Bushbuck Safaris was started by myself, Boo Chrisp and my father, Mike Shirley-Beavan. Our good friend in Botswana, Tim Liversedge, now a famous wildlife film director, had convinced us that there was a need for a small highly personalised service at the upper end of the safari market. By 1985 Bushbuck was well underway with clients from the UK and US visiting Botswana and Zimbabwe which then were comparatively new destinations. The brilliant private guide John Stevens led our safaris in Zimbabwe.
A whirlwind descended on us when we became the managing agents of the Catalina Safari Company as pioneered by a very charismatic and talented Frenchman called Pierre Jaunet. Our adventures with the Catalina all stemmed from the chance meeting of Boo and Pierre in a bar in Maun, Botswana in 1985. It was six hectic but happy years of ‘Trans Africas’ with the Catalina Flying Boat, taking off from the Nile in the middle of Cairo, journeying down the rivers, lakes and coast of Africa, landing just above Victoria Falls 3 weeks later with so many adventures along the way.
Some famous household names chartered the Catalina for private tailor-made trips around the world. These included the Peter Stuyvesant charter down the east coast of the US, the Bill Gates charter to Western Tanzania and the BBC charter for the award-winning documentary ‘The Last African Flying Boat’. The Catalina attracted a lot of international and media interest which put Bushbuck on the map at the top end of the UK and US markets. This interlude taught us a lot about the travel industry but the most satisfying aspect of the whole exercise was that nobody is likely to do this again with a World War II Flying Boat. Mike Shirley-Beavan wrote a book to record this extraordinary experience ‘The African Catalina’.
We formed The Safari Guides Company (SGC). By this time, we were using the top private guides of six countries on our safaris. At this time, they can only be described as insular: the divide between East Africa and Southern Africa was as if they were from different continents. So, we put them together under one umbrella as an elite club of the best guides in Africa. That worked well in that we got to know the guides concerned much better than anyone else and we had more experience than anyone in matching a guide to a client’s expectations. Also, the guides enjoyed comparing notes at annual meetings in a different host country each year and cementing long-term friendships.
The privately guided safari is not always affordable to everyone and especially so for a couple or singletons, and so we have always designed camp/lodge style itineraries as well. We use a range of camps and lodges across thirteen safari countries. The criteria from the beginning has been small, exclusive, preferably owner-operated, and located in wild game areas with excellent resident guides.
My father retired from the scene and he was overwhelmed to welcome at his 80th birthday lunch Tim and June Liversedge, Pierre and Antoinette Jaunet, Charlie & Mouse McConnell, Soren Lindstrom and David & Robyn Foot and Jan & Suzi van der Reep. After his retirement Bushbuck was run solely by me.
While there are a number of the original SGC guides still leading safaris, the SGC now includes the next generation of adventurers amongst the newer members.
We are still at the forefront of private guided safaris with more expertise than anyone. It is difficult for other companies to compete with our inspired itinerary design based on our years of knowledge and unbiased recommendations.
35 years since we started and the ethos of Bushbuck is much the same. As a family, we have always enjoyed and continue to enjoy running Bushbuck. Over the decades Bushbuck Safaris has come to represent the very highest level of service and of that, we are extremely proud.
And now happily my daughter Kitty joins me at Bushbuck.