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tristan voorspuy.small.garth thompsonTristan Voorspuy could identify every tree, every bird, and every creature that walked the landscape, and was a force for preservation. / Garth Thompson photo

Tristan Voorspuy, sixty, was ambushed and murdered on his Sosian ranch on March 4, 2017. We report this breaking news because Tristan was well-known and respected by so many foxhunters across North America who traveled to Kenya for his riding safaris.

Tristan led most of the safaris. He could identify every tree, every bird, and every creature that walked the landscape, and had stories to tell about each. His death at the hands of renegade tribal warriors comes as a painful shock to those who remember him as a gifted horseman, pilot, former foxhunter, bold and rugged friend, naturalist, and a force for conservation in Africa. He truly cared about and and worked for the preservation of his natural world.

In fact, in a bizarre way, Tristan’s murder can be directly related to his conservation success. In 2005, Tristan and six investors purchased Sosian, a 24,000-acre ranch that was badly degraded. Tristan turned it into a highly successful wildlife conservation project, one of a number of large ranches that double as wildlife conservancies. Tribal warriors, members of Kenya’s Samburu and Pokot ethnic groups who live in an area denuded by drought and livestock, have recently seized several of these ranches so they may now graze their goats and cows.

tristan.small.garthThe invaders had burned several buildings on Sosian, and Tristan rode out to check on damage to the only building that had not been burned. He was ambushed and shot to death. As the first white farmer to be killed since the invasions began last year, the act represents a major escalation in an offensive that many white farmers believe to be a politically motivated land grab in one of the country’s most important conservation areas.

When Tristan failed to return, a neighbor flew over the area and spotted his badly injured horse. A tracker later found and identified his body, which as of March 5th had yet to be retrieved. Though large gangs of armed warriors still patrol the area, it has since been recovered.

Drought-related invasions in the area are not uncommon, but few have been so violent. According to Adrian Blomfield’s account in The Telegraph, “as many as twenty black Kenyans have been killed, among them workers on white-owned farms. Some white ranchers have also been shot at and one black rancher was shot and wounded last year.” Wildlife, including elephants, have also been killed, allegedly by poachers, on area ranches that have fallen to the invaders.

Tristan was born in South Africa, went to secondary school and college in the UK, served in the British army for six years in the 1970s, and was a member of the Household Guards for two years. After leaving the army, he drove a motorbike from London to Cape Town, looking for work in Africa. He created Offbeat Safaris in 1990.

In Kenya, for a time, he maintained a pack of foxhounds for hunting. He lived near Nairobi at Deloraine, a historic colonial farm estate built by Lord Francis Scott, uncle of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. Deloraine has played host to many notables, including both the Queen Mother and the Duchess of York in its time. Tristan is described in The Telegraph article as “a central figure in white Kenyan society.”

Following Tristan across the Mara in the hoofprints of the English explorers of another century, and experiencing, only as one can on horseback, those vast plains sustaining multitudes of wildlife in the manner in which those explorers had first witnessed it, was surely one of the great adventures of my life. Tristan Voorspuy will never be forgotten by any of us who followed, marveled, and learned from him on safari.

Posted March 6, 2017

deloraine.garthHistoric Deloraine, host to the Queen Mother and the Duchess of York in its time, was Tristan's home. / Garth Thompson photo

Comments   

# Guest 2017-03-09 09:14
Very sad. Fond childhood memories of Tristan and his brothers and sister in the UK.
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# Guest 2017-03-10 02:34
Thank you Norman. A fitting tribute to one of the finest riding safari guides in the world. Although competitors in the Kenya Riding Safari Business, we were great friends and shared much knowledge and support on a regular basis. Tristan will be greatly missed by many. Our love and support for the Voorspuy Family & Offbeat Safaris will continue for many years to come. With thanks. Gordie Church.
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# Norman Fine 2017-03-10 10:08
Thank you for your comment, Gordie. For those unfamiliar with the riding safari, it was Gordie’s father, Tony, the son of a missionary father, who pioneered the concept of the riding safari. Tony started Safaris Unlimited, which Gordie now operates. Tristan Voorspuy got his start in the business while working for Tony. Tristan eventually went off on his own as Offbeat Safaris. Men like Tristan and Gordie are few in number, but are “the boots on the ground” in the battle to preserve African wildlife. The loss of any one of these men is a tragic loss for us all.
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# Guest 2017-03-10 16:49
I went on safari with him. What an amazing man! He definetly could identify every bug plant and animal in Kenya a huge loss to his family, friends and the world. He was a gifted man
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# Guest 2017-03-11 01:35
Thank you for writing this wonderful obituary. So many people from amnay parts of the world have been truly saddens by his death. I am a till numb from the news.

The safari industry is a special one founded many moons ago by adventurers, mavericks and people passionate about wildlife and wilderness. Over the years the industry adapts and changes for good or bad. Tristan survived these changes but always did it his way and has a loyal worldwide fan club because of it. Tristan knew the key ingredients of how a great safari should be run and stuck with it. His passion for life and adventure and creation of something special and unique was the norm in our wonderful industry when I got involved. It was this drive and sense of mischief and fun that attracted me to this part of the world and made me love Africa and all it's many characters. On Sunday we lost a big one. RIP Tristan and love and thoughts with Team Offbeat and all his family in Kenya and around the world. John Spence
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# Norman Fine 2017-03-11 10:43
John Spence is president of Scott Dunn USA, division of Scott Dunn, a worldwide travel company. Spence started his successful Aardvark Safaris in 1999, and sold the company to Scott Dunn in 2016.
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# Denya Massey 2017-03-12 09:32
A tragic loss, on so many fronts. And while it's said that no one is irreplaceable, I truly believe Tristan is exactly that - a one of a kind man, who accomplished something that will never be repeated. The loss is staggering in many ways.
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# Guest 2017-03-17 08:52
Tristan joined me on New Year's Day 1984. With no time for an interview, he went out to the Mara with a tent to manage horses stabled near Mara River Camp. He passed the test, so started 7 years of successful relationship. Tristan quickly learned the ropes, injecting his own style into our riding safaris. His understanding of the bush, horsemanship and leadership skills, his fearless sense of adventure were legendary. He started Offbeat Safaris in 1991. He became the ultimate safari guide, a hugely knowledgeable naturalist with a relentless passion for safeguarding Kenya's wildlife. His Sosian Ranch conservancy was a prime example of his vision and dedication to all that really matters - Kenya's natural heritage.
He went before his time, confronting lawlessness in his adopted country. His legacy will live on. His memorial at Deloraine was a truly fitting end to a colourful and respected personality.
He was a frontiersman, fearless and fun.
Tony Church
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