Renowned elephant conservationist and wildlife presenter, Saba Douglas-Hamilton, brings stories of her homeland to the Victoria Theatre, Halifax on April 30 (7.30pm) as part of a 15 date tour during. Known to millions of television viewers for This Wild Life and Big Cat Diaries, Saba recounts exciting animal stories and intimate tales of life in Kenya with her young family. Here she gives a taste of what’s to come.
You grew up on the savannahs of East Africa. What did you get out of it that you hope your kids do as well?
Growing up among people of very different cultures teaches you to be more fluent in different ways of life and thinking – and that perhaps is the most important thing of all – to have a perspective outside of the ‘Western bubble’.
Was it a difficult decision to take over this camp with a young family in tow?
Not really. I was going a bit mad being a ‘mum in the suburbs’, especially after the twins were born. My life pre-kids was very adventurous and mostly in wild places, as was my husband’s, so we were both pining for a bit of wilderness. Luckily, a lot of things aligned to make it possible to escape urban life and head up into the wild to Elephant Watch Camp.
What has been the most difficult part of the experience?
Trying to juggle the very high standards of Elephant Watch Camp – a luxury tented safari lodge that specialises in all things wildlife and elephants – to exceed the expectations of our guests whenever possible, along with the demands of our kids, the day to day challenges of running a camp in a remote location, the needs of my husband and those of a BBC television crew (while they were there), was tough! Your kids are still young. Do you envisage things changing as they get older?
We’ll have to see how it goes – for the moment we are dealing with school by being quite nomadic. If we stay here more permanently, we’ll probably get a tutor for a few years. Boarding school is not an option until the kids are at least 15. I had a miserable experience of it myself at 13 – which I think is too young – so I wouldn’t want our kids to go through the same.
Your kids have a Samburu warrior as a babysitter, armed with a machete, spear and slingshot. What is the most dangerous situation he has saved them from?
It became clear quite rapidly that we needed a Ninja-nanny to keep an eye on the kids while I was busy working. I think the most dangerous situation was when Mayian (one of the twins) was stomping along and walked straight into Sarara’s (a bull elephant) backside. When she saw his feet then looked up she got the most terrible fright. He swung around and shook his head at her, but luckily by then Mporian, who was hot on her tail, had managed to snatch her to safety.
What advice for people thinking of doing something similar with their kids?
Life is very short, but sadly this often only comes home to us when we experience the loss of someone we love. So my advice is to live your dreams now, no matter how scary it might seem to take the first step. It’s something I try to remind myself of every day because we all fall into the trap of taking the easiest (laziest) route. Other than that, it’s mostly about having a supportive and loving family environment. If kids feel secure and happy, they can survive almost anything.