Guide Profiles

Tom Dames

Tom Dames

Tom grew up in the safari business - and was born just after his father, Derek, joined Ker and Downey Safaris in 1981. But the family’s history with the company goes back to the 1950’s when his Uncle Peter Becker joined.

"I am often asked what is my earliest memory of safari. I can’t really remember the moment when I suddenly realized how big an elephant was, or how scared I was the first time a lion stared at me, but night time sounds whilst lying in a Ker and Downey tent will always be etched in my memory. I still remember that tingling sensation I got when I heard that eerie sound a hyena makes; and how warm and safe the blankets felt. I believe night time sounds on an African safari leave an indelible mark on anyone - but more so on a child because of their vivid imagination! Above all else, it is the sounds of the African night that brings a safari alive for me - and it is why I always encourage prospective guests to put a Luxury Mobile Camping Safari at the top of their list! You hear and feel none of this from the 4 walls of a lodge."

"Having said that, some of my fondest childhood memories of safari life are of the old Ker and Downey premises… it was a long skinny walled property in the heart of Nairobi’s bustling and dusty Industrial Area. It was always hot and noisy."

"For a kid, there was always something exciting happening there - tents being cleaned and repaired, trucks being loaded or un-loaded, vehicles being serviced and boxes being made. One thing that every child who grows up in the safari business learns early on is that the essence of a mobile camping safari is boxes. Forget food, fine wine, wild animals and glamorous guests. The thing you learn early on is that it all comes down to boxes and tin-trunks and how they fit into the safari truck. It is like some enormous 3-dimensional game of tetris played by adults. But the rewards at the end are this enormous sense of freedom and adventure."

"The safari go-down was an endless warren of fun equipment to play on. The General Manager at the time was a wonderful old man called Sol Rabb - and he had what appeared to be an in-exhaustible supply of Dairy Milk chocolate in the bottom drawer of his metal filing cabinet. That I remember fondly!"

"But mostly, it was the intangible air of excitement and adventure that emanates from a busy safari yard - that - and being surrounded by wonderfully patient teachers and mentors - in the form of the guides and camp staff that Ker and Downey has always been famous for. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful formal education - but I am most grateful to all these wonderful people who helped with my in-formal education!"

"After graduating from University in the UK with an Honors Degree in Zoology, and having learnt to fly light aircraft through the University Air Squadron, a part of the Royal Air Force Reserve, I toyed with the idea of joining the Air Force full time. But, safari-life was beckoning and I wanted to see new parts of Africa, so I took a safari apprenticeship under the watchful eye of Danny McCallum in the depths of Southern Tanzania."

"That was an adventure into a true wilderness - it was a 7 day drive to camp the first time I did it. The tarred road ended half way through the first day - I didn’t see another one, or a television, or a telephone or a town of any sorts for 7 months.

Since then, Tom has accompanied guests in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, the DRC, Cameroon and Ethiopia, and once drove a Ford Escort from Scotland to Gambia - including 700 miles through the Sahara desert!

Tom lives with Kimmy, who grew up on the stunning Kenyan coast and they recently had a little girl - Kiara. We hope she will have the best of both the beach and the bush! When not on safari, Tom can generally be found tinkering in his workshop somewhere, building or fixing a boat, or pursuing his other great passion - fishing!

Tom Dames

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