By Jason D.
6. Round-the-Clock Animal Viewing
There are actually three different savannahs at Animal Kingdom Lodge, all with different atmospheres. They vary in the wildlife that can be seen: some animals are found only on a specific savannah, while giraffes, for example, live in all three. The animals all came either from Animal Kingdom itself, or from accredited zoos. Each guest room includes a wildlife viewing guide, so you can watch for and identify animals from the comfort of your own room. And if there aren’t any animals active outside your room, you can always try your luck at one of the viewing areas around the lodge; there are safari guides available to answer any and all questions about the animals you see. There is always at least one savannah open at any time of the day or night, and nightly viewing means you get to see elusive nocturnal animals you won’t see any other time. Night vision binoculars are provided, and so is the artificial moonlight, giving you the best possible chance to see animals, even on the darkest of nights!
5. African-Inspired Design
Anyone who’s been to the enormous (6 storey tall) Jambo House will know that the resort was designed as a semi-circle, allowing unparalleled views of the savannahs – and, if you’re lucky enough to spot them, the 200+ animals that make their homes here. But few people know why the resort was designed this way: rooms follow the design of an African Kraal village, where huts were traditionally positioned around animal enclosures. In fact, everywhere you look in Jambo House, you’ll see nods to Africa: thatched ceilings, a mud brick fireplace, African art, and plenty of windows to take advantage of those expansive sunrise and sunset views!
4. A Global Shopping Experience
The authenticity and attention to detail we’ve come to expect from Disney are also evident in the resort’s magical gift shop, Zawadi Marketplace. The shop is massive (almost 6000 square feet), making it one of the biggest resort shops on property. You’ll find all of the must-have, generic Disney merchandise available in other shops, but also items specific to Animal Kingdom Lodge. And best of all, you’ll find items from the African continent, including intricate beaded gourds, gorgeous hand-made scarves and textiles, Zulu baskets, painstakingly carved animals, masks and chess sets, and a variety of other items to remind you of your adventure at AKL. We were thrilled to discover that Disney actually sent researchers to Africa in search of items to display in Zawadi, a little-known fact for most visitors.
3. Hidden Nooks and Crannies
Unexpected for us was the sheer size and complexity of Jambo House. It’s easy (at least for those of us who are directionally impaired!) to take a wrong turn and temporarily get lost, which really just adds to the excitement of the resort. There’s always something new to explore, so don’t hesitate to strike out in a new direction instead of making a beeline for your room. You’re bound to come upon some of the fabulous hidden nooks and crannies scattered around Jambo House. Perfect for reading, napping or just grabbing a moment of peace, these hidden corners are beautifully decorated with African art and comfy chairs, inviting you stop and enjoy your surroundings.
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2. Sunset Safari – Come One, Come All!
Previously only available to Concierge Guests staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, animal fans will be thrilled to find out that it’s now possible for anyone to enjoy the Wanyama – or Sunset – Safari. If you’ve ever dreamt of going on safari at an African game reserve, then this is for you! The package includes a game drive on the resort’s savannahs, where you’ll meet with staff from Disney’s animal programs team. You’ll learn about the animals at AKL, first hand! Plus, you’ll have countless photo opps that you won’t get anywhere else. After your safari, a stunning multi-course meal (including South African wine, dessert samplers, and samplers of traditional African – or African-inspired – dishes) awaits at Jiko. The experience aims to replicate an actual African safari afternoon, all within the comfort of Disney’s AKL!
1. Special Programming
If all of that isn’t enough to have you online booking your AKL reservation, there are a variety of special programs available at the resort that are unparalleled elsewhere on property (all programs are subject to change, of course). Programs include flamingo feedings, African music experiences and cultural safaris at the Sunset Lounge, cookie decorating, an adventure camp for children, wildlife games, African crafts, and nightly African storytelling by an outdoor firepit. You’ll also find plenty of other activities to enjoy, with an on-site spa, fitness centre and playground. Note for water lovers: AKL’s Uzima Springs pool, at over 11,000 square feet, is not only Disney World’s largest pool, it also has a ramp entrance, which is perfect for little ones and guests with physical challenges (a special water wheelchair is available).