A second-generation Kenyan, Derek spent his childhood fascinated by the bush and his curiosity gained him a deep understanding of the ways of the African wilderness. After attending the University of Nairobi, where he graduated with an honours degree in design, he was awarded a scholarship to Yale University to study architecture.
Derek joined Ker & Downey in the early 1980s, although his family’s connections with the firm began in the 1950s through his uncle, the professional hunter Peter Becker. Since that time Derek has led safaris into Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda and throughout most of southern Africa, including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.
Having worked as an architect in both Kenya and the United States, Derek has applied his design skills to Ker & Downey’s tents and equipment as well as to his own safari vehicles. He believes the philosophies guiding architecture and safaris are very similar: “creating wonderful spaces for people to enjoy!”
Derek has also worked as a guide and fixer on the sets of a number of major Hollywood films shot in Africa. While working on Out of Africa, he used his architectural skills to design accommodation for a group of lions that were brought out from California especially for the film.
In 1996, Derek was honoured with the African Wildlife Foundation’s Leadership Award, and today he is one of an exclusive group of ‘Gold Level Professional Safari Guides’ accredited by the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association.
Derek is married to an Irish-born artist, Elizabeth, and the couple have two sons: Thomas, who leads safaris in Tanzania and occasionally joins Derek on larger safaris, and Nick, who works as an engineer in Uganda.