“Some think the best large-scale operation after the war… was the one launched over a drink or two on the veranda of the Imperial Hotel in Addis Ababa”
– Bartle Bull, Safari: A Chronicle of Adventure, 1988
Like so many great ventures, Ker & Downey Safaris was born from a chance encounter. Donald Ker and Syd Downey, two big game hunters from Kenya, had been fighting with the British in Ethiopia shortly before the fall of Addis Ababa in 1941. Syd had just been released by the Italians and was celebrating at a local hotel when he bumped into Donald Ker. With one car and a lot of bravura, the pair made a plan to establish “the best safari company the world has ever known”.
It was not until January 1946 that Syd and Donald, newly discharged from the army, took out their first safari. They were hired to run a camp in the Maasai Mara for the production of The Macomber Affair, the United Artists blockbuster starring Gregory Peck and Joan Bennett. It was the beginning of a long love affair with Hollywood, which would see “K&D” outfit some of the biggest films ever to come out of Africa.
In 1962, shortly before Kenya’s Independence, Ker & Downey spread its wings to Botswana, with Harry Selby and a couple of other guides offering safaris in this ‘new’, uncharted corner of Africa. Through the 60s and 70s, the company continued to grow – extending its reach across southern Africa, east to the jungles of Congo, and north into the deserts of Ethiopia and Sudan. By 1977, when hunting was officially banned in Kenya, K&D had transformed itself into the leading provider of customised mobile photographic safaris in Africa.
Today, Ker & Downey is celebrated as the longest-existing safari outfitter in the world, and the standard-bearer for unsurpassed luxury in some of its last great wild places. So successful has the “K&D” name been that it has been brazenly borrowed by a number of copycat companies in Africa and the West. Yet to this day, no one has come close to emulating the luxurious standards, the rich experiences, or the peerless guiding of “The Original Ker & Downey Safaris”.
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