the compass

(leading the way)

I like mornings. There is a stillness just before the dawn, a time when you can first make out the silhouettes of animals on the horizon, there is a pause and in that moment anything is possible. This is a new day.

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travel with purpose

 My pledge is to find the right safari for you, your family and friends, created personally and specifically, with no hidden extra costs however with plenty of extra services added in and designed with safety foremost.

I believe we are only as good as our last safari and that above and beyond is par for the course. From initial conversations and visits to your home, to sunrise on the savannah and evenings around a campfire; this is completely personalised travel where every detail is taken care of so that all you have to do is enjoy.

We meet with every guest beforehand, during the planning stages, anywhere in the world. This way we can better understand what it is that you are looking for, expect and how we can provide the unexpected. Every single guest has been referred by word of mouth and 70% have made multiple safaris. Reputation, discretion and relationships are everything.

With thirty years of personal travel and exploration across Africa, every safari planned is rooted in actual experience. At the Original Ker & Downey each partner is a safari guide, we do not just plan safaris, we guide them as well and we have been doing this since 1946. As a result, we have the support systems and team in country, on hand and perfectly placed to show the wonders of life on safari.

trust in the wonders of nature

my journey

(nomads land)

I was born in 1968 and spent seven years in the British Army before a series of fortuitous circumstances led me to Botswana and the Okavango Delta. There I spent the next seven as a guide and mahout with Africa’s first elephant-back safari company, developing a deep understanding of and passion for elephants. Swapping elephants in the Okavango for chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains, I lived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and began what is an ongoing fascination with great ape behaviour, human evolution and our place on the planet. From there I continued to the vast Selous Game Reserve, leading walking safaris in the continent’s largest protected wilderness.

Invited to join the Original Ker & Downey in 2005, Kenya is now home base and where I launch out from to lead safaris in twenty-five countries. My personal passion remains African travel and I am happiest on the road, exploring new wildlife frontiers, the continent’s art world, hiking big hills, disappearing into the desert and digging into conservation. I believe that we have a responsibility to ask questions and to peel away natures many layers in order to reveal the true essence of safari.

trust in nature
conservation matters
a great adventure
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on safari

(what's the difference)

Being on safari reminds us to respect our planet and different cultures, while perhaps true luxury lies in the magic of nature, silence and space.

Conservation is at the heart of every one of our safaris. There are many countries, camps, lodges and reserves to choose from and we are here to help. As guides we look at everything from three perspectives; do these properties and areas have a positive environmental and social impact; do they support a vision of responsible tourism and sustainable travel; and do they have the right mix of wildlife or wilderness experience, appropriate comfort and absolute safety.

In consultation and collaboration with you, as much or as little you prefer, we will find the right safari. For those who like to plan then the research, pouring over maps and dreaming can be almost as much fun as the safari itself. I believe wholeheartedly that the pillars of any safari must be expert knowledge, precision planning, attention to detail and genuine service.

Going on safari should be a journey of continuous discovery where you move from viewer to participant. From your first elephant sighting to tracking lions on foot, hiking to the mountain gorillas, game rich plains and campfires under star filled skies, these are distinctive journeys that nod to the bygone, acknowledge a more simple, elegant way of living and yet look firmly towards the horizon.

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tradition

An African mobile camping safari may accurately be described as ‘the Safari of Kings’ and there is precedent for such a bold claim as since the early 1900’s Monarchs, Heads of State and Leaders in their field have all made a mobile-tented camp their home while on safari.

From the day William Cornwallis Harris set out in 1836, an African safari has been recognised as one of the great adventures the world has to offer; a journey full of hope and discovery. This same ethos and spirit continues today among those who believe that the true essence of safari lies under canvas.

Far from the crowds there are wild places that still exist; vast, untouched and full of wildlife. Here is where one would set up camp. In this new definition luxury appears when camp is yours alone, when you wake up among the great herds, where you spend your days tracking wildlife or meeting communities, where you are immersed in nature, where you have the time to slow down and the space to enjoy every moment.

We camp not only because it is the original way, we also camp to protect the wildlife and wilderness that remain in these remote areas and to support the guardians who call these distant regions home. As Brian Jackman, one of the UK’s most respected travel and safari writers, says,

The privacy of a mobile camping safari – especially in the company of a top professional guide – is probably the greatest luxury of all.

I am often asked where is the best place to go on safari. This is clearly a subjective opinion based on individual preference, specific interests and time of year. A different question might be, if you were to only go on safari once, how would you do it? Well, that’s easy.

who cares

(conservation and why it matters)

We cannot change the past however we can try to leave this place we call home in a slightly better way than we found it. I believe that when there is emotional investment in the natural world then there is the possibility for meaningful conservation. Very simply, if we love it, we will protect it.

In its purest form, wildlife and wilderness based tourism can be a force for good and a means of change. Sadly, it is sometimes extractive however when it genuinely supports forward thinking conservation organisations then it can create positive solutions for people, wildlife and habitats. Fiscal and social responsibility along with result driven effectiveness are as important in conservation as they are in any business and successful long-term conservation happens when these meet passion and financial impact.

As guides we have a moral imperative to protect the environment and we are well positioned to assist in connecting the right person to the right conservation body. At the Original Ker & Downey we plan safaris that have helped protect Africa’s wild places for over seventy years. Our track record is strong and our guest’s legacy continues across the continent to this day. It is what you do, not what you say you do, that counts.

To that end, there are many remarkable people doing great things and the list of those on the ground is long. The following are just some that walk more than they talk; who get on with it, quietly, efficiently and effectively.

The value of conservation cannot be underestimated

risk analysis

Safety is our priority and we take it very seriously. While we live in country and have personal networks it never hurts to use the best resources available. If you want something done correctly then go to the professionals.

Vates Corp are based in Nairobi and provide risk analysis across Sub Saharan Africa. Using local sources, analytical techniques and technology, they provide insights into the political and security dynamics throughout East and Southern Africa.

This accurate and timely intelligence, with forecast recommendations, helps us to make better informed decisions and ensure the safety of our guests while traveling in Africa.

Comprehensive travel risk assessment should also include more common potential risks such as cancelled bookings, missing luggage and health insurance. In a constantly changing landscape we stay up to speed with what is going on and are here to help provide you with the information that you need. Please do ask and before any trip we will offer advice anyway, prior planning is always useful.

@sandorcarter

image credits

My sincere thanks and grateful appreciation to the talented photographers and artists whose work is included within this site. It would not be possible to tell the story that I hope to convey without their skill and I trust that I have recognised everyone. If I have not, then please accept my apologies.

I hope that you enjoy these images and the stories they tell.

The Original Ker & Downey, Andreas Fox, Finlay Marrian, Max Melesi, Oliver Nicklin, Paolo Parazzi, Sam Stogdale, Sean Dundas, Shaun Mousley; Michael Lorentz, Olly Williams, Julius Strauss, David Simpson, Chege Njuguna, Nicole Honegger, Natural Selection Travel, Segera Retreat, SVS Tchad.

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walking

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horses for courses

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wonders of nature

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lemurs & evolution

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dandylion

Travel in Africa, like the continent itself, is multi layered. While it is often the iconic wildlife that first draws us, it is the human connection that makes the story real. There is another side to going on safari, one of cultures both ancient and modern. It is an important side as the fragility of Africa’s wild spaces rests significantly in the decision making of the continent’s urban centres and each individual nation’s own people. As is only to be expected, there is a creativity, dynamism and beauty of the human spirit that helps paint the true picture.

These human stories are told in many ways, including art, music, dance, architecture and clothing. From therianthrope rock art in the Matobo Hills to the contemporary art of Khartoum, Saharan rock engravings, Benin bronzes, Ghanaian trading beads and Zimbabwe stone scultpures, the continent’s art history dates back thousands of years.

Likewise, music and dance is an integral part of traditional culture and spans the gamut. The trance dance of the San in the Kalahari, the Wodaabe’s yaake dance, Samburu singing wells, Sufi mystics in the land of Sheba, the adumu dance of the Maasai, the Zulu indlamu and Senegalese mbalax musicians all tell stories that bond their communities.

Meanwhile Ethiopia’s Orthodox architectural tradition includes Axumite rock stelae, the monolithic churches of Lalibela and is believed to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. Stories abound in what was one of the world’s last empires and are best heard over buna in the birthplace of coffee.

Of course Africa is a continent on the move and while these art forms are fundamental to their communities there are equally inspiring places to visit in modern, urban Africa. The Dakar biennale, Ghanaian kente cloth and East African kitenge markets, the Timkat epiphany festival, Cape Town café culture and grooving with the Brazzaville sapeurs; these are adventures of the heart that ring true.

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aliceblue

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deserts & mountains

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migrations

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tigers & bears

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great apes

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elephants, rhinos & whales

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cats & dogs