On my last trip to WDW, I had the opportunity to stay in three different rooms over the course of eight nights. I say ‘had the opportunity’ because I try to look at everything as just that–an opportunity–rather than a nuisance. And to be honest, Disney makes it so easy to switch room–or even resorts–during the course of a trip that it wasn’t a nuisance at all. And it was a great opportunity to compare the two different lodges that make up Animal Kingdom Lodge–Jambo House and Kidani.
The epic, towering beauty of the Animal Kindgom Lodge Jambo House lobby really can’t be beat. That is, until you experience the cozy, welcoming charm of Kidani’s pint-sized counterpart. At first glance, Kidani is disappointing. But take a little time to explore the savanna viewing areas and smaller side rooms at Kidani, and you’ll find that maybe, just maybe, bigger isn’t always better.
In my opinion, Kidani’s lobby beats Jambo House’s lobby for one major reason–it is quiet. And really, after a flight or after a day in the parks, quiet is pretty darn important to me. Jambo House’s common areas are so huge that everything echoes. Add to that the drumming and the parades of children–also drumming (who’s idea was that?) and Kidani’s lobby gets my vote every time.
Jambo House contains the trifecta of Disney dining options–a counter service location, a buffet, and a fine dining restaurant. Even better, each of those offerings represents the best of each category. Search all of Disney property, and you won’t find a better buffet than Boma, a more unique counter service menu than that at The Mara, or a better overall dining experience than Jiko. People go out of their way just to dine at Jambo House, and for good reason.
Additionally, Jambo House has one more very important thing going for it–Victoria Falls, the lounge/bar area directly above Boma. It’s one of the best–if not the best–resort lounges. The bartenders are always friendly, there’s lots of seating, and it is generally a lovely space. Plus, who doesn’t love sangria enjoyed through an animal-friendly biodegradable paper straw?
Of course, I would be remiss to leave out Kidani’s lone restaurant–Sanaa. After all, they do serve my favorite cuisine–Indian. Or, rather, Indian-ish. Disney-fied Indian, if you will. And the bar, while typically pretty empty, is rather small. But it’s still a great option, particularly for lunch if for some reason you are at the resort in the afternoon. Your only lunch option at Jambo House is counter service from The Mara.
Conversely, there’s no counter service available at Kidani. This actually worried me, as I do get rather cranky if I can’t find something to eat. However, there’s a good reason there’s no counter service here–all of the rooms are DVC rooms, and thus each have the means to, at the very least, heat up a cup of mac and cheese (which is readily available in the lobby shop).
The pool area at Jambo House is huge, but poorly set up. Yes, it is a lovely pool, but you can’t see it–and thus you can’t watch your children–from many of the lounge chairs.
The pool area at Kidani is smaller but absolutely lovely and blissfully quiet. And the pool bar slash restaurant–where you can order basic sandwiches–and restrooms are right there. While I don’t have a family, I imagine that this is much more convenient than the set up at Jambo House, where everything is a good hike away from the main pool area. Without a doubt, Kidani’s pool area is superior in every way.
Yes, I managed to check out–and use–the gym at both Kidani and Jambo House during my last visit. And yes, you should be impressed by that–even I am impressed! I never understood people who work out while on vacation–and then I started running. Now I get it. But I digress.
Both fitness centers have the same basic equipment–a few treadmills, a bike, an elliptical or two, and some weight equipment. But as someone who hates treadmills–but needs to use one at AKL because there is nowhere outside that you can run–I based my gym preference on ‘best view from the treadmill’. The gym at Kidani looks out over marshlands and blue sky. The gym at Jambo House looks out over…the smoking area. Guess which gym I preferred?
Room and View
As I was staying on points, the two rooms I shall be comparing were both DVC standard studios (I also got to spend several nights in a one-bedroom villa, an experience I will write about in a future post). As such, they both had one queen bed and one sleeper sofa. The studio at Jambo house was a standard view and the studio at Kidani was a savanna view.
To be honest, the rooms were very similar in size and set up. Both seemed more spacious than the standard non-DVC rooms at Jambo House, but that’s likely because there’s only one bed in the room, not two. Both had small kitchen areas with a microwave and a small refrigerator. The bathroom set-up was slightly different; at Jambo, the sink area was outside the toilet/shower area, which I find to be more helpful when sharing a room with others. Kindani’s bathroom was a traditional bathroom–sink, toilet, and tub/shower all in one room with a door that closed.
Both rooms had a fabulous view–even the standard view room at Jambo House. I realize this is the luck of the draw, but that standard view room actually overlooked some of the pens that house the giraffes. So while it wasn’t a traditional savanna view room, I still got to spend some time on my balcony with wildlife right there. The savanna view room at Kidani was nice as well, but honestly, you kind of feel like you have no privacy out there.
The building curves in on itself, so while you are looking out at the savanna, others are looking across the savanna towards you.
Additionally, another luck of the draw item to be considered is room location. My room at Jambo House was not terribly far from the lobby–I believe it was two ‘sections’ away. My room at Kidani was at the complete opposite end of the building from the lobby. Walking quickly with one small wheeled bag, it took me maybe seven minutes to reach my room from the front desk. Knowing how fast I typically walk, I would estimate that it was at least a third of a mile away. This doesn’t seem like much–and wasn’t really a problem for me–but had I been traveling with children (or with a normal amount of luggage) I would have been a bit annoyed. Of course, this could happen at either building.
The bus service to the parks was fantastic from both locations. I feel as though Kidani may come out a bit on top here, simply because you get picked up first–and thus always have a seat when going to a park–and dropped off first–and thus get back to your room at the end of a long day more quickly.
But it is the parking situation that really makes one lodge outshine the other. At Jambo House, you are parking in an outside parking lot across from the main building. It’s not a far walk to the lot, but it is a huge lot and was often rather full at the end of the day. Kidani, on the other hand, has a parking garage below the resort itself. You are assigned a parking area that is directly beneath your room. Thus, you can easily park and take a quick elevator right up to your own hallway. It truly felt like coming home–not merely returning to a large, impersonal resort.
To be honest, after having already stayed at Jambo House for a week back in May, I was nervous about trying out Kidani Village. The lack of a true lounge, coupled with smaller common areas and lack of counter service restaurant caused me actual concern. But as it turned out, I loved Kidani Village almost as much–if not more than–Jambo House. All in all, you can’t really go wrong staying at either of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s lodges. They are beautiful, they are unique, and they are in Disney World. And isn’t that really all that matters?
Have you stayed at both AKL properties? Which do you prefer, and why? Share with us in the comments below!