As part of a new series, we’re going to start reviewing Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts here on the blog. Of course, we’re starting with “one” that’s really a two-fer. Here’s my review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, one of the most popular DVC resorts available.
Okay, since this article represents the first in the series, I should establish some criteria. When I stay at an official DVC resort, several aspects matter. I care about location and logistics, the theming, the vibe of the hotel lobby, the restaurants and shops, the hotel rooms, and the other resort amenities. Most DVC properties also possess some sort of x-factor, a special selling point that elevates them above the rest. And that’s the other part of this discussion.
With DVC, you’re not only thinking about one stay. In the back of your mind, you’re planning dozens of future visits, thereby determining whether you should purchase a DVC contract there. So, most of what I say here isn’t solely applicable to the immediate, single resort visit. It’s more about whether you’ll be happy to own here for decades. Keeping all that in mind, here’s what I think about Animal Kingdom Villas.
Location and Logistics
You’ll find Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the western side of the Walt Disney World campus, tucked away in the southeast corner. Disney has isolated this area a bit to protect its true residents, the animals who live out their days at this unique theme park.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas cannot feature the same logistics as monorail and BoardWalk resorts. You cannot walk from the hotel to the park, as that’s how you get eaten by lions. For your safety, it’s best to take a bus from the hotel to Animal Kingdom. It’ll only take about five minutes. However, the quirk of Disney’s villas is that they consist of two different sections – Kidani Village and Jambo House.
At times, the hotel shares bus routes, meaning that you may stop at both buildings, which will double your time. Six or seven minutes can turn into 15. This isn’t a problem in the least, merely an inconvenience you should know could happen. Google suggests that Animal Kingdom Villas resides 11-13 minutes away from the other three theme parks. So, you should have 15 minutes in your head for all travel to and from the twin hotels. The other logistics issue here is that Uber and Lyft drivers don’t frequent this area as regularly. You may struggle to find a ride when you want to skip the bus. However, the trade-off here is that you’re only minutes away from a magnificent theme park.
Some hotel themes, even at Disney, remain indecipherable. Conversely, you will always know when you’re at one of the Animal Kingdom Villas. Disney brought back an established architect, Peter Dominick, after his successful construction of Disney’s Wilderness Villas. Disney chose Dominick because he’d built a hotel predicated on national park lodges. Animal Kingdom Villas employs the same premise. The sole difference is that the “nation” with parks is more of a continent, Africa. You’re visiting several African villages during your hotel stay. In fact, Jambo House and Kidani Village embody a kind of master’s class from that national park design. Both properties elevate the same concept to stunning heights. The African styles remain pervasive from the lobby all the way through the parking garages. The roofs even use thatches, a memorable, tone-setting conceit. You’ll also notice bamboo and other African rainforest-style wood in the construction. This property’s theme undeniably elevates it in the minds of DVC fans.
Discussing a resort with two different lobbies is challenging. Kidani Village possesses a tighter space that limits its grandeur. This space somehow feels like a lovely sitting area in some ancestral home. You may prefer it if you dislike open spaces. I say this because the majesty of Jambo House’s lobby could overwhelm you. Dominick applied some of the same principles from Wilderness Lodge and then stretched them to their logical extreme.
This multi-story lobby dazzles with its scale, yet it somehow calms visitors. You’ll often discover people napping in the ample seating areas. I may be one of them. I’m not even a napper as a rule. The tranquility of Jambo House’s lobby occasionally overwhelms me, though. When I review the lobbies, I feel conflicted. The intimacy of Kidani Village impresses others, but I find it too modest in nature. However, the bravado of Jambo House qualifies it as one of my top three DVC lobbies.
Let’s cut to the chase here. The strongest selling point for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas comes straight from its residents. As a DVC owner, you’ll spend a handful of days here each year. The animals, on the other hand, live here all the time. You’re the curiosity, not them. So, the presence of these natural habitats causes quite a stir among DVC members.
Families with small children treasure the idea of spending the night at a hotel where kids can watch zebras and giraffes play. For younger families, I don’t believe that DVC offers a more fitting membership option. You’ll experience years of fulfillment as your kids grow alongside the animals they’ve studied frolicking on the hotel grounds. Now, you may expect the animals to reside in a different part of the hotel grounds, far away from guests. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. When you exit the hotel lobby, you’re already entering the savannah where the animals live. It’s an intoxicating amenity. To many DVC members, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas possesses the most significant x-factor of any participating resort.
Restaurants and Shops
Fans of international cuisine are devout in their belief that Animal Kingdom embodies the gold standard, at least among non-monorail resorts. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but that’s because I have a stubbornly McNugget-based palate. So, much of the flavor here is wasted on me. Still, I cannot ignore the staggering quality of restaurants like Jiko – The Cooking Place and Sanaa.
Wine lovers can and do spend hours sampling the grapes at Jiko. Meanwhile, Sanaa guests marry the bread service with a remarkable view of animal habitats. Quick Service fans rave about The Mara, one of the go-to Quick Service breakfasts at Walt Disney World.
Personally, I’m devoted to Boma – Flavors of Africa. This All-You-Care-To-Enjoy African restaurant serves staples like Bobotie, Pap and Chakalaka, and Mulligatawny Soup. Also, the Zebra Domes dessert merits mention. Many Disney fans believe it’s one of the top ten sweet treats on the entire campus.
The resort’s main shops reside in the lobbies. Johari Treasures and Zawadi Marketplace both sell the standard Disney merchandise you’d expect in a gift shop. However, you’ll discover some authentic African collectibles and curiosities as well.I always have a lot of fun shopping here, and my wallet hates me for it.
Hotel Rooms and Other Amenities
I’ve already highlighted plenty of amenities, but please let me mention two more. Kidani Village and Jambo House both feature their own pools and waterslides. Samawati Springs at Kidani is smaller and more intimate. It’s not really a quiet pool, though. Due to the unusual split of the hotel grounds, both sides include a full pool. Still, the larger one is at Jambo House. Called Uzima Springs, it’s a massive pool that Disney describes as “an 11,000-square-foot tropical oasis.” Since this pool faces Uzima Savanna, it comes with a lush, verdant backdrop that will relax you even more while swim/sunbathe.
As for the hotel rooms, they’re spacious and stylish. However, the appeal stems more from the Points Chart. You can direct-dial the hotel experience that you desire. The cheapest DVC Points will buy you a Value room, which is a standard hotel room. A Standard View studio is just what it sounds like, a typical DVC villa. For a few more points, you may guarantee Savannah View. This room type will guarantee you a view of the animals from your villa. You can watch them play while you drink coffee in the morning, eat an afternoon scone, or get ready for bed. It’s an addictive room type.
I won’t stay at Animal Kingdom Villas unless I can book Savannah View…unless I get Kilimanjaro Club Concierge. Yes, that’s a Club level hotel room. You can only access the club floor when you’ve booked this room type. And it comes with a special incentive. The Kilimanjaro Club lounge serves snacks throughout the day. You’ll find breakfast treats, brunch offerings, and so forth. Most importantly, the legendary Jungle Juice is available in the lounge, which makes this room type a worthwhile endeavor for me and mine.
When I’ve stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas, I’ve always enjoyed myself. I’ve never felt like the target audience, though. My wife and I are a middle-aged couple without children, which means that we haven’t maximized the resort’s intent. This hotel is for children, first and foremost, followed closely by proud parents who bask in the glow of their kids’ euphoria. Animal lovers qualify as the third key demographic here, as they’ll treasure the inimitable interactions. For me, I love the concierge floor booking option and grab Savannah View whenever I can. Still, I generally only spend time here as part of a split stay, which I do somewhat frequently. I’ll book two nights at Animal Kingdom Villas when I’m going to have two full park days at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’m just not enough of a nature lover or foodie to appreciate this resort’s greatness. So, I rank it in the middle of the pack for DVC resorts. I’ve had A- experiences overall here, which is great for most hotels, just not DVC. Many, many, MANY people call Animal Kingdom Villas their favorite, though.
Guests love the Resorts’ proximity to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and its many exciting attractions, including Pandora – The World of Avatar.
The Animal Kingdom Resort also features one of the worlds largest collections of African artwork.
Be sure to check out the night vision viewing of animals offered at select viewing areas!
- Resort grocery delivery available from Publix Super Markets (powered by Instacart)
- In-Room Celebrations
- Disney Bus Transportation
- Disney’s Magical Express
- Online Check-In
- Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet
- Resort Airline Check-In
- Complimentary Standard Parking
- Valet Parking
- Childcare Services
- Designated Smoking Areas
- Disney Water Transportation
- Laundry and Dry Cleaning Services
- Locker Rentals
- Mail Services
- Merchandise Delivery and Pickup
- Resort Concierge
- Spa & Fitness
Deluxe Studio Villas (Sleeps Four) - Kidani Village
Approx. 366 sq ft
Deluxe Studios feature one queen-size bed and one full-size sleeper sofa, flat-panel TV, DVD player, a kitchenette (with microwave oven, under-counter refrigerator, coffee maker, and wet bar) and a private balcony.
One-Bedroom Villas (Sleeps Five) - Kidani Village
Approx. 807 sq ft
Features a master suite with a king-size bed and a whirlpool tub, a living room with queen-size sleeper sofa and pull-out sleeper chair, flat-panel TV, DVD player, kitchen, washer/dryer and a private balcony
Two-Bedroom Villas (Sleeps Nine) - Kidani Village
Approx. 1,173 sq ft
All of the features of a one-bedroom villa plus two queen-size beds in a separate bedroom with a private bathroom
Two-Bedroom Lock-Off Villas (Sleeps Nine) - Kidani Village
Approx. 1,173 sq ft
All of the features of a one-bedroom plus one queen-size bed and full-size sleeper sofa in a separate bedroom with a private bathroom
Three-Bedroom Grand Villas (Sleeps Twelve) - Kidani Village
Approx. 2,201 sq ft
First Floor: Features a master suite with a king-size bed and a whirlpool tub, a living room with a queen-size sleeper sofa, flat-panel TV, DVD player, dining room, kitchen, washer/dryer and a private balcony. (2,201 sq. ft. total.)
Second Floor: Features two bedrooms, each with two queen-size beds and a private bathroom.
Deluxe Studio Villas (Sleeps Four) - Jambo House
Approx. 366 sq ft
Deluxe Studio Villas feature one full bathroom and accommodate up to four Guests, plus one child under age three in a crib, and include a kitchenette, queen-size bed, double-size sleeper sofa, flat-panel TV, DVD player and private balcony
One-Bedroom Villas (Sleeps Five) - Jambo House
Approx. 807 sq ft
Features a master suite with a king-size bed, a private bathroom and a living room with queen-size sleeper sofa (most also include a sleeper chair).
Two-Bedroom Lock-Off Villas (Sleeps Nine) - Jambo House
Approx. 1,173 sq ft
Features a master suite with a king-size bed; a separate bedroom with queen-size bed, double-size sleeper sofa, and private bathroom; and a living room with queen-size sleeper sofa (most also include a sleeper chair.)
Three-Bedroom Grand Villas (Sleeps Twelve) - Jambo House
Approx 2,201 sq ft
Features a King-size bed in master bedroom, two queen size beds in two additional bedrooms, Queen-size sleeper sofa in living room, four bathrooms, Whirlpool tub in master bathroom, Flat panel TV and DVD player in living room, Flat panel TV in master bedroom, Full equipt In-room laundry area with washer and dryer and Private balcony.