Ker & Downey Botswana

Shinde | Shinde Enclave | Okuti | Kanana | Footsteps Camp

Perhaps Botswana’s oldest safari operator, Ker & Downey Botswana has an excellent footprint of camps throughout northern Botswana and with its specialist products such as Young Explorers, for children, and Footsteps Across the Delta and excellent guides offer an excellent product for discerning visitors.

Recently integrated with African Bush Camps to offer further options in the Linyanti and Khwai.

In 1945, following the Second World War, two well established east African professional hunters, Donald Ker and Syd Downey, founded Ker and Downey Safaris, Kenya. The decision to go into business together was made at “a boisterous celebratory bash” after the fall of Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), where “Donald Ker accompanied Colonel Pemberton to take the Italian surrender,” in 1941. This company was to become one of Africa’s foremost safari outfitters.

Six years later, they were joined by Harry Selby, the renowned professional hunter later made famous in the safari novels by the American author Robert Ruark. In 1956, Selby left KDS to form a new company ‘Selby and Holmberg Ltd.’ in partnership with fellow professional hunter Andrew Holmberg. Two new directors, Eric Rungren and a young John Kingsley-Heath, who was to have a significant impact on the development of Ker & Downey in the years to come, also joined Messrs Ker and Downey.
Selby and Holmberg parted ways in 1962 and Selby then rejoined KDS as a director and the company was renamed Ker Downey & Selby Safaris Ltd. Many people at the time saw little future for hunting safaris in Kenya and in this same year, seeking pastures new, the company expanded its operations into Botswana and Ker Downey & Selby Botswana was born.

The Bechuanaland (Botswana) government had granted concession areas to the first safari companies, in order for them to conduct safaris on a grand scale in keeping with those in East Africa. In 1962 some of these concession areas had been allocated to another new safari company ‘Safari South’ owned by Bill Siebert and Lionel Palmer. In 1964 John Kingsley-Heath and Frank Miller, also of Ker Downey & Selby Botswana, suggested that an attempt be made to buy out these areas from Safari South. This would have given KDS a commanding position in Botswana with control of some of the best areas in the country. However the suggestion was turned down and as a result both John Kingsley-Heath and Frank Miller left the company to join Safari South.

In 1968, Safari South was reformed and renamed Safari South (1968) (Pty) Ltd. by directors John Kingsley-Heath, Lionel Palmer, Frank Miller and Bill Siebert, as a photographic and hunting company. Bill Siebert left the company shortly afterwards, while Frank Miller returned to Tanganyika (Tanzania) for personal reasons. At that time the company held five concession areas in Ngamiland. By 1974, under the guidance of John Kingsley-Heath and Lionel Palmer, Safari South had become one of the largest and most successful safari companies ever to operate in Africa.

In 1975 Safari South changed hands, being bought by a Mr. Tommy Friedkin of California, U.S.A. This injection of capital allowed the purchasing of new aircraft and substantial development of Maun headquarters and staff housing. At this time, the hunting season was reduced by three months and Safari South had to consider the utilisation of photographic safaris as a means of maintaining the business. Subsequently Ker Downey & Selby Botswana (Pty) Ltd. was purchased in 1978 and, combined with Safari South, became the largest safari company in Botswana, and included in its list of servants the legendary hunters Lionel Palmer, John Kingsley-Heath, Harry Selby, Dougie Wright, Tony Henley, Wally Johnson Snr. and Jnr. and John Dugmore, to name but a few.

During the period post Frank Miller and John Kingsley-Heath, Ker Downey & Selby Botswana had established the first photographic safari camp in Botswana – Khwai River Lodge in 1968. At the time of the purchase by Safari South the company was operating three lodges – Khwai River Lodge, Xugana Lodge and Savuti South. The photographic operation was marketed under the name Ker Downey & Selby Botswana, while hunting safaris continued to be operated by Safari South. By 1985, Ker Downey & Selby was operating photographic safaris within Safari South’s hunting concessions at Shinde, Mombo and Machaba camps. It was around this time that the Mombo concession was relinquished and the well-known Pom Pom camp was established.
In 1990 Ker Downey & Selby, in partnership with Randall J. Moore created Elephant Back Safaris, and operated the highly successful Abu’s Camp within the Ker Downey & Selby concession.

In 1993, Harry Selby resigned as a director of Ker Downey & Selby, and the name ‘Selby’ was dropped, becoming Ker & Downey Botswana (Pty) Ltd, to correspond with operations in Tanzania and Nepal, within Ker & Downey group. Within Botswana the company saw the inclusion of Xudum Camp in its already illustrious portfolio.

1994 saw huge changes in government policy regarding land use and concession size. The original large hunting concessions were divided and the new areas made available for tenders from the private sector, with an emphasis upon photographic safaris. As a result of these new policy changes, Safari South sold its entire photographic operation, and the 1996 season saw Ker & Downey Botswana operating independently, with its air charter and aircraft maintenance companies, Northern Air and Northern Air Maintenance. In this year, Ker & Downey Botswana, was voted the second best safari operator in Africa by the American Travel Industry.

The 1997 season saw the securing of Shinde lease and the inclusion of Kwara Camp in the portfolio, joining the ever-popular Pom Pom and Machaba camps. 1998 saw the creation of Hemingway’s Africa (later renamed Footsteps Across the Delta), a walking and mekoro safari operating in the Shinde concession. This safari provides a unique chance to experience the taste of the original east African safari, which the company had brought to Botswana over thirty years before.

Another expansive season followed, with the acquisition of Gorges Lodge outside of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and of Camp Okuti in the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve. Shortly afterwards, in 2000, a new camp was introduced to the portfolio, Kanana Camp situated in the south- western Okavango Delta, on the Xudum River.

Today the company continues to change and develop, always offering our visitors the very best safari, drawing from 45 years of operational experience in Botswana. Presently the Ker & Downey Botswana portfolio includes Shinde, Kanana Camp, Camp Okuti, Footsteps Across the Delta and the new Edo’s Camp, covering an incredibly broad range of habitats within the Delta and the Kalahari Desert. Each camp is entirely unique and individually or combined will ensure each of our visitor has the safari of a lifetime, each and every time they visit.

Camp Locations

Kanana is a hidden jewel set on the Xudum River in the southwest Okavango.
This delightful camp lies alongside the Maunachira River which flows through Xakanaxa Lagoon within the world renowned Moremi Game Reserve.
Shinde is nestled on a lush palm island in the heart of the northern Okavango Delta, this is is an intimate camp located on the edge of Shinde Lagoon, which simply teems with animal and birdlife.