So, you want to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas. The real question is, which building?
Not everyone is aware that there are, in fact, two separate buildings at Animal Kingdom — Jambo House and Kidani Village. For those who have not visited the resort since before 2009, the addition of Kidani Village might come as a surprise.
However, the question remains, which building is best for you and your family? Today, we will break down the big differences between Jambo and Kidani and help you figure out which building is the right fit for your Disney vacation.
One of the interesting distinctions between the two buildings at Animal Kingdom is the room allocation. Jambo House — also often referred to as ‘Animal Kingdom Lodge’ — has a mixture of DVC villas and regular cash rooms. The DVC portion of Jambo was first opened in 2007 after converting a section of the existing building from hotel rooms to villas (exclusively on the fifth and sixth floors of the resort). This differs greatly from Kidani Village’s layout. Unlike Jambo, Kidani was built specifically to house DVC villas and does not have any ‘normal’ hotel rooms. This means that when you stay at Kidani your room could be located anywhere in the resort. For people who prefer a lower floor, this is a definite plus.
It is not just the location that differentiates Jambo and Kidani. Due to the conversion from cash to DVC, Jambo House is home to the unique ‘Value’ category of rooms. The Value rooms are not much different from their regular counterparts, except when it comes to size. During the conversion process some space in the resort was left over; however, the space was not large enough to put a regular room. So, the ‘Value’ rooms were born! They are smaller than the other villas and come with no guaranteed view type. As there are only a small handful of Value rooms in the entire DVC inventory, the Vacation Club does not allow guests staying in a Value room to request any specific room location or view. The small number of rooms also means that this category can sell out very quick!
Jambo House also has one other unique category, the Kilimanjaro Club Concierge, or ‘Club Level’ rooms. Club Level rooms are the same size as regular villas but come with the extra value of Concierge service. Guests who stay in a Club level room are eligible for Advanced Walt Disney World Resort Itinerary Planning services, personalized front desk, and Concierge services, daily housekeeping and evening turndown service, and access to the exclusive Club Lounge. For many, the biggest draw of Club Level is the lounge, where complimentary refreshments are served daily from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. However, much like the Value rooms, these rooms also have no guaranteed view type and the small number of Club rooms means that the Disney Vacation Club does not allow room vicinity or view requests.
When it comes to the ‘regular’ DVC rooms, both buildings offer Standard View and Savanna View categories in all room sizes.
While these rooms are very similar, there are a handful of small differences when it comes to room layouts. For example, at Jambo House, all of the Two Bedroom Villas are Lock-off units. This means that the villa is actually made of a Studio and a One Bedroom villa that have an adjoining door. While these rooms can also be found at Kidani, the newer of the two buildings does have Dedicated Two Bedroom Villas as well. The main difference between the two layouts? In a Lock-off, the second ‘bedroom’ is a Studio with a kitchenette, queen size bed, and double size sleeper sofa. In a Dedicated layout, the second bedroom does not have a kitchenette and would instead just have the two queen size beds. But, what if you are a smaller group? There are still some things to consider, like room size and bathrooms. The One and Two Bedroom villas at Jambo House are a bit smaller than their Kidani Village counterparts. Similarly, One and Two Bedroom villas at Kidani come with an extra, full bathroom. That extra space is certainly a plus, so there is no need to fight over bathrooms!
If guests have a preference of one building over the other or one style of two bedroom layout over the other, we ask that it’s noted in the “Comments” section of their reservation request form; the reservation can not be changed at a later date.
Animal Kingdom, as a whole, has what I consider to be some of the most delicious resort dining options. Home to Boma, Jiko, Sanaa, and The Mara, there are quite a few options to consider when meal time rolls around. If convenience is the real order of the day, then it is important to know which options are located in each of the two resort buildings.
In comparison to its older counterpart, Kidani Village does have fewer dining options. If you are in search of a Quick Service option at Kidani, your options are a bit slim. The Maji, the poolside bar, does offer a limited selection of quick-service menu items like sandwiches, salad, hot dogs, and some snack items. They even offer a couple of options for kid’s meals.
So, if you are a bit peckish, The Maji may suit your needs just fine. If, however, you are looking for something a bit more substantial, or with a bit more variety, you would need to pop over to The Mara at Jambo. The one exception to this is actually breakfast, where Sanaa offers a quick, casual breakfast between 7:00 and 10:00am.
Sanaa, to its credit, can really make up for the lack of a full-time quick-service restaurant at Kidani Village. Operating as a table-service restaurant for both Lunch and Dinner, Sanaa offers delicious East African and Indian-inspired cuisines.
To be honest, all you have to say to me is ‘bread service’ an I am on board! But, what actually makes Sanaa very unique is that it overlooks one of the savannas. While both Jambo and Kidani feature beautiful savannas, only Sanaa lets you view the animals directly from the restaurant, making it a very unique dining experience, particularly if you have animal lovers in your party!
While the food was tasty, I was taken aback by several guests walking in and out of the restaurant without shoes. There is a sign asking that footwear is worn at all times, though, it shouldn’t have been that surprising, given how close The Mara is to the Uzima Pool. Another thing to keep in mind, where Kidani only has one table-service dining option, Jambo House does have two.
Boma offers buffet-style dining for Breakfast and Dinner. Also available is Jiko – The Cooking Place which is a signature dining experience featuring a “blend of traditional African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine”. Yum!
The first, and most important thing, to know about the amenities at Animal Kingdom Villas, is that guests have full access to both buildings. Regardless of which building you book, you will have full reign of both the Uzima (Jambo) and Samawati Springs (Kidani) pool areas, as well as all other recreation amenities.
Of course, depending on what amenities pique your interest, you may want to pick one building over the other.
There are a lot of amenities which are housed in both buildings. Both have a fitness center, their own gift shop, campfire activities, and lush savannas. However, there are a handful of things that you can only find at Kidani Village (and I am not just talking about the elusive Okapi). Kidani Village has a community hall, something which Jambo House lacks.
The community halls, found at most (but not all) DVC resorts offer quite a range of fun activities for those looking to take a break from the parks. Guests can play ping-pong, video games, and billiards, as well as tackle some arts and crafts projects. Also important at the community hall, is the ability to sign out tennis racquets, basketballs, shuffleboard equipment, and grilling tools. Why? You guessed it, Kidani has tennis courts, basketball courts, shuffleboard, and outdoor BBQ grills. All of this equipment can be signed out free of charge to guests. Of course, you can still use all of these features if you’re staying at Jambo, but the convenience factor of having that all so close at hand is great!
The other differences in amenities are, in my opinion, small, but still worth a quick mention. Jambo House has a larger pool, while Kidani’s pool area has one of the best splash pads on Disney property (in my humble opinion).
Similarly, while both buildings have a gift shop, guests will notice that Johari Treasures at Kidani Village is a bit smaller than the Zawadi Marketplace over at Jambo. If you are looking for some beautiful art, or African-inspired handicrafts, Zawadi Marketplace has a much larger selection.
So, there is really a lot to consider between Jambo House and Kidani Village. Both buildings are beautiful, with breath-taking lobbies and unique savannas. The architecture and care that Disney has put into both areas are remarkable, and it is worth it to take the time to tour both if you are able. It is about a ten minute walk from one building to the next (at a leisurely pace), though it may take longer if you are a family with small children or strollers. Thankfully, Disney has done its best to minimize the commute between the buildings by offering a complimentary shuttle bus between Jambo and Kidani. If you are lucky, you might be like us, and end up on a shuttle bus that breaks into a full ABBA sing-along, Cast Member included!