|Alfred A. Benitz||Page last modified:
On June 10, 1910, Alfred sailed for England, accompanied by John and Marjorie (his younger brother and wife). He would be gone almost a year, returning May 15, 1911. His trip took him to Europe (3 months), British East Africa (3 months), back through France to England (10 days), and then on to the US (3 months). He sailed on 5 different ships, totaling at least 75 days at sea. On safari for 2½ months, he shot at least 90 animals.
Reconstructed Record: Given Alfred’s penchant for keeping a diary or notes of each of his many trips and hunts, it seems inconceivable that he did not leave a record of this his longest, costliest, and most adventurous trip of all. However, we can reconstruct much of it. His ship passenger tickets show when he undertook the sea-legs of his trip. His list of hotels shows where he stayed in Europe, Africa, and the United States. His signed “Game Register” of animals shot in British East Africa provides a record of where he hunted and the duration of his safaris. The end of Chapter XVIII of his biography provides a glimpse of life on safari. The biography combines two quotes from an unknown diary (see Safaris below) with his brief notes covering the first 12 days on safari (see Diary below, in the Roosevelt Big Game Record Book).
A note of special thanks: The bulk of the material for this page was very generously provided by Stuart Pryor - in 2003! For which we thank him very much indeed. Some details (e.g. dates) we gleaned from other sources, in particular the diary of John E. Benitz.
Upon arrival in England, Alfred would certainly have spent time in London and at the home of John R. Todd, in Mereside (Bromfield, Cumberland) planning and preparing for their safari in the British East Africa Protectorate, today Kenya. Alfred knew Todd from Argentina. They had also hunted together before, in the Argentine Chaco and Canada's Yukon Territory. However, per his list of hotels, we assume Alfred ever restless also took the opportunity to visit Scotland (St. Andrews), Ireland (Dublin), Belgium (Ostend, Brussels), Netherlands (Rotterdam), Germany (Berlin, Dresden), Austria (Viena), and France (Caen, Paris, Marseilles). We do not know if he was accompanied by Todd or, for that matter, by someone else during his tour of Europe.
On the 12th September, Alfred and Todd sailed from Marseilles to Kilindini, the port of Mombasa, British East Africa (today Kenya). Alfred's biography includes the following quote. The dated format of the quote suggests it is from a diary (which we have not seen).
“Oct. 4, 1910: (Nairobi): Mr. Todd arrived here after a fair voyage of 19 days from Marseilles to Mombasa. We have been here three days getting ready for our start on the safari. On our five hour railway trip from Mombasa we were continually in sight of big game. The country looks very fine with natural grazing and everything seems to grow remarkably well. The place (Nairobi) is full of blacks with most peculiar adornments and paints and often quite naked. They seem quite a contented lot and go around singing and bucking about on the least provocation.”
Their safari lasted 2½ months, October 6 to December 21, 1910, and was done in two parts. The first to the north-east of Nairobi, the second to the west and south. The maps below show where they hunted.
Their first safari took place north-east of Nairobi, along the Thika River, in the Athi River / Donio Sabuk area, and in the areas around Ithanga and Kilima Mbogo. In the Donio Sabuk, they hunted on the farms of Mr. Versturme and Major Bunbury almost certainly aquaintances from Argentina. Mr. Versturme is very likely the Mr. Veturme who, in June 1897, joined Alfred and Todd for a hunt in north Santa Fι, Argentina.
Alfred's diary of the safari consists of very brief notes covering only the first twelve days, October 6 through 18. On the 18th a group of porters returned from a trip to Nairobi bringing a fresh supply of "champagn, whisky, sacks, cartriges". We presume the evenings thereafter were merry for there are no more entries in the diary.
Alfred's biography includes the following quote; its dated format suggests it is from a diary, however its chatty tone suggests a letter (neither of which we have seen). In it he describes hunting around Theika and the Itanga hills, October 8 to November 2. Per his statement “we got back yesterday”, he wrote this while in Nairobi preparing for the second leg of the safari.
“Nov. 2: Todd and I got back yesterday after 24 days hunting; we went to Vesturme's place, about 15 leagues from here, to start. We went on eastwards for 1 1/2 days march across the Theika river and near the Itanga hills. I got a huge buffalo with my 500-bore at about 7 yards; they are very tough animals weighing about a ton - and awfully "malo" - the most dangerous animals here. There were two rhinos also killed on the place, their horns measuring 24" and 22 1/4"; a stupid animal but quite dangerous when they get wind of you and you don't see them until they are on top of you. Generally they whistle like a steam ngine when they charge. We are going on to the southern Guaso Nyri. We have 57 men; 1 head man, 2 first gun bearers and 2 second, 2 "boys" (servants), 1 cook, 2 syces, 2 askaris (police) and 45 porters. The porters carry 60 lbs. and get 1 1/2 lbs. corn meal per day and about three-pence pay. I got about 90 heads and was lucky to get two fine male lions, the list of game being 10 hartebeeste, 3 wildebeeste, 7 impala, 2 waterbuck, 1 common waterbuck, 3 buffalos, 11 wart-hog, 4 Grant's gazelle, 3 rhinos, 10 tommies, 1 eland, 2 bushbok, 3 zebras, 3 Robert's gazelle, 7 topi, 2 dik-dik, 1 baboon, 1 lesser kudu, 2 Chandler's reedbok, 5 Ward's reedbok, 6 colobus monkeys, 3 lions, 1 cheetah, 1 hyena, 1 jackall. We had a very good time and were in very good health. I did a tremendous lot of walking. I had no narrow escapes; a herd of 40 buffalos charged me but I am not sure if they did it on purpose or not. I shot about 500 shots and did a lot of long distance shooting with telescopic sights and often got animals 400 to 500 yards away.”
It appears that Alfred and Todd took a week's rest between the two safaris. On Friday, November 4, Alfred attended a cattle auction where he noted the exchange rate: £1 = 15 rupees. Per Alfred's official Game Register, their safari ended on December 21. Their second safari took place west of Nairobi. They hunted to the south-west in the Guaso Nyri per that same register near Lake Natron, and to the north-west in the Loita and Kedong areas (south and east of today's Maasai Mara Game Park).
Alfred and Todd left Nairobi on or very soon after January 1, 1911. They sailed from Kilindini to Marseilles, arriving back in England on about the 20th. Alfred remained in England at most one week. Barely time enough to arrange with Rowland Ward Ltd. (London) to mount his trophies
Their safari outfitters were Newland, Tarlton & Co., Ltd.. Alfred's trophies were mounted by Rowland Ward, Ltd. in London (estimated cost: £180 £190). Both companies are still in business and can be found on the web:
Newland Tarlton at: http://DonYoungSafaris.com/
Rowland Ward’s web-site is very slow. In your browser, search for: “www.RowlandWard.com”
It appears that Alfred booked the first available and fastest passage to New York, for he sailed on the 28th from Liverpool, arriving in New York on February 3rd. His apparent rush strongly suggests he had received word that his older brother, Willie, was seriously ill and was in the States seeking medical treatment. Willie was staying with his in-laws, the Allyn family, in Corsicana, Texas; he died there on April 1st, of kidney failure. Per Johnnie's diary: “he [Alfred] was with William when he died”.
From Alfred's list of hotels, we gather that during his 3 months in the States, he visited Washington, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fort Ross (California), Santa Rosa (California), the Grand Canyon, and Boston. He sailed from New York on April 20th, arriving back in Buenos Aires in early May, 1911. Alfred's trip had lasted almost a year.
The following brochure describes the safari experience in British East Africa (Kenya). The brochure was provided to Alfred by his outfitters, Newland, Tarlton & Co., Ltd.
Hunting in British East Africa by Percy C. Madeira, published by J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1909. Madeira and his wife went on safari three years prior to Alfred and Todd, beginning in November, 1907. Madeira's safari took place in north-eastern BEA, whereas Alfred went east, then west and south of Nairobi. The book is available (free) in PDF format on the web; it is well illustrated with many of Madeira's photos. NOTE: If someone has Alfred's copy, keep it — likely a first edition, it is worth plenty today.
Camera Adventures in the African Wilds by A. Radclyffe Dugmore, published by Doubleday, Page & Company, New York, 1910. Includes 140 photograhs, some are featured in the above Newland, Tarlton & Co. brochure. The book is available on the web (not free).
The movie Out of Africa (made in 1985, Oscar winner) depicts the countryside, safaris, and colonial life-style of that period. It is based upon the life of Danish author Karen Blixen and takes place c.1910 in and around Nairobi.
Search the web for "Masai Mara" — there are many sites with excellent photos of the wildlife and scenery.
The map below is an excerpt of the south-west quarter of Madeira's safari map (above right). We inserted in bright blue the place-names where Alfred did his hunting, determined from the list of his kills submitted to the BEA authorities. The colored pencil markings (red and blue) were most likely made by Alfred for they match his diary entries.
During the first weeks of his safari, Alfred recorded his kills and a brief diary in a brochure prepared for that purpose, The Roosevelt Big Game Record Book (Teddy Roosevelt's safari was the previous year, 1909).
Below is a transcription of Alfred's notes - as written. Hand written in pencil, they can be difficult to interpret. The spelling and punctuation errors are Alfred's. We highlighted in pale yellow words in doubt and placed any suggested words in [square brackets].
(Note: this is NOT a full list of Alfreds kills.)
1 Wildebeast no 1 with scup.
with scalp.- Athi River
1 hartebeast no 2 no scalp
|2 impala with 2 scalps no 3 & 4. -||Versturmes farm..|
|1 Buffalo 44 inch outside
39½ point to point with scalp. no 5
|1 wart hog with scalp no 6
1 impala 7
|Oct 15||1 grants 8|| |
water buck 9
1 wart hog 10
1 wart hog without 11
1 wildebeast with 12
|North of Athi
Rhino & scalp 4 feet, 2 sides, tail no 13
Hartebeest no scalp.. 14
|Bunburry 22Ό 12
|Oct 18||Warthog (small no good)|
Tommie & skin No 15
Reed Buck doe (not saved.)
Hartebeest (no scalp) No 16
|20||Waterbuck 23 w/o m with scalp No 17.||Found hartebeast head|
|22||Warthog no 18 1 hartebeest no 19 - & scalp.|
|24||Eland no 20 no scalp killed by lion. -|
|25|| Rhino 21 scalp 4 feet 2 pieces of hide. tail
Impalla 22 no scalp skin
|Oct 26||[water] buck c scalp No 24.-|
wart hog no scalp 25 & 26
1 female Roan & scalp 27
put in note book
|1 Zebra & scalp & skin 28
1 Rhino 4 feet 29 22Ό
Sadly Alfred's diary consists of very brief notes and covers only the first twelve days of the safari, October 6 through 18 - yet they were on safari for another two months. As far a we know, he kept no other record of his daily activities. One of the people he mentions is Mr. V. Bunbury. Per The East African Standard of 10 March, 1923 (see Miscellaneous), Major Bunbury was one the of the original English settlers of the Donyo Sabuk area in 1904, and that previous to settling in Kenya, he had ranched in Argentina. It is therefore possible Alfred or Todd knew him from Argentina. Either way, he appears to have befriended them for he gave them permission to hunt on his property (see note on Alfred's Game Register).
Zafara left Nairobi on Oct 6th 52 men
Todd Versturner & I left in coach 6 mules on Oct 7 & went as far as Blue Post on Thika 30 miles from Nairobi at noon stopped at Scotsloun near motor or power house.
Oct 8 left Bleu Post & got to Versturnes at Kilima Mbago or Donansa [Donio] Nabuk (?) Killed a hardebeest on road 250 yds, & ran a wounded Wildebeast of Todds which Bunbury finished with his revolver
Alfterwards shot a hartebeast at about 250 ydsTodd got 3 wildebeast, 2 wart hog, 1 tommie, 1 steinbok we camped at Verstumes house.
Oct 10 Todd got 2 hardebeast 1 impala, 1 waterbuck, 1 zebra Went south east & got 2 impala. Saw lots of game including baboons. Gave Vertumes man 1 ruppee for finding wounded impala.
Oct 11 Went with Bunbury up hill south of his house & scared up a big Rhino which Todd got Afterwards found a buffalo in Papyrus which AB got. a Rhino escaped AB afterwards wounded & led us a long chase unsuccessfully.
Oct 12 Tired out in forenoon. In afternoon went out got a wart hog & impala. Saw 3 giraffes.
Oct 13 Moved camp to Bumburys dam. camp all burned.
Todd got Crocodile, Reed buck & impala & 1 guinea fowl.
Saw 3 giraffe
Oct 14 Sent 10 loads of heads etc to Nairobi. Moved camp higher up on Baranca as there were a few mosquitos last night.
My mule escaped in morning & spoilt my forenoon. [Syces] did not come back. Afternoon tried for Wildebeast on other side unsuccessfully.
Oct 15 Walked up towards Brian Whites house fotografed 7 giraffe. Shot a grants with telescopic Sight. Men brough mule back.
Oct 16 Sunday
Crossed river & shot 1 wildebeest 3 warthog. 11 water buck. saw hundreds of animals.
Went towards hill & started up a fine Rhino with big toto & shot him near tent. horn measurment 22Ό and 12 small one. In afternoon shot a hartebeest did not take scalp.
Porters got back from Nairobi & 5 exra ones bringing champagn, whisky sacks, [cartriges] Went on other side & got a small wart hog. did not take head.
The following photos are from an album very kindly lent us by Susan Horner. Per the photographs included in the album, it likely belonged to Olga (Alfred's wife, married 1915). The photos are out of order and are not titled. However, the photos are for the most part self-explanatory. In the last photo, the warehouse outside which Alfred's trophies are lined up is that of his outfitters: Newland, Tarlton & Co., Ltd.
We believe other photos may exist. In his diary entry for October 15, Alfred wrote: Walked up towards Brian Whites house fotografed 7 giraffe. We are missing that photo, and do not know who took the photos included here. [If you have any other photos of his safari, please, please may we have a copy? ]
Alfred hung most of his hunting trophies in the glassed-in hall of the original house at estancia “Las Tres Lagunas” (the “TL”), over sixty in that hall alone. Many of his African heads were placed next to the west (main) entrance. His largest African trophies — a rhinocerous head and a buffalo head — faced each other across the smaller dark hall east of the glassed-in hall, next to the east (garden) entrance. The east hall also held other stuffed heads, a giant armadillo (tatϊ carreta, is today endangered), a Masai shield and spears, and his gun cabinet. (The bull moose head which hangs at “La California” was shot by John Todd, not Alfred. John was unable to take it back to England after their hunt in the Yukon, 1908, so gave it to Alfred.)
The TL house was demolished in 1983, shortly after these photos were taken. The heads were distributed amongst family members, given to museums, or destroyed. Alfred's guns were distributed amongst family members; his “elephant” gun (shown below) is in the care of Susan Horner.
© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)