Award winning British journalist recalls passing the ‘flinch test’ in Samburu National Reserve for new book

Brian Jackman in Kenya
Brian Jackman in Kenya. Photo: Global White Lion Protection Trust

Kenya is one of the locations featured in a new book from Lonely Planet containing 100 accounts of life-changing travel experiences. 

In the book, titled The Best Moment of Your Life, Britain’s foremost writer on African wildlife safaris, Brian Jackman, describes the moment he passed the flinch test in the Samburu National Reserve.

Jackman was being taught the etiquette of approaching elephants in the wild by Saba Douglas-Hamilton who runs Elephant Watch Camp and is the daughter of the world’s leading authorities on elephant behaviour, Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

The key piece of advice he was given was to keep your cool and let the large mammals make the decisions, which he followed during an encounter with Edison the elephant.

“Saba killed the ignition and Edison strode towards us, extending the tip of his trunk until it was hovering only an inch away from me. Slowly he followed the outline of my body until I could feel his warm breath on the side of my face. Then, inexplicably, he brushed past and stood behind us, his tusks and trunk laid at full length on the canvas roof. Time seemed to stop. In the silence I could hear wood doves calling all around us. Then he was gone, a giant shadow drifting away through the trees,” Jackman recounts.

He clearly pleased his host as Saba whispered “Well done,” to him, adding: “You passed the flinch test with flying colours.”

For Jackman, what made this moment unforgettable was “the total trust required between all three participants – two humans and one elephant.”

The Best Moment of Your Life
The Best Moment of Your Life. Photo: Lonely Planet

Elsewhere in the book, British explorer Benedict Allen describes his trip across the Gobi desert with just two camels for company, and there are other tales including a Rwandan gorilla encounter, reincarnation on the Ganges, horse riding with Patagonian gauchos, witnessing Nelson Mandela’s first free speech, watching a space shuttle launch and a son journeying with his mother back to Alexandria, the city of her childhood.

The Best Moments of Your Life is available from the Lonely Planet website for £16.99.

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