X No Thanks

When the Lion Roars

by Jonathan Scott on 19 June 2014, 15:06PM

intro2image credit: Angela Scott

Many people think that I live in England, the land of my birth. But I don’t. I am proud to call Kenya my home. I have lived here for nearly 40 years and married my sweetheart Angela in 1992 in a beautiful ceremony on the Siria Escarpment overlooking the Masai Mara’s animal speckled plains (thinking of a Honeymoon location – this is it!). A year later we bought a house of our own on the outskirts of Nairobi. People told us we were mad buying property in Kenya – that we would never see a return on our investment. We wanted a beautiful place for our children to call home, quality of life: we weren’t looking for a good investment. In the end we got both in abundance.

The Masai Mara is our second home. For part of each year we base ourselves in a small stone cottage at Governor’s Camp in Marsh Pride territory – lions I have watched since 1977.  We know the Marsh Lions better than we do many of our human friends. At night we lie in bed and listen to their thunderous roars echoing across the plains from Musiara Marsh at the heart of their territory. This is a never ending story and what keeps us wanting to set out early each morning. The joys of safari are one reason why so many visitors fall in love with Kenya and long to return.


These same Marsh Lions were destined to become the stars of the hugely popular TV series Big Cat Diary that I co-presented for the BBC and Animal Planet from 1996 through to the final series known as Big Cat Live that aired in 2008. Big Cat was watched by tens of millions of viewers around the world with hundreds of video clips on YouTube. I am proud of the fact that many Kenyan’s have been able to share in this story – to see their big cats on TV. The majority will never be able to marvel at the sight of wild lions, leopards and cheetahs in the way that visitors from overseas are so fortunate to do.

So how did I get to live my dream? As a child growing up on a farm in Berkshire I was obsessed with wildlife and Africa. So in 1974 after taking a degree in Zoology at Queens University in Belfast in Northern Ireland I set off overland for Johannesburg in an old Bedford Truck. That 10,000 km trek through Africa changed my life. I got malaria and amoebic dysentery along the way but who cares – take your Malarone prophylactic and sleep under a mosquito net and you should be fine. After four months on the road I not only lost my heart to Africa but glimpsed the place that I most wanted to return to: the Mara-Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania - an animal paradise without equal. After two years working with wildlife in Botswana I headed back to Kenya, more certain than ever that this was where I wanted to make my home.

image credit: Angela Scott

A plan was beginning to emerge. My father was an architect and a talented artist who died when I was two years old. The gift he left me was in being an artist. I could always draw and was a keen photographer. Prior to leaving for Kenya a publisher in South Africa commissioned my first set of my pen and ink drawings of wildlife. Meanwhile a friend had introduced me to Jock Anderson of East African Wildlife Safaris who was looking for someone to help keep an eye on his camp situated a few kilometers north of the Reserve. For the next five years Mara River Camp became my home. I couldn’t have cared less that there was no pay. I was living in the Garden of Eden with a canvas roof over my head.

That was 1977. Nearly 40 years later with 26 books to my name - many of them co-authored with my wife Angie who is also an award-winning wildlife photographer - and as co-presenter of TV shows such as Big Cat Diary, Elephant Diaries, Dawn to Dusk, The Secret Leopards and The Truth About Lions what have I learned from following my dream? Firstly, to live with acceptable risk. I spent four years (1968-72) at University in Belfast during the ‘Troubles’ with people telling me I must be crazy to stay there as a ‘Brit’ with riots and bombs exploding on a regular basis. The truth was that I had the time of my life. I simply refused to buy in to the fear factor. The same could be said about living in Africa. I have never been attacked or had my home broken in to. I still walk the main streets of Nairobi and feel as safe as I do when on foot in London or San Francisco. Yes of course you need to be sensible. Its never smart to walk in to neighbourhoods you know nothing about wherever you are in the world (always ask your guide and hotel receptionist for advice first).


My wife and daughter are Kenya Citizens; our Grandson Michael was born in the wonderful Aga Kahn Hospital in Nairobi last June and has already made two safaris to the Mara along with trips to Ol Pejeta in Laikipia and to Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks. And he has loved a memorable stay over Easter at the Serena Hotel in Mombasa on the Kenya coast. His ten months old. Will I still be spending time with the Marsh Lions and enjoying the miracle of the great migration? You better believe it - starting next month.

Yes, security is an issue everywhere these days and of course it is only right for Governments to warn their citizens of risks to their safety. It’s then up to each individual to evaluate that risk – just as our daughter Alia and partner did before taking our Grandson on safari or to the coast. We can never be certain that life will treat us kindly or that bad things might not happen. That is why it’s so important not to become prisoners of our fears.

image credit: Angela Scott

And our precious wildlife? The bottom line is this. If we abandon tourism we abandon conservation. When people ask us ‘how can we help’ we say ‘by taking a safari’, something that I feel fortunate to have adopted as a way of life. Wildlife based tourism is not a choice it’s a necessity; it pays the bills. Is the International Community prepared to bare the cost if we lose that revenue? Let’s see. Right now our hearts go out to our fellow Kenyan’s most affected by hard times – those who shoulder the greatest burden in living side by side with wild animals and in facing up to terrorism.

A smile and a wave is a language we all understand and when it comes to its visitors Kenyan’s offers them a hearty welcome in tandem with an unforgettable safari experience - regardless of where in the world you come from. We need you all. And that is the point? We are all connected – we need to set aside our differences and pull together. If we are serious about saving the worlds wildlife be it elephants or rhinos, pandas or lions we won’t do it without collective action. It’s time for people to think about their first safari – or their next one - and to remind us why they ‘Love Kenya’. I know why I do. How about you?


For more information about Kenya visit www.magicalkenya.com

To find out more about holidays to Kenya, go to www.travelbag.co.uk/holidays/africa/kenya

Author bio: Jonathan and Angie Scott are award winning authors and internationally renowned wildlife photographers based in Kenya, Africa. They’re the only couple to have individually won the Overall Award in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition – Jonathan in 1987 and Angie in 2002. They have been honoured as Canon Ambassadors – and members of the SanDisk Elite Team – a small group of world-renowned photographers whose work and ethos has proved an inspiration to others. They divide their time between their beautiful home in a leafy suburb of Nairobi – with giraffes as their neighbours – and a cottage at Governor’s Camp overlooking the animal speckled plains of the Masai Mara, Africa’s finest wildlife area. The Mara is the location for many of the popular TV series that Jonathan has presented for the BBC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Paramount TV and Turner Broadcasting including Big Cat Diary, Elephant Diaries, Big Bear Diary, Dawn to Dusk, Flamingo Watch and Africa Watch.

6 Places to Celebrate Lunar New Year

Read More

A Hop Around the World’s Beers

Read More

Top 10 Things to do in Vancouver

Read More

Antigua: Paradise at the Right Price

Read More
Post of the month
by Tourism Australia More

Email sign up

Register to receive holiday offers, cheap flights deals, hotel offers and more.

Travelbag Travel/Leisure London

01 Jan 00:00 Read More
Travelbag's Twitter
Common Tags
24 Hours 48 hours in 5 Reasons Abu Dhabi Activities Adventure Holiday Africa Alaska America Antigua Argentina asia Auckland Australasia Australia bahamas Bahrain Bali Bangkok Barbados Beach Holidays Beaches beer Bolivia Bora Bora Borneo Botswana Brazil California Cambodia Campervan Canada Cancun Cape Town Caribbean Central America Chicago Chile China City Breaks Colombo Colorado Cook Islands Costa Rica Cruise Holidays Cruises Cuba culture Dining Dominican Republic Dubai Ecuador Europe Family Holidays Festivals Fiji Florida food Food Trip Gold Coast Grenada Hanoi Hawaii hiking Ho Chi Minh City Hoi An holiday reading holidays Honeymoon Hong Kong India Indian Ocean Indian Ocean Luxury Holidays Indonesia Jamaica Japan Jordan Kenya Koh Samui Krabi kuala lumpur Langkawi Laos las vegas Latin America Literature los angeles Luxury Holidays Macau Malaysia Maldives Mauritius Melbourne Mexico Miami Middle East Montreal motorhome holidays music Myanmar Namibia Nature New England New York New Zealand North New Zealand Northen Territory Oman Oregon Orlando Penang Perth Perth Beaches Peru Phuket Qatar Quebec Queensland Queenstown Rail Travel Ras Al Khaimah Reading on holiday Road trip Safari San Francisco Scuba Diving Self-Drive Seychelles Shanghai Sightseeing Trip Singapore snorkelling South Africa South America South Australia South Carolina South New Zealand Southeast Asia Sri Lanka St Lucia Surfing Sydney Tahiti Tasmania Tennessee Texas Thailand Things To Do Tokyo Top 5 Things to Do Toronto tour trekking UAE United States USA USA Roadtrip Utah Vancouver Vietnam Vietnam Beaches Virginia Washington DC Western Australia whale watching Wildlife Wine Winter Sun
Please Wait...

We use cookies
Read more

Cookies: We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our website, you are agreeing to use our site cookies.
See our cookie policy for more information on cookies and how to manage them.

Would you like a call back from one of our experts? X
chat with our experts
0871 703 4698
Call us until today

Schedule a call back


Please Select a Date


Please Select a Time


Please supply your First Name


Please supply your Surname

Phone Number

Please Check the Number and Try Again


Please Select a Destination


Dear , our experts will call you on , on to chat about your trip. In the meantime, feel free to explore our site for inspiration