The Lion King reboot hit South African cinemas this weekend. If you’d love to meet Simba, Timon, Pumbaa and the rest of the iconic Lion King characters, we’ve put together a few of our favourite local destinations to help you on your way this year.
Mufasa, Simba and Nyala
In November 1991, Disney sent a team of animators to Hell's Gate National Park in Kenya to research the destination for the film.The 1990s classic drew inspiration from the park, but there are many places to view lions right here in SA.
Fenced into the Kruger National Park and located on the banks of the Crocodile River, Mjejane Game Reserve is just the place to book if you’re yearning to view some lions. Opt for a self-drive or enjoy a “Hakuna Matata” guided 4x4 game drive with an experienced guide.
You and your family can take your pick from Mjejane Bush Camp’s selection of self-catering lodges, which range between two to four bedrooms.
Did you know? In Swahili, the name Nyala is translated directly as ‘gift’, while Simba means ‘lion’, and Mufasa, as you might have already guessed, means ‘king’.
Timon and Pumbaa
Where? Tala Game Reserve, Camperdown, KwaZulu Natal
If you’re want to meet the lively Timon and his sidekick Pumbaa, the best place to see them is at Tala Game Reserve. Being malaria-free, and without large predators (no Scar in sight), it’s a safe holiday haven for the children.
On game drives at Tala, you’ll spot small family groups. You may also notice their tendency to freeze before bolting away, tails sticking high in the air.
Since meerkats call the Kalahari Desert home, you might need to make your way up to the Northern Cape to witness these curious creatures, or you and your family could also visit the meerkat conservation site in Oudshoorn, called Five Shy Meerkats. Standing at only 30cm tall and weighing in at less than a kilo each, these little mammals have still managed to make quite a name for themselves around the world, thanks in part to the Lion King’s Timon.
Did you know? Warthogs can be easy pickings for nearby predators, but they do at least have speed on their side, and can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour. Meerkats, on the other hand, have developed an incredible immunity to several toxins, including scorpion venom and even that of some snakes.
Where? Jackalberry Ridge, Marloth Park Mpumalanga
Everyone’s favourite Lion King character Zazu is based on a bird found in the open savannas, woodlands and thorn scrubs across sub-Saharan Africa: the eastern yellow-billed hornbill.
Hornbills are just one of over 500 species of birds found in and around the Kruger National Park. There’s no better place to see most of them than at Jackalberry Ridge. This self-catering family accommodation is located right near the Kruger and strikes exactly the right balance between comfort and outdoor-authenticity.
Did you know? Yellow-billed hornbills have an unusual nesting strategy. They don’t build a traditional nest at all and instead, find a natural cavity within a tree.