One Man’s Conquest Of Africa

One Man’s Conquest Of Africa



Tim Baily is more than just a safari operator, he is a man with a passionate love for his native Africa — and with some justification he can also claim to be an expert on the more violent side of African politics.

For in the past eight years Tim, in his efforts to get his trans-Africa safari company established, has continually found himself slap in the Commercial Removals South London middle of whichever juicy African conflict seems to be simmering at that particular moment.

Tim led the first expedition to get through the Congo safely after the Simba War, and when his convoy of battered Land Rovers arrived at the Oubangui river which separates the Congo from the Central African Republic they found both banks swarming with trigger-happy African troops. The two countries were all set for war over a sudden disagreement on the future shape of “African Unity.”

Tim’s knowledge of Swahili saved them here. He borrowed a native canoe, paddled across the river to confront the astounded Congolese troops, and diplomatically persuaded them to allow the ferry across the river to collect the rest or his convoy.

Today the Siafu Safari Company is a thriving business. It is named after the Siafu ant which stops for nothing. If it cannot go round, over or under an obstacle it will simply eat its way through it. The original four battered Land Rovers are now replaced by whole fleets of shiny new vehicles, and the routes between London and Nairobi are carefully planned. Today the Siafu expeditions crossing Africa know that they will reach their destinations, but this was not always so.

Tim was born and raised on his father’s farm in Kenya until independence forced him to immigrate to South Africa. Seven years ago, with car salesman Peter Hooper and one short wheel base Land Rover, Tim left Durban on the start of what was to become a 20,000 mile journey through a turbulent new Africa. The trip was to take sixteen painful and dangerous months, and to fill Tim’s mind with the wild idea of running overland safaris on a commercial basis.

To pass through the newly independent countries of Libya, Tanzania and Kenya, Tim and Peter had to check every item of their equipment and clothing and remove all traces of South African origin.

Their real difficulties began when they tried to leave Kenya. The main roads into Ethiopia had all been closed due to bandits raiding across the border, the southern Sudan was also closed, and to the west the Congo was still a bloody battlefield contested by mercenaries and Simba rebels.

Finally they managed to find one border post into Ethiopia that was open at Kalem, near Lake Rudolph. From here it took them 42 days of grueling, sweating, back-breaking work to cover 170 miles of the foulest roads in Africa. They unloaded their Land Rover a thousand times to haul it through mud holes as large as the vehicle itself, or worked like slaves to widen tracks that had been intended for nothing larger than camels.