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18 August 2022

Saba Douglas-Hamilton 2022 UK Tour, In the Footsteps of Elephants

We are so excited to be the official sponsors of Saba Douglas-Hamilton’s 2022 UK tour this September and October, across 22 venues.

YZ’s Director & Founder Julian says: “We’ve worked for years with Saba, Save the Elephants, and Elephant Watch itself. It’s really very rare to find a product as authentic and as ‘real’ as Elephant Watch. We’re really very proud to work with Saba for this tour.”

For all tour dates and venue/location details, please follow the link here: Tour Details >>

Born and raised in Kenya by her zoologist father and author mother, Saba is a conservationist and elephant expert. She has appeared as a hugely knowledgeable presenter on the BBC’s Big Cat Diary and This Wild Life series. She has also produced, directed, and presented a wide variety of programmes for the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.

Ahead of the tour, YZ’s Julian asks Saba some questions:

What inspired your work with elephants, and what’s your ultimate goal?

Elephants have been a big part of my life from the moment that I was born, partly because my parents were elephant scientists and I was brought up amongst them. But also because I have been fascinated by them, forever. And that’s not just elephants, all wild creatures – I’m really interested in animal behaviour and how different animals interact with each other within their own society. And also in between species.

"I think that in terms of being part of conservation – that was inevitable, right from the start."

But as I grew up and as the world has changed and these really big environmental issues have come to the fore, I think that, or at least for me certainly, is the only thing that I feel is really important to be doing right now. And that is trying to raise awareness and connect people back to the wild world. Because at the end of the day, biodiversity and wild species are what we depend on for our own survival.

Conservation is a difficult thing to be involved in. It can often feel like an uphill battle. And you have to have quite a hard skin to maintain it for a long period of time. When I started, I found it very difficult, but after I had children, it came back to me a thousandfold. Suddenly, everything distils once you’ve had children about what you feel is really important. And when I think about that time, I can remember wanting to put all of my energy into making the world a better place. How do I ensure that they have the kind of habitat that they need to live in when I am gone?

Tell us a little bit about your camp, Elephant Watch.

We built Elephant Watch Camp around 9/11 when we thought the world was coming to an end, but then we officially opened it in 2003. It is very much still in my mother’s style – very organic. Recycling all of the natural materials that we found around us, using a lot of the colours that are worn by the people who live in that area.

I think what I really like about it is just that we are utterly dedicated to being minimal, in fact zero impact, on the environment. That is what we are striving for. Maybe we don’t always reach that but we do try our hardest, so we are very water conscious. And we are very careful about all the supplies that we buy and where we buy and why.

The best thing for me about the camp is that you come there from a big city – maybe New York or London or Tokyo – and you arrive into this very raw but very safe, gentle wild environment. A lot of people get there and they think, ‘Oh my goodness, how am I going to get through the first 24 hours? How am I going to survive this night?’ But we help them through that and we hold their hands through the first night.

By the next morning, it is like a little raw butterfly coming out of the chrysalis, they shed their city skins and they’ve got through the night of strange sounds and strange scents and crazy bucket showers that we have, and it is almost like we have this rebirth into the wild, with wide open eyes. Being able to go on that journey with people – from shedding the city skin as I call it, into appreciating a much simpler way of life and a much closer relationship with the environment, I have to say is a very humbling experience.

If you could design a trip to Kenya for our clients, what would you include?

Saba Douglas Hamilton UK Tour 2022
Saba Douglas Hamilton in Kenya ©MirellaRicciardi

It depends very much on the adventure level you are looking for. There are places that I go to with my family, which I think are exceptional because they are very pure, very beautiful and maybe very isolated.

When you come to Kenya, you have such diverse habitats here and I really do feel that one should always go to the Maasai Mara. There are lots of lovely places, and one I highly recommend is Richard’s Camp. It is in a conservancy by the main reserve and it is part of a wonderful group of people who are doing a lot of work to create these big buffer zones beyond the protected areas.

There is also a wonderful new lodge that is very luxurious called Angama, which I would also recommend for people looking to have an exceptional wildlife experience.

But whether you are adventurous or looking for luxury, I would of course include Elephant Watch Camp as you get both of them there. When you come to Samburu, you have to work very hard for your wildlife. Other than the elephants, the elephants are incredible, but otherwise, you have to work to see the big cats. When you go to the Mara it is like landing in cream of the butter. I think it is a lovely contrast to have.

What advice would you give families travelling to Africa?

One of the things I loved in my teenage years was going on a camel safari. If you like walking and you like being in the bush and you like getting to know the local people in a much more interactive way – that is something that I would recommend to anyone who has got family, with children from 10 upwards. That is something to do that is fantastic for a family holiday.

My advice for families would be to diversify your adventure. Kids get really bored sitting in a car. And it is fine to do a bit of watching from the vehicle, but you really need to do things that are action packed. I would recommend riding and camel safaris – and also walking up into the mountain ranges. Bring in the action. Bring in the adventure. Kids have a lot of energy.

Throw away the iPads, get rid of the phones – don’t let them look at screens whilst they are here. Make them talk, make them engage, make them see what is going on around them.

Experiment a little bit and look for those adventures for your kids. Something that they will never forget for the rest of their lives.

Stay in each place for a little while and get to know it. Do fewer places but engage with them more. Try to find where people or camps or operators are giving back – I think that is incredibly important. The way that we travel around the world, we have to be very conscious of how we can give back and find ways to off-set your flight.

What is the next destination on your hotlist?

I’ve been longing to go to Gabon for a very very long time. That is 100% my next destination if possible. Either that or to go back to the Central Africa Republic – in both these incredible forest habitats, there are some very exciting projects in terms of conservation.

I find them some of the most deeply moving places that I’ve ever been in my life. Seeing the size of these trees in the forest and the intricacy around them and how they all relate. I was really fascinated meeting the forest elephants having spent so much time with savannah elephants, just because they are so profoundly different in so many ways. They communicate in so much lower frequencies because that is the sound that can move through the forest habitat as it is so congested.

Is there one piece of advice you’d tell your younger self?

Saba Douglas Hamilton in Samburu, Kenya
Saba Douglas Hamilton, Kenya with elephants

I think one thing that I would tell my younger self is that when you are standing at the bottom of a mountain looking up, it looks enormously tall and impossible to get there. But it just takes one step at a time. When you are in the lower foothills, you mustn’t worry because you will eventually get there. You’ve just got to put in the time and you’ve got to keep on going.

The key thing to say – would be try lots of different things! Open up lots of different doors, have lots of experiences. Don’t waste time. The more doors that you open, the more that comes back into your life again later on, and the more different opportunities it gives you. Even if you lack the confidence, just keep going and taking those small steps as it’ll take you where you want to be.

If you are interested in hearing more from Saba Douglas-Hamilton, make sure to book your tickets here. Otherwise, if you would like to speak to a YZ expert about a safari Kenya, don’t hesitate to contact us here or on +44 (0)20 8547 2305.

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