My first trip to Africa was a hitchhiking adventure to Timbuktu, in 1977, with a student friend and $100 each. We reached the fabled city – having learned en route what a visa is, and what malaria feels like – and my connection with Africa was born.
In 1980, I set off again to hitchhike and cycle from London to Kenya, this time with my girlfriend - later my wife. Nearly a year later, freewheeling into the Rift Valley for the first time, I realised how strong my Africa connection had become.
Back in the UK, I spent two years doing a Master’s degree in ethnography, linguistics and Swahili at SOAS University of London.
After working for the student travel company STA Travel, I took up an offer with the fledgling travel publisher, Rough Guides, to write the first practical guide to Kenya. Taking with me one of the earliest mountain bikes (this was 1985) I travelled the length and breadth of the country – from Lake Turkana to Shimoni, from the Maasai Mara to Malindi and from Lamu to Lake Victoria. Rough Guides were already adding more comfortable and luxurious options to their backpacker hostels and tips on bus travel, and the Kenya book was no exception, including high-end safari camps and lodges and advice on internal flights as well as incorporating areas that can still only be explored on foot, by Land Rover – or on a sturdy mountain bike.
After the first edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya was published in 1986, I joined the Rough Guides publishing team to edit guidebooks and then to look after marketing and PR. For many years I worked as Director of Communications, while continuing to write the Rough Guide to Kenya (the 11th edition was published in 2016). I went on to travel all over Africa, often with my family, or sometimes with just one intrepid child, researching and co-authoring many editions of Rough Guides to West Africa, The Gambia, First Time Africa, Madagascar and World Music.
After a stint as a freelance travel journalist, and aware of Expert Africa’s reputation among travellers, its commitment to responsible tourism and the fact that – at the time – it offered no trips to Kenya and happily explained why (“until members of our team have covered Kenya’s parks and coast inside out, we won’t be offering any Kenya safaris"), I saw a wide-open window of opportunity in 2012 and took a running jump right through it, joining Expert Africa to set up our Kenya programme.
As well as launching and running the Kenya programme, I have more recently done a number of trips to mainland Tanzania, Zanzibar, Namibia and Rwanda.
I live in remote suburbia with my wife, Teresa Driver, and our transient offspring. We go on safari as often as possible.
Do give me or one of my colleagues a call to discuss your plans - there's nothing we enjoy better than talking about our African travels and planning other people's!
Richard's most recent Africa trips
I've travelled all over Africa, but I'd never visited Rwanda until this opportunity to do a comprehensive trip there. We started in the renascent Akagera National Park (eles, lions, hundreds of species of birds), moved on to the marvellous, mountainous rainforests of Nyungwe (chimps, and birds galore), dipped our toes in Lake Kivu and then drove north to Rwanda's pièce de résistance, Volcanoes National Park and its moving mountain gorilla families. It was an outstanding road trip, with a brilliant guide, to a country that easily stands alone as a worthy safari destination in its own right. And with a quarter of a century of rebirth since the nightmare of 1994, it's a deeply rewarding and truly remarkable place to explore.
I've travelled very widely across Africa from Mauritania to Madagascar, but I'd never previously visited Namibia. I love the desert (my first travel experience in Africa was a hitchhiking trip from London to Timbuktu in the late 1970s), so I was thrilled to have a chance to do this trip, driving through northern Namibia with my colleague Freddie. We flew via Johannesburg into Walvis Bay and then drove inland on spectacular gravel roads through the rolling landscapes of Northern Damaraland and on to Etosha National Park. As well as dramatic mesas and open vistas we had some spectacular wildlife encounters, including a leopard squaring off with a black rhino and calf at a lodge waterhole.
This trip to Kenya was a little more ambitious than usual, as I was not only visiting some quite remote lodges in the north, but also doing the research to incorporate the Rift Valley into our coverage of Kenya. I made my first visit to Sarara and the new Sarara Treehouses, in the Mathews Range in northern Kenya, and managed to visit the outstanding Reteti elephant sanctuary – a local Samburu community initiative that is doing similar work to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi. I also visited a fabulous camp on the western side of the Mathews, Kitich Forest Camp, which we have long wanted to include in the Kenya programme. In the Rift Valley, I visited lakes Baringo, Bogoria, Nakuru, Elmenteita and Naivasha – tracking down those elusive flamingos – before moving on to the Maasai Mara and finally the coast.
Richard's previous Africa research
I flew into the coastal desert town of Walvis Bay, drove north to Swakopmand and Heintiesbaii, then inland to Damaraland and Etosha, before rolling south to Windhoek. Standouts? – Damaraland's fabulous scenery and Etosha's extraordinary pans.
Zanzibar, Pemba, Mafia
I aimed to do a thorough overhaul of the sights and attractions of Stone Town in this new edition, as well as exploring several old sites in the rural hinterland of the town and writing up some worthwhile excursions.
The 11th edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya incorporated many new discoveries from my own trips, as well as feedback from Expert Africa clients and Rough Guide readers.
My 10th edition of the Rough Guide to Kenya was a major overhaul, with the guide now in full colour throughout. I added a great deal of new material from a series of trips before and after I joined Expert Africa.