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African Safari - The Last Great Adventure

SAFARI

History 1Africa is a land of contrasts with serenity, savagery and breathtaking beauty, steeped in romance and adventure. The magnificent scenery embraces snow capped mountains, lush forests, shimmering plains, mighty rivers, sparkling lakes and sandy beaches.

The variety and abundance of wildlife is legendary and there are fascinating colourful tribes to discover, from a different world. Quite simply, an African safari is the unforgettable vacation of a lifetime.

Safari is the most evocative word in the history of travel, conjuring up an image of rugged explorers in faded khaki, stirring encounters with big-game, painted sunsets and drums throbbing in the night.

EARLY HISTORY

The Dark Continent was almost unknown for centuries, a land reputed to contain monstrous wild beasts, giants, pygmies and ancient cities overflowing with gold.

It was thought that the Queen of Sheba ruled a magnificent empire near the source of the Nile and that the jewels of King Solomon's mines lay beneath the fabled Mountains of the Moon.

Arab traders had settled along the East African coast by the year 700 and for the next 1,200 years, they and their descendants penetrated inland on ivory trading and slave raiding expeditions, accompanied by Swahili porters and guides. The term safari was thus coined in the Swahili language, meaning a journey.

THE VICTORIAN ERA

Although the African coastline was fairly well charted by the 1700's, it was not until the mid 1800's and the great Victorian era of African exploration that the interior was finally opened up to the outside world through the exploits of missionaries, ivory hunters and gentleman adventurers.

These pioneers trekked thousands of miles on foot and were often several months out in the bush with a long train of porters and a troop of armed soldiers. They bartered with villagers for food or shot whatever game they saw, marches being planned from one waterhole to the next. There were prowling wild beasts, debilitating fevers, hostile tribes and mutinous porters to contend with.

The first slave traders in East Africa had followed ancient game trails. Later, explorers like Richard Burton, John Speke and Joseph Thomson followed the slave routes. Then came the Mombasa-Uganda railway, reaching in 1899 a place the Masai called Nairobi.

In central Africa, David Livingstone's extensive travels were prompted by missionary zeal, while the hunter Frederick Selous trekked south-east Africa in search of ivory and trophies for museums collections. On the trail of men such as these came the visionary empire-builder, Cecil Rhodes, with his British South Africa Company.

AFRICA BECOMES FASHIONABLE

History 2By the early 1900's, Kenya was acclaimed as the winter home of the aristocracy. Originally known simply as Mile 326, Nairobi soon became the safari capital.

The most popular departure point for safaris was the Norfolk Hotel, frequented by visiting European nobility, big-game hunters and the rough-and-tumble local settlers. The Norfolk boasted hot baths, spring beds, a well-stocked bar and a French chef.

The Norfolk revellers were a motley collection of hunters and farming pioneers, striving to make a living in a new land of opportunity. Clifford and Harold Hill were ostrich farmers whose birds were plagued by lions. They decided to invite hunters in to shoot the lions, charging a fee for this. Visiting hunters turned up in droves: the safari business had begun.

Nairobi's first safari outfitting company was called Newland and Tarlton and they had the most distinguished professional White Hunters on their books; men like Leslie Tarlton, Bror von Blixen and Billy Judd.

In 1909, ex-President Teddy Roosevelt set out from the Norfolk Hotel on a hunting safari that broke all records for size and splendour. There were 500 uniformed porters and a half-dozen White Hunters participating in this epic, the first safari ever captured on film. Roosevelt helped to popularize safaris with the publication of his book 'African Game Trails'.

It was a romantic age. Fritz Schindelar rode down lions on horse-back in a spotless white suit of riding clothes, gambling extravagantly and wooing the ladies with his flamboyant charm. The fearless Alan Black shot 14 man-eating lions and hung the tips of their tails from his slouch hat.

Philip Percival guided the Duke and Duchess of York and the famous American film-making couple Martin and Osa Johnson. Beryl Markham learned to fly and started an air-drop mail service for safari parties on the move. Denys Finch Hatton scouted for game in his biplane and also escorted the Prince of Wales on safari.

THE ERA OF CHAMPAGNE SAFARIS

Grand safaris such as these generally required 30 porters per White Hunter, plus 40-50 porters per client. Tailors were provided to make the client's clothes and armchairs were taken along on safari, together with folding baths, cases of champagne, a small library of books and one or more cooks to provide eight-course dinners. After every item had been checked, the equipment was parcelled out to the porters in 60-pound loads, to be carriedon theirheads.

The appearance of the motor vehicle changed the picture considerably. Now, a client could engage a fleet of vehicles and travel virtually self-contained over long distances. Porters were needed only in terrain where the vehicles could not go.

Money was no object in the pre-Depression days of the 1920's and the affluent visitor (whether an English lord, American film star or Indian maharajah) would contract a safari outfitter to organize a custom-planned safari complete with White Hunter, menservants, gunbearers, porters, provisions, guns, cars, trucks and tentage.

Some of these safaris were incredible, with the tents alone covering an acre of ground. There were generators, electric lights and enough vehicles to fill a small parking lot, including zinc-lined trucks for the cold storage of food and drink.

A different vintage wine graced each course and the sumptuous cuisine was supplemented with imported delicacies from Fortnum and Mason of London. When two such safaris met, the chefs would often compete to see who could stage the most lavish banquet in the bush.

PHOTOGRAPHIC SAFARIS

History 3With backing from George Eastman of Eastman Kodak, the Americans Martin and Osa Johnson arguably pioneered the photographic safari in the early 1930's, travelling to Lake Paradise in northern Kenya and spending four years there, exploring and photographing wildlife.

They wrote popular books about their numerous safaris and took countless pictures, later touring America with their motion pictures and doing a great deal to promote African travel and an interest in the animals and cultures.

The Johnsons were also the first to undertake an air safari. They flew two Sikorsky flying boats from South Africa up to Nairobi and used them to visit remote parts of Kenya and to find the pygmies in Zaire.

It was during this period that Karen Blixen wrote the Kenya classic 'Out of Africa,' which became a popular book and helped establish a new respect for wildlife and the local tribes.

Eventually, hunting was properly regulated with conservation in mind. Wildlife was recognized as a valuable natural resource to be preserved for the benefit of all mankind and vast wilderness areas were set aside as exclusive sanctuaries for wildlife.

THE MINIBUS TOUR

The onset of the Second World War ended the era of champagne safaris and sheer extravagance. In a memorable post-war speech, the British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan, spoke of the 'winds of change blowing through Africa.' Many African countries ' in the 1950's and 1960's gained independence from their colonial administrators (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Portugal) and most of the new nations pledged to continue preserving wildlife.

In the 1950's, daily flights commenced between Europe and Nairobi, bringing a sudden influx of middle-income travellers. To serve them, the minibus photo tour was developed as an inexpensive alternative to the old-fashioned safari.

This steady stream of camera-toting tourists, combined with the desire of African countries for increased foreign earnings, set the stage for African tourism. Lodges were built in the newly-developed parks and reserves and convoys of zebra-striped minibuses ferried the groups around the tourist circuits.

THE OLD-STYLE SAFARI

Today, you would only want a minibus tour if 'low price' is more important to you than the quality of your African experience. Certainly the best way to enjoy the magic of timeless Africa is on a traditional old-style safari and the choices are almost limitless.

You can explore virgin bush country in a four-wheel drive vehicle or on horse-back, or stalk animals on foot with a professional guide (the modern non-hunting equivalent of the former White Hunter) to experience adrenalin-pumping encounters with big-game at a few feet.

Wait up in tree hides overlooking game trails or sit at waterhole blinds as the herds come down to drink. Learn to identify spoor and spot the more elusive species, marvelling at the complexity of animal behaviour.

Discover birds and see hundreds of species ranging from the tiny irridescent sunbird to the eight-foot tall ostrich. Whatever your interests, an appropriate safari can be planned for you, as an active participant or as an interested observer.

The discriminating traveller who wants a special safari will understand that the most important aspect is the quality of the guide. Also, the smaller the group, the better the trip will be. The best safaris are those with like-minded participants and this alone is a good reason for having custom-planned arrangements.

Rather than enduring long drives on poor roads, you may decide to fly between distant wildlife regions. It is also preferable to avoid one-night stops and spend two or three nights in each area, making the pace more leisurely and enjoyable.

The best permanent accommodations are the small lodges and camps of character and the private farrns and homesteads, not the popular tourist lodges.

The classic old-style luxury tented safari is the finest African experience that you can have. If you go to Africa and do not sleep in a tent or walk 'in game country, you have only been on vacation and not on safari.

By going to Africa on safari, you are continuing a great tradition begun by the early pioneers and carried on by famous writers, film stars and royalty.

An old-style African safari is the last great adventure ...

THE WORLD OF OLD-STYLE AFRICAN SAFARIS

History 4The old-style African safari is an unforgettable experience that has no parallel anywhere on earth. We use the term 'old-style' to distinguish our traditional safaris from the modern version with its tour groups and minibus marathons.

The choice of destination can be bewildering and although there are more than thirty countries (sub-Sahara) on the African continent, the foremost safari destinations tend to be in eastern, central and southern Africa. In alphabetical order, these are: Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

The safari seasons are different in each country, so when we help you decide where to visit, your proposed time of travel will be a significant factor.

It is a mistake to think you will see more animals in one region than another. What you will see depends much more on the proficiency of your guide, on local game movements and migrations, on the time of year and even the time of day you are out game-viewing.

As for the huge variety of safaris on offer, do not waste your time leafing through different brochures because you will only become confused. Call us today.

We will answer your questions fully and discuss the various alternatives, helping you to determine what safari will suit you best and also planning and arranging everything for you, from start to finish. Basically, there are two types of safari. You can either join a group on a scheduled-departure tour with one of the large U.S. tour operators (which we can also assist ou with), or you can enjoy a custom-planned safari, designed especially for you and your family or friends.

Most of our clients choose a personalized safari and this is certainly the best option for the astute traveller who desires a special African experience.

Among the many safari alternatives are:

  • Exclusive old-style luxury tented safaris: the ultimate safari of quality.

  • Exclusive 'no frills' tented safaris, with more than adequate comforts.

  • Lodge tours using small premises of character: intimate tented camps, owner-operated ranches and homesteads.

  • Adventure on foot with porters, or with horses, donkeys, camels or canoes ...

  • Special interests like photography, cultures, birds, flowers, fishing etc.

However, if you do decide on a tour offered by another company, we will be pleased to book the arrangements on your behalf to ensure that you get the most appropriate itinerary and the added benefit of our own expertise and impartial advice throughout.

The African safari tradition was firmly established by the early 1900's and we are proud to be keeping alive the old standards of personal attention, custom-planned arrangements of quality, exciting and original itineraries, comfortable accommodations of character, stylish travel at a leisurely pace, warm hospitality and the finest wildlife guidance.

At Safari Consultants of London, we create individual and authentic journeys in Africa, putting life and atmosphere back into the word safari.

Safari Consultants of London, Ltd.,  5051 Pelican Colony Blvd., # 603, Bonita Springs, FL 34134-6910, USA
Tel: (239) 390-1507 or (800) 648-6541 Cell: (239) 405-3455 Fax: (239) 390-1721
E-Mail: Andrew@SafariConsultant.com Website: www.SafariConsultant.com