The Mara is absolutely a “go-to” spot for me at Walt Disney World. It’s a great place to get away from it all and just take a breather in the middle of one of my favorite Disney resorts.
Located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, The Mara counter-service restaurant offers exotic eats inspired by the diverse flavors of the African continent, while also providing more traditional American fare for the less adventurous eaters in your crew.
And don’t even get me started on all of the special Disney food cult favorites that we’ll make a trip here just to snag!
But I just realized that for all of my visits to Mara, I didn’t actually have my own review of the spot up on the blog! Time to remedy that right away.
Located on the ground floor, The Mara is just a stone’s throw away from Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Uzima Springs Pool. It’s accessible through an outside entrance near the doors to Jambo House’s other restaurants, Boma and Jiko.
The Mara is named for the Masai Mara National Reserve in North Tanzania, a game conservation area established in 1948.
The reserve serves as home to dozens of native animals and over 470 species of birds, making it an excellent place to observe the big game with which Africa is associated.
The indoor seating area takes its themeing from the wetlands and grasslands of the Reserve, with colorful murals painted on the back walls, and a canopy of trees overhead. With the predominant background color of blue, the setting is soothing with plenty of natural light flooding in, which gives you the impression of a cool space.
There is also ample outdoor seating at tables that are shaded by umbrellas and plenty of foliage and trees.
On your way over to the ordering area, you’ll find last minute pool gear and an assortment of bagged candy available for purchase. This is a great option near the pool since the gift shop, Zawadi Marketplace, is relatively far away if you forget your pool noodle or need some extra sunscreen!
On the day we visited, we found the restaurant to be fairly uncrowded and quiet as we headed to the food area to make our selections. This is often the case with the Mara for me, but perhaps I’m just visiting during “off-hours.”
You’ll find The Mara open from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The menu features many items that you’ll find every time that you visit, but guests will also find some dishes available as daily specials.
The menu boards overhead are LCD and offer both descriptions and pictures of the dishes available.
Kids’ Meal choices offer a good variety of both standard options like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, and healthier offerings like a Chicken Leg Meal or Rotisserie Chicken.
In addition to the bakery snacks and dessert offerings that we see at most resort counter service spots, you’ll also find some more upscale beverage options at The Mara, like smoothies and specialty coffee drinks.
Take away containers make it a cinch to transport your meal or any leftovers back to your room or to a poolside location.
Once you’ve ordered your main dishes, it’s time to take a look around and see what else is available. There’s plenty, to be sure!
The bakery case is always stocked with breakfast pastries and a few dessert items.
On the bottom tier, I even found one of my new favorite treats, the Mickey Ganache Tart! Here, it features a chocolate shortbread crust and is dressed up with a few star sprinkles.
In the refrigerated grab and go area, you’ll find a large selection of fresh salads, sandwiches, and ready-to-eat fruit and breakfast items.
I really love the convenience of this individual serving of Hummus and Veggies. It’s perfect for snacking on the go, and a great option for throwing into your bag and taking to the park as well.
Kids’ Picks and refrigerated desserts can also be found here as well.
If you’re making a pilgrimage to The Mara to pick up some Zebra Domes, this is where you’ll find them!
There’s a wide selection of bottled drinks available, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
And you can also satisfy your craving for ice cream treats here as well. The wide selection includes iconic favorites like the Mickey Ice Cream Bar, the Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich, and one of our other favorites, the Nestle Delicias Pineapple Bar.
You’ll find the Triple Blast Ice Pop here as well, in case you need an icy treat between park visits.
Whole fruit is also available — wrapped, and ready to go.
Bread for toast (or picky eaters who want PB&J) is also on hand, and there’s a toaster nearby as well.
A selection of cereals in disposable bowls makes a light breakfast or snack quick and convenient. You can also snag a Rice Krispie Treat here!
Shelves containing African art accent a wine rack that includes a selection of South African Red Wines. (You’ll find a selection of White and Rosé Wines in the grab and go refrigerated section as well.)
You’ll also find your refillable drink station here if you’ve purchased refillable souvenir mugs for your visit.
As I mentioned before, The Mara also has a nice selection of “fancier” beverage options, like Iced Coffee, Smoothies, and Espresso drinks. It will be interesting to note whether the coffee options remain once Joffrey’s becomes Disney’s Official Coffee Provider.
Beyond the beverage station, you’ll find plenty of condiments and fixings to dress up your food items.
And there is also a toaster as well as a microwave for toasting breads, or for heating up baby foods, leftovers, or other items.
Whew!! Once you’ve made all of your selections, you’ll proceed to the check out area, where you’ll order beverages. At that point, the cashier will tally your order, drinks, and any grab and go items.
You’ll pay and will await the pager’s signal that your food is ready. By the time you explore the area, it may be time to head to the pick up area!
After picking up the food, it was time to settle into a table and get eating!
It’s very creamy with an almost sweet-nutmeggy flavor that’s indicative of the complex flavors you’ll find at play in African food, with a background note of coconut. It tasted more like Pumpkin than Butternut Squash to me.
The Chicken Pita was touted to me as a guest favorite by Mara cast members. It looks deceptively simple here, but there are some really nice flavors hidden beneath the fresh, crisp lettuce.
The sandwich is dressed with two different sauces — a nutty Sun-dried Tomato Hummus as well as a creamy Mint Yogurt Sauce. Paired with the pliable pita bread, they worked well to make this a delicious and different alternative to a fairly common sandwich offering.
Entrees at The Mara come with your choice of a side of Fries or Couscous, and I opted for the latter.
Served cold and flavored with lots of fresh chopped veggies and a dash of that wonderful spice, it’s an interesting accompaniment. There was a definite nutty flavor to this.
Next, we sampled the African Stew. A hearty dish full of beef, turkey, and ham combined with chick peas, green peas, and other vegetables, it’s served over a massive helping of basmati rice.
The addition of raisins adds a sweet-savory component to the stew. I consider this dish a hidden gem, and such an amazing option to find in a counter service spot.
And with that, we wrapped up lunch — knowing that ganache tarts and zebra domes were ours for the taking later that day.
As with Animal Kingdom Lodge’s other restaurants Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa at Kidani Village, The Mara remains one of my favorite hidden gems for dining in Disney World. With food that is interesting and delicious, it’s a welcome departure from the hamburgers, fries, and other standard fast food options that can sometimes become too prevalent on our visits to Disney World counter-service spots.
Even though it’s a bit off the beaten path, I urge you to take some time and head to The Mara at some point for a meal. Really, you can’t go wrong, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. With delicious hot food items, premium drinks, and an interesting selection of African wines, you’ll find that The Mara is a counter service spot that’s worth your time.
Have you eaten at The Mara in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge? What’s your recommendation? Let us know in the comments below.