Ernest Hemingway and the African Safari

Ernest Hemingway and the African Safari

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Hemingway’s Obsession with the African Safari

In 1953, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary, accompanied by photographer Earl Theisen, traveled to Kenya in what turned out to be the waning years of the grand African safari. Soon after, a wave of independence swept the continent, which had largely been under European domination since the end of the last century. And as people worldwide became increasingly aware of their environment and the threats to it, the notion of killing animals for sport began to be looked at in a different light. While the heyday of the African safari may be in the past, our society has legacies from that era that require knowledge of the safari. A key to understanding Hemingway is his obsession with the African safari.

If hunting is the act of seeking, following and killing animals for food or for display, then the African safari is the act of doing all of those to big game, or large animals in Africa. African safaris usually used to take place on the eastern side of the African continent, but now can take part in any region of Africa. Most of Hemingway’s trips were taken in this region. The famous plane crash that he survived landed in Uganda, which is on the eastern coast. However, the trend has changed. The eastern countries that used to have safaris no longer have stable governments. Most safaris now take place in other parts of Africa, such as South Africa. South Africa, with the most stable government in the continent, provides a safer environment for hunters to enjoy their safari.

The weather is an important factor in planning any safari. In South Africa, it rains a great deal during the winter months (their summer months), and very little during the rest of the year. Countries further up north have similar weather. The big difference comes in the difference in temperature. The temperature in South Africa is very temperate – during any safari season (which is from March to October) the lowest temperature will be around 35 degrees and the highest will be around 80 degrees. The rain hampers any attempt to have a safari the rest of the year.

Clothing during an African safari is generally simple, layered and of a neutral color. Camouflage is generally not worn and wearing it in some areas is illegal.

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Wearing the right type of shoes is also important. If the wrong shoes are chosen, feet can blister up, and can hamper progress on the safari. Most people wear comfortable shoes or ankle high boots.

Firearms are generally limited by category – most people do not use semi-automatics on an African safari. Indeed, semi-automatics are not permitted to be temporarily important into any African country. Instead, rifles that have a 50 to 250 yard range are used. The gun used also depends upon the animal being hunted. You are not going to use the same gun for a large animal like a rhino as you would a small animal like the duiker.

Hemingway’s obsession with the African safari is seen in many of his works. Up until his death, he wrote books that contained the African Safari (as shown in The Garden of Eden). The safari has evolved over time, but reflects mankind’s innate desire to hunt, and to hunt big.


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Ernest Hemingway Biography. November 15th, 2002.>

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safari trips.

South Africa and Safari Hunting General Information. November, 15th, 2002.>

-Information that any safari goer needs to know

Virtual Hemingway. November 15th, 2002.


-Tons of links on Hemingway, a lot of which pertain to his life and his safari trips
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