A. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) Dugmore.

Camera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life online

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 15 of 18)
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not this will prove a valuable crop remains to be seen. So far the
tests of the sisal grown in the higher country show a lower yield of


fibre than that produced near the coast. The country around Punda
Milia was suffering greatly from the lack of rain. It looked indeed
as though the wheat would be a total failure, for the young leaves
were already beginning to turn yellow.

The uncertainty of the rainfall is one of the most serious difficulties
encountered by the farmers in inland East Africa, and until a good
system of irrigation is adopted the prospect must be anything but
hopeful. With a steady supply of water and reasonable intelligence
there appears to be no reason that the greater part of the country
should not produce almost unlimited crops. Unfortunately, too,
many of those engaged now in farming are not sufficiently well
versed in the work to give a fair chance to the country, and their
failures must be attributed as much to their own lack of knowledge
as to the natural conditions. That a man can farm successfully
without experience is as foolish an idea as that he can take up engin-
eering or any other profession without adequate study. What East
Africa will do in the future it is difficult to say. Cattle seem to be
occupying the minds of most of the settlers. Apart from the question
of a market, which is most important, there is the uncertainty of
success owing to the several diseases which have wrought such havoc
of late years. Until these diseases are under better control the
situation is rather hopeless. Sheep, goats and pigs do very well.
As far as the sheep are concerned, the wool can scarcely compete
with that which comes from Australia, but the pig furnishes as good
bacon as could be desired. Ceara rubber cultivation, though yet
in its infancy, promises well in the regions where conditions are
suitable. Coffee does well in certain parts, but as very little attention
has been devoted to it there is no way of telling how valuable it may




























prove. Maize does extremely well. Wheat and other grain depend
on locality and water. Sugar-cane is scarcely a paying crop, as the
areas suited to its cultivation are very restricted. Most fruits are
troubled with insect pests, which so far have discouraged the growers;
but oranges apparently do well, while bananas, though they grow
like weeds, are too far from a steady market to be worth cultivating
in any quantity. One of the most promising industries, if we may
judge from reports, is that of ostrich farming. The birds thrive
remarkably well, and though the native birds do not bear as good
feathers as the best market demands, there is no doubt that with a
little care in breeding from the best South Africans, the grade of
feathers will improve, so that they will compare favorably with the
best of any country. Considerable capital is necessary for farming
in East Africa, and for the man who has only one or two hundred
pounds to start with the country cannot hold out any very rosy

We left Punda Milia about eleven o'clock, and reached the Fort
Hall-Nairobi road an hour or so later. At four o'clock we arrived
at our camping ground on the banks of the Thika. How different
the river was from where we had previously seen it. In the Tana
region, where the country is comparatively flat, the Thika is a small,
quietly flowing stream, whereas at the point near our camp it was a
mountain torrent, with abrupt falls eighty or a hundred feet in height,
where the water had worn away a large basin between the banks.
The vegetation around the pool was luxuriant beyond description -
dense tangles of feathery palms, large trees and creepers clung to
the steep sides of the bank, and formed an impenetrable barrier to
the wonders below. Beneath the great smooth flow of foamy water,


as it dropped over the rocky ledge, ferns in immense number reveled
in the glistening prism-colored spray. The deafening thunder of
the falls was music well fitted to the grandeur of the scene, and as
night came on we were lulled to sleep by the monotonous beauty
of the song of the Thika River.

The morning broke cloudy and gray, and as we continued our
way to Juja we were struck by the difference between this country
which bordered the great Athi Plains, and that in which we had
spent the past months. Except for the small valleys and gullies,
where there was green grass and a scattered growth of trees, the
country was bare and very desolate. Mile after mile of unbroken
landscape, parched and yellow, with naught to relieve the dreari-
ness but occasional herds of animals and the distant blue hills, it
reminded one very strongly of the plains of Western North America.
Zebra were fairly abundant, and so also were hartebeest, Grant's and
Thomson's gazelle, whilst here and there could be seen gnu and
ostrich. On arriving at Juja we called on Mr. Macmillan's man-
ager, and were given permission to camp on the place. We heard
that Colonel Roosevelt had shot a hippopotamus in the little river
which runs through Juja, and that he had had the good fortune to
find a rhinoceros, which is a very uncommon animal in these parts.
His party had also shot a leopard and various other game. Mr.
Macmillan's farm occupies an immense tract of country, where,
except in the bottom land, little is grown. The houses are well
built, and fitted with modern appliances, such as electric light,
running water and so forth, while an ice plant furnishes the estab-
lishment with the necessary supply. The place is really more of a
shooting preserve than a farm, if one may judge by appearances.






The morning following our arrival we commenced our camera
hunt for the brindled gnu, strange creatures, which outwardly resemble
cattle, and the North American bison. That they are really antelope
seems incredible to the average man, who cannot understand why
an animal is not a cow if it looks like one. The brindled or blue
gnu (also called wildebeest), the East African representative of
the species, is an animal weighing not much under five hundred
pounds, with a shoulder height of fifty-two or fifty-three inches.
The horns, resembling in a general way those of cattle, have a maxi-
mum spread of about thirty-three inches, the bulls carrying larger
horns than the cows. These animals live almost entirely in the
open country, and are very local in their distribution. They go in
large herds of both sexes, but as with most of the antelope,
the cows appear to preponderate in numbers. The old bulls
are frequently solitary in their habits, and may be seen standing
like black statues on the treeless plains for hours at a time, either
singly or in herds. The wildebeest is a most difficult animal
to stalk, owing to its common habit of avoiding cover, and it is
only by the best of luck that one may approach to within two or
three hundred yards.

We were told that there was a certain gully a few miles east-
ward where the game came every morning to drink, so we pro-
ceeded there, and found the conditions apparently satisfactory for
photographic work, the only serious drawback being the presence
of some hartebeest, scattered about with the evident intention of
keeping an eye on our movements. In vain did we try to get into a
blind without being seen by these sharp-eyed nuisances, but there
was always one that had his eye on us. We tried to drive them away,


but they would simply run along the top of the bank overlooking
the gully and plant themselves on a conspicuous mound. Only
too well did we know how useless it would be to wait for any animal
to come to us if the hartebeest knew where we were, so after arrang-
ing a rough blind I stayed in it while my companion and the camera
bearers walked on. In this way we hoped to outwit the hartebeest,
but of course the plot eventually failed. For an hour or more I
had lain concealed in my shelter, when a herd of game zebra,
gnu and hartebeest came in sight about four hundred yards
farther down the gully. After satisfying their thirst they began
feeding toward me, and I fully expected to have an opportunity of
securing at least one picture. Slowly they came my way, but when
they were still between two and three hundred yards away, some
hartebeest, which had approached from an opposite direction, and
had stationed themselves directly behind me, came to the conclusion
that it was time to interfere, so they galloped down the bank to the
big herd of gnu and other animals, informing them of their danger,
and off they went without so much as questioning the information.
Utterly disgusted at the bad luck I moved farther down, and stationed
myself beneath some bushes near where the game had been feeding,
but I had been seen, and when the next herd came to drink they were
escorted by the meddlesome sentries to a place near where I had
previously been waiting. Such fiendish ingenuity on the part of
the hartebeest was truly discouraging, and I felt like abandoning
the hunt. While thinking it over, a small band of zebra left the
mixed herd, and began feeding in my direction, till finally three of
them reached an open piece of ground about a hundred and twenty-
five yards away. Gnu were what I was after, but the chance of




making some good pictures of zebra was too good to lose, so I carefully
arranged the camera, and succeeded in making five telephoto expo-
sures of the trio before they saw me.

As the game had finished drinking for the day, there was nothing
to be gained by waiting any longer, so I rejoined my companions,
who had in the meanwhile discovered a wonderful lion den, or series
of dens, for there were fully ten entrances, many of them separated
by at least twenty yards, but all appearing to belong to one system.
In every instance the approach was well hidden by dense thicket,
while the entrances were in deep holes, evidently wash-outs, filled
with vegetation. Near these dens we found the remains of a harte-
beest which had been recently killed, so there was every reason for
believing that these dens were occupied. To make pictures of any
of the openings was a difficult matter as the light was very bad, and
the surroundings so confined that no comprehensive view could be
obtained. I made several exposures which came out fairly well, and
they show some of the swallows' nests with which the sides of the
rocks were covered. From the appearance of the smooth worn
rocks and the clean ground, the dens had unmistakably been used
by generations of lions, and we could not help thinking what a splen-
did setting this would be for flashlight work if we had the time to
attempt it.

After we had lunched we decided to go after a large herd of gnu,
which could be seen resting on the bare open plain a mile or so away.
There was absolutely no cover, so that the only possible method
was to give up all idea of concealment and walk boldly toward them.
I therefore equipped the camera with the telephoto lens and started.
For some time they paid not the slightest attention to me, but fearing


that they would suddenly bolt I made two or three exposures at
long range while many of the animals were still lying down. Gradu-
ally I approached the strange-looking creatures until I was within
perhaps two hundred yards. They were becoming restless, so I
made another exposure, when they immediately beat a rapid retreat.
In running they resembled a herd of American buffalo. Their big
shaggy heads held low gave the high shoulder undue prominence,
so that it appeared like a hump. The tail held high, and the peculiar
gait, combined to make the illusion very marked. With the Ameri-
can-like landscape one would scarcely have been surprised at seeing
a troop of Indian braves come galloping across the sun-baked plains.
For an hour or so I went after the gnu, and succeeded in making
several more exposures, but the light was bad, and consequently
the results were not very satisfactory. At one time it looked as
though an old bull was going to make trouble. He started at full
gallop toward us, and the ferocious expression which characterizes
these creatures gave the impression that he really meant mischief.
Unfortunately the light was not good enough to enable me to make
an instantaneous exposure with the telephoto lens, so I lost the
splendid opportunity of securing a picture of this apparent charge.
I say "apparent" because we discovered that the old bull was not
coming for us, but was going as straight as he could to join a part
of the herd which had been divided by my persistent stalking. This
ended my attempts at gnu photography. Time was valuable; we
had to go to Kamite yet on the way to Nairobi, and in two weeks
I must leave for Mombasa, so we left Juja the following morning,
and headed directly for Kamite. For the first hour or so the dense
fog made it necessary to keep to the road instead of going across









- =


country, which would have been somewhat shorter. As the fog
lifted we saw any quantity of game, which became more and more
numerous as we approached Kamite. Zebra and hartebeest were
in herds of thousands, while Grant's and Thomson's gazelles were
in fair numbers.

We arrived at Kamite before noon, and there met Mr. Heatley,
who owns, I believe, most of what is known as Kamite Farm, or
Ranch, though it is for the most part a game preserve rather than a
farm in the ordinary acceptance of the term. We heard of the good
luck Colonel Roosevelt had enjoyed during his visit a few days
before. He had shot several buffalo in the big papyrus swamp,
but one of the animals, which was wounded, had escaped with the
herd. To have followed it would have been little short of madness,
so, much to the regret of the ex-President, it had been abandoned.
We were also told of three wounded lions which had escaped into
the same swamp only a day or two ago. Wounded lions and buffalo
sounded promising to us, so we decided to go with Mr. Heatley into
the papyrus on the chance of some exciting adventure. The pros-
pect did not appear quite so inviting when we saw the denseness of
the papyrus, which was ten feet high and almost impenetrable. Just
what might have happened had we met the wounded animals is
hard to say, but I rather imagine our predicament would have been
extremely serious. With great difficulty we made our way along
an old buffalo path, stopping frequently to listen attentively. We
had not poceeded far before a disagreeable odor assailed our nostrils.
That there was some dead animal not far away became more and
more apparent. This fact rather added to the interest of the situ-
tion. A dead animal would likely enough mean lions. They would


feed comfortably, and take their after-dinner nap in the cool shade
of the papyrus, conveniently near the food supply. Needless to say
we approached with the utmost caution, but though the odor became
stronger it was some time before we discovered the origin of it.
At last, we had the satisfaction of seeing a dead buffalo, but no lions,
though there were signs of some animals having visited the carcase
quite recently. The head proved to be a poor one, as it had a broken
horn. Thinking, however, that Colonel Roosevelt would be glad
to have the trophy we brought it out, and Mr. Heatley forwarded
it in due time.

As no trace of the lions could be discovered we determined to have
a try for photographs of buffalo. With that object in view we con-
tinued down the outskirts of the swamp, and in less than an hour
some white "buffalo" birds (egrets, I believe) showed us where the
herd was feeding on the edge of the papyrus in some high grass.
How many there were we could not ascertain. The depth of the
grass made photography utterly impossible, so we decided to try
driving. I took a position which controlled a clear space where the
grass was short, and where it seemed more than likely the buffalo
would pass. Heatley rode down as near as he could to the animals
and fired a shot among them. Part of the herd took to the papyrus
immediately, while the others paid little attention to the noise. Sev-
eral more shots made them move a little, but they would not come
in my direction. At last after they had been fired at ten times, they
began to think it time to be off, so they headed toward the swamp
at full gallop. It was very disappointing, and we were just discussing
the situation when a crashing sound attracted our attention. Pre-
sumably the buffalo were coming, so I hurriedly crossed the small



stream which separated us from the swamp, and taking advantage
of a low ant-hill which raised me above the top of the grass, I waited
for the herd. The light was not good enough for telephoto work,
so I stood ready with the single lens, believing, of course, that as
soon as the buffalo saw me they wou. ' come. It was but a few sec-
onds before they rushed out of the swamp, and seeing me within
one hundred yards of them stood still. It was an anxious moment.
There were nine of the big heavy black creatures, and I only had my
little .275 rifle, but I did want a good photograph, so as they appeared
in doubt as to whether to charge or not, I went a few yards forward,
feeling sure by doing so they would be induced to come. I had the
camera all ready, and the rifle on my shoulder, convenient in case
of trouble, but all my efforts were in vain. The brutes turned tail,
and ignominously bolted, just at the moment when it seemed abso-
lutely certain they would charge.

We returned to find our tents pitched on the site of Roosevelt's
camp of the previous week. The next day we kept watch for buffalo
from seven in the morning till well into the afternoon, but not one
did we see. Immense numbers of hartebeest and zebra passed by
on their way to water, but I did not attempt any photography, as
it seemed more advisable to keep as much out of sight as possible.
At any moment the buffalo might come to the edge of the papyrus,
and they would be likely to see us before we could see them. We
took our place on the same hill the following day, but with no greater
success. It was hot work sitting all day in the sun with no shelter.
The only vegetation was some small thorny brush which afforded no
shade. To vary the monotony I made several pictures of the large
herds of animals which passed us, and was fortunate enough to

secure some rather satisfactory results. On the way back to camp
I tried in vain to photograph the flocks of spur-winged geese and
Yavirondo or crested cranes, but they would never let me approach
near enough to obtain pictures of any great value. We found the
continued exposure to the sun rather trying, so the next day we sent
some of the men to watch in our stead, while we devoted ourselves
to printing and developing. Evidently the buffalo had been badly
frightened by the shooting, for they did not show themselves, so we
had to abandon any further attempts, and broke camp for the last
time on the morning of June 2nd.

A march of twelve miles brought us to Nairobi. Our trip was
ended, the long anticipated trip to the game paradise, to the land of
sunshine all was a thing of the past. Our labors would soon be
forgotten, but the memory of the pleasures would live for many years.
The slight dangers had been passed with no ill results, and in their
recollection they would improve with age. We had marched in four
months about fifteen hundred miles, half of that distance being
camp-to-camp marches. Good fortune had smiled on us almost
continually. The best of health had been ours from the moment
of starting, and last, but not least, I would bring home with me as a
record of the trip a collection of over three hundred photographs
of the African animals, which would recall the events of the four
months' "safari" more vividly than the most detailed account ever
written. They would prove trophies more interesting and more
valuable to the real nature student than the finest collection of dry
heads and horns ever taken out of the country.

There remains little more to be said. We reached Nairobi,
and had the pleasure of showing the photographs to ex-President


Roosevelt. On the way to Mombasa I saw, besides the common
game, a rhinoceros, some giraffe and eland, while a lion crossed the
railway track not a hundred yards in front of the engine. How
different these animals had appeared, when I came from Mombasa
little more than four months ago! They were all so new to me then,
now they were familiar, like old friends who had contributed so
greatly to the enjoyment of the most delightful four months of out-
door life that it had ever been my good luck to experience. God
willing, I shall return again to this land and renew my acquaintance
with the " beasts of the field and fowls of the air."





THE object of this chapter is to help those who are contemplating
a trip to the British East African Protectorate. The information
is the result of my own experience and of conversation with others,
whose knowledge of the country is far greater than my own. Some
of the facts may have been noted in other parts of the book, but
in order to concentrate the material so that it may be the more readily
found, it seems better, even at the risk of repetition, to put it into
one chapter. At best many of the details as to equipment and cost
of "safari" must be somewhat vague, so much depends on the man
himself and his peculiar ideas of requirement, and on the probable
changes in the conditions of labor and laws incidental to a new country.
Even seasons make considerable difference in cost, as the food
supplies vary greatly in price. In a general way the man who goes
to East Africa must expect a trip of about four or five months to
cost him from one hundred and twenty-five to two hundred pounds
per month that is, from London or New York and back. One
who is very economical could do it for less than the lower figure,
while he who is inclined to extravagance would need to count on even
more than the two hundred pounds. If expense is not a serious
consideration, and you wish to be saved all worry and trouble, a



white guide can be engaged. There are only a few of them, and
their services are in great demand. They are generally keen sports-
men and excellent companions, while their knowledge of the country
and the habits of the game ensure the sportsman almost certain
success. For those who wish to know definitely how much their
expenses will be, the outfitting companies at Nairobi (with offices
in London and representatives in New York) will undertake to out-
fit parties for a given sum from about eighty pounds for each gun
per month upward, according to the country to be visited by the party.
This price does not include any of the landing charges railway
fares, hotel expenses, licenses, or riding animals. In other words,
it simply covers the expenses of the "safari" from the time it enters
the field till its return to Nairobi. For the benefit of those who
wish to know the items included in this charge the following list
is given. It is only approximate, but will give a fairly good idea
of what may be expected:



i Headman 2 Askaris

I Boy I Cook

i Gunbearer 30 Porters


I Tent, fly and ground-sheet I Mincer

i Bed and mattress I Spade

i Bath I Axe

8 Plates (assorted) 2 Lamps



I Cup and saucer I Fry pan

6 Spoons i Bucket
i Knife Corkscrew

I Fork Chair

1 Knife-board Lamp (collapsible candle)

2 Pangas (mache) 4 Knives and Forks
i Bread oven Coffee pot

1 Screwdriver and file Salt and pepper

3 Tin openers 2 Hatchets

2 Bread molds i Castor

i Table 4 Cooking pots

i Washstand I Grill

3 Dishes i Box (fitted for naphtha, etc.)
i Enamel glass i Kettle

1 Teapot


4 y-lb. Tins flour 4 Tins Lard

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18

Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 15 of 18)