Q&A with Michael Turner

The greatest reward that one can receive when leading a safari is the fantastic friendships that develop, and when my guests come back time and time again — and recommend their friends to join us for an adventure– that is an ever enduring compliment.


  • How did you start out in guiding?

    In a rather unorthodox fashion, actually.

    My first safari was in  1988 when my grandfather took the whole family to Kenya for a two-week holiday which, sadly, was to be the last trip that we were ever able to do together with him.  I have such vivid memories of that safari and different as it was from my native California, I just wanted to get back to the bush as soon as I could.

    I finally returned to Africa while as a student in the UK and then at university in Edinburgh, where I studied Zoology. I spent as much time as I could traveling, first in east and then southern Africa, volunteering wherever and whenever I could, gaining as much experience as possible. Eventually, I landed a job running a mobile safari camp in Botswana, and from there I achieved my guide’s licence. For the past eight years I’ve been leading safaris all over the continent.

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

    This is an impossibly difficult question.  While the Okavango Delta was my first African home, the vast plains of east Africa also live in my heart.  From trekking for chimpanzees and gorillas in the equatorial rainforests to the harsh Kalahari Desert of south western Africa, each area has its charm and attraction.

    What I love about leading the bespoke, unscripted safaris with Royal African is that each trip itself is unique and designed for a particular guest at a particular time. In this way we can exploit the best conditions at that time in connection with each person’s individual desires and interests.  

  • Have you ever been really scared on safari?

    More than once!  But never in unnecessary danger. That’s what is so unique about the safari experience, especially in today’s world. You are always on the edge, there, breathing everything in, experiencing something real and true. Living, rather than existing; that excitement draws adventurers again and again to this great continent.

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

    Again this depends a lot on the individual and where and what we will be doing when on safari. I always encourage people to read up on the area that we will be exploring, as the history, geology and ecology all combine to tell the story, and the more you can dive into this, the more you can really explore what makes each environment so fascinating.
     Some of my favourites are:
    Africa: A Biography of the Continent – John Reader – An incredibly well researched and in-depth history of a continent.
    Explores of the Nile – Tim Jeal – An account of the epic expeditions of the first Victorian Explorers. For those interested in the history of the early Europeans on the continent.
    Ivory, Apes and Peacocks – Alan Root – A thoroughly enjoyable autobiography of one of the pioneers of wildlife documentary filmmaking. Perfect for the plane trip over and lazy siesta time while on safari.
  • What are the three most important pieces of kit for guests to bring along?

    You don’t need much when on safari – a few spare sets of clothes, a good pair of binoculars and, of course, a camera for the photographers.

    No need to overthink what to bring. Rather just dress according to the climate, travel light and be flexible. You never know what will happen.

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

    A safari in the Royal African style requires a lot of trust. By booking a partner and setting the dates and rough parameters, we then work together to develop the schedule, while ensuring that we are still flexible and able to adapt to the ever-changing conditions.

    So I would say that relationships and mutual trust are sacred. To be able to look back at what we have achieved and experienced together and to be proud of that is very important. In this way, I find that these relationships grow into some fantastic friendships, and those are very sacred.

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

    It is essential to show due respect to the communities, environments and parks in which we operate and therefore this would mean respecting their rules.

    However, I would rather say that I try to abide by principles, rather than rules. Saying that breaking rules can at times be fun, especially the more ridiculous ones.

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

    That list is far too long for this space, and these stories are best shared around the campfire with a nice bottle of wine

    Rest assured, every trip brings comic relief of its own kind, and we will make memories of our own!   

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