November 23, 2018

The Real Lion King – The Wildlife Safari in Kenya that Inspired Pride Rock

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 This Kenya Wildlife Safari inspired creators of Disney's the Lion King and you can see the real Pride Rock. And it's not reserved for celebrities, anyone can travel there. There's a video at the end so if you're a fan of moving pictures, hop straight down there to enjoy! Cheers - Abi

Wildlife Safari in Kenya: The Lion King Effect

Hakuna Matata. It's a wonderful phrase.

One I first heard, as many did, over twenty years ago through the songs and sounds of The Lion King.

In the same way that I adopted E.T, so my younger brothers adopted Simba, the lead character in the Disney film, namely a lion who comes of age and protects his homeland just in case you're one of the few who missed the story.

Between Lion King books and Lion King duvet covers and Lion King flasks and lunchboxes and pencil cases and pens and pencils and plenty of paraphernalia, it turns out that I was paying more attention to the graphics of the film than I had thought.

Safari Guide at Sasaab Lodge in Kenya via @insidetravellab

Recommended reading: Top Things to do in Madagascar for Wildlife and UNESCO Heritage

On Safari in Kenya

Fast forward to April 2015 when tyres rolled over red earth in Africa and the sun began to slide across the sky, ready to bathe the Ewaso Nyiro river valley in hues of golden red.

For most of this wildlife safari in Kenya, the wildlife had grabbed my attention like a great big attention grabbing thing on a stick.

The area is known for the ‘Samburu Special Five’: the Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Gerenuk antelope and Somali ostrich.

Giraffe on safari in Kenya via @insidetravellab

Room With  A View

Before I'd even unpacked (read: open suitcase and throw things around til I find what I need) I heard the trumpet of elephants through the thick hot air.

There, right there, from the stillness of my room, I saw their dust-greyed hides galloping along the furthest banks of the river.

Cliche or not, dear reader, shivers really did run down my spine.

And while we're on the subject of writerly pretensions, calling the rooms "rooms" in Sasaab is about as accurate as referring to Nelson Mandela as "just some guy."

Sasaab LodgeRoom in Kenya
 Looking up at the room at Sasaab Lodge

Sasaab Safari Lodge, Kenya

Sasaab Lodge has only nine such "rooms" all perched on a rocky ridge in north-central Kenya. Each has a private plunge pool, thatched roofs, sprawling sofas, beaded coathangers and a shower that looks like a ghost that's waiting to give you a hug.

Sasaab Lodge Wildlife Safari Kenya (6 of 21)

I'm no stranger to wonderful places to stay but Sasaab and its wildlife safaris in Kenya may just have nudged their way into the top spot in my heart.

It's not just the beauty of their setting (the central building takes inspiration from both Morocco and India with mudejar archways and plenty of space to maximise the breeze in this hot and arid peak.)


It's not just their attention to detail (on safari, you'll find snacks, water, sunscreen, binoculars and wildlife spotting books provided for along with blankets.)

Snacks during a wildlife safari

Ethical Tourism

It's not just their approach to ethical tourism and respectful interaction with the local Samburu tribe (about whom, a whole other article later.)

Samburu Tribe in Kenya

Is Pride Rock a Real Place?

Does Pride Rock exist?

Can you find Pride Rock in Africa? Indeed you can, on safari in Kenya in Sasaab where Disney animators and writers visited while researching the Lion King.

Where is pride rock located? Sasaab is close to the Buffalo Springs and Samburu National Reserves in the Northern Frontier of Kenya. You can visit as a traveller by staying at the nearby safari lodge featured in this article.

The Sweet Spot of the Safari

As the safari truck bumped and swerved beneath thorn strewn trees and the fading sun, one rock overhead seemed overwhelmingly...familiar.

"Yes," I was told. "That's the place that inspired the drawings of Pride Rock."

Climbing the inspiration for pride rock in Kenya

PS - as a side note, sources also tell me that Sasaab inspired the creation of Pumba too. When the Disney team saw the warthogs here, tails ramrod straight in the air as they ran, one of Simba's best friends came to life. So to speak. 

Is it safe to go on a wildlife safari in Kenya?

Largely, absolutely, definitely yes. Kenya's a big country and although it's having some trouble in some places, that doesn't mean there's trouble everywhere.

It's always a good idea to check out the government advice for your own country. We could quibble about whether or not it overreacts but it's a good guideline and if you do need help, it'll be your embassy you'll be turning to.

You can find the British Travel Advice about Kenya here. 

Wildlife safari in Kenya that inspired the Lion King via @insidetravellab

How to organise a wildlife safari in Kenya?

There are, obviously, many different ways. I travelled with The Safari Collection, who own Giraffe Manor and two other lodges and can create bespoke packages that take in each or only one of them. I would highly recommend them but I'll be totally upfront here (as everywhere) - I travelled on a complimentary basis.

What do you need to pack for a wildlife safari?

A hat, mosquito repellent and sturdy shoes. I'd also recommend long, lightweight shirts and trousers to help protect against bites and sunburn but as you can see from these pics, the fashionistas with me didn't agree ;-) Take sunscreen too and even though it can be hot by day, the temperature drops quickly in the evening so take a soft fleece with you too.

Where can I buy a copy of The Lion King?

*Over here. Hakuna Matata.

On safari in Kenya at Sasaab Lodge via @insidetravellab

Would you go on a wildlife safari in Kenya?

Disclosure: I was hosted by The Safari Collection on this trip but all childhood Lion King memories are mine all mine. As are the other things I wrote. There's no point otherwise!


  • Proud to have my motherland Featured in your Travels Abi. More so we call it the Magical Kenya. Welcome back to Kenya.

    • Ah, proud to have the chance to visit. Saw absolute beauty in each place I visited and would love to go back and see more.

  • What a great holiday you had Abi! I take with a lot Pleasure you went back home happy, Africa will never disappoint. Welcome again.

    • It was an incredible trip – and I truly hope to get back one day. So sorry for the slow reply – tech glitches!

  • Hi Abi, I envy your trip to Kenya, We are ready to host you in Tanzania and feature on your amazing trips blog.

    • Ah, Tanzania! I lived in Moshi for a little while when I was at the KCMC hospital. Pre blogging days so not much about it on this site. I DEFINITELY want to go back and cover it in this role!

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