Saturday 9 November 2013


I was fortunate to visit Kora three times during the years that George Adamson and his brother Terrance lived there. I actually met Terrance first, out on one of the tracks leading to their camp, hatless and shirtless in the mid-day sun, supervising a gang of workers who were levelling the track surface. It was very noticeable that the tracks in the area improved the closer you got to their camp!

Terrance Adamson

Their camp was a very special place. There were a couple of communal huts with open sides facing out through the 12 foot chain-link fence that surrounded the camp.

George, feeding a friend

The sleeping huts were fully enclosed and made using a system the British army had perfected with walls made of hessian dipped in cement mix - termite proof and light which meant they didn't hold the sun's heat and make the nights too hot!

Probably the most talked about (by visitors) part of the camp was the ablutions area. Screened off by a six foot fence made of dried vegetation, it contained a shower and a toilet. 

Shower & loo this way

Terrance came up with a simple and efficient toilet. They dug a foot-wide trench across the area and placed the seat - an elephant's jawbone - on a wooden frame. There was a can containing loo rolls, and a small shovel so you could back-fill over what you had done. Because the bone was white it didn't get too hot and because there was nothing damp and/or uncovered there were no flies and no smells - brilliant!!

The loo

As you can see, when you were on the loo you were screened from the rest of the camp - but not from the rest of Kora. It was not uncommon for a lion to walk past on the other side of the chain-link fence. Different visitors reported this having different effects on their 'motions' - some speeding up remarkably and other closing down completely!

On my last visit George was excited and said he had a surprise for me! At dusk, after we had eaten, we drove down to the river where he showed me a new camp that had been built. A group of people were just finishing their meal on a long table - under an equally long, horizontal, fever-tree branch from which they had hung lanterns. We were greeted at the gate by a big guy who George introduced to me as Dr Malcolm Coe. Dr Coe is a remarkable man, a leading eco-scientist from Oxford University. He explained that the camp was to be the base for a year-long project to make a catalogue of the flora and fauna of Kora. The project was sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society. Various academic experts would come out for a couple of weeks at a time and overlap so there was always some work going on. He invited us in to share a post-prandial glass and led me around the table introducing a Professor of Botany, a Professor of Biology . . etc. Since I had at that point spent more than two years 'in the bush' I was able to make some suggestions to each of these experts about things I had observed. Happily they listened and somehow appreciated my feedback.  Then I was introduced to three guys from Landrover UK who told me that their company was also sponsoring the project - by supplying three proto-type V8 Landrovers. 

Landrover testing

They asked if I could spare any time the next day to go out with them and give them feedback. I agreed very quickly!! 

Then, after over an hour, we made it around the table and started to walk towards a very inviting camp fire with canvas seats all around. 

So far they were all empty - except for one which was occupied by a guy who looked rather like George! Dr Coe said "Oh, can I introduce you to Sir Vivien Fuchs? He is the president of the RGS this year and has come to help launch the project!"

My jaw dropped! As a child I had been raised on Ladybird books of great explorers and Vivien Fuchs had been a particular hero for his polar expeditions! I started flapping my mouth like a beached fish - "er, . . . er, . . . shouldn't you be in the snow somewhere sir?" He laughed. "Actually I first came to Africa in 1936. I recruited 150 porters in Nairobi and we walked up and around Lake Turkana. First time it had been done. Took three months. Rested up. Recruited another 150 porters - for some reason none of the first lot would re-enlist! - and walked across to the west coast. First time that had been done!"

He paused, and I said "OK, OK, you can stay!"

As a footnote, 15 months after this meeting I got an invitation to the National Theatre in Nairobi to an event to sum up the project and thank all its sponsors. Ecological experts and reporters from all over the world attended - a full house! Dr Coe introduced various speakers and then blew them all away with his wonderful, witty and illuminating summary! At the end, as the crowd started to leave he came charging along the aisle (he is a big man! He has been described as "The thinking-lady's David Bellamy") and dropped into the now empty seat next to me. "David! What did you think of that?" I was speechless. I couldn't believe this great guy wanted my opinion!! Three months after that a signed copy of his book on the project dropped through my door! Happy days.


  1. A great story from start to finish. I felt I was there (and jealous that I wasn't!)
    I must Google Vivien Fuchs. The locals must have thought he was NUTS.

    1. Bless you Muzungu Mama! My humble blog is feeble compared with yours!!!!