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September 1, 2009

Kidani Village – Pembe Savanna

The six-acre Pembe Savanna which surrounds the north wing of Kidani Village at the Animal Kingdom Lodge opened today (September 1). I was on hand to check things out. Unfortunately, I don't have much to report as there isn't anything "new" that I didn't already cover in my Kidani Village blogs. You see, for the most part, this new savanna can only be viewed from the rooms of the north wing. The one exception can be found in the pool area. Next to the Maji Bar, tables now overlook a small section of this animal habitat. This makes for a fantastic place to enjoy a cool drink in the evening.


Maji Bar

Maji Bar

Maji Bar


Disney has also created a small viewing area near the Maji Bar where you'll find a knowledgeable cast member who can answer questions about the various animals.


Pembe Overlook


The savanna is populated with okapis, a typically shy animal closely related to the giraffe. You'll also find red river hogs, impala, waterbuck, blue cranes, and spur-winged geese.

Since I visited Kidani Village around 9:30am, most of the animals were backstage attending their daily check-up with the vets and caretakers. Because of that, I don't have any animal pictures to share with you. But to make up for this, I created a short video that highlights the public spaces of Kidani Village. I hope you enjoy it.



Read Disney's Official Press Release on the Opening of Pembe!

May 3, 2009

Kidani Village – Final Blog

In this final blog I'm going to try to tie up any loose ends and answer a few more questions.

When I checked into Kidani Village early on May 1st, I was the only guest at the front desk and I had seven eager cast members ready and willing to tell me everything there is to know about Kidani Village. When I mentioned that I had lunch reservations at Sanaa, in unison they said "Try the pork chop."

Yesterday, it was time to put their recommendation to the test. But before I ever arrived at my table, I learned something new about the restaurant. It was designed to look like a stylized outdoor marketplace and all of the waitstaff are referred to as merchants. I realize that this is sort of gimmicky, but it works. Hey, it's Disney and getting lost in our imaginations is what it's all about.

Take a look at the design in the middle of the tables at Sanaa.


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Since I knew I'd be writing a mini-review about lunch at Sanaa, I felt it important to order two different meals. Since Donald and I were both still full from our large dinner the night before, we decided to skip appetizers and desserts and only order entrees. But now the hard decision - who gets the Grilled Port Chop ($17.99)? It was finally decided that Donald would get the recommended selection.

This chop is available at lunch only and is the sole pork item served. Because this meat is not commonly served in Africa or India it was decided to limit its use. In fact, the bacon used on the Club Sandwich is Turkey-Bacon.

The Grilled Pork Chop is glazed with ginger and pickled lime sauce and served with sautéed spinach. However, Donald opted for the stir-fried green beans.


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Donald did allow me a small bite of the pork and we both agreed that the front-desk cast members were right - this dish is a winner. It was tender, moist, and flavorful. Note, I would call the serving size a "lunch" portion, but there was enough food here to satisfy Donald.

For my entrée I tried one of the combination meals ($18.99). Here you can choose two from the following: Chicken With Red Curry Sauce, Paneer Cheese and Spinach, Shrimp with Green Curry Sauce, and Beef Short Ribs. I opted for Chicken Curry and Paneer Cheese.


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The Chicken Curry was good; however I wish there had been a few more bites of meat in the bowl. As for the curry, I liked it. Curry is certainly a robust flavor, but it wasn't overpowering. It had a slight tingle, but not so strong as to scare away those of you who don't like spicy-hot food.

The Paneer Cheese and Spinach was interesting. I want tell you more, but I'm really not sure what to say. I finished it all so it must have been good, but words escape me when I try to describe it. Sorry.

Overall, I'm pleased with Sanaa. The menu is diverse and it would take several visits to try everything. And the food is unique. Even though I found it difficult to describe the Paneer Cheese and Spinach, I'm still glad I ordered it. It was fun to try something new. And I love the décor of the restaurant. The designers created one of the most inviting and warm spots at Disney.

Now it's time to move on to some final odds and ends about Kidani Village.

High Speed Internet Access: Each room is equipped with a cable to connect a laptop to the internet. You'll find the cable in a cloth bag hanging in a closet. The price is $9.95 for 24 hours. However members (and their guest) get this service for free. Non-members making general reservations must pay. Also, if you take the cable home with you, you'll be charged $9.95.

Disney is installing WiFi in many of the public rooms of their resorts. It will eventually make it to Kidani Village, but no date has been set for this to happen.

Throughout the resort you will see wonderfully shaped pieces of colorful glass in a number of chandeliers. This glass was crafted by Savoy Studios. For more information, check out their website. http://www.savoystudios.com/


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Take a look at the hidden Mickeys found in the hallway carpet.


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In your room, look for a "Wildlife Field Guide." On it you'll find a list of animals that roam the savanna and a brief description of their habits.

Of course, as nice as the resort is, the real reason anyone would stay here is to see the animals. Greg, Curator in the Animals Program Department, told me that when you see the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari, it's only for a brief moment. But when you view them from Jambo House or Kidani Village, you can actually watch them behave and interact over a period of time. This gives you a far better understanding of the animals than a quick "drive by" can provide.

All of the pictures below were taken from my room on the third floor.


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May 2, 2009

Kidani Village Part 5

For lunch yesterday we went to the Maji Pool Bar. Disney offers two options for lunch at this location. The first is a more casual menu of premade sandwiches and salads at reasonable prices. These are handled by the bartender and service is immediate.


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The other option is called Private Dining (in other words, room service). Located at one end of the bar is a phone with a direct line to the kitchen. Just pick up the receiver and you'll be connected to an operator. This menu is more substantial with prices to match.


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After placing my "Private Dining" order I was told there would be a $3 delivery charge and an automatic 18% gratuity. I was also told there would be a 35-40 minute wait for my food. Located next to the phone were large numbers to place on the table. I was asked to select one so a cast member could find me later. To my surprise, my order arrived in just a little over 10 minutes.

The food is beautifully served in a Bento Box and the display is well worth the extra cost. I ordered the Tandoori Chicken for $14.99. It was served on Naan Bread and it came with a cucumber dressing, a small green salad, and pineapple custard. All of it was extremely good and the chicken a little spicy. In fact, my lips were tingling after each bite. My friend Donald ordered the Club Sandwich on Multi-grain bread for $11.49. It was good, but nothing out of the ordinary. However, this meal comes with two sandwiches --- enough for a couple to share.


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The Maji Bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a lunch. African music plays in the background and the pool is nearby. And when the Pembe Savanna is completed this fall, animals will be within sight of the bar.


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Also in the pool area is a Walt Disney proverb. But I won't tell you where. You'll have to find it on your own.


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After lunch we headed to the Savanna Overlook that juts out into the Sunset Savanna. Here we spoke with Greg who is a Curator in the Animals Program department. One of the things he wanted me to share with you is the hours that the animals are available for viewing in the Sunset Savanna.


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Every morning at 6am, the animals are encouraged to return to an enclosed area for general care and treatment. And while the vets and other experts are tending to the animals, the horticulturists and groundskeepers use this time to maintain the savanna. By noon, all of the animals are returned to the grounds and will remain available for viewing until 6am the next day.

The reason this time of day was chosen to care for the animals was that it was thought that the majority of guests would be busy in the morning getting ready to go to the theme parks and interest in viewing them would be at its lowest. Then, in the afternoon when you return from the parks, these magnificent creature would be waiting for you.

My next stop was the sports area. Located next to a small retention pond you'll find a half basketball court, two tennis courts, two shuffleboard courts, and a covered picnic area with tables and four BBQs.


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Here are two Hidden Mickeys for you. All I'll tell you is that both of them are located in the lobby.


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Something I want to warn you about is the resort's size. In order to maximize the number of rooms that have views of the savannas, the buildings needed to be long - extremely long. So if you have a room at the far end of one of the wings, it can be a substantial walk to the lobby, Sanaa Restaurant, or the Samawati Springs pool area. If you have mobility problems you would most certainly want to let Disney know when making your reservation and again when checking in.

Now that I've stayed a night at the Kidani Village, there are a few odds and ends I'd like to share with you.

The exhaust fans in the bathroom are motion activated and remain on for several minutes after leaving the room. Normally I don't see this as a problem, but if you have light sleepers in your group this could wake them at night.

The bathroom vanity is well designed with plenty of space to store your toiletries.


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The clock-radio has a docking port for iPods.


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The balconies are large and reasonably private. However, noise travels and conversations from adjoining balconies are easily heard.


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There are no recycle trash bins in the room. Shame on Disney since I know these are available at other Disney World resorts. Maybe they were just missing because it was opening day and they hadn't arrived yet.

One reader asked me what floor offers the best views of the savanna. After giving this question a bit of thought, here's what I came up with.

The public viewing porches are located on the second floor. Obviously someone thought this would be a good location to watch the animals. However, the Grand Villas, the most expensive rooms, are located on the fourth and fifth floors. So it appears that Disney doesn't have an answer for this question either.


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I found out that Night Vision Viewing of the animals is only available at Jambo House.

The pool's maximum depth is 4'11".

Sanaa


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Each day when the restaurant opens for lunch and dinner (11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.), a number of Sanaa cast members sing an African welcoming song to those guests in the lobby, waiting to be seated. This certainly isn't a "knock-your-socks-off event," but it is a pleasant way to start a dining adventure and it made me glad I had 5 o'clock reservations so I could experience it. Also, the first several guests to enter the restaurant are greeted by additional cast members who carry long, grass-like sticks and they wave them at you as you pass between them. I'm sure there was ceremonial significance to this, but I was so awestruck by my surroundings that I forgot to ask.


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Donald and I were the first party seated on May 1st and thus became the very first guests to have dinner at Sanaa. Our server was James and he epitomized the perfect Disney cast member. He provided us with enough conversation to be friendly, but never intruded. He was also extremely knowledgeable when it came to the menu. And the meal was timed perfectly. There is nothing I hate more than to be in and out of a nice restaurant within 45 minutes. Our meal took two hours as we were allowed the time to enjoy each course before the next was anywhere in sight.


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We started our meal with the Indian-style Bread Service for $8.99 (serves two). Here you can choose three flatbreads (from four) and three dipping sauces (from eight). For the breads we chose Roti, Paratha, and Paneer Paratha and for our dipping sauces we selected Coriander Chutney, Mango Chutney, and Tamarind Chutney.


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To be honest, I really couldn't distinguish a lot of difference between the breads. But the chutneys were a different story. Each had a very distinct taste with the Coriander ranking as our favorite. But please note, while the other two were flavorful, the Coriander was kick-in-the-pants spicy. I would definitely order the bread course on a future visit just for the sauces.

For appetizers we decided on the Sampler for Two ($14.99). This included Roasted Cauliflower, Pulled Duck with Red Curry Sauce, and Potato and Pea Samosas. James left the dipping sauces (from the bread course) on the table just in case we wished to use them with the appetizers. I felt the Cauliflower and Duck held their own, but we both added some sauce to the Potato and Pea. There is a fourth appetizer that is not part of the Sampler. Although we were happy with these selections, we weren't blown away by them either. Good, but not great. I think next time I'll try the stand-alone appetizer of Mustard Seed Crusted Scallops.


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For an entrée, Donald tried one of the combination meals ($18.99). Here you can chose two from the following: Chicken With Red Curry Sauce, Paneer Cheese and Spinach, Shrimp with Green Curry Sauce, and Beef Short Ribs. Donald opted for the shrimp and ribs.


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I make short ribs at home and Sanaa's version definitely had that distinctive short rib taste. But there were other subtle flavors infused in the meat that my down-home recipe is lacking. If there had been salt on the table, I would have used it, but the ribs were quite good and extremely tender.

In a way, I would have to describe the shrimp in the same manner. It certainly tasted like shrimp, but there were other flavors playing with my taste buds.

The gentleman at the next table opted for the spinach and cheese selection. He told me that it tasted like nothing he'd ever eaten before. When I asked him if this was good or bad, he said, "Good." But the flavors were so new to him that it took a moment for his palate to become accustomed to the 30 spices used in the dish.

For my entrée I selected the Spice-crusted Cornish Game Hen with Turnips and Cherries ($17.99). I thought this dish was outstanding. I also make game hens at home, but they taste nothing likes this. Sanaa's bird was heaping with flavor. So much so that the chef-selected wine is Pinot Noir (a red wine, not a white). And to be honest, I feel a more flavorful wine should be paired with this dish. Please note, the meal is spicy, not spicy-hot. However, James did tell me that the chef can add some "kick" to any dish if you request it.


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For dessert I ordered the Cardamom-Butter Cake with Orange Supreme and Saffron Syrup for $5.49. This offering has a subtle taste. I did like it, but after my spicy hen the cake seemed mild. I think this dessert would be better suited to follow a less spicy dish.

Donald ordered the Chai Cream with Tea Tuile. This was probably the highlight of the meal. A creamy custard, served in a glass, with a taste that's very difficult to describe, but oh so delicious. I know what I'm getting on my next visit.


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Here is the view from our table.


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I've eaten at Jiko five times and have yet be overly impressed with the food. But I think Sanaa is on the right track. A few dishes might need some fine tuning, but this spot has the beginnings of a unique and fine Disney experience.

For pictures of Sanaa, see Blog 2 in my Kidani Village series.

That is it for this blog. I'll be writing one final entry and it should be up sometime tomorrow.

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About Kidani Village

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Kidani Village category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Jambo House is the previous category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.