Francis grew up outdoors, spending far more time on his parents’ farm than he did at school. As well as being engrossed in the books of Wilbur Smith from an early age, a growing obsession with Africa was given a major boost on a family holiday in Kenya when he was just 10.
Having attended agricultural college, he spent 18 months exploring outback Australia, mostly working on massive cattle stations many miles from a town of any size, and learned to love being barefoot in the bush. Having successfully dodged wild cattle and numerous snakes, he returned to the UK to farm in Wiltshire, which he did until 1995 when the call of the wild overtook him once more and he headed for Africa.
For the following five and a half years Francis travelled the length and breadth of the continent, guiding groups of up to 20 clients on overland safaris, in 22 countries from Morocco to Cameroon, and Kenya to Namibia. He became an expert guide in wildlife, culture, geography and general African knowledge during this time, and since he had a vehicle under his command he was able to explore new and unknown places on most trips.
He then went home again, got married, and made the mistake of running a post office and shop for seven years, before joining Aardvark eight years ago.
Away from work, Francis is a family man, a keen rider, and enjoys tennis and cricket as well as cycling. He also likes food, wine and beer, and occasionally mows the lawn.
Happiest when barefoot in the bush, Francis is passionate about wildlife, conservation and sustainable travel, is fascinated by other cultures, and the benefits that well planned travel can deliver for less fortunate communities in developing countries. He has superb wildlife knowledge and is also a good person to talk to if you are interested in the cultural side of Africa.
Favourite African experience
It’s really hard to name just one, but these are among many; meeting Slot (an elephant) in Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools National Park; seeing and hearing Dogon dancers on the Bandiagara escarpment in Mali; being seriously close to chimps in Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania; canoeing the length of the lower Zambezi, camping on islands in the river; the sight of 250 salt laden camels with their Tuareg herders crossing the Sahara to Timbuctoo in Mali; Samburu people watering their stock at Sarara’s Singing Wells.
The elephant, for its majestic size, complex family and social structures, and its intelligence and longevity. I have spent hours sitting watching them.
My favourite three camps
Goliath Safaris in Mana Pools for the most intimate wildlife encounters.
Sarara Camp in remote northern Kenya for its stunning setting and the Singing Wells.
Chada Katavi in western Tanzania for its remoteness, beauty, and the feeling of being truly wild.
Jack’s Camp in the stunning, other-worldy landscape of the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana.
African countries visited
Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zaire (now the DRC), Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Egypt
Tropical Islands visited
Seychelles and Madagascar.
On planning holidays
I like to take time to get to know about my clients, to learn what really matters to them, and to provide holidays which suit them perfectly. I work extensively with families, and enjoy coming up with exciting and varied holidays which mix adventure and wilderness with great wildlife and masses of fun in the bush. I enjoy any opportunity to produce an unusual, mixed itinerary, perhaps taking people out of their usual comfort zones and into remote, uncharted territory, even if just for a few days, and also offering the chance to spend time with some of the continent’s fabulous people.
I relish any chance to talk about my favourite places and to enthuse my audience with my passion, hopefully without inducing a yawn.
Part of the joy of the work is the feedback we receive (we contact every client for it on their return), and the satisfaction and excitement engendered in our clients by the holidays we arrange. Our testimonials page makes for great reading.