Animal Kingdom Lodge Report: Serene or Spooky?
This resort stay report covers our recent experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we check out the changes, dining, pools, and savanna views as Walt Disney World continues its phased reopening. Additionally, we’ll weigh whether the atmosphere in Jambo House is currently spooky or serene, and how its crowds contrast with Kidani Village.
While this covers both sides of the Animal Kingdom Villas, our stay was in Jambo House. We used Disney Vacation Club points to book a Value Studios mid-week during the fall off-season, which is the ‘cheapest’ DVC room category at its lowest point time of year. We try to be pretty frugal with our limited supply of points, making this one of my favorite uses of points–right up there with the BoardWalk Villas.
Our intent is to find smart uses all of our 2020 and most of our 2021 DVC points during the next few months. That’s for the reasons covered in our Disney Vacation Club Point Pool Problem. We won’t rehash all of that here, but this remains an ongoing issue of which DVC members should be aware. Using your points soon might save you significant headaches next year or in 2022…
While there are currently several Disney Vacation Club resort ‘wings’ that are operating without the hotel side of the property (the Polynesian, BoardWalk, and Beach Club are all examples of that), Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most pronounced example of this.
The maximum number of available Disney Vacation Club rooms in Jambo House is just over 200. By contrast, there are roughly 1,200 hotel rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Also unlike some of the other split resorts, all of these rooms are under the same roof.
That means even when the DVC rooms at Jambo House are booked to capacity (which is not typically happening on weekdays), the entirety of the property is still at under 20% occupancy right now because Walt Disney World is not–at least to my knowledge–using any of the hotel rooms. (This might help explain why Disney was originally reticent to open Jambo House, and wavered on the decision over the summer.)
Then there’s Kidani Village, which is the Disney Vacation Club expansion that’s essentially an adjacent, sister resort to Jambo House. Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village is being (more or less) booked to its full capacity, resulting in some sharp contrasts between the two sides of Animal Kingdom Lodge that we’ll discuss in this resort stay report…
Before we get to all of that, let’s start with a wide look at our Value Studio at Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House.
Keeping on the ‘animal’ theme, I used the fisheye lens for this shot.
I really like the rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some guests think they look dreary or monotone, but that’s merely the rooms being on-theme for the resort.
With that said, I do prefer the Awesome New Rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge on the hotel side. Not only are those fresher, but they have a crispness and much improved mood lighting, which really enhances those rooms over these.
Nothing particularly noteworthy about the bathroom in the Jambo House studios.
This area of the room is definitely starting to show its age. Walt Disney World has definitely done a good job of upgrading the bathroom fixtures, finishing, and lighting during recent room redesigns. By contrast, this is dark and starting to show its age.
The biggest disappointment, in hindsight, was our lack of a view. You can see some foliage in the photo above, but from the balcony itself, the view is of the parking lot.
It wasn’t until a commenter mentioned in another post that there are only two Value Studios with parking lot views that the disappointment set in. It’s always good for someone running a Disney blog to learn new things, but part of me wishes I never read that information.
We normally try to avoid making room requests (unless there’s something we really want to cover), but would have in this scenario. Given our virtually guest-free experience at Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s hard to imagine all of the Value Studios with non-parking lot views were filled.
Speaking of that, here’s something you don’t normally see: a totally empty Jambo House lobby during the middle of the day.
In fairness, Animal Kingdom Lodge is normally pretty relaxed as compared to the more “high energy” resorts. Still, zero people and complete silence is rare.
Same scene but from the lobby level.
This mirrored our experiences back in June at BoardWalk and Riviera Resorts. However, occupancy has picked up at every other resort since then. They’re all still slow as compared a normal year, but not this slow. We went several long stretches sitting down here never seeing another guest.
I’m a total sucker for Walt Disney World’s two lodges when they’re tranquil. I love to stay up late at Wilderness Lodge, sitting in a rocking chair by the fireplace late at night or early in the morning.
Same deal at Animal Kingdom Lodge on this visit…but in the middle of the day. It was serene during the entirety of our visit, which was an absolute delight. I’d be surprised if more than 10% of the total rooms in Jambo House were filled.
Some might find this a bit unsettling or spooky. Front desk Cast Members outnumber guests in the lobby pretty much at all times, and you could go a while without seeing another person while wandering around the resort.
In this summer’s “Our Vexing Visit to Wilderness Lodge,” we likened that experience to the Overlook Hotel. Back then, Wilderness Lodge had a mildly eerie vibe in some of the quieter spots, but there were just enough people around to keep it from being downright surreal. There were even fewer guests in Jambo House during this stay.
This did not bother me in the least. I love the peace and quiet, being able to soak up the themed design and background music without distraction.
If you’re the type who wouldn’t have liked visiting Walt Disney World over this summer because a certain crowd level imbues the parks with energy and life, Jambo House is definitely not for you right now.
The strangest aspect of our visit was definitely the dining areas. Boma – Flavors of Africa, Victoria Falls Lounge, Jiko – The Cooking Place, and the Mara are all closed and their seating areas are dark.
Walking down here actually felt a little like we were going where we didn’t belong, but this is how you get to Uzima Springs Pool.
As with the rest of Animal Kingdom Lodge, there were very few guests in the pool whenever we checked it out.
This made taking pool photos slightly less awkward, but since the area was so quiet and lifeguards weren’t preoccupied, I could feel them watching me. (I grumble about taking pool photos a lot, but given how uncomfortable it is to do, you can tolerate the complaints.)
Bouncing over to Kidani Village, where the superior Samawati Springs Pool was always busier on our visits. (I’m not taking a picture of a crowded pool, so you’ll just have to take my word for this.) Even then, this pool’s seating area is so colossal that it could easily absorb all the guests with ample space for physical distancing.
See our Guide to Pools at Walt Disney World: FAQ & Info for current (post-reopening) policies and everything else you need to know about hotel pools.
During our stay, we made several visits to Kidani Village. In large part, this was because none of the restaurants are currently open at Jambo House, leaving Sanaa as our main dining option.
We already covered that in Sanaa Reopening Restaurant Review: Two Magnificent Meals. As the title suggests, Sanaa is as good as ever.
While waiting for one of our meals at Sanaa, we watched these zebra on the savanna.
This is a tender and loving family moment, but you should’ve seen what the adults were doing just moments before. It was also loving, but not so tender.
This photo doesn’t accurately tell the story, but the lobby at Kidani Village was typically much livelier and crowded than Jambo House’s lobby.
This area is maybe 1/8th the size of the atrium at Jambo House and almost always had many more people in it. So, if you’re looking for crowds and “energy” from other guests, Kidani Village is for you!
Also not telling the full story is this Kidani Village bus stop photo.
Earlier in the morning, there were much larger crowds, demonstrating why the “please wait here” markers are necessary winding down into the parking lot.
We walked between Kidani Village and Jambo House several times. There’s also a regular shuttle that we frequently saw parked outside each (or in transit), but we prefer to walk.
For us, this worked out to be the best of both worlds. We were able to enjoyed the serenity of Jambo House, and it felt almost like we had rented out the entire lodge for ourselves. Not having a good balcony view didn’t even end up mattering because the entirety of the resort offered about as much peace and privacy as our room. When we wanted a bit more energy (or food), we headed over the Kidani Village where there were exponentially more guests. The contrast was nice and suitable to our resort-centric stay.
However, this is not going to appeal to everyone. For one thing, the lack of food options in the main lobby make Jambo House a poor choice for those who want to grab a quick breakfast before heading to the parks or dinner upon returning home (if you stay at Jambo House now, we highly recommend grocery delivery). There’s nothing quick about trekking over to Kidani Village to eat. For others, Jambo House might just be too spooky or eerie without many other guests around. I think this is less likely to be true now that the parks are getting busier, as the lodge provides a nice contrast to that. As with so much at Walt Disney World right now, your mileage may vary.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House or Kidani Village since they reopened? What do you think of current atmosphere at each? Notice a significant difference in crowds on the two sides of the property? Right now, would you recommend Jambo House or Kidani Village? Experiences with the pools, transportation, or dining? If you’ve stayed here, how would your review differ from mine? Will you be booking a resort reservation for Walt Disney World this fall or in 2021, or are these rules/restrictions/policies going to cause you to postpone? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!
Serene It has been wonderful.We arrived Jan 1 and depart Feb 1. Club level has been so quiet,not hearing neighbors up here,no running and screaming in the hallways,no loud drums so you can’t hear anything else. We were here Sept/Oct so we knew what to expect with what was closed. I get exercise going for food and drink,but make up for it by looking over the balcony(,we saw the tree taken down) it is peaceful.This trip Welcome Home really felt that way.
I’d never stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, because from my very first visit I’ve never stayed, nor would I consider staying, at any resort but the Polynesian during a WDW vacation. And if the Polynesian were for any reason not an option, I’d stay at another monorail resort, or even an Epcot resort, before I’d ever consider staying at the Animal Kingdom – Animal Kingdom is a one-day park as far as I’m concerned and I’d want to be closer to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, where I spend the majority of my time. However, that doesn’t mean I have anything against AKL itself. I’ve actually not yet visited WDW since before it was built, so I have never had the opportunity to experience it in person – thank you for the beautiful photos! – but it is definitely a place I would want to visit and spend some time at on a resort-hopping basis. And if it weren’t for my strong preference for the Polynesian and the fact that AKL is just too far away from the parks that are most important to me, I’m sure I’d enjoy staying there.