Jonathan Scott, alongside his wife Angela, has devoted his time on Earth to the conservation and documentation of wildlife in Africa. Find out about life before his illustrious career and hear some of his advice
Q: What was your earliest or childhood ambition?
I always loved the countryside and nature. I loved the wildlife TV series ‘On Safari’ with Armand and Michaela Denis. I was mesmerised by Africa and the thought of living among wild creatures was my dream. My favourite day of the year was when we visited my Auntie Florence in London. She would take us to Regent’s Park Zoo, with the leopard my favourite big cat even then.
Q: What motivates you to do what you do?
I was fortunate to always know my ‘bliss’ – my pathway to happiness. It was to live in the moment and explore wild places. The movie Born Free (1966) had me sitting in the cinema thinking: “That is what I want to do” – to live in the bush and watch big cats. Being married to Angie who is also an artist and award-winning wildlife photographer has had a huge influence on my life, both personally and as a photographer.
Q: Who has inspired you to do what you do?
My mother and the memory of my father Gilbert Scott who was an outstanding architect in London and a decorated soldier in the Second World War. My mother always wanted me to follow my dream of doing something with wildlife. I was also very influenced by the work of the late Sir Peter Scott – the wildlife artist and conservationist – and his father Captain Robert Falcon Scott: ‘Scott of the Antarctic’. They were adventurous spirits who loved nature. David Attenborough is also an inspiration to me. I have been fortunate enough to know him since the early 1980s when he narrated a film on the Marsh Pride of lions, the same animals that Angie and I have followed since I first came to live in the Maasai Mara in 1977.
Q: If your 20-year old self could see you now, what would he think?
I think he would feel a sense of accomplishment, that I tried to live up to the high standard of commitment and perseverance that my mother instilled in me and honour the memory of my father. I know my mother was proud and think my dad would have been too.
Q: If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change?
No – my mistakes and struggles always came with powerful lessons that helped strengthen my resolve to cherish life and to live in the moment. It has been the most wonderful gift living my dream with someone to share it.
Q: In what place are you happiest?
Anywhere with a sense of wilderness or a view of the sea with Angie by my side. Of course, the Maasai Mara and Serengeti are very special to both of us. Mara-Serengeti is quintessential savannah Africa, and Angie and I have spent so many happy times there. We were married in the Mara in 1992 and still have a base there. I can think of nothing better than spending the afternoon or early morning in our Land Rover watching the Marsh Pride or a leopard, sitting quietly with a cup of tea and just absorbing the essence of this corner of Eden and its wild inhabitants.
Q: Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Yes, but not enough. Angie is very environmentally conscious. She is passionate about trees and there are some that she has planted in our garden in Lang’ata in Nairobi that are now 15-20ft tall.
Q: The one essential you travel with?
Angie! A camera. Binoculars. In that order.
Q: Your best piece of safari advice?
Don’t rush from place to place trying to see “everything”. Always try to spend three nights at any destination.
Q: What advice would you give to young people wishing to follow in your footsteps?
The most important thing is that you believe in yourself and persevere. Determination is a vital ingredient. You need to set off and embrace the uncertainties as you carve out your own pathway. You can have a great relationship, get married and raise children, and earn a living as a photographer – just stay diversified, with your fingers in lots of pies, like we have.
Jonathan Scott will be talking at the inaugural Beyond Travel Festival at The Royal Geographical Society, London, at 3pm on Saturday 17th September 2016. For more information, visit www.steppestravel.co.uk/about/beyond-steppes-travel-festival.