“The cure for anything is saltwater. Sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)
Is there something you are passionate about besides safaris?
Travel, wherever that takes me, preferably somewhere tropical, oceanside, with fish, corals, beaches and immersion in all of the above (and below). I have been lucky enough to sail the Pacific Ocean from Panama to New Zealand via the Marquesas. Names like Bora Bora, Tahiti, Raiatea in French Polynesia along with islands such at Isabella in the Galapágos or Aldabra in the Seychelles archipelago roll easily off the tongue.
Any hobbies you pursue?
I am a Thalassophile through and through (to save you looking up the meaning of that, it is a person who loves the ocean and the sea). When I’m at home in Watamu, Kenya, I kitesurf, SUP, snorkel and swim every day, I am so lucky to live right next to a marine national park.
If you could be any African wildlife species for a day, which one would you choose and why?
Oh, interesting question. My mind wavers between being a hippo and sitting out all day in the sun on the banks of the Mara River going for the odd plunge to cool down, but that is a bit too lazy for me. Perhaps a dagga boy (Cape Buffalo), an animal that I have had a couple of aerial run-ins with, but I would probably go for being a leopard to enjoy the incredible camouflage and to be insouciantly graceful and an absolute killer at the same time!
What’s the most amusing or unexpected encounter you've had with an animal while on safari?
A few come to mind, but one in particular happened on a two-week walking safari a while back in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. While enjoying an afternoon siesta under the shade of a sausage tree, two honey badgers barrel rolled into camp and showed their distain towards us. We all jumped up, tried to run, scramble and climb a tree at the same time. Pandemonium and chaos ensued.
If you could invite any historical figure, alive or not, on a safari, who would it be and what animals would you hope they'd encounter?
I guess it would be my grandfather the aptly named J A Hunter, my namesake. I’d like to take him into the Chyulu Hills to sit up at night over a waterhole with a full moon to watch and listen to black rhino come in to drink. Or perhaps spend an evening with a wonderful old gentleman called One Ton. Now in his late fifties, One Ton is a wonderful bull elephant in his prime. He was probably a young calf about the time my grandfather passed away and he will have spent his life in much the same areas and wilderness’s that my grandfather did. There is a timelessness about being in the wilderness watching elephants and rhinos come to drink under a full moon – it really is in essence a glimpse into an ancient order.
Do you have a favorite wildlife-related joke or pun that you like to share with guests to lighten the mood?
I have a few that come to mind but they are unprintable in this high-end publication.
If you were stranded in the wild for a day with only three items, what would they be?
Water and shade of course. If it was just for a day or night, then probably a good Cuban cigar. It is said that when Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery told Churchill, “I neither drink nor smoke and I am a hundred percent fit,” Churchill famously replied, “I drink and smoke and I am two hundred percent fit.”
What’s the quirkiest or most interesting wildlife behavior you've ever observed during a safari?
A while back on Ol Pejeta a young male hyena and a solitary female wild dog joined up together and spent weeks if not months in each other’s company day and night.
If you had to give a safari animal a personality trait, which one would you make the "class clown" of the animal kingdom, and why?
What’s the most unusual or unique safari vehicle modification or customization you've seen or used?
A Land Rover. Ha Ha.
If animals could talk, which one do you think would have the most fascinating stories to share from the savannah?
I’d probably actually choose something like a Northern Wheatear (orig. Saxon for white arse btw) a tiny bird that weighs not more 25 grams. As a Palearctic migrant, it undertakes one of the longest journeys of any small bird crossing ocean, ice and desert. Its Latin name by the way, translates to vine bird as it arrives in Europe when the first vines come into flower.
Have you ever had a safari guest who had a particularly funny or memorable reaction to seeing an animal for the first time?
I once had a guest who asked me if rhino climb trees….
If you could create a safari playlist for your guests, what songs would be on it to set the mood for the adventure?
Good question, and in the age of Spotify, it’s easily done. I have quite a few safari playlists, so off the top of my latest safari, it would be some Van Morrison, James Taylor, Bill Withers, Otis Redding, Fleetwood Mac, the Stones, John Prine and Leon Bridges to name but a few.
Do you have any favorite wildlife-themed books, documentaries, or movies that you recommend to your guests for a deeper safari experience?
We live in an age of the most incredible wildlife documentaries don’t we? David Attenborough is a voice practically everyone knows. Old school would be two Kenyan filmmakers; Alan Root and Simon Trevor – they are classics. First edition Peter Beard’s, End of the Game – timeless.
Alex and his team
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