What it takes to get a safari on the road!

It’s sometimes hard to imagine what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to preparing for a safari. A little like that glorious period in life when your parents held your passport and your only duty was to turn up and be excited about whatever the plan was… that’s how we want it to be for you when you’re with us in the wilds. But safari can be full of moments which our guests may never know about… one memorable story Dad tells is of half the horses running away two nights before a horseback Safari started. The whole team was dispatched by vehicle and on foot to search the horses out and eventually found them in the nick of time enjoying some wonderful fodder in a secret forest glade! 

The first thing we have to do is activate the bush telegraph to let our Maasai colleagues in the bush know that we are coming. Pre-mobile-phone days, this could often be hugely challenging, and involved dispatching a verbal note with anyone going to the Mara to tell Chief Lemaiyan and Metian that we were inbound. Nowadays, chances are that the nomadic Maasai will have a battered Nokia on them somewhere, which they charge intermittently on cherished mini solar units. If we do get through, we’re always prepared for a lengthy chat; one must ask first about children, wives, family, livestock, and finally weather. It’s also a moment to get the latest intel from our team – what’s been happening with the rains and therefore the wildebeest migration for instance. This kind of info can influence how we decide where to start or end a ride or safari. 

Then it’s back to some of the admin in the office. Maureen and Gordie work together to plan meet and greet at the airport, internal flights, Flying Doctor cover, transfers and all the nuts and bolts that make a safari go smoothly. Felicia and her team get together to discuss menus, and out of that comes the extensive food list (perfected over years of practice!) and shopping that must be done. Our fresh fruit and veg is the most sensitive part of the inventory, so it has to be purchased last minute and is by default seasonal and local. But meat, wine, drinking water, ice and staples are bought earlier and frozen where necessary so that it can last the safari. We are super careful about sourcing all our food, with local, regenerative meat at the top of our list. 

Before we leave for a horse safari, the right horses must be selected for each guest. This is a delicate operation, as it’s a kind of human-equine match-making process. We want both parties to adore each other throughout the safari, so looking at the experience, weight and character of the guest together with the nature of the horse is an exercise that determines which of our four legged friends will walk up the ramp into the lorry. Sometimes there is a last minute swap but we do pride ourselves on this part of the planning process. The horses always roll out of our homestead to much fanfare, their heads nodding from the top of the lorry, palpable excitement as they head off on their adventure. First stop at Dad’s farm, where they get to stretch their legs and run around with their old friends, and the next day on to the Mara – land of big spaces where they are simply tied to a picket line by night. Like our guests, the horses are blissfully unaware of the organisation that must go on in the background – veterinary checks, pre-safari injections, planning feed and hay allowances, and ensuring the first aid kits are up to date. 

Nowadays, we also have all our Covid compliance to ensure, which entails tests for all our staff. Luckily we have a local clinic where this can be done; and certifications issued. Once we reach camp, the local County Government inspector also visits us to ensure we have hand washing stations and all our staff are equipped with masks and hand sanitizer. We take Covid very seriously in camp and also request that our guests are tested, for their sakes as well as our team. On that note we have an extensive first aid box and several members of our team undergo first aid training on an annual basis so they are up to scratch. 

The second wave of bush telegraph goes out to our wonderful team of staff, most of whom live several hundred kilometers away from safari HQ. They report in for work after long bus journeys, smiles showing their excitement for a new safari, and huge hand shakes, back slaps and banter as everyone catches up with each other’s news. Trucks must be packed, and each member of the team knows that if something is forgotten they’ll have to improvise! After years of experience, they have it taped. As the kit is lugged out from our stores, cleaned and checked, and then repacked, Karanja and Sammy are meticulously going through each vehicle to ensure the mechanics are up to scratch. There’s nothing like breaking down in the bush – and Karanja, who has been our mechanic for nearly forty years – is obsessed with his pre-safari checks. Meanwhile our cohort of professional safari guides is fired up for action, and the kids are also being prepared for as long as several months of life under canvas away from home. Tyga and Thego love being on safari, but being young they also like their creature comforts and toys. They spend time in the staff camp helping out and also attend a fun little bush school run by friends of Gordie and Felicia when in the Mara.  

It’s a massive operation to successfully mobilize for a safari, and we love it. The excitement of heading back to the bush ripples through the homestead as everyone prepares their part. Inevitably Dad is on the blower at some point double checking that we haven’t forgotten something; it’s a great comfort having the wider net of support.

3 thoughts on “What it takes to get a safari on the road!”

  1. Dear Gordie, Felicia, and staff,

    I’ve just enjoyed your AWESOME spread of pictures. Love the one of the 3 cubs @ play! I am still looking forward to meeting Felicia and your new family. Felicia’s touch is obvious in your presentation…

    Winter seems to be arriving early this year–30+ degrees and frost this a.m. with horses duly blanketed. I’m not a fan of PA winters–this one is predicted to be longer & colder this year.

    Please give my salaams (sp?) to all of your staff who made the safaris for myself and my clients the premier adventure of our lives.

    I look forward to your next marketing trip to the US–consider yourself, etc. booked in for a visit to IdleHour.

    Happy Holidays and love to all,


  2. Charles Carner

    Dear Gordie, Felicia & Everyone at Safaris Unlimited –

    I will always treasure every precious memory of my three safaris with you all. Climbing Mount Kenya… tracking leopard on foot down luggas and up rock faces… curious hyenas visiting our Mara camp site at night… the “sweet water” of the El Molo tribesmen on the shores of Lake Turkana… the blood-curdling screams of hyraxes… floating down the Tana River among the crocs and hippos… exploring the far reaches of Tarangire and Amboseli and Naivasha on horseback, and camel back, and via bush plane.

    Magical places… incredible food… superb staff… and such knowledgable, professional and joyful people.

    A lifetime of memories. With lifelong friends. God Bless You All.

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