Tyrone McKeith
Interview Words : The World According To ... | 04 June

The World According to Tyrone McKeith

Safari guide and anti-poaching campaigner Tyrone McKeith on what makes Africa's wildlife worth protecting

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?

The African bush.

First travel experience?

Kenya; Tsavo and the Mara with my father when I was six years old. Maybe earlier but I can’t remember!

Favourite journey?

Deep into the Peruvian Amazon, five days boating south from Iquitos and along tributaries of the Amazon River with Columbia, Brazil and Peru all in eye shot. Pink river dolphins following the boat, giant river otters in ancient oxbow lagoons. The list is endless…

Top five places worldwide?

Kafue National Park, Zambia; North Luangwa National Park, Zambia; Amazon rainforest; Beijing; Central Kalahari.

Special place to stay?

The Busanga Plains in November. This area is in the far north of the Kafue National Park in Western Zambia. Little visited but one of the most spectacular wildlife areas I have been to. The mood of the Plains with building rain clouds and storms in November is something not to miss out on, let alone the proliferation of wildlife and the influx of a multitude of migratory birds.

Three items you always pack?

Camera; binoculars; baseball cap.

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

China.

Passport stamp you'd most like to have?

Nepal.

Guilty travel pleasure?

A nice cold beer.

Window or aisle?

Aisle.

Who is your ideal travelling companion?

Someone funny, who enjoys talking about sport, photography and wildlife. I imagine Bruce Parry would be an interesting chap to travel with?

Best meal on the road? Worst?

The best meal on the road was recently in Singapore, every meal was superb, soup noodles for breakfast for not more than $2. I was not brave enough to have the frog porridge… My worst must have been in Peru where we had large white beetle lavae when our rations had finished.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

The Central Kalahari was probably the most surprising, it was far more interesting than I had given it credit in my head for, arguably more so than some of the bigger named areas in Botswana, the likes of Savute and Linyanti, which were arguably a slight disappointment.

Where do you NOT want to go?

There is nowhere I do not want to go to. I want to go everywhere! Oh maybe Myrthyr Tyfill in Wales, I went there once and wasn’t impressed.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Initially and I suppose still to this day it was my father. He dragged me along with him on his adventures from an early age. Having been in international air freight for many years, he was forever in far flung corners of the world. Today he is a safari tour operator for Busanga Safaris and he continues to provide me with travel inspiration, notably through amazing stories from places like Borneo and the Congo, where he leads trips annually.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

I have probably the most eclectic music taste in the world. Listening to some old school funky soul in my headphones while travelling on Zambian coaches showing gospel church music videos is something everyone should try once.

What do you read ?

Travel books predominantly. I am not a big fan of fiction, I like to learn from what I read. My ‘escapism’ comes from travel and wildlife.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

Living in Zambia I am lucky to meet a whole host of interesting people. Recently I met a young English man who is cycling through Africa, through the Congo and around the western coastline. Meeting people that give up everything to do something like that takes courage, and being English restores a bit of faith in the ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude which many are too quick to denounce in today’s society.

What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?

I am not sure if it is impressive, but knowing a good bit of the local language where I work is a great way to earn that little bit more respect from people, even if they already speak English. The Kaonde people are fantastic.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Oddly it is being too early. I hate waiting around for things like planes and buses, I have the habit of going to where I need to be so far in advance that I always end up saying to myself, next time just get here on time…

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

I would probably try and be funny, maybe seeing if anybody used to watch the cult classic sitcom The Office and plough through as many quotes as I could remember.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

Where I am currently writing this from, the Kafue National Park. There is a deep connection to this place, almost spiritual, you have to come and experience it first hand to understand.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

For me it is the smell of the first rains in the dry African bush. This coincides with the end of the main tourist season and generally the time when I get to travel further afield.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

I would have loved to travel in and around the 1900s to Africa. To see the rolling plains of Eastern Africa chocker blocked with a whole host of wildlife species, and in proliferation must have been awe inspiring. The accounts of the ‘Great White Hunters’ of the time, that talk of great numbers of animals are amazing.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

Although not a city person by any means, I am a big fan of London, I am not sure exactly what it is but the place is special. Maybe combining the majestic almost mythical history of Beijing and the Forbidden City with the elegance and architecture of Valencia.

Tyrone McKeith manages a safari camp in the Kafue in Zambia. He is at the forefront of promoting anti-poaching activity in the region and is determined to put Kafue more firmly on the safari map and in turn help to preserve its extraordinary wildlife.

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