we’ve stayed at Jambo House. Due to the way the lodge is laid out, maybe around 10% of rooms are going to have a parking lot (or similar) view.

The savanna view does cost extra (in points or dollars), but we feel it’s worth it once, especially for those who will be spending a lot of time in the room. When we did a savanna view room, one morning, absolutely no animals were visible shortly after sunrise. We left for the park and still hadn’t seen anything.

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I feel like on days when no animals are out, maybe Disney should send meet & greet performers out there–who else would love to see Rafiki present Simba to Animal Kingdom Lodge guests while standing atop Pride Rock? (No one? Just me? Okay, moving on…) Returning back, the savanna was totally dark, but it was still peaceful to go out on our balcony and sit and relax.

The next morning, same thing with no animals. However, this was our “rest day” so we didn’t head to the park at rope drop. Around an hour after sunrise, there were numerous giraffe outside our room. Seeing two giraffe rubbing necks while I sat there in my pajamas sipping on coffee and watching cat videos on YouTube is an incredibly cool experience that has no counterpart at any other Walt Disney World hotel. (The other takeaway here should be that if you’re only in your room briefly each day, you may never see animals at all.)

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This seems like the right point to segue into amenities, starting with that savanna. The significance of this savanna really cannot be over-emphasized. This looks like an African savanna, complete with 30 different species of animals. To have this at a hotel in Florida is pretty mind-blowing.

Fortunately, you do not need to pay extra for a better room view to enjoy it. The huge savanna is right outside Jambo House’s lobby, and you can walk down there (knowledgeable animal experts are available throughout walking trails) or even watch from rocking chairs located on lobby balconies.

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Even setting this aside (which is an odd, arbitrary thing to do), Animal Kingdom Lodge would rank near the top of Walt Disney World’s resorts. This is thanks to the rich theming throughout Jambo House. Animal Kingdom Lodge is one part stunning design crafted by the Imagineers and one part authentic pieces on display, including the largest African art collection in the United States.

There are so many hidden nooks and crannies throughout Animal Kingdom Lodge that you’re virtually always discovering something new. On a recent stay, I got lost trying to go back to our room (you laugh, but the hallways are long and sometimes confusing) and after walking in the wrong direction on our floor, I randomly stumbled into a little alcove that had several pieces of art and chairs. There was no reason for this to exist where it was, and I can’t imagine many guests hanging out here, but there it was. A peaceful spot for relaxing. Something tells me this is not the only such spot hidden down random hallways at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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Then there’s the dining. Thanks to its lineup of The Mara, Victoria Falls Lounge, Boma, and Jiko (and Sanaa if you’re willing to walk), Animal Kingdom Lodge has a well-rounded dining lineup that offers a near best-in-class option at every level. Literally every one of these is B+ quality or better and the diverse lineup offers something for any party or palate.

Beyond the savanna, art collection, stellar napping corners, and dining, there are the expected amenities that you’d find at any Deluxe Walt Disney World resort, from a pool with water play area, to a fitness center, etc. If you’ve researched hotels at Walt Disney World, you know the basics.

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I know pools are a big deal for a lot of families, and Jambo House’s is solid. It’s a large, lush, and has a nice play area. Personally, I think it lacks a hook or defining characteristic that makes it stand out as compared to the elite pools at Walt Disney World. Your mileage may vary.

Overall, Animal Kingdom is one of our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World, and Jambo House is our preferred wing of the lodge (over Kidani Village), making it truly the creme de la creme. It’s unrivaled thematically, offers a treasure trove of details to explore, the most well-rounded dining options of any hotel, and is priced below most other Deluxes. Even before considering the savanna, it’s competitive for best overall resort at Walt Disney World. The savanna pushes it over the top. Only weak transportation options give us any pause about recommending it. Even with that, we are pretty comfortable saying that this is the objectively-best hotel at Walt Disney World. For comprehensive advice concerning the rest of your vacation, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide. In terms of Jambo House…I think that about covers it. If you’ve stayed here–or dreamed of staying here–we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


46 Responses to “Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Review”
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