Natural Habitat Adventures

Ben Forbes

Ben was born into a military family in England and grew up on a diet of forces jargon, Monty Python and the belief that his dad must have a machine gun hidden in the house somewhere. A traditional English boarding school education provided Ben with the proof that “nowhere” had existed until it was discovered by brave Victorian explorers in the 1800's. Furnished with this and similar sound information, Ben went to Africa for the first time to stay with an uncle treating Kenyan lepers at his village clinic. At 10 years of age, he came to realize that Wales wasn't actually the poorest country on earth and that there were people in Africa who were paid to track animals all day and live in a tent. He was hooked.

On leaving school, Ben moved to Egypt to work for the refugee ministry in Cairo and spent twelve months assessing the status of refugees from the Horn of Africa. It was a vast and hopeless task for a 19 year old but considerably more rewarding than the subsequent three years he spent reading English at University in London. Ben missed his graduation ceremony in favor of a job training gap year volunteers for their placements in community development projects in Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan. This position also meant he was able to relocate to the remote Hebridean Island of Coll which left a permanent impact on both soul and liver.

Finally the pull of Africa was impossible to ignore and selling his VW campervan to raise the airfare, he flew to South Africa on the vague promise of a job building a safari camp in Botswana. Ben made a pretence of carpentry by day and studied by lamplight for his national guides license, to this day he can read the Behavioural Guide to African Mammals like Braille. Guiding in Botswana for four years meant that Ben was able to work in various remote bush camps and even captain a houseboat of dubious design into the heart of the Okavango Delta. Botswana was a guide’s paradise, from leading walking safaris in the elephant rich Savuti channel, to waterskiing on the Okavango River and having altogether too much fun chasing wild dog hunts across the open plains.

Moving to Namibia for four years was a complete habitat contrast and allowed for a very different set of skills to develop, namely the ability to drive a Land Rover across a featureless desert with a map indicating useful landmarks like 'sand' and 'slightly redder sand.' Ben guided in the Skeleton Coast National Park and spent a year tracking desert adapted elephants through the mountains of Damaraland. He also became Director of Children in the Wilderness, a charity tasked with the nurture of Africa's next conservation ambassadors, namely the children living in rural communities where tourism is often the only legitimate income. Despite the hundreds of happy clients Ben has guided around Africa, his most rewarding safari involved showing a group of wildly awed African orphans their very first living rhino. Ben also made the only known attempt to ride a mountain bike at night across the Skeleton Coast National Park.

In Africa Ben has worked and travelled in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. He likes surfing, riding motorcycles, photography, old maps and dreams of seeing a shoebill.
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