How Kenya safaris came to be.
History has it that explorers first set foot in Kenya in the 1820 beginning with the Johannes Rebman and Ludwing Krapt who sailed in from the Indian Ocean. One would say that theirs was the first Safari to Kenya – a journey to explore and discover Kenya – and these Safaris continue to this day, generations after these first explorers.
Literature has been written, and big Screen movies produced, on Africa and Kenya, that present the people in this region as uncivilized world that needs to be discovered, and this has led many to pack their bags and take a Safari to these parts to discover this world themselves. Often this is called a holiday.
Many have also come to these parts to boost their trade in cloves, ivory, animal skin and sadly, historically they also traded in people. For many years, trading in slaves from the Africa region was big business!
Trade exhibitions to Kenya then developed, and hunting for game was also in vogue as people reveled in taking home trophies of game. Such hunting needed someone to carry a host of luggage with them, such as food, camping equipment, and weapons. This required a whole team of guides, cooks and luggage carriers.
It is these different types of travels to East Africa that led to the birthing of the word Safari, which is a word borrowed from Arabic, meaning ‘a journey’ or ‘travel’. In fact, the Kiswahili language grew and thrived as a result of trading with the East Africans, and it is a mixture of local dialects, and Arabic and Portuguese languages that were spoken at the coast. Its name is derived from the Arab word ‘saher’’, which means ‘shore’, or ‘beach’. It was initially therefore, the language that was spoken at the shore.
So trade expeditions evolved to the modern day safari and conservation efforts as some explorers had a great love for the wild. Explorers such as Adolf Fisher and John Burchell for example came to East Africa to seek out new animal species, learn all they could about them, and even write books about them.
Such explorer conservationists started to agitate against hunting for the mere purpose of killing animals and rejoicing at game trophies earned from them, which is what Safari became famous for. Instead they called for the conservation of animal and plant species and this paved the way for major conservation efforts in East Africa and beyond.
So, different people came on Safari to East Africa for different reasons, and this also meant that camping evolved into a more organized effort to meet diverse needs. From simple ‘pitch and go’ tents for small groups, better accommodation was called for where hunters, expedition crews, film-makers and tourists could all have their needs well met on Safaris that were short as well as long term.
There was also need for joints en route that such safari goers could stop, refresh and replenish their supplies, such as popular inns and fly camps. These small stop-overs grew to large tourist resorts such as Mount Kenya Safari club, the famous watering hole of William Holden in Mt Kenya.
Initially, this had only served as a stop-over watering hole for animals and people, as this is where the expeditionary team would come to enjoy some beers, coffee, and tea before going on with their Safari. It is through such expeditions by William Holden and his party, that today’s ranching concept was born, long before independence and modern day civilization.
Each country in east Africa has their own interpretation and theories of safari origins dating back in their history. What is certain is that the concept of safari has evolved from basic camping to luxury safari camps and lodges.
While it is uncertain what the future holds for safaris, it is needful for countries to quickly deal with the challenges that growing populations present to wildlife. Encroachment by people on formerly wildlife areas has led to an increase in human-wildlife conflict in East Africa.
Despite this, Africa is still viewed by many safari goers as the ‘Magical Continent’; a place where dreams come true, and where one can still see wildlife in their natural habitat, as William Holden and others once did.
Kenya, ‘the original land of safari’, still has a lot to show and to be proud of. From the gentle giants of Amboseli National Park with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, to the hunting cats in the Savannah, and the age-old traditions and culture of the Maasai community.
Fortunately, one Kenya safari, will never be enough. We assure you of infecting you with the safari bug, just like us.
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