Sunday, January 18, 2015

5 Reasons to Stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

     Perhaps you've heard about Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Maybe you have visited to see what all the hullabaloo is about. I trust that you weren't disappointed. Disney created an incredible thing when it built this resort, which could be a vacation destination all its own. I want to preface this article by saying that I have visited both sections of the resort: Kidani Village and Jambo House. I will refer to only things at Jambo House for the purposes of this article because I believe that every aspect of it is better. Kidani Village is also a wonderful place, but Jambo House has everything Kidani Village has, and more. Here are my 5 reasons that I think you need to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge on your next trip:

  1. Boma lies along the stream of water that runs from the massive lobby down toward Uzima Pool. What you'll find here is a buffet-style restaurant that features a combination of authentic African fare and fun food that artistically displays African themes. For example, you will find "fufu" (an African sweet potato dish that will blow you away) as well as famous little domes of chocolate mousse painted like Zebras. The waiters are wonderful, the location is romantic and beautiful (and loud), the smells will get you excited before you see the place itself, and the food will make you wonder how you lived before eating here.
  2. Live Animals roam the savannas that wrap around and completely envelope the resort building. These animals include Zebra, Giraffe, and Ostrich, as well as animals much less known such as Kudu, Bongo, Gemsbok, and other antelope, with a highlight being the great Eland, the largest antelope in the world. Walking around the resort, there are various windows, balconies, offshoots, and walkways that allow you to see the savanna. Be sure to visit Arusha Rock, which juts out from the end of the lobby, as well as the viewing area from the pool.
  3. The Cast Members that work at the Animal Kingdom Lodge are welcoming and delightful, and many of them are from Africa. In a similar way to Epcot, Disney hires patrons from other countries to come and represent their homeland in Walt Disney World. You will find men and women from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and all over Africa standing around the resort waiting to talk to you. A highlight that I always make sure to enjoy is the nightly Africa talk. In a small seating area next to the lobby, one of the African ambassadors will give an intimate presentation on their home country and its politics, animals, culture, and reasons why they love their homeland. They love answering questions, and will enlighten you profoundly. 
  4. The Lobby at Jambo House is in itself a reason to stay at the lodge. When you walk in through the sliding doors and through the breezeway, you look forward toward a massive room made of dark carved woods, and an authentically African-thatched roof. Hallways, a fire pit, stairways, rock work, waterfalls, and separate rooms shoot off from the large central seating area. Dimly lit side areas and inviting paths toward adventure are broken by the only natural light in the room coming from the expansive window opposite you. Vines have made their way up this window, and you can see plants and trees and rocks outside that hint at the savanna. Do not take this moment lightly. Pause and plan which paths you want to explore.
  5. The Rooms at the resort are beautifully decorated with dark browns and yellows and African art. The real highlight, however, is waking up in the morning and going to bed at night. I have been known to, since I was a pretty small child, wake up at 5 am and watch the sun rise over the savanna, and the animals marching into their feeding areas. It is so perfectly quiet and awe-inspiring to see these animals doing their daily routines. If you can, stay in a room with a savanna view. If you do, spend time at the room on the balcony taking it in.
     Even if the Lodge is above your budget, do take time to visit. It is a unique and amazing experience independent of the rest of Disney World. All of the Disney magic is there, plus a piece of Africa that you can't see or feel or smell anywhere else.

Thanks so much for reading!

-William (