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White Hunter: The Golden Age of African Safaris Hardcover – 11 Nov 1999
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A little more than 100 years ago, East Africa was terra incognita to most whites: a land largely unmapped, sparsely settled by Europeans and teeming with wildlife, from elephants to wildebeest, bongos to rhinos, and all manner of frightening beasts in between. It was the hunter-adventurer's paradise, and by the early 20th century, a small, lionhearted clan of explorers and big game hunters began leading safaris there for money. They became the legendary "White Hunters" of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, men who led manifold adventurers--including royalty, film stars, writers, millionaires--in pursuit of the world's biggest, most dangerous and most sought-after game.
White Hunters is a nostalgic and densely-packed history of these men and their adventures, from the turn of the century until the 1970s when politics, a growing population, civil strife and concern about species destruction intervened. Herne has written a virtual and anecdotal Who's Who of White Hunters, crammed with the details of hundreds of hunts and the dozens of men who led them. This is no book for the fainthearted or the politically correct. Despite Herne's insistence that his heroes were the first true conservationists, White Hunters is all about the testosterone-enhanced glory of killing big, beautiful things: "Clary fired, dropping his quarry with a side brain shot. The record-class tusks weighed 159 and 143 pounds each, a gigantic elephant..." On the other hand, a staggering number of hunters died in pursuit of their quarry--mauled, eviscerated or impaled on the tusks of furious, vengeful beasts.
Not so long ago lions wandered the streets of Nairobi. The politics of big game hunting aside, the White Hunters' East Africa--wild, mysterious, unspoiled--is vanishing, and Herne has painstakingly documented an era that most readers will likely never know. --Svenja Soldovieri
The safaris recorded here lasted about 70 years and include some of the most famous hunts of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Selous and Bell, the Hill cousins, J.A. Hunter and Ionides, Grogan - who walked 4000 miles for the love of a woman - and Bror Von Blixen are all featured in depth.
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Stories of film stars, wealthy industrialists and presidents who all enjoyed the Safari hunting experience. It was not unusual to find American film stars in Howse & MGeorge (the chemists) collecting their photos whilst you collected a prescription. Rowland Ward the taxidermists (opposite The New Stanley Hotel) always had wonderful life like displays from small birds to large animals such as Zebra and antelope, now a crumbling multi storey parking garage.
An invaluable book with insights into hunting in Kenya pre 1977, before Kenya became a slaughtering ground for the WaBenzi (Kenya Mafioso) and their Chinese connections.
Though I rarely read a book twice, this will certainly be one of those exceptions.
My only complaints about this book are the paucity of photographs; I would have liked to see a lot more photographs. Secondly, this is a book almost specifically about East Africa, especially Kenya and Tanzania. Finally the photo of Biran Herne on the dust jacket must be about 30 years old!!!
Whether the stories are read in sequence or individually, Herne's narration will take you to the high plains for a hunt of your own.
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