You can see Simba’s real-life kingdom for yourself at these incredible African lodges.
You can see Simba’s real-life kingdom for yourself at these incredible African lodges.
Lions have held the world in thrall throughout all of human history, but nothing has gripped the imagination of kids quite like The Lion King. From its debut in 1994, the Disney production was a hit, becoming the ninth-highest grossing animated film of all time. And now it’s back again … but this time, it’s photo-realistic!
The movie remains faithful to the original for the most part, focusing on a cheeky young cub called Simba, his wise father Mufasa and manipulative uncle Scar. Giving voice to these beloved characters is a stellar cast featuring Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and James Earl Jones reprising the role of Mufasa.
Disney’s creative team visited Africa to garner inspiration for the Pride Lands and after seeing the 2019 remake, your little ones are going to be begging to follow in the footsteps – well, paw prints – of Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa as well. These are some of the best lodges in Africa where you can have your very own Lion King encounter.
Situated on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of Kenya’s most famous game reserve, the Masai Mara (a key point in Africa’s annual Great Migration), Santuary Olonana is the perfect choice for families who want to witness the circle of life with their own eyes. This small and exclusive camp is only a 45-minute flight from Nairobi and offers an array of activities to keep little cubs enthralled, including tailored game drives, excursions to a nearby village to learn how to make and shoot a traditional bow and arrow, nature walks, treasure hunts, tree planting, bush dinners and balloon flights. After long days spent wildlife spotting, it’s time for “hakuna matata” (no worries): relax, unwind and simply enjoy the gorgeous surrounds. Book now and enjoy savings of up to 40% when you stay at one of the brand’s lodges for four nights or more, depending on your season of travel, with the Extended Stay Offer.
Mahali Mzuri, Sir Richard Branson’s luxury tented safari camp in the Maasai Mara, is the ultimate chance to get up and close personal to Kenya’s real-life Pride Lands. There are approximately 60 lions in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, made up of three prides, and its newest lion cubs were recently born in the last week of May 2019, meaning families can see little Simbas and Nalas in their homeland. For those booking ahead, lion-calving season in the reserve is typically from November to February. It’s not just the lions that make this location incredible; as Mufasa said, “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.” Warthogs and red-billed hornbills are also regular guests of the conservancy and are known to come as close as 500 metres to the camp. Between now and December, the property is offering a free night on bookings of four nights or more, which can be combined with the kids-go-free offer.
Did you know that since the release of the original Lion King, the African wild lion population has halved? Paying tribute to the new movie – as well as Disney’s #ProtectThePride campaign in support of the Lion Recovery Fund, a global organisation dedicated to the future of Africa’s wild lions – andBeyond is giving a donation for every ‘Kings of the Jungle’ traveller. So there has never been a better time or reason to go on a safari! The 10-day tour explores the rugged outcrops and boundless plains of East Africa’s legendary Maasai Mara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. This is the animated world in all its cinematic glory, complete with warthogs, clans of hyena, wildebeest migrations herds, baboons, red-billed hornbills (named Zazu, naturally) and, of course, the always magnificent lions. Guests will stay at a range of andBeyond properties along the way, including andBeyond Bateleur Camp, andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp and andBeyond Serengeti Under Canvas.
The noteworthy kids’ club, or Cubs Programme, is designed to fill young guests with fascination and an appreciation of different cultures, the wilderness and friendship.
Children from the age of six can stay at Londolozi. Kids aged six–16 can take part in the Cubs Programme of fun outdoor activities like moulding animal tracks, climbing trees, swimming, taking photographs, or spending time in the Cub’s Den Room, baking, singing African songs and doing arts and crafts.
The Madikwe Safari Lodge, a luxurious oasis set among 75,000 hectares of reserve, is an easy drive northwest of Johannesburg on the Botswana border and home to the Lelapa Lodge, the ultimate in kid-friendly safari accommodation. Each of the 12 spacious suites features indoor and outdoor showers, a private plunge pool and wood-burning fireplace, and is decorated with soft furnishings and natural materials.
Madikwe has a large swimming pool area with toys, Eco House for the kids and kids eat free!
Giraffe Manor guarantees you an animal encounter that simply cannot be duplicated on the savannah – or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. A stately 1930s building set on private land in Nairobi, the Manor is home to a herd of Rothschild giraffes who are quite accustomed to poking their gangly necks through the windows in the morning and evening in search of a tasty treat. The two suites sleep two adults and up to three children and all meals are included during your stay.
It’s the five-star safari lodge with a family-friendly price tag, boasting an extensive list of inclusions, that makes Grootbos Private Nature Reserve a savvy pick for families. Milkwood Forest and the Cape Floristic Region combine to create the impressive South African backdrop with a twist; the savannah is replaced by vast ocean and the ‘Big Five’ here consists of whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins. Its accessibility is a major pull for families; only a two hour drive from Cape Town, families can settle into the Garden Lodge sooner, with a restaurant, beauty salon, library, swimming pool, stables and kids’ entertainment room. Freestanding Luxury Two-Bedroom Suites are made from the materials of the earth – stone, thatch and timber – and contain canopy beds, a private deck, crackling fireplace and all the mod-cons you’d expect from a five-star city escape. All meals and adventures are included.
In the famed Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve lies a lodge that symbolises the mantra, ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’: the philosophy of the Sabi Sabi Luxury Safari Lodges. The Bush Lodge is one of four (the Selati Camp, Little Bush Camp and Earth Lodge are its companions) but it stands alone in multi-generational suitability. The lodge offers two Luxury Villas, containing two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a lounge, library, dressing room, patio and pool – ample room for an adventurous brood. The lodge itself features an additional two swimming pools and large viewing decks overhanging the Msuthlu riverbed, and the kid-friendly Elefun Centre assures parents can retreat to the Amani Spa without a single worry.
As per the nature of an African safari experience, the majority of lodges immerse guests into the natural surrounds, and a remarkable percentage does it undeniably well. Singita Sabora Tented Camp takes the ‘back to nature’ approach to a new level in this untouched area of the Grumeti Reserves in Northern Tanzania. This 1920s-inspired explorers’ camp is recommended for children aged 10 and over, with safari activities customised to the needs of each family. Nine ensuite tents are integrated into the landscape, as is a swimming pool in the main camp area and gym and spa facilities. One television and intermittent Wi-Fi access create the perfect circumstances to unplug.
With the kids well and truly taken care of at this selection of superior African safari lodges, what makes the Royal Malewane shine for parents? Located in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve at Kruger National Park, the camp’s Bush Spa provides the ultimate ‘take five with the Big Five’ in the most sublime surrounds. Equipped with a gym, heated lap pool, steam room, Jacuzzi, hot and cold African baths and private casitas for relaxation or treatment, this oasis also offers the services of a hair salon, special touches like healthy snacks and juices and full internet access that elevates the experience to a new level.
A number of African safari lodges operate community outreach programs; however, the Royal Zambezi Lodge, minutes from the Lower Zambezi National Park, is a standout in the field. Financial and advisory support is provided to the people living in the Chiawa Game Management Area of the Lower Zambezi, with initiatives ranging from an 80 per cent employment rate of local staff, to the education of local communities about sustainable living.
Few places offer a more complete experience of Kenya than the andBeyond Masai Mara Family Safari. The andBeyond Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp has been designed to showcase views of the spectacular Masai Mara game reserve, with a full itinerary to match. andBeyond’s WILDChild program transforms the camp into a place of discovery, offering activities ranging from fishing and painting to making a traditional bow and arrow. The highlight? The opportunity to meet and engage with the local tribesmen. Three family suites are available; however, an additional bed can be arranged in a triple room for those aged 16 and under.
Herbie Rosenberg, Managing Director of Africareps. Africareps represents a collection of prestigious African properties.
Joss Kent, Born in Kenya and the CEO of luxury tour operator andBeyond.
Lara Behrens, Bench International, established in 1969 and remains a revered specialist for Africa travel in Australia.
The Safari Collection is also the driving genius behind Sala’s Camp, a camp that will bring you open, floaty tents filled with all the luxury comforts you could require. They’ve got 4×4 game drives, up close encounters with “The Big 5”, bird watching, star gazing and fantastic child-friendly extras. A ride in one of their hot air balloons is also a must for getting a special perspective of the beautiful Masai Mara region. They also are in prime position for wildlife spotting during the Great Wildebeest Migration from July-September each year.
Situated in Meru National Park, Elsa’s Kopje gives you access to some truly exquisite nature. The park has its own, unique Rhino Sanctuary as just one option for some fantastic game drive experiences. You can also go on guided walks all together, fish in the river with some delicious canapés to keep your stomachs happy, swim in the pool or relax at the spa! The site is also very strongly connected to the Tharaka community nearby, and there are a number of options to help parents and kids get involved and experience the real Africa.
Amboseli really understands the importance of quality family time. They have a number of stunning family rooms, special children’s menus, babysitting and entertainment to keep the kids (and parents) jumping with excitement their entire stay. They also are perfectly situated for appreciating the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro. You can take personalized nature walk or game-drives, and there’s even a special cultural display area to introduce you all to the Maasai culture. Following this, kids are provided options for ‘edutainment’ – they can make Maasai beadwork, learn the tricks of tracking and even uncover the secrets of the Maasai warrior-hood. With the kids occupied, parents can also find time to indulge in some luxurious spa pampering.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition certainly know how to do luxury holidays, and their African offering, Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, will have you surrounded by beautiful landscapes, wildlife, wellness and spa facilities and an abundance of activity options. You can get up close to elephants, take a helicopter over beautiful cascades and canyons, or visit local villages and game reserves for a special cultural encounter. Their complimentary Cub’s Club program is also hard to beat, with all kids under 12 able to be looked after, fed, educated and entertained by friendly carers. They even get a backpack of goodies to take home as a souvenir!
Tucked away in the quiet of Ngala Private Game Reserve, right by the bustle of a busy waterhole, Ngala Safari Lodge will make you feel right at home. With elegant designs incorporating amazing views, thatched cottages and a fantastic family suite that will provide you with all of your safari dreams, you’ll experience a blissful sense of contentment. You can choose to relax by the pool, explore the surrounds, or make use of your dedicated vehicle and ranger/tracker that allow you exhilarating Big Five experiences, night drives and walking safaris, entirely based on the requirements of your hoard!
Tongabezi, near the majestic Victoria Falls and Zambezi River, has an array of superb luxury accommodation options. Their main lodge is a truly magnificent, eco-friendly establishment offering friendly, personalised staff and concierge services, delicious dining and easy access to national parks, game drives and boat trips. They do love families here, and their friendly staff will arrange all manner of kid-menu options, African treasure hunts, tracking lessons, fishing challenges, special tours and much, much more to make sure your family gets the most out of their time in the wild.
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