Ninian Lowis, one of East Africa’s best private guides, has more than 22 years of experience as a professional guide and a family history in Kenya that extends back to the 1920s. The son of Robert Lowis, one of East Africa’s most respected guides, and Yasuyo Lowis, a Japanese writer, he spent much of his boyhood in wild and remote areas. His upbringing gave him a lifelong interest in wildlife, an encyclopedic knowledge of the bush and an infectious love for Africa. His work with Dr Meave Leakey instilled a lasting interest in paleoanthropology and human evolution. With help from his wife Lara Leakey Lowis (of the venerable Leakey family, with its own history in East Africa dating back to the 1890s) Ninian has led boat trips up the Omo River in southern Ethiopia, taken groups to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, tracked gorillas in the mountains of Rwanda and Uganda, and guided guests in numerous southern and Eastern African countries.
We asked Ninian to answer a few question for us about his experiences as a guide.
When and why did you become a guide?
That is a tough question to answer as I spent much of my childhood on my father’s safaris and the transition from rogue guide’s son to guide happened during my late teens. I led my first full mobile camping trip at the age of eighteen with a family that has since come back on safari several times. My father was the first guide to specialize in photographic safaris in 1956 (everybody else was hunting) and he loved to camp in what were then remote, off the beaten track areas. I hope that I carry forward some of his best safari philosophies and it is nice to see my son and daughter take on some of them too.
My father gave me every opportunity to leave the profession by paying for a very good conventional education in Britain, but it is a very hard to leave this lifestyle. I am one of the very luck people that fell into the life that makes me the happiest. I can not wait to get up every morning in the bush and see the sun rise over my office.
Your most memorable experience as a guide?
Too many to single out one. But they have been experiences shared with family or friends, or sometimes have been in utter solitude. There have been experiences of such rare beauty that they have changed all those that were there forever.
Safari moment you were most thrilled to have helped a client experience
What makes me happiest is to help clients build fabulous family memories. This is more about time shared together having the best fun rather than some bragging list of helicopter logistics or what we saw and did.
Top 3 favorite properties
1) My private mobile camp, wherever it might be, manned by my crew and family
2) Rubondo Island Camp (Lake Victoria in Tanzania)
3) Serra Cafema (in the Kunene region of northern Namibia).
Top 3 favorite national parks
1) Shaba National Reserve (northern Kenya)
2) the Mara when it is quiet in the rainy season (Kenya)
3) Kidepo Valley (northeast Uganda)
Your favorite trip
Something that involves walking and places where you can get away from tourists and feel a sense of solitude.
Somewhere you have always wanted to take guests but never have
The Virunga National Park and the Semliki River Valley in the Democratic Republic of Congo
What’s on your bucket list?
So many, many things.
2 things you always tells your guests to bring when traveling
Binoculars and a hat.
2 things you think guests should know about Africa (or Kenya, South Africa etc)
1. Locations can be very seasonal, but there is always somewhere that is fantastic at any time of year.
2. Balance places that you can not miss, but might be busy, with places that allow you to get away from the crowd and experience wilderness and freedom.
3. Guest also need to learn about all other things African while they are here, they need to learn about people, economics, politics and potential.
(We love all three of these answers! Took the words right out of our mouths…)
Camera or binocular recommendations?
These change all the time and are very different for different budgets.
Do you have a specialty?
Having fun with people of all ages, photography (all the amazing photos in this post are Ninian’s), economics, politics, human evolution (his work with Dr. Meave Leakey instilled a lasting interest in paleoanthropology and human evolution), birds, fishing, culture and getting away from crowds.