Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House Review
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. It also offers much more than a typical hotel–you could do a long weekend here without ever leaving the resort. Suffice to say, there’s more to Animal Kingdom Lodge than its rooms and amenities–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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
At Jambo House, we’re big fans of both the Value Studio (cheapest rooms via Disney Vacation Club) and the Kilimanjaro Club Concierge Rooms (the cheapest way to stay Club Level at Walt Disney World).
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.
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…
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.)
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Do you agree or disagree with our take on Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House? Are you a fan of this resort? Think it’s one of the best hotels at Walt Disney World, or does its location hurt it too much for you? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
We stayed in 3 rooms. The room we had down at the very end had ants in the room. Crazy. They were everywhere. We mentioned it to the front desk and they sent someone in to exterminate but there were still some ants after. Also the maids took some of our dirty laundry which we were reimbursed for.
So after a lot of research into DVC (mainly by my wife) and quite a few lengthy phone calls to DVC sales with many questions (also by my wife), we are finally going to buy into DVC. The easy part of the decision was to have Jambo House as our home resort. I know there are discounts being offered for Copper Creek (and we really love Wilderness Lodge) and Riviera, and some of the others are less expensive, we didn’t want to have to ‘settle’. For all the reasons in your review, we will be more than happy to stay at Jambo House many more times.
Staying at our Jambo in a DVC one-bedroom value villa in August. Was very pleased to see that the rooms have “re-opened” again, indicating that we would not be displaced to another resort. Love the location of the DVC value villas, and don’t mind the “roll of the dice” for the view. Although I did request a non-pool view, as that was our least favorite. Would prefer the parking lot over the pool view! Love the atmosphere, including the sights, sounds and fragrance from the ever-burning fire pits. Love leisurely strolls in and around the resort. Love the drum daily circles! Love the access to Kidani as well.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite resort that isn’t on Crescent Lake, Bay Lake or the Seven Seas Lagoon. Jambo House is sort of the city center to Kidani Village’s outpost suburb; if you want more resort facilities this is the place for you.
“For those who aren’t DVC members, this is also good news, as it means that many non-DVC rooms in Jambo House should also be reopening soon!”
Might the non-DVC rooms be temporarily converted to DVC rooms in order to catch “overflow” caused by the excess points due to the WDW closure? If possible, that could help until 2020 points expire.
Resort rooms and DVC rooms are not the same. The resort rooms would not have the kitchenettes as the DVC studios do, for one. Not sure how they could offer resort rooms to DVC members unless the points were lowered.
We celebrated our son’s birthday last month with a stay at Club Level. It is, hands down, our favorite CL of all the deluxe resorts [so far]. In addition, we’ve enjoyed some of our favorite meals at Jiko several times, and it’s become a family tradition. My husband has celiac and we have found that all the eateries here really cater to his special dietary needs. Our last visit included spectacular views of the Savannah – we never seem to tire of viewing the fauna at all hours of the day. While many visitors of AKL complain of the resort’s “dark feel”, I find the attention to detail authentic and immersive. All in all, we love to return to AKL time and time again.
As an adult with no children I like the quietness of AKL. Not that I didn’t enjoy value resorts but staying here is much more relaxing. Although the decor is wonderful the furniture overwhelmed the room and makes it feel like there is no room to move around in it. They could still have the theming and rich wood but the television stand in particular could be a lot smaller. Thank goodness for the small balcony. I stay here for the giraffes and can sit there watching for hours. We never make rope drop so we see animals every morning.
We’ve stayed at many resorts on property and we were really excited to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is a gorgeous resort. Beautifully executed, probably my favorite themed resort on property.
Unfortunately, it’s the worst location on property. Nothing is close ,except Animal Kingdom. Bus service was horrible over Thanksgiving week. Down at the bus stop for a bus that is supposed to arrive at 8:05, only to have it show up at 8:30, then another 25 minutes spent on the ride to Magic Kingdom. Same for the end of the night. You spend so much time waiting for /riding the bus. Family unanimously decided that,even though we loved the resort itself, we wouldn’t be staying there again.
I haven’t stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge but visited there for a look around and lunch at the Mara. It did feel like it was a long way from anywhere.
I can’t imagine going to WDW and not visiting a park.
I’ll start my story with a compliment before I delve into the bad…Tom is right about a few things when it comes to AKL. It is absolutely beautiful and well themed in all of the areas open to anyone visiting the lodge. The savannas are stunning, the artwork is impressive, the nooks and crannies with benches or chairs make for wonderful resting spots, the cast members are engaging and entertaining, and the restaurants are top-notch.
Now on to my no so happy story of the time spent at AKL….After having stayed on property almost 20 times over the last 10 years (plus many, many trips off site), my family decided to book an AKL- Jambo House standard bunk room with a pool view for the 2019 marathon weekend. We have always loved the lodge atmosphere and have also eaten at several of the restaurants on prior trips; needless to say, we were really looking forward to the vacation.
We could not have been more disappointed in our experience with the odd room layout (very crowded bed area with a lot of wasted and unusable space in a very long entryway hall/closet/sink/cabinet area), the lack of cleanliness (dust, dirt and prior occupants hair everywhere including bunk spindles, ceiling fan, tub, bathroom floor, and carpet especially in the corners), the malfunctioning refrigerator (room temperature at best 6 hours after turning it up- it was warm when we got there and still warm next morning), faucet that leaked (water ran out the back of faucet neck all over the counter when water was turned on), the broken tv (would not change channels and would turn itself off periodically), and the general feel of a rundown, outdated room.
Having stayed in Pop, ASM, AoA (Little Mermaid and Cars Suites) every moderate resort (both pre and post referbs), Fort Wilderness (camping and cabins), Swan and Dolphin (yes, I know they aren’t officially Disney properties), and OKW, my family still is talking about how we were so upset that the room itself at AKL was such a complete miss for us. For a comparative, spending $385 a night at AKL after our passholder discount, we felt we actually had a better experience at ASM paying rack rate of $150 back in 2014 (albeit that it was our one and only time at any of the All Stars- been there, done that, not going back). ASM and AKL had very similar usable bed areas (both cramped and thats why we will never go back to either). All of the moderates have a better layout and more usable area than AKL even though the rooms are on average 30 square feet smaller in the moderates. When each of the value and moderates offer much cleaner environment and in many cases more usable space, I could not in good conscience ever recommend spending money on a room at AKL. My recommendation is to visit the lodge for a meal or an evening overlooking a stunning savannah, then head back to OKW, AoA Suite, Dolphin, Swan or a moderate for the night at either a comparable price or much cheaper!
I had a similar experience in January staying in an outdated room. I’m going back next month because of a Priceline deal. I’m requesting a refurbished room. I’m hoping for a better experience.
Hello — Does anyone know if the Jambo house pool has fully reopened? Any early reviews? TIA!
It has, and people who’ve been there say it really hasn’t changed. Just regular upkeep, not a facelift!
I will be staying at AKL for the 3rd time, Jan ’19. The only other Disney resort I’ve stayed in was Wilderness Lodge in 2001, with husband and 4 kids….we all loved it, but AKL was still a project at that time, so when I brought 2 college-aged kids back in 2010, we booked AKL and thoroughly enjoyed it. In 2011 I came to AKL again, as the last vacation I took my ailing (young onset Alz) husband on, because he needed a relaxed pace, early bedtime, and the concierge level breakfast was a godsend. So, in Jan, I have booked 4 nights in AKL with my 2nd (and last) life partner, and he has no idea how to “do” Disney, at a relaxing adult pace. We’re going to eat, look at animals, take a low-key approach to the parks, and enjoy.
Love this review! It is spot on. We were blown away by our stay at Jambo House, and this was after staying in almost every other Deluxe Resort. The transit times were way better than other resorts, and the shear volume of activities at the resort made it easily the easiest for non-park days. The food cannot be underestimated either! Our favorite resort for dining as well.
Just returned from short stay at AKL (as part of larger split stay). I’m surprised you saw no animals in the morning, because it seemed like there were tons to see everywhere we looked. Zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, it was really something special to see them right from the room while drinking your morning coffee. We loved it.
We used this part of the trip as the base for the Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom days (we did 2 days at AK) , so didn’t have any issues with the perceived remoteness – but was glad to not have to bus it to Epcot & MK from there as that would have got old.
Things we liked : Other than the Savannah view, and the wonderfully rich theming, we thought the restaurants were outstanding. Boma was good , Sanaa was great, and Jiko was unbelievably good. The restaurant lineup there is definitely top notch. Housekeeping did an especially great job with arranging the kids toys & towels into fun shapes while we were gone, the kids really loved that and we appreciated it too.
Things I didn’t like (minor quibbles!) : The resort is BIG , so it took a long time to walk from our room to the pool , to eat, to the busses, etc. The pool was good , but nothing too special, IMO. Room felt a bit tight – especially compared to at the Poly.
what room did you have? which savanna did it overlook? i am doing split stay poly/akl too.
What time is the pool opened till at the Jamba house
I am thinking of signing up for the night safari at AKL. Has anyone done it? Is it worth while?
We are actually doing the safari and the jiko in September I heard it’s pricy but so worth it