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Sue Holland

Photo Tour – Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Friday, October 12, 2001
by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

This sign greets guests to WDW's newest themed resort.
This sign greets guests to WDW's newest themed resort.

Disney's newest Florida resort is located right next door to its newest Florida theme park. Designed to complement Disney's Animal Kingdom, the beautiful Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort was one of the most eagerly anticipated new resorts.

Expecting large numbers of guests wanting to see it in person, Disney took measures to ensure that the resort's registered guests would be able to enjoy the facilities without being crowded by visitors. For the first time, a Disney resort was off-limits to everyone except its registered guests and those holding a confirmed priority seating for a meal in one of its two full-service restaurants. Persons making a priority seating requests had to provide their credit card number as a guarantee, with a $10 per-person fee if the priority seating was not canceled at least 24 hours in advance. These restrictions have since been lifted, and all persons are now free to visit the resort.

Walking up to the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, it is impossible to not notice its similarity with Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort, both of which were in fact designed by the same architect. The wood used in this resort is darker than at Wilderness Lodge, and the two resorts are not carbon copies, but they are very similar.

Animal Kingdom Lodge's lobby sets the stage for your visit.
Animal Kingdom Lodge's lobby sets the stage for your visit.

A breathtaking visual treat greats visitors as they enter the large doors to the lobby. Most guests are immediately impressed with the combination of the dark wood, large windows that bring in daylight, and bright colors on the African artifacts. A large gift shop just to the right has many African and animal-themed articles in addition to the usual Disney merchandise.

Seating in the lobby makes this a great place to visit with family and friends.
Seating in the lobby makes this a great place to visit with family and friends.

The lobby has several comfortable places for individuals or groups to sit and relax in that are decorated with many pieces of African art. Each piece is displayed with a brief description, and a brochure is available. The lobby of this six-story resort is actually on the third floor. Concierge-level rooms are on the fifth and sixth floor, and feature views of either the pool or a savannah. The concierge lounge is located opposite a large window, on the sixth floor overlooking the magnificent lobby.

Stairs between the lobby and Victoria Falls Lounge (above) and Boma (below).
Stairs between the lobby and Victoria Falls Lounge (above) and Boma (below).

Delicious smells waft from Boma, the resort's buffet restaurant, during the evening hours. A quick elevator ride or walk down the sweeping staircase brings you to Boma's entrance. Open for breakfast and dinner, this restaurant has been very popular. There are no characters at breakfast, and priority seating is definitely recommended for dinner. In addition to the usual buffet items, there are many more unusual items to sample, with the desserts alone being worth the price of the meal for many guests. The night I ate there the service and food were top-notch. It will definitely not be my last meal there.

Boma's tantalizing buffet provides a feast.
Boma's tantalizing buffet provides a feast.

Across the hall is Jiko - The Cooking Place, the other full-service restaurant. Jiko has an extensive wine list, and food is ordered a la carte. Service is reported to be excellent, as is the quality and presentation of the food. A menu is posted outside the restaurant for guests who are unsure about the selection.

Mara, the resort's food court, is accessible from outside near the pool. Mara is open all day, serving three meals plus snacks. Unlike the other food courts, here you place your order with a cast member who gives you a ticket to take to the cash register. After paying, you find a table and a cast member brings your food when it is ready.

Arusha Rock's fire pit is the venue for the resort nightly storytelling.
Arusha Rock's fire pit is the venue for the resort nightly storytelling.

One activity unique to this resort is its evening storytelling. Every evening, a cast member tell stories at this campfire area. It is more educational in nature than the campfires at other resorts, with information on some of the many animals on the savannah.

Close up of some of the savannah wildlife.
Close up of some of the savannah wildlife.

There are savannah viewing areas both inside and outside of the resort. Many of the rooms are Savannah view as well, so guests in those rooms can simply sit or stand on their balcony and watch the animals moving through the area.

A reticulated giraffe ambles by.
A reticulated giraffe ambles by.

Outside in the courtyard is the resort's swimming pool, pool bar, and spa. The pool bar serves a variety of delicious frozen alcoholic drinks, but keep in mind that like the Animal Kingdom park, there are no straws at this resort because of concerns that improperly disposed straws could cause harm to the animals.

Uzima pool provides a great place to cool off in the hot afternoon sun of the savannah.
Uzima pool provides a great place to cool off in the hot afternoon sun of the savannah.

One section of the pool is designed like the new pools at the Polynesian Resort and the Grand Floridian Resort in that it is zero-depth entry. Just like walking into the ocean from the beach, you ramp down into deeper water without there being any steps.

The "zero depth" pool access is helpful for many guests.
The "zero depth" pool access is helpful for many guests.

The pool is pretty large, and the deck area is spread out enough that it does not seem overly crowded even on busy days. The pool has a water slide, which has been criticized for its lack of theming.

A concierge room at the resort.
A concierge room at the resort.

Guest rooms here have been described as "dark" and "small". The furniture is a very dark wood, and unless the sun is shining brightly into the room, I agree that it does appear very dark. The rooms are the same size as those at Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, although the deluxe rooms are a bit larger. The deluxe rooms accommodate five guests, while the standard rooms permit up to four guests. The furniture seems a little larger than at the other resorts as well, which may contribute to the perception that these rooms are small.

Guests use the resort bus to get to the parks, with a single set of bus stops in front of the resort. There is no walkway to Animal Kingdom Park, and unlike other resorts where guests use the Animal Kingdom bus to go to Blizzard Beach, Animal Kingdom Lodge guests must use the Studios bus to go to Blizzard Beach.

The lobby's observation wall provides spectacular views.
The lobby's observation wall provides spectacular views.

This is an ideal resort for a few days of rest and relaxation when going to the theme parks is not part of your plans. Watching the animals, enjoying the pool, and dining in fabulous restaurants could make for a nice change of pace. Even if you are not a registered guest at this resort, it is definitely worth a look.


Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.

MORE INFO

MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide has some more pages on the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort:

- The Animal Kingdom Lodge "Fast Facts" page has information on the resort, restaurants, and shops. 

- Brian Bennett has another photo tour of the resort.

- The WDW Resorts from A to Z page has more details about the resort including rack rate pricing information.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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