Professional Hunter Sydney Downey
Sydney Downey, Professional Hunter
Syd was born in 1905, and moved with his British parents to Kenya when he was 19 years of age from Argentina. He fell in love and awe with the exquisite country, with its vast expanse of land , animals, and splendid landscape.His family bought a coffee plantation known as Misarara Estate in the highland country of Limuru, northwest of Nairobi . He started hunting every week end and exploring the surrounding regions for game.
His first debutant safari was to area around Mara river called Masai land in the early 1927, which is known as Masaimara today. He hunted there and and became familiar with Masailand, he chose a campsite at Egalok, the spot where the Masai Mara lodge known as Keekorok stands today. Syd said that in that region humans were a rarity and game abounded in thousands, Few of the times he would see some other enthusiastic hunter out for a safari.
Even though the terrain was non accessible Syd hunted in and around the Nairobi-Lake Naivasha road. Syd Downey explored the road less terrains of BaraBikatu (road of difficulty in Swahili) with two of his trusted African companions, one was Gichuri a Kikuyu and the other was Mwangea a Kamba tracker, both were his tracker and gun bearers through out his hunting days.
Syd’s formal career as a Professional Hunter started when he joined Leslie Tarlton’s Safariland outfitter. He was impressed by Philip Percival, another famed PH of that era, and Philip imparted best of his knowledge of the bush and hunting. Syd self tutored himself and gained experience to hunt the dangerous game and had his share of scrapes with the big game.
Sydney Downey, Professional Hunter
Another professional hunter Donald Ker from Shaw and Hunter Limited from Nairobi had been operating in the area where Syd was taking the clients of Sfariland for hunts. The two had a rift on the hunting area encroachment and the matter was taken up by EAPHA which was arbitrated by another white hunter Andrew Fowler and the result was that both were guilty of encroachment of hunting area. The friendship amongst the two soured.
As the time passed by they both got on along again and started hunting together occasionally often in Masaimara and poached into Tanzania, which they revered and hunted quite often. Donald Ker and Syd Downey met in Addis Ababa in 1945 and reflecting upon what they should do after the war, Donald suggested, "Why don't we start our own safari company and make it the best ever?" Soon after their initial success as outfitters for a film based on a story by Ernest Hemmingway, their clientele grew to include royalty, film stars and other international personalities. Such people were used to luxury and Ker and Downey Safaris provided it in the form of attentive service, lavishly furnished tents and gourmet cuisine.
Donald Ker and Syd Downey were chivalrous and knowledgeable professionals who led countless memorable safaris. They realised that while abundant wildlife, spectacular scenery and a fine climate were all factors which drew clients to a safari in Africa, one vital element was needed to complete the magic - the professional guide who conducted it.
They formed their own safari company under the banner of The Ker & Downey Safaris Kenya Ltd in 1946. Ker & Downey worked with several international movie companies, handling location camps for many films including Out of Africa, Gorillas in the Mist and Mountains of the Moon.
Sydney Downey was a great professional hunter with a tremendous corporate vision...