Theme Park Ticketless Options: The Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah

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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.

Giraffe strolling at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah

Giraffe strolling at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah – © John Kivus

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.

Meal time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Meal Time – © John Kivus

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.

 

Savannah at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

Savannah at the Animal Kingdom Lodge – © John Kivus

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Posted on June 22, 2014

9 Responses to “Theme Park Ticketless Options: The Animal Kingdom Lodge Savannah”

  • by Daffystardust on June 22, 2014, at 1:07 pm EDT

    Fellow Durham resident here.

    Thanks for the article. I am now considering heading to the Animal Kingdom Lodge on my last day at WDW in September.

  • Thanks for the article. I want to do this on my next trip. Can you grab food from Mara and eat it at one of the viewing areas while watching the animals?

    • Amanda – Yes, you can absolutely grab food from Mara and eat it at one of the viewing areas. I would recommend getting something you can easily hold, however, since there are no tables to sit at and place food on.

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite place to stay – you just highlighted the main reason. So worth the trip over!

  • Excellent points. I love AKL and have rented points to stay there 3 times. We also love the indoor lounge at the back of the Kidani lobby that overlooks the Savannah. There is also a huge number of pieces of authentic African art in the Jambo lobby that has to be seen to be appreciated. We also enjoy the kids’ activities.

  • Do you have to be a resort guest to do this? We arent staying on site for our next trip and I am compiling a list of fun stuff to do at the resorts.

    • by Laurel Stewart on June 24, 2014, at 10:21 am EDT

      No, you don’t have to be a resort guest to check out any of the Disney resorts. Just let the guard at security know you’re dropping by to check it out.

    • Christin – No, you do not have to be a resort guest. I frequently stay offsite, but visit the Disney resorts to do things just like this. As you may already know, you will have to stop at the guard station when you arrive at the resort, but I have found–in my experience–that the guards at Animal Kingdom Lodge have no real issue with people visiting the resort. Of course, if you are going to eat at Sanaa, Mara, Boma, etc… then the guards would almost certainly have no issue.

  • Thank you for an interesting and informative article!
    On a lark my daughter and I once planned (but did not take) a week’s vacation on property without entering any of the parks. We were pleasantly surprised to learn just how much there is to see and do that did not involve “just shopping.” We’ve kept the itinerary tucked away for some week when we find a really great resort discount and a week to spare. :-)