Peter Allison is a famous writer, writing hilarious books about his time as one of Africa’s top safari guides. He now works as founder as one of the most exciting safari companies in Africa, Natural Selection, who specialise in camps with real heart and soul, and a focus on seeing game not only from a vehicle but from floating hides, walks, sky beds and much more. They have camps in Namibia and Botswana – our current favourites are Sable Alley, SkyBeds, Jack’s Camp, San Camp and Camp Kalahari.
1 Earliest memory of being in the bush?
I was 19 and hadn’t been in Africa long, and went on a game drive with a guide (Iain Garrett) a mere year older than me who seemed to know every animal, even plants as an individual. He set a very high bar for me as to what a guide should be, so made me work very hard in my career. Despite that we are still friends.
2 Most magical / exciting wildlife experience you have ever had?
Elephants are my favourite animal, and over the years there was one herd I got to know very well with a distinctive matriarch whose tusks curved out to the side like Dali’s moustache. She and her family were incredibly relaxed and felt like family to me (I’d perhaps lived in a tent a bit too long to reach that state). One day I was trying to find her herd but instead found vultures and was distraught, but needn’t have worried – they were there because the matriarch was giving birth and they were going to clean up. I witnessed the birth, the baby’s first steps, drink and swim over a few wonderful hours with my guests.
3 Most enchanting experience you have had with the African people?
In far north Namibia I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with the Himba people, some of Africa’s last true nomads who live on one of the world’s driest corners. Spending time with them is a lesson in human resilience, adaptability and how much you can communicate with just sign language.
4 Why you love your camp(s), and why to visit?
Diversity. Not just in wildlife, but things to do – from quad biking at Jack’s to boating at Sable Alley, or sitting in the floating hide at Meno as zebra come to drink in front of you (one of the most sedate yet satisfying safari experiences).
5 Favourite member of staff/guide at your camp and why?
No way. If I answer this and pick the wrong person I just may get thorns in my bed next time I visit…
6 Favourite place in Africa outside of your camp and why?
Cape Town! While the scenery is justly famous I live in the Cape for the quality of life that is unmatched in the world. The prices you pay to be in one of the world’s great food cities are tiny, and you have access to the world’s only suburban wine route!
7 In one line, what do you feel is the best way forward for community and wildlife conservation in Africa?
Collaboration. Scientists, safari companies, and communities must work together to find a way that thriving wildlife leads to better conditions for local people.
8 Who is your own safari hero and why?
Colin Bell has been a friend and mentor to me for over twenty years, and at 60 something still attacks every endeavour with an energy that is both inspiring and daunting. I need coffee just to watch him work.