One of the side benefits about travel to Africa is the behind the scenes opportunities to get to know not just about the people behind the scenes, but the animals.

In 2011 Disney filmed African Cats in the Mara Triangle, documenting the lives of specific prides. This is where I first met Kali.  In case you don’t know, Kali is the star of Disney’s film African Cats.  But Kali was well-known before then.

Kali is actually Notch from Big Cat Diaries.   Different names, same beautiful creature. If you have not watched BBC’s Big Cat Diaries, check out your Animal Planet listing.  Most of the original shows can be found there, as there are no new shows at this time.  You’ll get to know the animals by name.

Though there is always a happy ending in the Disney movies, it does detail how lion numbers are declining at a rapid rate from continued human/wildlife conflict, and at this pace, they will be on the endangered species list in a few years.  Cheetahs don’t fare much better.  As depicted in the movie – they live a solitary existence, consequently their young are vulnerable to other predators. Their kills often become dinner for hyenas, jackals or other opportunistic species.  For these reasons alone, and because it’s a true depiction of life on the plains of the Maasai Mara, it’s worth it to rent the movie for your own bird’s eye view.

On this particular trip, we met up with Kali on the road, following a female, (we know by now what that means)  his ‘girlfriend’ of the day, as they walked in front of our vehicle, and then laid beside our vehicle  unperturbed by our presence, as they went about their business of growing their pride.  Maybe soon, some little Kalis will appear.  Nearby, Kali’s four large sons patrolled the area.


It should be pointed out, that after our visit in 2011, Kali has not been seen in quite some time and it is feared that he has died, from battles he may have encountered in the rule of his territory.  His sons are off on their own and have left the pride.  His sons cannot be mistaken, big black manes, imposing presence, so there’s no mistaking who rules this area of the Maasai Mara, at least for now.


In 2008, by the time the filmmaker Keith Scholey started filming, African Cats.  Kali, with his imposing presence, and unmistakable impressive black mane, and battle scared body, certainly was none other than the real Lion King for this role.  Charismatic as he was, he was a threat to any other predator in the area.  Over the next couple of years, building a story around this great pride, and its king and with the other stars of the movie was unpredictable at best.

Animals have no borders, they don’t need Visas, so if they wandered across the border into Tanzania, there was never any guarantee that they would return.  Relief set in, however, the many times it happened and the many times they returned.  The animals had no idea their fame would extend to parts of the world, outside of their reach, as they go about their day today activities as they would normally do. They are completely ‘adlib’, impromptu and the story must be built around whatever happens.  Filming is like being on safari, you never know what will happen next.

The most unsuspecting and unplanned scenes become part of the movie.  They are often the best moments. You could not have asked for better, if you’d planned it yourself.  Nothing is made up in the movie, the only creative license may be the narrator’s perception of what is happening, but even that, is dictated by the actions of the animals.

Simon King had a lot to do with this movie.  If you don’t know Simon King, once you watch Big Cat Diary, you will.  He along with Jonathan Scott, followed the lives of many of the animals profiled on its show over the years.. It’s no wonder when you arrive in the Maasai Mara, people are asking, will we see Kali? Or how about Bella, (how is she doing? Yes we know the names, and we follow them when we return home.  Our recently departed Olive was among one of the stars before her passing.

Shot entirely in the Maasai Mara national reserve in Kenya, African Cats is a true story, filmed as it happened over two years between August 2008 and September 2010. A true story of two animal families in the wild, using real life footage, it focuses on a young lion cub named Mara and raised by her mother, and Sita, a cheetah raising five newborns.

See the movie and it will capture your heart.  More importantly, you may decide you’d like to join Destined To Travel on one of its many planned safaris.  Be sure to check out all the happenings on my website and contact me if you’d like more information. Join one of my ‘anniversary’ specials and you’ll be in for some special treats.



Look at the power of Kali




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