Guide Profiles

Derek Dames

Derek Dames

Derek was born on a farm near Mount Kenya that was surrounded by wildlife and forest. He spent his childhood fascinated by the bush and his natural curiosity gained him a deep understanding of the ways of the African wilderness.

After school, he took a job for Glen Cottar in Tsavo East National Park in 1968. This was a unique time in Tsavo as the park had some of the highest elephant and rhino densities in the world at that time.

When his uncle Peter Becker heard that Derek was working for one of his competitor, he convinced him to join him on an expedition deep into the Okavango Delta and the Kalahari in Botswana.

Amidst these adventures, Derek enrolled at the University of Nairobi, where he graduated with an Honours degree in design. He was then awarded a full scholarship to study architecture at Yale University and received his Master’s degree in 1976.

Derek joined Ker & Downey in the early 1980's, although his family’s connections with the firm began in the 1950's through his uncle, Peter.

Since that time Derek has led safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC 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 applied many of his design skills to Ker & Downey’s offices, 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 worked on the sets of a number of major Hollywood films shot in Africa, including Out of Africa and Gorilla’s in the Mist, and as a Junior Guide remembers being assigned to Sigourney Weaver, only to find out that he had lived in the same apartment building as her husband when they were at Yale.

In 1996,Derek was honoured with the African Wildlife Foundation’s Leadership Award and today he is one of a handful of examiners for the exclusive ‘Gold Level Professional Safari Guides’ accreditation, the highest qualification of the Kenya Professional Safari Guides Association.

Derek is married to an Irish-born artist, Elizabeth, and the couple have two sons: Thomas, who is also in the safari business - and Nick, who works as an engineer. He has also recently become a Grandfather to Nick’s daughter Olivia and Tom’s daughter Kiara!

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