The lure of Africa is largely the fault of one Ernest Hemingway, who presumably spent just enough time there to get sufficient background material to enable him to knock off a few pot-boilers and then beat a hasty retreat to the much kinder shores of the Florida Keys.
I had the misfortune to have to go to Kenya to shoot one part of a calendar for a lager company.
The pleasure started in London, when the Kenya state carrier had to abort two take-offs due to explosions in an engine. The second aborted attempt required an overnight stay at the airport - yes, they did give us a hotel for the night. On arrival at Nairobi - late, and nobody had turned up to meet the party - we were put into a very nice hotel where we managed to stay just long enough for my wife to find her way into a shopping area where she bought some props for the model to wear.
The next bit was a flight with Biggles to a place called Kitchwa Tembo (forgive the spelling if incorrect - long time ago) where we were shown to our tents and the en-suite facilities were pointed out: a secondary end to the tent where a duckboard covered a hole in the ground. Above the board was a system of tubes and watering can spouts which were the showers. Yes. The duckboarding was thick with webs, God alone knows what lay underneath or who would be brave enough to set foot upon them.
Meals were to be had in the luxury of the dining-room - a sort of beach-bar edifice where mystery meats were on the menu.
Nightfall was the coming of darkness and fear. The tents, to describe them briefly, had long, sagging pockets alongside the ´beds´ and it was just our luck to come back the first night to see a large arachnid wander down the wall into said pocket. Now, as anyone who has lived in Australia or India (India in my case) will be able to tell you, you don´t take these creatures lightly. Well, we never did manage to get the mother out of his pocket, try as we might, and the night was passes in a state of utter exhaustion and hallucination wherein I saw dozens of the cute wee things crawling over my wife´s bed and coming up through the folds in the groundsheet. I honestly don´t know which part of it was real and which was dream.
Up in the morning and off to school - oops! no time for Chuck here - off in the truck to see the animals and get some pics with model in foreground. Naturally enough, the driver wouldn´t let us off the vehicle. Great. Explain that back at the ranch.
From there and the tent of horrors, we flew in a second ´light´ aircraft to another place called Buffalo Lodge. This one, at least, had proper walls if the roof was still thatched with the breeding grounds for heaven-knows-what. And a direct view of Mount Kilmanjaro. Except that it didn´t - there isn´t one because there is no Kilimanjaro. What you see are two peaks: a lower one, off to the left which is at least craggy and interesting to look at, and a second one to the right which has the snow, but neither is called Kilimanjaro. The left one is something like Uluru (reminded me of the Ayer´s Rock name at the time) and I forget the name of the one that gets sold as Kilimanjaro, but K it isn´t.
The ladies on the trip had been all dewey-eyed when, on arrival at Buffalo, they spied a cute little cat which had just given birth to a litter of kittens on the tiny terrace by the doorway to one of the huts. On telling of this event at the Reception desk, they were not at all prepared for the panic which ensued as the staff vanished in pursuit of this happy family. Clearly, nobody had bothered to pre-warn us intrepid travellers about the reality of rabies...
After Buffalo, we had to go to Mombasa for another idyllic location dreamed up by the ´sponsor´. This time, instead of a flight plan we had a truck ride. This seemed to take forever and consisted of two memorable events: the first was when the driver stopped at a roadside shack and came back with a rather long knife which he put under his seat. When the silence was eventually breached, it turned out that it wasn´t for us, but for his protection because the homeboys in Mombasa were not his homeboys. The second incident was when we had to take some time off-road. This wasn´t anything at all to do with Safari Rallies or anything like that, just a little meander to avoid rock road blocks set up by other, unseen, tribes persons. The welcoming side of tourism, you might feel.
In Mombasa we had to get the truck onto a ferry, after which crossing we eventually arrived at a rather nice hotel - Diani Beach, I think. Now, if ever there was a lesson to be learned about zoos and kindness to animals, I learned it on that ferry: it is NOT cool to be surrounded by a crowd of faces staring in at one and one´s belongings. (One time I wished I hadn´t worn the Submariner, Michael.) They had a very nice PR man in that hotel, who came around to join the group, quite uninvited, and offered to let us all try smoking his hubble-bubble pipe. The only taker, naturally enough, was the model. Sadly, the invitation was rapidy followed by an invoice for the service provided. I like PR men.
And should anyone think that going home was accomplished without pain, I have to relate to you that departure was not permitted without a departure ticket/pass - as distinct from your everyday boarding-pass and flight ticket - which was not available at the check-in as they had run out of them. Eventually, some of us wandered off around the terminal and found a person lounging in a side-office who was prevailed upon to hand out a dozen or so. What in hell the rest of the flight did, I have no idea.
But wait, Africa hadn´t finished with us yet: at the check-in desk, right there in the full spotlight of Mombasa´s tourist doorway to the world, the bloody giant at the desk put my camera bag on the scales, ALONG WITH HIS FOOT, and charged me excess baggage.
And you want to go there to shoot animals?
You can keep the damn continent - it creates its own curse!