Imagine spending your days watching the world’s most incredible wild animals in the spectacular national parks of Kenya… sounds like a dream job right? For Dedan King’ori, a Maasai safari game driver, this is his everyday reality. We take a deep dive into his world, chatting to him about what it’s like to have one of the world’s most fascinating jobs, and what life is really like as a safari game driver in Kenya.
How do you become a safari game driver in Kenya?
Having had a passion for both travel and animals since he was a child, Dedan was always drawn to a career as a safari game driver in Kenya. Since becoming a safari game driver in 2003, he has spent almost two decades filling his days with incredible adventures and wildlife.
“My love for travel and animals made it very easy to settle on what would become my dream career.”
Becoming a safari game driver in Kenya isn’t easy though, and requires extensive training to be successful at the job. While Dedan went through training for skills such as tour guiding, first aid, map reading, and identifying plants and animals, it was also just as important to learn unique problem solving and communication skills. These are crucial when you’re working in the unpredictable, and often dangerous, wilderness of Kenya.
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What is an average day at work like for a safari game driver?
For Dedan, a typical day at work involves an early start before sunrise, so he can take his guests on a morning game drive. This is one of the best times to spot animals as they are most active in the cool early mornings. They also become active again in the cool evenings right before sunset, so Dedan can also spend his afternoons out on game drives.
“The best part of my job is seeing the smiles of my guests after I’ve met their expectations and they’ve spotted some incredible animals on safari”
Some days, he spends his whole day out on safari, so guests can get the most out of their trip. Although it’s never guaranteed you’ll spot animals, Dedan knows these regions like the back of his hand. He is highly skilled in seeking out different animals, whether they’re lurking in the grasslands or gathering around a waterhole.
And when you do get that long-awaited sighting of a majestic lion or an elephant, that’s really what makes it all worthwhile for Dedan.
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What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen while on safari?
When you work in the stunning national parks of Kenya, you get to see some pretty extraordinary things. This is one of Dedan’s most memorable highlights as a Maasai safari game driver:
“The most amazing thing I have seen while on safari is a lioness standing her ground and fearlessly defending her cubs from being killed by a male during a takeover of her territory. She managed to rescue all three, but not without sustaining serious injuries.”
For most people, witnessing these animals in their most wild and natural is a thrilling, ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. But for Dedan, it’s all part of the job!
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After getting to see so many animals hunting and playing in their wild habitat, we had to ask; What is your favourite animal to spot?
“My favourite animal to see is the lion, which to me is the face of royalty. I also love bird watching and since Kenya has over a thousand bird species, the bird-spotting opportunities are endless.”
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Why is it important to protect and conserve the Maasai lands and its animals?
The Maasai Mara is the most iconic national reserve in Kenya. It’s a protected wilderness of spectacular landscapes and wildlife including lions, elephants, zebras, cheetahs and hippos.
It’s also here you can witness the Great Migration, famed as the Greatest Show on Earth, where millions of wildebeest make their annual journey to greener pastures across the Mara River.
“You’ll get to see the biggest concentration of mammals in the world, when you witness the wildebeest and zebras migrating in their millions from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara”
The Maasai Mara is also home to the ancient Maasai tribe, renowned for their fierce warriors and brightly-coloured traditional dress. Once a semi-nomadic tribe in Kenya, they are now one of the few remaining tribes who have held on to much of their traditions and lifestyle. You can see their villages (enkangs) dotted around the grassy plains and river landscapes of the Maasai Mara.
“The ancient Maasai culture were nomadic pastoralists who traditionally never built permanent houses. They moved with their cattle herds according to the seasons and to prevent areas from being overgrazed.”
Dedan is lucky to work as a safari game driver in the Maasai Mara, and he has a first-hand insight into the importance of culture and wildlife in this region. His work as a game driver aims to help protect the lands of the native people and their Maasai traditions, and the animals who live here.
“We need to protect the game reserves found in Maasai community lands so we can preserve some of the world’s most endangered species for many years to come.”
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Do you have any tips for people going on a Maasai safari for the first time?
The most important part of going on safari is to always follow the park rules. Dedan says that all safari game drivers will brief the guests on these rules before the trip.
The most common rules will include things like staying inside the vehicle and not using a flash on your camera. You also shouldn’t bring any food that animals may smell, and always avoid making loud noises. The rules are there for everyone to have a safe and enjoyable experience, and Dedan is always there to help you with any concerns.
You can go on safari with Dedan and experience what it’s like to have such a fascinating job. Travel with him for 9 days on our Wonders of Kenya trip or for the first 8 days in Kenya on our African Safari Adventure.
Have you ever been on a Maasai safari or a safari game drive in Kenya? Let us know in the comments below!