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September 27, 2013

Animal Kingdom Lodge - Living Up To the Dream

All the time I've spent at Walt Disney World parks, and it took me far too long to discover the magic of the resorts. To some, it may seem ridiculous to spend over $300 on a hotel room less than ten miles from home, but I've found that it's a rather nice way for a local with an unpredictable, demanding schedule to "get away", and when you aren't concerned with tickets and souvenirs, it's not such a financial drain either. The people you have to question are those who spend this kind of cash and then spend their entire stay at the parks!

By far, my favorite resort is Animal Kingdom Lodge. It's certainly on the high-end of the WDW resort spectrum, money-wise, but it really is worth it. AKL provides a one-of-a-kind experience that most of us will never be able to duplicate on our travels. I don't know about you, but I don't see a trip to Africa in my realistic future, but AKL could have convinced me I was there!






The main hub of AKL is the Jambo House. Kidani Village is the DVC addition. Jambo House is home to the Uzima Springs pool. Poolside you will find: the Hakuna Matata playground, a hot tub, poolside bar and a fun flamingo pond.

Kidani Village boasts the superbly enticing water extravaganza known as Samwati Springs. This pool and water play area features two hot tubs, a 128 foot slide and various spraying and dumping play features! 

Kidani Village is also where you will find the library, Community Hall, table service dining at Sanaa, and (my favorite) poolside movies under the stars...




I did pop in to visit Kidani Village during my three day stay at AKL. Many of the resort activities take place there. Fair warning... it's quite a trek from Jambo to Kidani. I soon discovered that the Cast Member who suggested taking the bus over wasn't completely crazy in doing so. However... it still makes for a reasonable walk - and a nice one on a fall evening! I spent the bulk of my time at Jambo though, as this is where our Savanna-view room was located. 



AKL offers a variety of room types and views. Though the standard level rooms are more than sufficient, and nothing to scoff at, I cannot imagine staying at AKL without securing a Savanna view! That's sort of the whole point of being there. I have to admit... I simply couldn't wait to run to my balcony and check out the wildlife below. Giraffe, zebra, gazelle, kudu, wildebeest, countless birds, and many other species freely roam the three main savanna areas of AKL, and you can enjoy viewing these animals in natural environments from your room, as well as several other cozy nook viewing areas around the resort. 


AKL opened in 2001. There are approximately 1300 guest rooms here, in buildings six stories tall. The rooms are well themed, as is the lobby. Earthy shades, polished wood fixtures, elaborate fireplaces, muted lighting, and authentic African architecture and d├ęcor truly make for a wild transformation for Florida visitors. Jambo House offered many amenities. Although I have previously eaten at Boma (buffet style dining), I did not partake in the AKL dine-in options on this visit. To be blunt and honest, I think I ate my weight in the AKL specialty, Zebra Domes, so there was no room left for much else! Zebra Domes consist of a thin layer of white cake, a dome of Amarula Liqueur mousse, coated in a white chocolate ganache with a dark chocolate ganache drizzle. They can be purchased on their own at the quick service restaurant, The Mara at Jambo, or on the buffet at Boma. Jiko is the other table service dining option at AKL's Jambo House. Don't forget to stop for drinks at Victoria Falls Lounge!


 When you're done feasting and swimming it off, you can also take advantage of the on-site spa, fitness center and bicycle rentals. Though not all of the amenities are free, the very best are! Upon check-in, you'll be given an activities guide. Do NOT just toss this aside! Here, you'll find handy info on safaris and special dining experiences, but the greatest events are the free ones that seem to keep the kids (and the young at heart) busy around the clock. My kids participated in face painting, cookie decorating and a history lesson while my husband and I enjoyed some relax time and animal spotting. They also actually learned a thing or two from the African native CMs who taught them about African music and customs, all before nighttime, fireside storytelling beside the Arusha Rock Savanna. The coolest part of this? Many of these crafty, hands-on activities are rewarded with free activity beads that the participants collect to show how many activities they have accomplished. Nice touch!! Wander the entire resort, as there are different animals in each savanna location. AND don't miss the chance to learn some valuable animal lessons from the knowledgeable guides that are posted around the savanna areas. VERY helpful staff here - the most pleasant I have encountered at the Walt Disney World Resort overall. Staying at AKL used to be a dream I thought I'd never see come true. I can honestly say now that my dream is to do it all again!