One of my favorite parts of any Walt Disney World trip is riding Simba-1 to view the animals on the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. Unfortunately, with the combination of its reputation as a “half-day park,” and the limited park-hopping abilities of FastPass+, some travellers may avoid it. Thankfully, Disney has provided an alternative location to get a good look at some of the animals: the savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is composed of two separate buildings: Jambo House and Kidani Village. In the space between these buildings, there is a substantial savannah (which is technically broken up into three distinct areas—the Arusha, Uzima, and Sunset Savannahs) that is home to a variety of animals, including giraffes, zebras, and Thomson’s gazelles. Though this savannah is not connected to the one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, it has more than enough residents to make a visit worthwhile.
Ed. – We’re happy to welcome John Kivus to the TouringPlans blogging team. John lives down the road from TouringPlans World Headquarters in Durham, NC, and is an attorney by day.
The primary public viewing deck can be accessed through the rear of the lobby at Jambo House. This viewing deck is elevated (to about giraffe shoulder height) and stretches out into the Arusha Savannah. Motivated by the strategic placing of feeding locations close to the deck, animals almost always wander close enough for visitors to get a good view (and snap some excellent photographs). In fact, the giraffes frequently seem close enough to lean over the fence and tap you on the head. Along with the wildlife, the viewing deck has resident human experts to help answer any questions you may have about the animals. These cast-members are often international, and many hail from the animals’ native countries.
In addition to the primary viewing deck, Jambo House also has two viewing overlooks past its pool area that provide excellent views of the Uzima Savannah. One of these overlooks, located close to the rear left of the pool and alongside the edge of Jambo House, is where the previously mentioned experts set up special night viewing of the animals. This experience, with the aid of night-vision goggles, provides a unique way to watch the animals.
Not to be outdone by Jambo House, Kidani Village has an amazing view of the Sunset Savannah. As with the overlooks at Jambo House, the viewing areas at Kidani Village are staffed by experts that are more than happy to chat with you about the animals. Additionally, Sanaa, the restaurant in Kidani, has large windows that look out over the savannah. A late lunch or early dinner is the perfect time to take advantage of what Sanaa has to offer.
One important logistical note: getting between Jambo House and Kidani Village without the aid of a car can be a bit of a pain. You can either make the approximately 10 minute walk between the buildings, or you can use the shuttle between the resorts. Unfortunately, there is no path through the savannah.
Based on personal experience, the best time to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge savannah is late afternoon or early evening, especially around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. The animals typically get their evening meals around that time, and, as a result, are usually quite close to the viewing areas. Also, depending on the time of year, the light at feeding time can be particularly good for pictures.
After that explanation, it should come as no surprise that a trip to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to view the animals on the savannah, followed by a Mt. Kilimarita from Victoria Falls Lounge and a few Zebra Domes from Mara, has become a tradition when my wife and I visit Walt Disney World.
Have you ever visited the Animal Kingdom Lodge to view the animals on the savannah? What about a late lunch at Sanaa to watch the animals while you eat? Please share your experiences in the comments.