Alex Walker is a fourth generation Kenyan and child of a professional hunter who spent his childhood in the forest and bush learning from local trackers. Today Alex is a highly respected private guide and the owner of some of our favorite properties in Kenya and Tanzania including Serian Mara, Serian Ngare and Serian Serengeti North and South (a mobile camp that follows the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti). We got him to answer some questions for us on his experiences as a guide.
1) When and why did you become a guide?
I spent my childhood in the bush, out with my father's trackers whenever possible, and I always knew that that's where I wanted to be. So at 17 I started as an apprentice in the safari industry, and the rest, as they say, is history.
2) Your most memorable experience as a guide
Every day out in the bush is memorable in its own way… The wilderness never stops yielding, and the magic is always there. One full moon night, I was fly-camping and a lioness and her two cubs came into camp. The cubs were playing mere metres from my tent, and one ran up and tumbled against it. Then they decided this was the best game ever, and spent the next half hour racing up to the tent, rolling and bouncing off the canvas with me watching centimetres away in my bedroll.
3) Safari moment you were most thrilled to have helped a client experience
Being part of anyone's safari experience is always so rewarding - you're translating the magic of a space for them, and when it gets under their skin, there's nothing better. A client, now a close friend, came out on safari with me 11 years ago, and still comes back at least once a year; just seeing his contentment with the simplicity of sitting around a campfire is great.
4) Top 3 favorite properties
5) Top 3 favorite national parks
Masai Mara for its sheer abundance of game and the variety of its landscape; Serengeti National Park for its endless plains and millions of acres of sky; and Ruaha National Park for its wildness and solitude.
6) Your favorite trip
When I first started taking clients on safari, there was no phone, no internet, and no fixed plans. We'd set off into the wild for 3/4 weeks, and not see another soul. If we liked a place, we'd stay longer. If not, we packed up and moved on deeper into the bush. Luxury had a whole different meaning then - it was all about space and solitude. For me, the last word in luxury was digging a hole in a sand river, lining it with my groundsheet, filling it with warm water and watching the stars from my makeshift tub with a whiskey in hand.
7) Somewhere you have always wanted to take guests but never have
A walking and tiger fishing safari on the Mnyera and Ruhudji rivers in Southern Tanzania… An unbelievably beautiful and wild part of the world.
8) What's on your bucket list?
Learning to surf, preferably in Bali or Sri Lanka!
9) 2 things you always tells your guests to bring when traveling
A sense of humor and an open mind. Leave behind your phone and anything that connects you to work, stress, and the 'real' world.
10) 2 things you think guests should know about Africa
1) You will never regret spending a longer time in one location, instead of rushing off and trying to tick off a whole country's highlights in one trip. My advice - anything less than 4 days in a place is too little.
2) It's a common misperception that 'the wildebeest migration' consists of the entire wildebeest population crossing the Mara River only once on their way from Tanzania to Kenya. In fact, they spend months circling this area, crossing back and forth across the river in search of grazing, avoiding predators, and generally acting on the belief that the grass is always greener on the other side.
11) Camera or binocular recommendations
I use a Canon 1dx with a 200-400 mm lens… A 300mm lens or equivalent for wildlife is a must.
Binoculars: mine are a trusty old pair of Zeiss 8x32, but Nikon Monarchs are great value for money - and Leica are the best if you have the budget.
12) Do you have a specialty?
Walking safaris are a big passion of mine. Getting out there on foot away from the noise and rush of a vehicle sharpens your senses, and peels back the fine layers and intricate details that make up the bush. There's no better way to get on intimate terms with a place.