Travel

Kenya: Safari like Simba

The Lion King gets a live-action remake this summer, and specialist safari operators are jostling for a spot on Pride Rock. Monday, 11 February 2019

By Sarah Barrell

Starring Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Seth Rogen, the new live-action version of The Lion King will hit the silver screen in July, inspiring another generation to follow in the paw prints of its leonine cast. But, cute lion cubs aside, taking centre stage in this much-anticipated film will be the region’s wild, evocative landscapes themselves.

The Serengeti is the loose setting for The Lion King’s fictional Pride Lands, and while Pride Rock itself isn’t a designated place, the area’s numerous kopjes (granite outcrops) make brilliant doubles of the platform on which baby Simba was first held aloft by wise old Rafiki. Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge, meanwhile, was said to be the inspiration for the place that Mufasa was trampled by a stampede in the original; the same archaeological site where British paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey made her seminal discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old hominid skull in 1959.

The new Disney blockbuster means rich pickings for specialist Africa operators, too. The Safari Collection has launched a Lion King Adventure safari, visiting the animals and locations that inspired the movie. Led by fourth-generation Kenyan Robert Carr-Hartley, consultant for the original 1994 film, highlights include a stay at Borana Lodge in Laikipia, with sundowners on the ‘Pride Rock’ kopje overlooking Hyena Valley Dam, where you can spot Scar’s barking sidekicks, and flights out to lion conservation areas around Samburu and the Maasai Mara to camp out and track big cats.

But getting this deep into Simba country doesn’t come cheap. Aimed at families, this seven-night trip costs £23,458 for four, including full-board accommodation, game drives, road transfers and domestic flights.

Three African odysseys for less

Guided by locals A walking safari is the original way to discover the bush. Tanzania’s northern parks have a long tradition of walking safaris, but the newer Kenyan conservancies also offer non-vehicle tours, too. Five nights from £3,000 per person. expertafrica.com

Big cat conservation Stay at a field station and volunteer alongside locals and conservationists to help protect the Maasai Mara’s wildlife.
13 days from £2,322 per person. biosphere-expeditions.org

Off-grid adventures Combine a stay at a safari lodge with nights at its temporary ‘fly’ camp. Choose from several camps in the northern Serengeti, from £935 per person per night, all-inclusive. serian.com

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Published in the March 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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