The Lion King: an African Fantasy
The king has returned… this summer, the highly-anticipated revamp of Disney’s The Lion King hits cinemas. Its iconic story is further enhanced by an all-star cast and all-new groundbreaking CGI and virtual reality technology. Some very real places played a part in the development of The Lion King, and although the pride lands you’ll see on screen are a mixture of fantasy and reality, they are sure to inspire you to see the true African wilds for yourself.
Here are just a few ideas for injecting some African fantasy inspired by The Lion King into your next custom Africa safari.
Samburu National Reserve
Director Jon Favreau has said that his take on the Disney classic will include “the spectacle of a BBC wildlife documentary.” The difference is that every member of the animal cast in The Lion King is completely computer-generated, from the flocks of flamingos to Simba himself. What about the landscape, you ask? Some of it is actual footage from locations in east Africa, in particular the lands surrounding Saruni Samburu. This luxury lodge was designed to hover over the land and take full advantage of the magical views. The Samburu’s northern Kenyan playground plays host to big cats (lions included) alongside reticulated giraffe, hippo, elephant, and some 450 species of birds. Sneak a peek at the land for yourself at timestamps 0:34 & 1:21 in the trailer video above.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park has long been a safari stop for visitors, and the exclusive Thornybush Game Reserve marries the wealth of animal intrigue with one of the country’s most coveted stays. Intimate safari lodge Royal Malewane is always a crowd pleaser, and it just so happens that Sir Elton John is among the crowd. Owner Liz Biden has disclosed that the Royal Suites are a favorite for the famed artist, and legend has it that he even penned part of the original music for 1994’s The Lion King while staying here. For the 2019 version, Elton John joins up once more with Tim Rice to create songs for the film, and the powerhouse talents of Pharrell Williams and Beyonce have been added to the music-making. While we can’t guarantee you’ll win a Grammy after a stay at Royal Malewane, we can be sure that the experience will leave you inspired.
The Serengeti’s Kopjes
Ahead of the original The Lion King film, Disney animators and artists took a trip through Kenya and Tanzania to get a sense of the regional geography, color, and wildlife. While many places in this area are quick to lay claim as the inspiration for Pride Rock, the truth is that no identical landmark exists. Still, the massive granite rock formations known as kopjes certainly planted the seeds of creation for Simba’s fictional home. These rocks are prevalent throughout the Serengeti’s landscape, and home to many safari regulars; elephants rest in the shade along their base, and lions laze in the sunshine high atop their faces. We recommend visiting Tanzania and the Lamai Triangle and Soit Le Motonyi for a slower, more uncrowded experience at camps like Namiri Plains and Mkombe's House.
If you’re looking for wildlife in droves, head to the tongue-twisting Makgadikgadi Pans in the Kalahari Desert region of Botswana. This stark and remote region has it all: lions, hyenas, zebras, plains game, and perhaps most famously: meerkats. Jack's Camp is known the world over for unforgettable (and adorable) meerkat experiences. These friendly families are notoriously curious, and if you choose to join them on the ground they will indeed climb atop your head and shoulders to inspect the surroundings from your point of view. Warthogs make frequent appearances here too; Timon and Pumba exist harmoniously in the wild, but you probably won’t hear them singing “hakuna matata” as they trot and scurry.
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