Saba Douglas-Hamilton is an award-winning wildlife filmmaker, Kenyan wildlife conservationist and television presenter. Working with Save the Elephants in Kenya she helped set up a research station in Samburu that now monitors over 900 elephants. She is also leading a trip to Kenya with Steppes in January 2017.
When Saba was just six weeks old she met her first wild animal, an elephant named Virgo who was one of approximately 400 elephants that her zoologist father Iain Douglas-Hamilton was studying in Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania.
We asked Saba to share her thoughts on what motivates her to do what she does, who inspired her, which place she is happiest, her best travel advice and more…
What was your earliest or childhood ambition?
Being able to cast spells seemed immeasurably attractive when I was a child, so initially I’m pretty sure I wanted to be a witch. After a while this morphed into more sensible options – like a ballerina or cave-woman, and finally, much later, a wildlife film-maker!
What motivates you to do what you do?
The natural world has never been more fragile than it is today, nor more under attack. Yet it is our home – essential to our physical, spiritual and mental well-being. My love for wild creatures and places, my concern for what’s happening to our planet, and the increasing uncertainty of my children’s future in a world that is being buried under concrete, drives everything I do.
Who has inspired you to do what you do?
My parents have been hugely influential in my life, opening my eyes to the beauty of Nature and catalysing a passion for all wild things.
As has my grandmother, Prunella Stack – head of the Women’s League of Health and Beauty – who taught me that one must count one’s lucky stars, have grace and courage in times of hardship and fight for what one believes in. Many science writers to have shaped how I think, including Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, David Quammen, and, lastly, E. O Wilson whose perspective on life and call for setting 50% of the Planet aside for Nature aligns closely with my own heart.
If your 20-year old self could see you know, what would he/she think?
When I was 20 I used to think that anyone over 30 was ancient, so I’d probably find now that I was rather old! But I’d be pleased to learn that my older self had had some interesting adventures along the way, married a wonderful man, and discovered that life becomes more interesting the older you get.
If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change?
I was very unhappy at the first boarding school I was sent to in England at the age of 13, so that’s one thing I would definitely strike off the list! I also wish I’d kept a better journal, especially in the last decade. Things went a little pear-shaped writing-wise after I had kids!
In what place are you happiest?
I am happiest when I can hear frogs singing at night or feel the interconnectedness of all things in the web of life around me. As far away as possible from people, pollution and concrete, and in the company of my husband and kids. Bejewelled by the sounds of the night, perfumed by the purest air, and clothed in the softest darkness hung with stars, I feel like the richest person in the world. Surrounded by myriad sentient creatures – in all their diversity of hue, scale, colour, leaf and shimmering skin – my sanity is quickly restored.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Yes, often. The health of our Planet plagues my dreams. I try to live as close to nature as possible, to give back through my work in conservation, and do no harm. We all need to down-size our lives big time, stop this crazy over-exploitation of the Earth’s resources, and tackle the spectre of human overpopulation.
The one essential you travel with?
My hat, which is now very well worn.
Also my sunglasses and beloved Swarovski binoculars and toothbrush and face cream of course!
Your best piece of travel advice?
Keep a diary to record your first impressions. Write everything up as soon as you can when it’s still fresh in your mind. Get off the beaten track, and wash your hands often, especially before you eat.
What advice would you give to young ladies wishing to follow in your footsteps?
Figure out what you really want to do then commit yourself 100% – and don’t take no for an answer! Once you get your foot in the door, be positive, enthusiastic, work hard, and make yourself indispensable. Anyone with any sense will harness the power of your passion, and you will fly! Get in touch with us for more information on your Kenya holiday with Steppes, email [email protected] for more advice.