More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

This Day In Disney History: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Turns 10

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Which Disney Parks resort lets you gaze at giraffes, taste African-inspired cuisine and relax in an 11,000-square-foot pool? The answer, of course, is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary April 16.

This Day In Disney History: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Turns 10

In case you aren’t familiar with this African-lodge themed resort – which opened its doors in 2001 – it’s one of the only resorts outside the continent of Africa to offer guestrooms with a view of animals roaming an open savanna.

This Day In Disney History: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Turns 10

The resort’s 33-acre Sunset Savanna currently is home to more than 200 animals and birds. Although the selection of animals appearing on the savanna often changes, guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge may see the likes of giraffe, Ankole cattle, bontebok, eland, zebra, greater kudu, impala, okapi, red river hogs, nyala and more during their stay.

This Day In Disney History: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Turns 10

The interior of the resort also boasts a thatched ceiling, hand-carved finishings and an impressive collection of more than 800 pieces of African art.

This Day In Disney History: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Turns 10

One of the rarest pieces is the Igbo Ijele (pronounced e-bo e-gelay) mask that appears in the rear of the lobby. Masks like these are made by the Igbo people of Nigeria to celebrate special occasions, and no other Ijele is known to exist outside of Igbo territory.

Taking home a piece of African artwork is also possible at the resort’s Zawadi Marketplace, a 5,600-square-foot retail shop that offers handcrafted animal treasures, as well as Disney wares.

The resort’s table-service restaurants also have been a smash with guests and food critics. Jiko – The Cooking Place holds the largest collection of South African wine (outside of Africa), while Boma – Flavors of Africa, offers a buffet of dishes from Malaysian, Indian, Chinese and French cultures.

Inside tip: Guests wishing to get an even closer view of animals can sign up for the resort’s Wanyama Sunset Safari Tour, during which a group of 12 guests are taken for a special tour of the savanna that ends with dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place for a family-style meal.


  • We stayed here for our honeymoon in Jan 2009 and loved it! Last Christmas we re-visited for dinner and walked around the whole resort to relive the magic 🙂

  • We were there last October for my birthday and we had a free room upgrade to Savannah view! INCREDIBLE when I first opened the hotel room door and saw giraffes and zebra right outside! Next time we go to Disney, guess where we’re staying? 🙂

  • One of my favourite Disney Resorts and I have been lucky enough to stay there too! The amazing Buffet restaurant was simply delicious couldn’t get enough! Wilderness Lodge is also awesome both have breathtaking lobby areas. Maybe the next resort could be Art Deco in style and celebrate that era, would be pretty amazing!

  • My husband and I were fortunate enough to have stayed here in a savannah view room for our wedding. The resort is a work-of-art! The appointments of the room are beautiful, as of course, is the view. We’ve eaten at Boma and Jiko (and Mara) many times, including eating at Jiko for our wedding dinner. (We were married in AK.) I highly recommend walking through the AKL lobby late at night … in a wedding dress!

  • Can’t wait, we’ll be there May 17th.

  • We stayed there in 2003 and loved it.

  • Best hotel in WDW !!!! Best service , more friendly staff , incredible concept (you can watch the animals eating from your room’s bedroom….and Jikko!!!

  • My husband & I stayed there in Nov2010, we really enjoyed it. The staff was very helpful and even gave us a bottle of wine to replace the one we lost. Loved seeing animals out of our window/veranda. Hope to stay again soon.

  • We check in July 17th – so ready!

  • My husband and I have been lucky enough to have stayed at this magnificent resort 3 times. It is by far our favorite resort on Disney property. It is worth forgoing a vacation for a couple years in order to save the money to stay here and I hope to some day be a DVC member with AKL as my home resort. Some people complain that it is too far away from everything but I think that only adds to resorts appeal.

    • Peg – I agree. This resort feels like you’re in a whole other world. So peaceful!

  • We stayed at AKL on our first family trip to WDW in December 2005. We arrived late in the day. My family and I were completely stunned by the beautiful spacious lobby. And better yet, the lobby was all decked out with incredible Christmas decorations.

    I wish that AKL could accomodate families of 5. I would love to bring my family back to AKL.

  • Omg I love this place. The DVC rooms are the best! It’s worth it to get the savannah view! One of my fav DVC hotels!

  • We stayed there for my daughters’ 16th birthday. There is nothing like it and the savannah view is worth every penny! We only stayed for a short time and then moved to Pop. The girls begged me and convinced me to go back to AK to eat a few more times during our stay. Boma for breakfast AND dinner! I always crave frunch!

  • My wife and I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first time in 2006, and we loved it. It is our favorite hotel. When we were planning our sons first trip to Disney World there was no question which resort we would stay at, he loved waking up and having the animals right outside our sliding glass door. Now even if we don’t stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge we have to at least have diner at Boma.

  • What an amazing place! This was our first trip with our 8 year old son and was so glad we picked this place. We felt like we were in another world! Everyone said that it was too far from the other parks but the buses ran pretty frequently and wass not a problem. Would LOVE to stay there on our next trip!

  • I adored our stay here. I went straight to the balcony every time we entered our room. It was fantastic seeing the animals all the time & the safari tour of the hotel savannahs was great!

  • We stayed there in 2009 and are staying again in only a few days!! I cannot wait to get to our room and walk out onto the balcony to watch the animals! It is a beautiful hotel!!

  • Too bad most of us hard working people won’t be able to afford to stay here:(

    • Amy – You can still enjoy the resort, even if you aren’t a guest staying there. Any family who stops in for a meal at one of the resort’s restaurants is more than welcome to view the animals from the observation patio, which offers a great view. There’s also a guide right there on hand to answer any questions you have about the animals. There also are two- and three-story savanna overlooks you’re welcome to visit.

  • We have a Savannah view reservation for June with a 4 year old and an 18 month old. I’m looking very forward to it.

  • OMG! I absolutely loooove this place! It is like a heavenly oasis. Wish I could live there!

  • I am lucky enough to be in the DVC and this is my home resort. I love the place and I am going back in january (staying at grand californian in oct) . I love the african employees and sitting by the firepits listening to their stories at night in the sunset svanah while everybody else in the resort goes to the parks.

  • Haven’t stayed there yet on a WDW visit… looking to the next time I make a trip out there.
    Of all of those who have stayed there, what are your absolute favorite things about the animal kingdom lodge? Compared to other disney resorts?
    My family and I really enjoyed the wilderness lodge.

    From the looks of it, I do love the ambiance and everything there when I did visit the hotel.. didn’t stay there though, but looking forward to sometime in the future!

    • My favorite thing about this resort is the fact that you can see animals right outside your resort room. It’s amazing to me that you can just sit on your balcony and see some of nature’s most beautiful animals – especially zebra and giraffe – walk by. It’s like the scenery changes right before you. We love the theme parks, but didn’t want to leave our room during that stay!

  • We stayed there last June for 9 days with a savannah view in Kidani Village. It was amazing!!!! Everyone should stay there at least once if you get the chance!!!!

  • We love this place. We stayed here a few years back and are booked for the end of April. I can’t wait to be home

  • Staying there with a Savannah View for the first time June 1! I. Can’t. Wait!

  • We stayed in a Savannah View room on the Concierge level for our honeymoon in October. Easily my favorite hotel stay anywhere, ever.

  • My absolute favourite place to stay at WDW – the animals are wonderful and the theming is spectacular. 10 years – that makes me feel old – I stayed there in the inaugural year!

    • I was lucky enough to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge once, and it was unforgettable! We saw giraffe from our balcony within the first 15 minutes we were in our room!

  • We first stayed there in October of 2001. It was the BEST! We have stayed there several times since. It is our favorite; actually, it is the only place my husband will stay. Cast members are wonderful! The views are fabulous! Shopping is great, too! OMG everything is great!

Comments are closed.