A large portion of the visual landscape of the Lion King movie was based on a region in Kenya called Hell’s Gate National Park, but there was a dose of poetic licence in their depiction. The wonderful characters depicted in the movie beautifully captured the essence of the animals, but, for some of the animals, Kenya is not their natural habitat.

Let’s dream for a moment, that it is your ultimate bucket list experience to see all your favourite creatures from the movie in the wild… Where would your journey take you?

Your journey would start in KenyaTanzania – The Serengeti Ecosystem, spanning northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, is the best wilderness region to see lions in Africa when it comes to numbers, hosting the largest populations on the continent. The vast open plains of the Maasai Mara or Serengeti are for viewing Nala and Simba (means lion in Swahili), and even Scar, although the black-maned lions are to be found more commonly in the Kalahari in Botswana. Spend four glorious nights at Angama Mara in the Maasai Mara, a luxury lodge where another famous movie was filmed – “Out of Africa”.

Other characters to be found in KenyaTanzania are Pumbaa the Warthog and Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed who are a trio of Spotted Hyena – most prevalent in the Serengeti, numbering more than 7 000 in the famous protected area. Spotted hyenas are also known as laughing hyenas because these highly intelligent creatures communicate with yells, whoops and cackles – some of which can be heard almost 5km away!

The wildebeest or Gnu are perhaps most famous for their great migration, which is an annual movement of millions of these animals across the plains of Tanzania and Kenya in search of grazing and breeding grounds.

Itinerary idea: Four nights at Angama Mara in Kenya »

Angama Mara Lodge, Evening View

Two of the film’s most popular characters are the hornbill, Zazu and the meerkat Timon. Their true-life antics will delight you as much as they did in the movie. Zazu is actually a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and is to be found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They have a very distinctive cluck-clucking call. When a single bird starts clucking, very soon the entire group will join, creating a cacophony of bird sound. They are most prevalent in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Timon the meerkat is a delightful creature – you can view habituated families in very few places, our pick would be the Makgadikgadi Plains in the Kalahari, Botswana, but you could also visit Tswalu in the South African part of the Kalahari. There are few animals on Earth who work as well together as meerkats. They live in groups of different sizes, from as little as three to as big as 50 members. Everyone in the mob participates in gathering food, keeping a look out for predators and taking care of the babies.

Itinerary idea: Three nights at Jack’s Camp in Botswana »


Our final favourite character would be Rafiki, who is a mandrill, not a common baboon. They are the largest of all the monkeys and relatively shy in their natural environment. They have very limited habitat – you would need to do a trek to Congo to see these elusive animals and you will get to see the rare tree gorillas at the same time!

Itinerary idea: Eight nights seeing mandrills in the Congo »



Come and explore Africa with us!


  • Desert Lion Conservation in Namibia: The desert lion is highly valued in the tourism industry, but its presence means that local communities must share their land with these carnivores – and as carnivores sometimes prey on domestic livestock, conflict is inevitable. As a result, to protect their animals, farmers often respond by killing lions. The future of lion conservation in the Namib is therefore dependent on human-lion conflict management so as to enable the desert lions to survive in this harsh environment, while at the same time allowing people to maintain their traditional lifestyles and their livelihoods, as well as share in the benefits of ecotourism.
  • Kafue Predator Collaring in Zambia: Zambia’s Kafue National Park is a vital stronghold for Africa’s large carnivores. Thanks to our year-round presence and logistical and financial support to local anti-poaching activities, wildlife populations have grown, particularly species such as lechwe, puku and even elephant.
  • KOPELion Experience in Kenya: The terrain of the mighty lion is ever shrinking, resulting in the devastating effects of human-wildlife conflict. KopeLion, the Korongoro People’s Lion initiative, is dedicated to finding solutions to this complex issue within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) and Serengeti regions.
  • Lion Conservation Project in Zimbabwe: You will get unique experience of working with the world’s first lion release program, participating in vital research on our Ngamo pride where our wild born lions are due to be released into the wild for the first time ever. Other activities include; lion husbandry, cleaning, feeding, enclosure maintenance, as well as participating in behavioral enrichment activities by making toys from natural materials to stimulate the lions’ predatory and sensory behaviors.
  • White Lion Protection in South Africa: Exclusive to African Conservation Experience, this experience places you at the forefront of the fight against canned lion hunting, cub cuddling and the farming of lions for the bone trade. Together, the Global White Lion Protection Trust not only fight to stop inhumane treatment of lions but have also gone a step further, creating viable habitats to release newly formed prides of lion that include white lion members. This is a world first and a major conservation breakthrough. During your time, you’ll come face to face with prides of wild lion, often more than once in a day.