For many of us, our first lion encounter was with a sleekly animated cub. The Lion King is an iconic movie, but it’s more than just a touching tale of a lion finding his way to the throne. The film is packed with tidbits of information that might come in handy when you go on safari in Tanzania.
These five interesting facts justify re-watching the movie as legitimate research!
The Serengeti inspired the Pride Lands
The Pride Lands film setting is a reflection of the Serengeti (which means “endless plains’’ in Swahili). When you drive through the Serengeti, the resemblance is easy to see. The savannah is teeming with herds of zebra, impala, and wildebeest, while among the long grasses cheetah and lions stalk their prey – the circle of life in action.Nearby, the Olduvai Gorge supposedly served as inspiration for the spot where Mufasa was trampled by wildebeest. The gorge is a significant archaeological site where Mary Leakey discovered a 1.8 million-year-old hominid skull.
The animated animal behaviour is accurate (most of the time)
Disney sent a research team to Africa, so some details of the natural world are spot on. For example, the structure of a pride is more or less as it’s presented in the film, led by one dominant male who is the only one to sire offspring. Lionesses will only stray away from the pride when food is scarce, which explains why Nala was hunting alone during the famine caused by Scar. Fact and fiction part ways where Simba’s diet is concerned, though – there’s no way a lion could survive off bugs as an adult male eats around 10 kilograms of meat a day.Meanwhile, female hyenas run the show which is why Shenzi calls the shots in the hyena clan. One thing that Disney got wrong – hyenas are successful hunters and kill most of their own meat, so they aren’t quite the lazy scavengers the Lion King makes them out to be.
Several characters’ names are Swahili words
Discovering the meanings of the characters’ names can help you learn some Swahili vocabulary.
– Simba means lion.
– Rafiki means friend.
– Pumbaa means foolish or silly.
– Shenzi means savage while Banzai means to skulk or lurk.
Hakuna Matata really is a wonderful phrase
Thanks to a catchy tune, everyone is familiar with ‘Hakuna Matata’. The phrase was originally picked up by Disney’s research team during their time in Africa. It really does translate to ‘no worries’, and you’ll hear it often from locals when you travel Tanzania. It’s typically only used for tourists’ benefit though, with Tanzanian Swahili speakers preferring to say hamna shida instead.
Pride Rock doesn’t exist – but kopjes do
As you rumble across the Serengeti plains on your Tanzania safari, you’ll pass kopje formations which are eerily similar to Pride Rock. Islands of granite thrusting up out of the grassy savannah, kopjes often feature lions draped across the top.The rocky outcrops are important vantage points for lions and the big cats frequently hide their cubs in the nooks and crannies of the kopjes – just like in the movie! So keep your binoculars handy for a closer inspection.
If you’ve ever been on our Tanzania Wildlife Breakaway, you’ll know just what we mean about the parallels between the Serengeti and the Lion King. Share your own favourite Lion King crossovers in the comments section below!
Still haven’t been? Now is the perfect time to experience the majesty of the real-life Pride Lands for yourself, with a special 10% discount on all Tanzania Wildlife Breakaway bookings made before the 30th April 2018. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to book or find out more.