Q&A with Charles Babault

I am a Kenya based guide delivering safaris right across the continent and beyond.  And am ready to chat with you about any aspect of what I do, anytime.

Charlie

  • How did you start out in guiding?

    The inspiration came from my parents definitely. My father’s love of huge elephants and his passion for being on foot in the bush. And my mother who so perfectly brought it all to life in her art.

    And from myriad adventure books. As a child, I’d sat mesmerised by the adventures of those aboard the Kon-Tiki as it journeyed across the Pacific. In fact, it was probably that book that caused my safari boots to catch alight while reading by the campfire!

    The key moment that launched my current private guide career came soon after the closure of my Southeast Asia company. Not so long ago in the early 2000s! I received a call from a photographer friend asking if I’d like to organise an off-the-beaten-track adventure in Burma. Use your imagination, he said, take them to the places you love most in the world. Talk about music to my ears!

  • What’s your favorite place in Africa and why?

    I find that the concept of oneness with a place is bound inextricably with those I’m traveling with. That sense of anticipation as one sets out in in the Serengeti with early morning dew still sparkling on the grass. The magic in the mangrove forests in Elizabeth Bay as a dozen Eagle Rays glide by. The concept of oneness with wildlife, in contrast, I find entirely personal but also equally shareable. The awe-inspiring steady gaze of a Mountain Gorilla silverback, that incredible moment of eye contact with a bull orca stationary beneath my kayak. These are all moments, not places. And that is what it is all about.

  • Have you ever been really scared on safari?

    Most certainly I have and for most of them, I enjoy the telling.

  • What three books do you recommend your guests read before going on safari?

    My favourites for history and excellent reading :

    The Washing of the Spears – Donald Morris
    The Elephant People – Dennis Holman
    The State of Africa – Martin Meredith

    All pretty serious unfortunately so I’d better throw in :

    A Primate’s Memoir – Robert M. Sapolsky

    And for the story of the rise of humankind, so brilliantly told :

    Born in Africa, The Quest for the Origins of Human Life – Martin Meredith

  • What are the three most important pieces of kit for guests to bring along?

    A good wide-brimmed hat – says old rosy cheeks himself
    A good pair of sandals
    Oh and vital, please do not forget to bring along a good set of binoculars

    I could go a step further and add an open inquisitive mind!

  • What is your motto in life and what concepts are sacred?

    Though I disagree with James Lovelock in several key areas of his hypothesis I am a firm adherent to the concept of Gaea which postulates that our planet is a living breathing self-regulating entity.  It’s living and mineral components forming a complex interacting system as if a single organism.  The movement of tectonic plates and the pulse of seasons from summer into winter and back again her very life breath.  I believe that conservation of the world’s natural systems is all about protecting Gaea – every inch of tropical rainforest protected, seabed reseeded with coral is a step in the direction of preserving a critical balance that’s taken four billion years to achieve.

  • Which rules have you made, which ones do you follow and which rules do you break?

    I like to get up in the morning and set out in ebullient fashion so see what wonders might unfold.  Freedom is all about being unfettered by tiresome obligations.

  • What's your most embarrassing or comical moments ever on safari?

    There’s a story going around that gets more and more fantastic with every telling. The truth of the matter is quite straightforward – I went for a walk with a friend in search of a young bull elephant well known at Mana Pools. We knew he was in the area. We also knew his name was JD and that JD stood for Juvenile Delinquent – but we forged on nevertheless. We found JD standing on a termite mound pulling down Kigelia branches – leaves rained down, covering the two of us. We were sitting pretty close, it has to be said. When he was done he descended from the mound, walked round and carefully cleared the leaves off us with his trunk, we didn’t move. Soon sated JD now decided to push the envelope. And this I guess is where the story gets quite interesting – for everybody except me. JD a completely wild elephant, lowered his head over me until I was lying prostrate with his tusks two inches over my chest. It’s reliably reported that my eyes got quite big at this moment. His next step was to perform his favourite party trick – standing on three legs. Albeit this time with the fourth hovering my hip. At that moment I decided enough was enough, I eased out from under him and rolled onto my haunches. JD who was evidently almost as anxious about this as I was, threw his trunk up and ambled off. Subsequent reports of a wriggle and jump ‘like a jack in the box’ and worse are figments of ever unreliable imagination on the part of the other guide!

Testimonials

Charlie, I think this is one of your surprise strengths…you connect people in such amazing ways! Meeting these people who have made such an impact in their area is enlightening and FUN! Honestly, none of us will ever look at a brown hyena the same again. It provides a connectivity that you can’t get just from seeing a place. The relationship are so important. So thank you for setting those opportunities up for us!

Kathy, Dallas - July 2017

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