Review of Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge
Savana View Room
Many moons ago, I saw a commercial for the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge that had a happy family in their room while a giraffe stuck its head in the window at them. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to stay there… in a room like that.
Of note: that can’t happen for real as there are no rooms at that height or that close to the animals (for the obvious safety of guests and the animals.)
There are, however, what they call “Savanna View” rooms. The savanna is what they call the area where the animals have free roam. You can view these animals by simply looking out your window or walking out on to your balcony. Since we booked our Disney vacation very last minute (3-week lead time), it was the only type of room available at the Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge. (Pity, huh? Hee hee)
Here’s a review of our room and stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge:
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The grounds of the Wilderness Lodge are stunning all around.
When I walked into the lobby I was immediately taken with the unique décor and craftsmanship. The lobby itself is very high. In the middle sat a ginormous Christmas tree decorated with African drums, wood carvings, and other various cultural objects. Everything is made to look like either wood or clay to go with the theme of Africa.
Near the center of the room are several places to sit. Rockers surrounding an open fire in one area, chairs and couches surrounding a TV playing Mickey Mouse (or the Disney Channel in general) in another, and several just in bunches by themselves. The group surrounding the TV is (I believe) strategically placed close to the registration/check-in/ concierge desk. It came in handy while we were waiting in line to check-in with our children who were full of pent-up energy from our long day of travel.
Walking through the lobby, you are able to enter the outdoor viewing area of the savanna animals. This was the same savanna that we were able to view from the balcony in our room. When we arrived, there were several animals that were viewable from both the viewing area and our balcony: zebras, antelope, wildebeest, several birds. Later we were able to spot two giraffes.
Unfortunately, that was the most that we saw of the animals. Since we were busy squeezing in the parks for our first Disney trip, we were in our room mostly for several hours in the morning and then not again until after dark. In the morning, the animals were all at a different part of the savanna while they were being fed. This lasted until well after noon, however, so I guess they just hung out for a while over there after they ate? After dark, we could see some zebras, but that was about the extent of it. There aren’t many lights placed out to see the animals after dark (understandably for them.)
My husband and I were quite disappointed by the lack of animal viewing as we paid so much extra for a room with the savanna view. I knew we weren’t going to be in our room much in the afternoon but I had thought that it would be the opposite – with the animals around in the morning and MIA in the afternoon heat. Leading up to our stay, I had visions of myself lounging out on the balcony watching the animals as I sipped my morning tea and the rest of the family slept.
Out of Doors
The pool and hot tubs were serene. They were never bustling with people, even mid-day (keep in mind that we went on a “slower” week so this might be different during peak times.) They were surrounded by flowers and fauna of the area, music from Africa, plenty of sunshine, and ample recliner chairs.
In several areas around the resort were areas for open fires after dark (the one in the lobby seemed to be lit 24/7, the ones outside were lit only after dark.) There were often African cast members nearby playing the music of their home, and sometimes dancing as well. It was beautiful. There also several serene areas to just sit on a rocker and overlook the savanna if you have time for that… I did not.
Aside from the disappointing lack of animal viewing, the room was a pretty typical hotel room. Ours had two queen beds, but there was the option to have a room with a bunk bed. (We decided to forgo the bunks, knowing full well that it would be World War 3 with our two boys over who is sleeping on the top bunk. (You can’t see my eyes rolling but it’s happening.)
The décor matched the rest of the lodge with mixes of African culture, wood, and clay. My dreams of sipping morning tea uninterrupted were shattered by the loud screeching of the balcony door as I tried to slide it open. There was no doing anything without the kids hearing in that room, including sitting outside.
There was also no doing anything without them seeing, as the bathroom was so incredibly small that it was difficult to get dressed/undressed in there for a shower. I ended up getting partly dressed enough to cover myself before finishing outside the bathroom. Only the shower and toilet were stuffed in the bathroom. The double sink was in a doorless “foyer” type room outside the bathroom as you typically see in hotels. I was annoyed by the bathroom as I expected more from Disney. Not only was it hard for an adult to maneuver themselves in there but it was even harder to wash a child (or even to stand there to make sure they properly wash themselves.) I also found it to be an overlook for the room to have such high sinks with no stool for small children to stand on to wash their hands or brush their teeth. This was also surprising given that in every bathroom on Disney parks and on the Lodge resort (outside of a room) there were tiny sinks easy for a child to use. A stool would’ve gone a long way in the room. If I were to return, I would be sure to pack a small foldable stool at the bottom of my suitcase like this one.
The beds were incredibly comfortable. At home, I have a Sleep Number bed and I find that ever since I had it, I have a hard time sleeping elsewhere since I don’t feel like the bed is comfortable enough. For example, the night before our flight we stayed at a Sheraton close to the airport where you can park your car and leave it there for the duration of your trip. I found those beds so uncomfortable that I ended up spending half the night on the floor in an attempt not to wake my husband with my constant tossing and turning. So when I say that the beds are comfortable, THEY ARE COMFORTABLE!
The people of the Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge were amazing.
Little animals were made out of the washcloths, they refilled the toiletries every time they cleaned if they were open. On that note, the shampoo/conditioner/body wash seemed to be of normal hotel quality, only in a full 2oz squeezable container that I found much easier to use. It also smelled godly.
They have people that are actually from Africa working all around the resort. One morning while the family was sleeping and I was restless, I decided to take a trip around the resort. By the animal viewing area, I came across a cast member. His name was Hamlet and he is from Zimbabwe. I spent a good hour talking to this gentleman. He told me everything I wanted to know about his home. We talked about animals, totems, their marriage practices, their cultures, their economy. He even encouraged questions when I tried to find a way to politely find a way to ask how he came to have his bachelors in animal science and MBA if everyone is so poor where he is from. It was so enlightening!
All around the lodge, there were individuals like this, just waiting for curious children (and adults) to ask questions. They pointed out different artifacts from Africa that covered the walls or were encased in glass around the resort. When I filled out my son’s “Educational Trip Excuse Form” to get out of school for our trip, I didn’t really expect it to be that educational. But his 9-year-old mind is a blend of curiosity and social-talk-with-anyone-that-will-talk-back, that he fell in love with the people of Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge.
The Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge has four eateries on site.
Jiko is located in the Jamba House (where we stayed). I would highly recommend reservations for this location as we were not able to get in. The ambiance of this place is stylish and the food is considered “New African Cuisine.” They also offer South African wines.
Boma is also located in the Jambo House. We didn’t eat here but it’s a buffet-style restaurant with an on-stage kitchen, wood-burning grill, and a bakery. The food is said to have African flavors with the environment of an African marketplace.
Mara is a great quick service way to get your breakfast. They are open morning to night and serve American food. You have the option of dining indoors (with a café or cafeteria feel) or you could dine poolside outside.
Sanaa is a casual family restaurant serving African food with a touch of Indian flare. The décor is meant to evoke the feel of an East African Spice Market. It overlooks the savanna so there are some great table options.
I also saw that there is the availability of food service, but we didn’t use that or look into it too much.
Disney Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge Summary Pros:
- Beautiful grounds
- Unique and cultural atmosphere and décor
- Ability to see animals from your room’s balcony if you are there at the right time (mid-late afternoon in my experience)
- Comfy beds
- Nice and ample toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash)
- Amazing staff – some from Africa
- Ample food options
- Lots of educational opportunities for little ones
- Loved the ambiance of the lodge
Disney Animal Kingdom Wilderness Lodge Summary Cons:
- Tiny bathroom
- Animals were often not viewable in the savanna from room balcony
- Loud balcony door
- High sinks & no stool for small children to brush teeth/wash hands
So – would I stay here again?
In short – yes but I wouldn’t pay the extra to stay in the savanna view room. I would be perfectly happy staying in a normal, less expensive room, given that I know my family is one that is often on the go and we would still not get much use from the afternoon view. That’s not to say that your family wouldn’t if you have a child that naps or you use your room more frequently.
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