“To start on a journey, any kind of journey, was an adventure that never lost its tang … You needed no clock but the sun, no roof but a tent; you traveled away from cities and swarms of people into a world whole wild creatures live their sweet and graceful lives untouched by humans, as they had done for a thousand or ten thousand years … Elspeth Huxley from “The Mottled Lizard”
After the original foot safaris of the pioneers towards the end of the 1800’s, the true luxury safari was born. Available only to the most wealthy of adventurous travelers, mostly hunters, these safaris were often of several months duration. No expense was spared in these magnificent tented camps, the challenge being to make the wilds of Africa as comfortable as possible. Far from the grueling experience the pioneers had to endure, the fortunate few could devote themselves to the enjoyment of pristine Africa.
It was in the early 1900’s that my maternal grandparents Arthur and Marjorie Dudgeon first set foot in Kenya, drawn by the promise of an exciting new country that was just opening up to white settlement. They spent almost 10 years mining gold near Lolgorien, overlooking what was to become the Maasai Mara National Reserve, at that time four days ride from the nearest shop or doctor. My mother and her two sisters were shipped back “home” to Britain for several years when they were young as the mining town of Lolgorien was not considered the right atmosphere to bring up young ladies.
In 1914, on the advice of his friend Ewart Grogan of “Cape to Cairo” fame, they bought land from Lord Delamare. Grogan rightly predicted that the new alignment of the Uganda railway would pass through the farm. Grogan was instrumental in getting this through the fledgling Legislative Council of the Protectorate of which he was a prominent, if controversial, member. The small town of Rongai eventually grew up around the railway station that was built on one corner of the farm.
On the death of another of Arthur’s friends, Denys Finch-Hatton, he bought Denys’ company which owned the adjoining land, which he incorporated into the farm. These became the nucleus of the property we farm to this day.
There were a number of interesting neighbours including Lord and Lady Francis Scott on the adjoining property. Scott was a better politician than farmer, and soon handed the farming over to his very competent daughter Pamela, who later wrote “A nice place to live” to refute the impression that early settlers were all hedonists with more money than morals.
It was also to the sleepy farming area of Rongai that the German family came to escape the persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime. This story was to inspire the Oscar winning movie “Nowhere in Africa”.
My father, Gregor Grant, like many of the early settlers was a younger son of a Scottish land owning family who was drawn to East Africa in 1923 by the promise of rich agricultural land and good shooting. After a few years in which he indulged his passion for hunting while also learning about the country, he bought land at Kericho from a failed soldier-settler company. Over the next decade he turned this into one of Kenya’s first tea estates which remained in the family till 1980.
He continued to hunt for a decade or more during time his off, taking Sid Downey (later founder of the safari company Ker and Downey) and Lord Egerton of Tatton, known in the area as Tattered Edges.
My parents lived in Kericho until 1950 when they bought another farm on the edge of the Rift Valley, overlooking Rongai. The house they built on that property remains one of the finest of the colonial period in Kenya. This was sold in 1980 and is now owned by Richard and Linda Muir whose forbearers coincidentally were instrumental in helping my father get started growing tea in the 1920’s.
Over the years my father’s attention turned more to conservation. My early memories of safari were of family trips to remote and beautiful places often abounding with game. Like my father, I have always had a love of the land, as well as a keen interest in wildlife both of which I have been lucky enough to be able to indulge using our farm in Rongai as a base.
A Rough Guide to Kenya
Kenya is a country of dramatic contrasts. Cut by the equator just north of Nairobi it covers a surface area of 582,664 sq. Km, including 13,600 sq. Km of inland water. Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile, that so eluded early explorers, makes up the largest proportion of this. Much of the north is very arid, desert and semi desert in the midst of which is Lake Turkana, sometimes known as the Jade Sea.
Immediately west of the capital of Nairobi is that amazing geological feature, the Great Rift Valley, which stretches from the Mozambique channel to Israel. IT is famous for its lakes which are home to some of the greatest concentrations of water-birds in the world.
The country boasts 48 National Parks and game reserves where animals and landscapes have been preserved since the dawn of life. It is here that our main interests lie. From the spectacular scenery and semi-desert species of the north – such as Samburu, Shaba, or Meru – through the Rift Valley and the high forested park land of the slopes of Mt. Kenya or the Aberdares, on to the Masai Mara, annually inundated by the migration of millions of plains game. This is the area in which we concentrate our safaris. From deserts through to permanent glaciers, no other African country can match Kenya’s enormous variety in such a small area.
The peoples that inhabit these landscapes are amongst the most diverse and colorful in the whole of Africa. many of them, like the Samburu and Maasai, retain much their original culture and traditions and continue to produce authentic handicrafts, especially off the normal tourist routes.
Although the equator runs through Kenya, the country has a generally mild climate inland, due to the high altitude (often over 4,000ft.) of the central plateau. There is plenty of clear sunshine all year round and average maximum temperatures range between 25 C and 30 C. At lower altitudes, such as Samburu, temperatures are higher, around 30-35 C all year round. On the coast temperatures are often in the high 20s or low 30s, but the humidity is high.
Rainfall is often heavy around April/May and we do not operate safaris at this time. The short rains occur from mid-October to mid-December and generally these do not affect the safaris. June, July and August are the coolest months and sometimes overcast.
Read more about when to come and visit us.