When the average guest thinks of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, I am pretty certain the first thing that comes to mind is the savannas. There are a lot of things going for the Lodge like the food, art, the decor, but most people think of it as "the hotel where you see animals from your room." What most don't realize is that the Lodge has 4 different savannas with numerous species, some of which are highly endangered and are part of important breeding programs to save the species.
Certainly, the idea of having a savanna full of African animals just outside your balcony is a unique experience. And each of the 4 savannas has its own unique charms. You should know, that just like any zoo, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge is just that, a zoo, things can change. Not only will individual animals come and go within the park but also within the zoo community at large, Whole herds of species sometimes move. They can move to a different savanna or even over to the theme park, or they can be moved as part of the Species Survival Plan to another zoo to ensure genetic stability of the species.
Sunset: This is perhaps the largest of the savannas and the only one visible at both resorts. Reticulated giraffes, roan, wildebeest, mountain zebra, and ankole cattle are all found here. The mountain zebra, which are part of a national breeding program, often have foals. Marabou stork and eastern crown cranes are found in this savanna, as well. The cranes are often seen near the windows of Sanaa and if you hear a loud bird calling early in the morning its likely these guys. You will notice a red flap of skin on the neck which is called a gular sac which is used to make their booming calls. This savanna also hosts the scimitar horned oryx, an elegant antelope. Also, you should not forget that there is a separate small exhibit near Sanaa's front desk which holds the radiated tortoise.
Arusha: This savanna is the one you reach by walking straight through the Jambo House lobby. The best viewing here is at the rather elaborate overlook just through the doors. It is also here where several activities are found including marshmallow roasting and storytelling. Like the Sunset viewing area, there is also a firepit which can be a fantastic place to relax in the evening. The animals here are fairly typical: reticulated giraffes, wildebeest, mountain zebra, ankole cattle, roan antelope, tommies, ostrich, and waterbuck. You can also see the rare blesbok, which was hunted to near extinction and saved thanks to efforts of zoos, and now the worldwide population is nearly a quarter of a million animals. When you first enter the overlook, to your left is a small body of water where you can see white pelicans. This savanna is also home to Vulterine guineafowl, small ground birds.
Before we delve into each of the savannas, I want to give a bit of an overview of the layout of the hotel. There is just one savanna that can be seen both at Kidani Village and the Jambo House, which is the Sunset savanna. The Sunset is seen from the Kudu trail at Jambo but it is also the main savanna off the Kidani lobby and the one seen from Sanaa, the only restaurant with animal viewing. The Kidani specific savanna, the Pembe, is found near the pool. By the pool at Jambo House is the Uzima savanna, which is also the wing where the DVC rooms for Jambo House are located. At the center of Jambo House is the Arusha savanna, which is the one seen from the viewing area off that resort's lobby.
These are essentially 4 different zoological exhibits with their own backstages and their own borders. But again, animals can be fairly easily moved around - especially within the confines of the resort's exhibits. Even though they are separate exhibits, they do share some animals. For example, giraffes can be found at three of the four savannas with the only exception being the Pembe (which is probably the most unique at least in terms of the animal collection). You will see Ankole cattle and Roan antelope at different savannas. Warden Wilson's favorites, the Thomson gazelles are found at two. But lets take a little bit closer of a look at each.
Uzima: This savanna is located near the pool at Jambo House of which it shares its name. Slightly separated from the rest of the exhibit is the flamingo pool where a group of Greater flamingos live among African spoonbills. The savanna at large holds the Somali Wild Ass which are pale donkey like animals found in the dry deserts of the Northeastern Africa. This species is critically endangered, with likely less than a thousand animals left in the wild. Some of the other animals in this area include greater kudu and the eland, the second largest antelope in the world, only just behind its cousin, the giant eland. There are also the standard reticulated giraffes as well as roan and ankole.
Pembe: I saved the most interesting for last. This savanna is seen from one wing of Kidani Village but also has a nice viewing spot near the pool at the resort and very close to the Maji bar. The highlight of this exhibit is probably the okapi, a giraffe relative. These beautiful animals are only found in a small area of the Congo rainforest. Another Congo native, the red river hogs are also seen here and are a favorite among the guests. The national bird of South Africa, the blue crane is seen nowhere else at the lodge or at the park. The Ruppell's griffon vultures, which are beautiful in their own way are also here. Another bird species, the Abyssinian ground hornbill is sometimes on view. In terms of antelope, you will be able to see the tiny Thompson gazelles as well as the much larger waterbuck.
Finally, make sure you take advantage of what Disney does to educate the guest about the animals. Viewing guides which give detailed information about the animals on exhibit are available at the lobbies as well as in your room. Graphics can be found at the various viewing spots. However, the best way to find out about the animals you are seeing is by talking to the cast members stationed at various locations. They are all from Africa and can give you fascinating insight into the animals of their homelands.
This article was provided by Safari Mike of JamboEveryone.com