Most had grown up here, helping on their fathers’ cattle ranches, chasing antelope on horseback, shooting cattle-raiding lions. A few had already been here for two generations, like Glen Cottar, whose grandfather was the first professional American hunter and who went on safari with his father at the age of four and took out his own clients at 15. In 1968, he set up a hunting company in Tanzania with Reggie Destro, Like many of his compatriots, Destro was highly regarded by the discerning royal families who flocked to East Africa in the 1960s and 70s. With clients such as King Juan Carlos of Spain and Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan, he was one of the first hunters to convert to photographic safaris and is credited with pioneering mobile safaris in the Maasai Mara. Like Percival and Hunter before them, legends like Destro, Cottar, and Matthews continued to lure the rich and famous on safari. And, as with all successful businesses, their clients nearly always came back. Bing Crosby came on safari with Terry Matthews seven times – and wrote a classic song about his safari crew. Two of the ‘stars’, Captain John Mkai and Mwahema, served with the first Royal African crew.
It is a world, and a life, from which one comes back changed. Long afterward, gazelles still galloped through my dreams or stood gazing at me out of their soft and watchful eyes, and as I returned each daybreak, unbelieving, to my familiar room, I realized increasingly that this world would never be the same for having visited that one
A Glimpse of Eden
As Africa becomes an ever more popular tourist destination, the experienced safari guides are increasingly turning to the wilder, more remote reaches in search of the original pioneering spirit of the African safari. Several of them are explorers in their own right – even though they rarely boast about it.
Royal African Safaris was born from the same spirit of adventure that launched the first ships into the African wilderness. Its guides have helped to shape and refine the art of the African safari. Today, they and their families are pioneers in their own right – helping to develop conservation initiatives to protect Africa’s last wild spaces and to benefit the local people who are their true custodians.
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