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An Early Memory of Safari

I was born just after my father joined the renowned safari firm of Ker & Downey in 1981 and I am sometimes asked about my earliest memory of safari - or what safari means to me.

I am never sure quite how to answer the well-intended question of what my earliest memory of safari is, as so many memories, and smells, and sights and sounds from one’s childhood, seem to melt into a collective collage of experiences. However, I can remember one particular day quite vividly. 

I was watching the miles roll by through the small triangular kick-out hatch in the footwell of the Toyota Land Cruiser. This was a trade-mark feature of the 40 series - an early version of air-conditioning. On these long journeys, it was mesmerizing to stare down through it at the blurred edge of the two-track dirt road. You could feel the heat coming off the 3-speed gearbox and you were lulled into a trance.

I only looked up when the car slowed to a halt in the middle of a vast herd of fat, healthy cattle. We had stopped on the brow of a hill and the sky touched the horizon in every direction. We were somewhere in the vast Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem. I am not sure where, and I am not entirely sure my father knew where either. There was a liquid-filled compass mounted to the dash-board - but I think it was mostly for show. 

I remember leaning out the window and attempting to whistle at the cattle. But, I hadn’t mastered whistling and after a few attempts I gave up in embarrassment.  

The herdsman came over - his long double edged spear in hand. Then, as now, lions and cattle did not always mix well together. We exchanged greetings. I think Dad wanted directions. The man pointed with his chin in a sweeping arc which didn’t really get down to specifics. Dad looked bemused, so the man jabbed his spear at some point over the furthest rolling hill. 

Then the man wanted to compare watches. I can’t remember when the watch ceased to be the status symbol it once was in Masailand, but Dad’s cheap digital watch - with its crinkly metal strap - was highly prized at the time. There was some discussion about the challenges of adopting this new time keeping system. The man nodded sagely and decided to stick with what he already knew. 

Then he showed us a deep gash on his leg, where a warthog had run into him as it bolted from its hole. I was suitably impressed.

His cattle had moved off by now, so he said goodbye with a big grin on his face, taking off after them with that loping gait that eats up the distance as surely as any 4x4.

In a place where a destination was some ill-defined point on the horizon, and a schedule was to get there at no particular time, and a routine was defined by the rising and setting of the sun, it seemed odd to me that much of their conversation had centered around a time-piece. A time-piece that one man couldn’t read, and the other rarely adhered to. Perhaps that’s why they seemed to get on so well. 

The Explora Blog is the world’s premier online journal for field sports enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, conservationists and admirers of bespoke gunmaking, fine leather goods and timeless safari clothes. Each month Westley Richards publishes up to 8 blog posts on a range of topics with an avid readership totalling 500,000+ page views per year.

Blog post topics include: Finished custom rifles and bespoke guns leaving the Westley Richards factory; examples of heritage firearms with unique designs and celebrated owners like James Sutherland and Frederick Courtenay Selous; the latest from the company pre-owned guns and rifles collection; interviews with the makers from the gun and leather factory; new season safari wear and country clothing; recent additions to our luxury travel bags and sporting leather goodsrange; time well spent out in the field; latest news in the sporting world; and key international conservation stories.

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  • The Story Behind The Original Ker and Downey Safaris Ltd. / The Explora - Premier Online Field Sports & Gun Journal on March 29, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    […] - sat in an Addis Abba hotel during the Second World War in 1941 to discuss opening the “the best safari company the world has ever known” - they brought with them a wealth of knowledge and […]

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