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After two years working with wildlife in Botswana I headed back to Kenya, more certain
than ever that this was where I wanted to make my home.
A plan was beginning to emerge. My father was an architect and a talented artist who
died when I was two years old. The gift he left me was in being an artist. I could always
draw and was a keen photographer. Prior to leaving for Kenya a publisher in South
Africa commissioned my first set of my pen and ink drawings of wildlife. Meanwhile a
friend had introduced me to Jock Anderson of East African Wildlife Safaris who was
looking for someone to help keep an eye on his camp situated a few kilometres north
of the Reserve. For the next five years Mara River Camp became my home. I couldn’t
have cared less that there was no pay. I was living in the Garden of Eden with a canvas
roof over my head.
That was 1977. Nearly 40 years later with 26 books to my name - many of them co-
authored with my wife Angie who is also an award-winning wildlife photographer - and
as co-presenter of TV shows such as Big Cat Diary, Elephant Diaries, Dawn to Dusk,
The Secret Leopards and The Truth About Lions what have I learned from following my
dream? Firstly, to live with acceptable risk. I spent four years (1968-72) at University
in Belfast during the ‘Troubles’ with people telling me I must be crazy to stay there as
a ‘Brit’ with riots and bombs exploding on a regular basis. The truth was that I had the
time of my life. I simply refused to buy into the fear factor.
The same could be said about living in Africa. I have never been attacked or had my
home broken in to. I still walk the main streets of Nairobi and feel as safe as I do when
on foot in London or San Francisco. Yes of course you need to be sensible. Its never
smart to walk in to neighbourhoods you know nothing about wherever you are in the
world (always ask your guide and hotel receptionist for advice first).
My wife and daughter are Kenya Citizens; our Grandson Michael was born in the
wonderful Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi last June and has already made two safaris to
the Mara along with trips to Ol Pejeta in Laikipia and to Amboseli and Tsavo National
Parks. And he has loved a memorable stay over Easter at the Serena Hotel in Mombasa
on the Kenya coast. His ten months old. Will I still be spending time with the Marsh
Lions and enjoying the miracle of the great migration? You better believe it - starting
Yes, security is an issue everywhere these days and of course it is only right for
Governments to warn their citizens of risks to their safety. It’s then up to each individual to
evaluate that risk – just as our daughter Alia and partner did before taking our Grandson
on safari or to the coast. We can never be certain that life will treat us kindly or that bad
things might not happen. That is why it’s so important not to become prisoners of our
And our precious wildlife? The bottom line is this. If we abandon tourism we abandon
conservation. When people ask us ‘how can we help’ we say ‘by taking a safari’,
something that I feel fortunate to have adopted as a way of life.
Wildlife based tourism is not a choice it’s a necessity; it pays the bills. Is the International
Community prepared to bare the cost if we lose that revenue? Lets see. Right now our
hearts go out to our fellow Kenyan’s most affected by hard times – those who shoulder
the greatest burden in living side by side with wild animals and in facing up to terrorism.
A smile and a wave is a language we all understand and when it comes to its visitors
Kenyan’s offers them a hearty welcome in tandem with an unforgettable safari
experience - regardless of where in the world you come from. We need you all. And
that is the point? We are all connected – we need to set aside our differences and pull
together. If we are serious about saving the worlds wildlife be it elephants or rhinos,
pandas or lions we won’t do it without collective action.
It’s time for people to think about their first safari – or their next one - and to remind us
why they ‘Love Kenya’. I know why I do.
How about you?
Photo courtesy of Angela Scott
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