Born Free Lives on in Kenya

Written By: The Planet D

Born Free, As Free as the wind blows…..

Those were the words going through my head when we stopped at the Elsamere Home in Kenya.  If you are old enough to remember (which I am not) Born Free was a popular movie in the 60’s based on the lives of Joy and George Adamson.

You can buy Born Free on Amazon for $9.99

A couple who raised an orphaned lion cub named Elsa rehabilitated it and released it back into the wild.  The song and score won an academy award and the movie spawned a TV series in the seventies.

Born Free in Real Life

born free movie poster

I remember my mom always singing Born Free around the house. I never knew any more of the words than the words I wrote above, but the story always stuck with me.

Now, here I am as an adult staying in the cottage that belonged to Joy Adamson herself.

About Joy Adamson

I never saw the movie and don’t know if they showed the tyrant behind the blond beauty on screen, but Joy Adamson was not well loved in Kenya.

born free joy adamson

She was difficult, mean-spirited and it is believed that she was murdered by one of her long-suffering staff members.

As I read about her story hanging on the walls of the complex, it is said that she once poured hot soup over one of her house staff members because the soup was not hot enough. She wasn’t well liked by the community and apparently her husband George wasn’t much better.

elsamere cottage born free kenya
Their cottage now turned into a guest house

Conservation and the Elsamere 

However, nothing can be taken away from the groundbreaking work that they did to begin the movement to rehabilitate animals and release them into the wild.  They raised Elsa the lion as their own. Elsa returned to the wild and apparently lived a happy life raising cubs of her own.

born free elsamere conservation

Staying at the Elsamere House, Kenya

The Elsamere Home is an interesting place to stay on Lake Naivasha, Kenya. It is secluded, quiet and rustic. This complex is set in the middle of wild Africa and there is a very real danger of being eaten by hippos if you venture outside on your own.

Other than the cottages and the main house, there isn’t another building in sight.

elsamere cottages kenya
Our private lodge

As we settled in to our bungalow to relax before dinner, we were told never to leave our lodging without calling the main house first to have an armed guard sent.

When the time did come for dinner and our guard waited outside our door and then escorted us to our table.

When we asked if Hippos really do come close to the house, he showed us hippo tracks on the lawn. “Oh Yes, they will eat you.” He replied. The tracks came right up to our porch!

hippos at night

I wouldn’t want to have a sleepwalking problem while staying at the Elsamere home.

Born Free Lives On

Joy Adamson may not have been a nice lady and everything that is read is speculation, but one thing is for sure, the Elsamer Conservation Centre is doing amazing work.

born free conservation kenya

What the Adamson’s lacked in people skills, they made up for their love of wildlife. It was their work that pioneered the movement for conservation in Africa and changed the way that people think of animals.

Their efforts live on today through the Elsa Conservation trust.  Their entire estate was left to this trust and during the last forty years, the trust has donated millions of dollars to wildlife education and conservation projects. They have helped to create many parks and reserves in Kenya and there is a field study centre right at the Elsamere centre where we stayed.

cage to transport lions

Joy was also a talented artist and much of her work is showcased the walls of the main house. I can only imagine the abundance of wildlife in the area while they lived their lives in Kenya.

There is a museum in the house and artifacts are on display outside including the jeep which George Adamson was shot and killed in while trying to help a tourist who was captured by Somali bandits.

the jeep they used
Jeep George Adamson was shot and killed in

I think that I would have liked to stay longer at the Elsamere.  You can hire guides and boats for bird watching here and I think that it is a place the slow traveler could spend several days exploring. As long as you don’t venture too close to the shores of the lake to be eaten by a hungry hippo.

To find out more about the Elsamere and the conservation trust visit their website.

Read More:

Kenya in Pictures

Kenya – The Masai Mara Experience

Kenya’s Incredible Lake Nakuru

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

11 thoughts on “Born Free Lives on in Kenya”

  1. I have a letter from joy Adamson must be going back to the early 70’s when I lived in the uk
    I wrote a letter whilst in junior school after reading a book on Elsa the lion cub
    I wrote requesting a photo
    The reply was a nice letter but I had to pay if I wanted a photo
    My mother at the time refused to give me any money.
    I still look at the letter from time to time

  2. Kenya is no doubt a well-liked travel destination in the African region. They have the best views of savannahs, endangered wildlife and unforgettable adventures.

  3. Lovely….

    Nice Adventure place to enjoy a thrilling vacation…i think the night alone stay is a very good idea to get a new experience…..

    • Yes, it’s a nice break from the usual Safari thing. I could see myself chilling out here for a few days if I were on a long overland trip through Africa. This is a place where a good book is in order as you sit in the yard overlooking the lake.

  4. Looks like an amazing place to visit, although not a good place if you’re a sleepwalker 🙂 Although Joy was a mean person, the movement she started is commendable. Thanks for a great read.

    • That is exactly what I thought. I even thought to myself “God, don’t let this be the night I decide to start sleepwalking’ ;-) And it’s true, she did start something incredible with conservation and I often think about the times that she lived in. Life was hard and even harder as a woman. Who knows what she was really like.

    • It was very cool. To stay in a part of history like that and think about everything that went on here. It’s pretty wild and the place feels like you’ve stepped back in time. you can imagine what life was like then.

  5. It’s so surreal to stay at a place that you need a gun to go outside because of the wild animals. It was like that in Svalbard. You need a gun to go outside because a polar bear might be around, even right in town.

    It looks like a lovely place to stay!

    • It is strange isn’t it. I’ve heard of that in Churchill Canada too. The polar bears could be anywhere. Glad you didn’t come face to face with one!