After months of excited anticipation (and 25 years after the original), The Lion King remake finally hit the big screens a few weeks back. Overcome with nostalgia, many of us Disney fans rushed to go see it at the cinema. Unsurprisingly, the movie has been a box office hit, grossing over $1.19 billion worldwide. Director Jon Favreau’s retelling of this 1994 animated classic utilizes cutting-edge CGI to bring the characters to life, not least among them Simba (Donald Glover) Mufasa (once again voiced by James Earl Jones), and our favorite lioness, Nala (voiced by none other than Queen Bey herself).
Our generation has fond memories of the original animation and today’s viewers will undoubtedly create their own memories from this new version with its strong characters. Among many things, the Lion King remake may have stirred the travel bug within you. Whether it’s the animals, the sceneries, or the appeal of an outdoor adventure, experiencing your own lion king safari and checking out the “pridelands” for yourself can be a reality. Africa is brimming with spectacular safari destinations where you can spot the real-life versions of some of your favorite Lion King characters and locations.
One of the most iconic scenes from the movie—both the original and the remake— is when the Mandrill baboon shaman Rafiki stands atop Pride Rock, holding the newborn Simba up for the entire savanna to see. The actual setting for this scene was in the dramatic, sculptural granite outcroppings of the Ndoto Mountains, which is located just west of Northern Kenya’s Losai National Reserve. It is also inspired by the rock formations of the Chyulu Hills, in the south.
In the Serengeti in the neighboring country of Tanzania, you’ll also be able to see large smooth rocks that seemed to have been sprinkled into the grass of the endless plains. The lions (Simba means lion in Swahili) in the Serengeti use these rocks to scope out prey, sunbathe, or just hang out. So during your stay, you may be lucky to spot a couple of Simbas lazing about the rocks.
Much of what comprised the Pride Lands in the movie was actually inspired by Kenya’s Masai Mara. The area is rich with bushlands, amazing rivers, and wide-open savannas dotted with dramatic umbrella-like acacia trees. Of course, other parks around Kenya and Tanzania boast a similar setting and proudly showcase the true wonders of the African bush.
In the movie, you’ll recall Cloud Forest as the majestic and jaw-dropping jungle where Simba lives with Pumba and Timon. This Hakuna Matata world was shot on the mesmerizing Mount Kenya. The movie’s production designer, James Chinlund mentioned the forested setting of Serena Mountain Lodge, with its mountain views, as the inspiration for this location. Meanwhile, the moors of Kenya’s Aberdare National Park provided ideas for the surroundings of the climb to the Cloud Forest.
Another important feature of the movie inspired by the Aberdare National Park is the waterfall where Nala re-enters Simba’s life. This setting was inspired by the Karuru waterfall—the tallest cascade in Kenya—in Aberdare National Park.
Can’t talk about a Lion King safari without actually talking about lions. Kenya and Tanzania are home to some of the largest free-roaming lion populations in the world. In Tanzania, you’ll most likely come across lions in the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire parks, while Kenya’s Masai Mara, Tsavo, Samburu, and Amboseli parks among many others are the best places to catch a glimpse of these jungle kings. In addition to lions, you’ll also be able to spot laughing hyenas, elephants, zebras, and large herds of wildebeests.
- Rafiki (mandrill baboon) — Throughout the film, we see this shaman baboon with his colorful rear-end offering guidance and wisdom to Simba. It makes sense then that his name is ‘Rafiki’ since in Swahili this translates to ‘friend’. In real life, however, mandrills are reclusive and shy in the wild so if you’re looking to spot one, you’ll have to keep a watchful eye on the tall trees. One of the best places for a real-life sighting is theLopé National Park in Gabon.
- Zazu (red-billed hornbill) — In the movie, Zazu keeps track of young Simba and is also there to help in the final battle. In real life, there are five species of red-billed hornbills found in different places across Africa. Kenya’s Samburu region and the Lapalala Wilderness area in South Africa are among the best locations for a real-life sighting.
- Pumba (warthog) and Timon (meerkat) — To see these lovable partners in crime dancing along in the wild is something that can only happen on the silver screen. Warthogs and meerkats don’t share the same social circles so a real-life Hakuna Matata performance is not going to happen. Warthogs are easy to spot across different parks in Africa, but for real-life meerkat sightings, the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in South Africa is your best bet.
Are you ready for your real-life Lion King safari? We can help! Get in touch with us today to discuss your African safari plans.