Q&A with Richard Coke

With 24 years of guiding across the continent I feel incredibly privileged and honored to share Africa’s wilderness, and it’s diverse wildlife and cultures with my guests. There is so much to see and experience; the first safari is just the tip of the iceberg – let’s plan your next adventure…

Richard Coke

  • What drew you to Royal African Safaris?

    What drew me to Royal African Safaris was being part of a collective of people who are passionate about Africa’s wilderness, its diverse wildlife and cultures and who strive to share their passion with our guests through delivering unique and exceptional safaris.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment?

    I had the opportunity to be connected to nature during my childhood, be it on family trips to the bush, galloping around our farm on my horse in South Africa or exploring the woods on the family estate in England. I always wanted to learn more about Africa’s wilderness areas, its wildlife and to pursue a career where I was somehow connected to it. So, I’d have to say that becoming a safari guide is my greatest accomplishment. For the past twenty years, I have been sharing my passion with my guests and am still as excited about it now as I was on my first day of guiding.

  • What drives you? or What are you passionate about?

    There are three things that drive me: 1) Staying healthy and fit; I love getting out in nature either on my mountain bike or on foot. It is essential for both my mind and body, along with a balanced diet. 2) Designing and choreographing safaris for my guests and sharing with them the many different experiences and emotions along the way. 3) My son Oliver; exposing him to as much of the world we live in as possible. I would like to help him realize how important it is to be respectful, compassionate and sensitive to the natural world and the people with whom we share this beautiful planet.

  • If you had one last safari where would you go and why?

    It would have to be a safari to Namibia and Botswana. I’d have to start off in the Namib desert where I began my guiding career. This special place teaches you to appreciate the smaller things. It is also the perfect location to get a better understanding of our planet’s geology. I’m drawn to its harsh yet stunning and fascinating landscapes and am humbled by the surprisingly abundant and unique life forms which have etched out an existence in this unforgiving environment. Time spent in the world’s oldest desert makes me feel alive and free. I would then head east to neighboring Botswana, and in particular, the Okavango Delta and Linyanti swamps. It’s a place I dreamed of visiting from my childhood and I made this dream come true in the mid 90’s and eventually spent seven years living and guiding there. My time there nurtured me into the guide and in many ways the person I am today. It has the perfect balance of exceptional wildlife, raw bush and the softness of its beautiful wetlands. The quality of wildlife sightings whilst being in vast wilderness with very few other people is hard to match. Last but not least; being able to spend time with the San bushmen, the oldest linguistic group on earth, is like a step back in time, when the human species lived as one with nature 20,000 years ago, just like the rest of the species continue today.

  • How did you start out in guiding?

    It was a mix of good fortune, hard work and sheer determination that got me into guiding.
  • Have you ever been really scared on safari?

    I wouldn’t necessarily say scared but I’ve had some very tense moments out in the bush which had my heart racing. One moment in particular was with a male leopard in the Okavango Delta. Come on safari and I’ll tell you the story…

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

    If I had to pick a few books to recommend they would be:

    • The Cry of The Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens
    • Africa: A Biography of the Continent by John Reader
    • Elephantoms: Tracking the Elephant by Lyall Watson
  • What are the three most important pieces of kit for guests to bring along?

    • Good pair of binoculars
    • Kikoi
    • Sunglasses
    • Sense of adventure (I needed a 4th!)
  • What is your motto in life?

    Follow your heart and make your passion your career.
  • Which rules have you made, which ones do you follow and which rules do you break?

    Rules I follow:

    • Never leave guests unattended in a vehicle or anywhere in the bush for that matter for an extended period of time.
    • Patience, Patience, Patience…and once the bush presents you with an opportunity to experience something special, take it and make the most of it!
    • Most importantly, be sensitive to the wildlife we have the privilege of seeing.

    Rules I break:

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

    It was the first mobile safari I lead in Botswana and we were on an afternoon game drive in the Savuti marsh when I noticed another game drive vehicle moving at high speed. In the national parks where you don’t have radio contact and not much experience under the belt you feel the pressure to show your guests all you can. This typically means that spotting a vehicle driving at high speed one assumes there must be something really good to see. I decided to follow him out of the marsh through the Savuti channel and towards one of the very few hills which occur in the area. I thought maybe a leopard or even lion with cubs as the lions in the area are known to keep their young cubs secluded in amongst these hills. We had about 30 minutes left of light as he reached the base of the hill. I continued following him until the very top where he had stopped. As I neared the top I noticed the guide jumping out of his vehicle and it was at that moment the penny dropped, he had wanted to beat the sunset so he could have a sundowner on top of the hill. Oh dear, you can’t imagine how I felt, and to add to the embarrassment I missed the sunset with my guests as it would have been a “no-no” to gate crash his sundowner.

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