January 14 - 20, 1994


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Coastweek -- A man was walking through Shimba Hills' rainforest, when he felt that he had found the perfect tree and site to build himself a "Tree House".

From this vantage point, he imagined he would be able to sit for hours on end looking out into his picturesque and exotic wilderness: occasionally sighting the animals he loved most - the elephant.

The man's name? John Arkle.

What had began as a personal dream and adventure, years later, has become a get-a-way paradise for thousands of people from all over the world.

The "Shimba Hills Lodge", a tree house hotel built deep in the Shimba Hill's rainforest, exactly where John's tree house was, is the result of that dream.

Ahead of his time in many notable ways, John insisted, during the construction of the lodge, on as much tree conservation as possible.

Coastweek - - John Arkle chair-
man Mombasa Skål Club

As a result, only one tree was cut down to make way for the lodge.

Many have passions, but only a few live up to their full and creative potential as John Arkle did.

His love for nature and the wildlife surpassed all else.

Many who knew him or even had a passing moment with him were left in no doubt that this was a man truly at one with nature.

Fearlessly he led many a nervous but excited friend through the forests, parks of Kenya's rough terrain.

For them an experience of a life time:

For John, a life time's experience.

Deep tanned, gun securely strapped, but, for the Khakhi hat, stripped to the waist; Khakhi shorts and army boots, John Arkle.

He had such an adventurous life out in the jungle, that when out hiking with him one didn't want to miss a thing. It wasn't ever easy.

Those treks into Kenya's wilderness at times proved to be a lesson in survival for the fittest.

None was more fit than John.

Age, heat, bush nothing slowed him down once he was on his way.

His knowledge of the parks culminated in his production of a book on "Camping in Kenya".

"There's no safaris of ours where his book is not our companion", says Chris, who like many of John's friends will feel the vacuum of his departure last Tuesday January 4 1994.

Born in Britain, John came to Kenya following a career in the British Army.

On his arrival in Kenya, in 1963, he was the last European recruit into the Kenya Police.

He served there for many years.

It was this background, says Chris, "which instilled in John the self discipline, honour, self esteem, and high standards he set for himself and others.

"This also caused him to be occasionally upset when he saw standards of public life falling and prompted him to write letters to the papers, signing them Pro Bono Publico".

Laughter emerging from a great sense of humour was John's tonic, for a good life.

A description of Chris experience aptly paints the picture of this determined but rib-cracking man.

It goes like this: ".... We were to join John (in the foothills of the Chyulu Hills).

We came down the Chyulus and stopped to survey the landscape ... (but), what caught our attention instead was the sight of a not-quite-new Mazda Station Wagon bobbing across the plains with a crate of White Cap strapped to the roof ... John ... off to watch the sunset, a la White Cap".

After his career with the Kenya Police John Arkle moved into the tourist sector.

It was his work with United Touring Company, Cooper Sky Bird, and Shimba Hills Lodge that helped curve his niche in Mombasa's society.

His illness, bravely borne, created a vacuum long before his final departure, in the town he so loved to escape from.

Safe haven was at home surrounded by the forests of Kwale.

Perched upon a rugged and forrested terrain, his home looks down into the 'thick' and expansive rainforest below, where 'his' elephants can often be seen roaming. Misty mornings here are surreal - straight ahead and in perfect view, on a clear day, stands the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.


It surprised none of John's friends, who in the past have flocked here Sunday upon Sunday, when last Saturday they laid him to rest atop the hill and facing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Neither were they shocked to learn that a group of elephants had come "right up to the mango tree" close to the house, only a few days earlier, "as if to pay their last respects" to their departed friend.

A moving ceremony, his last farewell, and a somewhat happy one, as many of his friends agreed silently that sadness was just too foreign a word next to John's smiling suntanned face.

And so, to borrow the words from his dear friend , former camping companion, Chris Groom:

"John the great Safari man has now embarked on the greatest safari of all.

"Safari Njema na Kwaheri".

To Liz, Jakie, Johnathan and Edward, take courage.

- Pamela de Brouwer






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