Explore the locations of some of Africa’s finest films

March 15th 2019  |   Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Travel  |  by   Charlotte Opperman
African films and their filming locations - Angama Mara, Masai Mara, Kenya the location for Out of Africa

We’ve gathered together some of our favourite African films and given some ideas below as to how you might star on set.

A United Kingdom (Botswana)

This charming film follows the true story of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) king-to-be Prince Seretse Khama’s marriage to English woman Ruth Williams.  It’s a compelling love story that follows the difficulties facing an interracial couple in 1947. In the end love wins out and history records this courageous duo winning over Seretse’s people and members of the British government.

Much of the filming took place in Botswana with the country’s stunning scenery taking centre stage on several occasions.  It’s easy to see why Botswana regularly tops travel destination polls with its rare combination of desert and delta, coupled with staggering amounts of wildlife.

Anyone looking for a classic safari amid Africa’s big wildlife, with wonderful guiding and lovely accommodation, will love this irresistible paradise.

Tea tent, Jack's Camp

Tea tent, Jack’s Camp

Where to stay:

Jao Camp – Fit for a king, this utterly luxurious lodge is up there with the best in Botswana.

Drumbeat Mobile Safaris – take a ‘mobile’ and you’ll experience the safari of days gone by, it’s still one of the best ways to explore all that Botswana has to offer.

Jack’s Camp – This Kalahari legend set on the edge of the shimmering pans is an oasis of old-world style and intriguing desert adapted species.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (Botswana)

A Coca Cola bottle falls from the sky into the middle of the Kalahari Desert and sets off a chain of events that’ll have adults and children laughing from start to finish.  The follies of the modern world are revealed through the eyes of a native bushman as he sets off to the ‘edge of the world’, otherwise known as modern-day life.

Understanding the culture of Africa’s many tribal peoples is one of its great joys.  Head to Botswana today and there are several camps where San Bushmen will guide you on safari.  It’s an experience available at several camps in the Makgadikgadi Pans area where you can discover the secrets of the pans on fascinating bush walks.

It’s not unique to Botswana either, as there are many Masai guides in Kenya and Tanzania who are only too happy to share their culture and bush lore with you.  While you won’t be guided by the Himba in Namibia, it’s possible to visit these semi-nomadic people in the north of the country and gain a glimpse into their ancient way of life.

Walking with San Bushmen, Meno a Kwena

Walking with San Bushmen, Meno a Kwena

Where to stay:

Camp Kalahari – Understated and affordable this is a great base in the heart of the Kalahari.

Meno a Kwena – Overlooking the Boteti River on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, this family friendly spot attracts resident and migratory wildlife, with plenty of activities on offer to see them.

San Camp – Billowing white tents and a  mysterious desert landscape with the wildlife and a handful of San Bushmen waiting to share their secrets.

Out of Africa (Kenya)

An engrossing story set in 1900s colonial Kenya that charts the life of Danish baroness Karen Dinensen. Her unhappy marriage to Baron Blixen and love affair with Denys Finch-Hatton provides the material for an epic African drama.

Visit Kenya today and there are many shadows of Blixen including the fascinating Karen Blixen museum which was once the centre piece of her farm in the Ngong Hills.  There are safari camps too, evocative of that era, among them Cottar’s 1920s camp which celebrates its centenary this year. A perfect stop if you want to step back in time to experience the safari of yester-year.

Elsewhere, Kenya’s scenery and wildlife captivates as it always has and still draws more people on safari than any other country in Africa.

Game drive, Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp

Game drive, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp

Where to stay:

Cottar’s 1920s Camp – Evocative of the 1900s and a perfect spot from which to enjoy a classic Kenyan safari.

Deloraine – A private colonial house on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley.  Full of mementos of Kenya’s rich history and with its house party atmosphere feel it’s easy to imagine how the past might have felt.

Angama Mara – The location features on the film’s poster and is every bit as glorious in real life as in the pictures.

Born Free (Kenya)

This classic from 1966 charts the true life tale of George and Joy Adamson and the lion cubs they adopt.  An enchanting and inspirational film, it depicts the remarkable relationship between the Adamsons and Elsa, the lion cub they eventually return to the wild.

Filmed almost entirely in Kenya, the cinematography captures plenty of Kenya’s epic landscapes.  Meru National Park features heavily and visitors today can enjoy the essence of the film at Elsa’s Kopje, a stylish camp, set into Mughwango Hill, close to the site of George Adamson’s original camp.

Meru itself is a little visited gem and with only a handful of safari camps you’re unlikely to see any other vehicles here.  Home to plentiful lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant and rhino, it is one of Kenya’s most rewarding national parks and well worth adding to a safari itinerary.

Snoozing lions in Meru National Park, Elsa's Kopje

Snoozing lions in Meru National Park, Elsa’s Kopje

Where to stay:

Elsa’s Kopje – As well as the romantic connection with Born Free, visitors here will find cottages crafted into the rocks, breathtaking views and a national park with a greater diversity of species than any other in East Africa.

Meru Wilderness – This exclusive, simple bush camp offers a particularly authentic way – not so dissimilar perhaps to that of the Adamsons themselves –  to experience this exceptionally pretty national park.

The Lion King (Kenya)

You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the Lion King, particularly the opening few minutes. There have been a couple of sequels to the original 1994 film and Disney is set to release a remake in July this year.

It’s easy to see why a film based around the lives of the fictional lions of Pride Lands has been such a success, with the many documentaries following Kenya’s real big cats stirring similar reactions among viewers.  Safari goers heading to the Masai Mara, in particular, can follow the stories of leopard, lion and cheetah families recorded over many years.

Magnificent lion, Borana Conservancy

Magnificent lion, Borana Conservancy

Where to stay:

Borana Lodge – Home, along with an array of wonderful safari activities, to Pride Rock the inspiration for the eponymous setting in the film.

Encounter Mara Camp – A classic tented camp offering bush walks and night drives alongside traditional vehicle based wildlife viewing.

Kicheche Bush Camp – Tucked away in a private conservancy, the superb wildlife viewing here draws photographers from all over the world.

Invictus (South Africa)

A wonderfully uplifting film charting Nelson Mandela’s support of the South African ‘Springbok’ rugby team leading up to their 1995 world cup win.  The predominantly Afrikaans team was almost universally loathed by black South Africans until their president struck up a friendship with captain, Francois Pienaar.  Bonding over sport has never been more spectacular.

Sporting stadia, perhaps Cape Town’s Newlands cricket ground aside, aren’t big tourist draws.  But look beyond and South Africa’s attraction as a holiday and safari destination is overwhelming. There is wonderful wildlife viewing, excellent family friendly options (including malaria-free), fabulous riding safaris, sophisticated cities and a glorious coastline to explore.

Bush walk, Tanda Tula

Bush walk, Tanda Tula

Where to stay:

Ant’s Nest – An all-round Aardvark Safaris’ favourite, malaria free and fabulous activities.

Tanda Tula – Classic tented safari camp in Timbavati Nature Reserve open to Kruger National Park.

Athol Place – A lovely boutique hotel in Johannesburg’s up-market Sandton suburb and a great base for anyone considering delving into the city’s history.

The African Queen (Tanzania)

Actually filmed on location in Uganda and Congo, the plot of this classic ‘odd couple thrown together’ film starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart takes place in German East (now Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania).  English missionaries Rose (Hepburn) and Samuel Sayer’s only contact with the outside world is mail man Charlie Allnut (Bogart) who delivers their post on his steam-powered boat, the African Queen. When Samuel is killed, Charlie takes Rose with him and the film follows as their initially stormy relationship developing into a love story.

These days, visitors are drawn to Tanzania by the magnificent wildlife and scenic wonders.  From the extraordinary animal-filled Ngorongoro Crater to the roof of Africa atop Mount Kilimanjaro there’s a safari for pretty much every taste on offer here. The wildebeest migration travels across the Serengeti, there are chimpanzees in the remote western mountains and then there are the magnificent southern parks of Seous and Ruaha.  Add to that Zanzibar and it’s archipelago of islands and you’ve got the perfect safari all in one country.

Glorious setting on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Greystoke Mahale

Glorious setting on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Greystoke Mahale – James Walsh/Nomad Tanzania

Where to stay:

Entamanu Ngorongoro – Its unique setting, encompassing panoramic views over the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti, marks this as one of the most scenically endowed camps in East Africa.  Excellent for great walking and fascinating cultural activities.

Jabali Ridge – Lion, elephant and buffalo all roam close to this elegant camp set in spectacular surroundings in the heart of Ruaha.

Greystoke Mahale – Jungle chic meets lakeside luxury in remote western Tanzania.  Chimps roam the forested mountains to the rear while Lake Tanganyika laps the sandy white beach to the fore.

c. James Walsh/Nomad Tanzania greystoke mahale

c. James Walsh/Nomad Tanzania

Constance Aiyana – Set on lovely Pemba Island this is the perfect place for some R&R before or after safari.

Gorillas in the Mist ( Rwanda )

Gorillas in the Mist, covers Dian Fossey’s life as a gorilla researcher, first in Congo and subsequently in Rwanda.

The film is credited with helping save gorillas from extinction, and many visitors to the Virunga National Park visit the site of her research centre at Karisoke where Fossey was buried alongside a number of gorillas who’d been killed by poachers.

Fossey was originally against visitors to the gorillas, as unregulated tourism had led to gorillas catching, and dying from, human borne diseases. Today however the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International promotes tourism, which helps to create a stable and sustainable local community dedicated to protecting the gorillas and their habitat.

Virunga mountain landscape, Volcanoes Safaris

Virunga mountain landscape, Volcanoes Safaris

Where to stay:

Bisate Lodge – Although gorilla tracking is the main activity here, guests can also hike to Dian Fossey’s grave and the ruins of her Karisoke Research Centre.

Virunga Lodge – The original luxury gorilla tracking lodge and still one of the finest.   A really super spot from which to experience this extraordinary activity.

Singita Kwitonda Lodge – Opening later this year and sure to offer an exceptional experience in true Singita style.

Madagascar and Madagascar Escape to Africa (Madagascar)

 This hilarious computer-animated adventure sees a group of animals, led by Marty the zebra, escape New York’s Central Park Zoo.  Shipwrecked on Madagascar there are various mad-cap exploits before the eclectic band boards a plane – penguins at the controls – to the African mainland.

It’s a light-hearted romp with some catchy tunes that can’t fail to make you smile; a bit like Madagascar itself which, exotic and unpredictable, will delight adventurous travellers.

Famous for its enchanting lemurs, Madagascar is also home to a huge number of plant and animal species – many of which are indigenous to this early breakaway from the world’s single landmass, Gondwanaland. Once you’ve had your fill of the wildlife there are countless beaches, unspoiled islands and more than 1,000km of coral reef to explore.

Lemur, Time + Tide Miavana

Lemur, Time + Tide Miavana

Where to stay:

Time + Tide Miavana – Castaways lucky enough to hit the shore here will find elegant accommodation, lemurs and all manner of other exotic animals, prolific marine life, superb food and a great spa.

Mandrare River Camp – Giant sand dunes, spiny forest and an ancient local tribe are the hallmarks of this remote Madagascan camp.  If you want to be amazed by the weird and wonderful then look no further.

Vakona Lodge – With easy access to Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks, this is a perfect spot from which to track the lemurs for which Madagascar is so famous.

Any questions?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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