Paul McCartney on holiday in Kenya

November 14-19, 1966
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Wild Life

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In November 1966, Paul McCartney and Mal Evans’s trip to Spain took a spontaneous turn when they decided to go on safari in Kenya. Paul had spent a week on a road trip through France, and he met Mal in Bordeaux on November 12. They drove towards Spain, hoping to visit John Lennon on the set of the film “How I Won the War,” but they learned along the way that filming had moved on and John was already back in London. Disappointed, Paul decided to book a safari trip to Kenya on the spot.

Paul and Mal flew from Seville to Madrid, then from Madrid to Nairobi in Kenya, with a stop in Rome. Paul’s girlfriend, actress Jane Asher, joined them.

In Kenya, they visited Tsavo National Park, where they saw Mzima Springs and a variety of wildlife. They then visited Amboseli National Park, before heading back to Nairobi. There, they stayed at the Treetops Hotel, a unique lodge built in trees that had been visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

The group spent their final night in a YMCA in Nairobi before boarding a flight back to England on November 19.

Paul and Mal brought home movie cameras on the trip, and a few low-quality films have surfaced. The trip to Kenya inspired Paul to write the song “Wild Life,” which was released on the album of the same name in 1971.

‘Wild Life’ was to do with me having gone on safari and actually seeing that sign that I sing about: ‘The animals have the right of way’. Which really impressed me. You just realise the sort of dignity and strength of wild animals because here they’ve got the right of way. Whereas we’re all so full of our own importance. It’s kind of nice, you know. You’re just a guy in a Land Rover. You don’t matter so much! So that was why I wrote that song. Man, you know, we’re the “top species”, and yet we’re the ones who eff it up, which is not right. 

Paul McCartney – From, October 29, 2018

From Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at 50: What Inspired the Title Track – Rolling Stone:

McCartney and Evans met at 1 p.m. the following day, November 12th, at a pre-arranged spot under the Grosse Cloche clock tower in Bordeaux’s Saint-Eloi Catholic church. Together they drove towards Spain, stopping off at the coastal town of San Sebastian, and then to Madrid, Cordoba and Malaga. The idea had been to visit Lennon on the set of How I Won the War in Almeria, but along the way they were informed that filming had moved on and Lennon was already back in England. Disappointed by drizzly weather and bored by the aimless driving, McCartney craved something more exotic. So, like many adventurous Englishmen before him, he booked a safari in Kenya.

Having arranged for the Aston Martin to be driven back to London, the men embarked on a flight to Nairobi, where McCartney’s girlfriend, actress Jane Asher, joined them. The trio took accommodations at a lodge in the Tsavo National Park and hired a man named Moses to drive them to the local sightseeing spots. At Mzima Springs they watched splashing crocodiles and hippos from an underwater viewing station, and followed wildlife through the Maasai Amboseli game reserve at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. For an added treat, they stayed at the famous Treetops Hotel, built into an enormous chestnut tree overlooking an elephant watering hole in Aberdare National Park. Queen Elizabeth II had been residing there when she ascended to the throne in 1952. McCartney’s stay would provide another historical footnote.

The group spent their final night in a YMCA on Nairobi’s State House Ave before boarding a flight bound for England on November 19th. Once elevated, McCartney reflected on the 13-day excursion. The time alone had been restorative, and the change of scenery had been stimulating, but he remained fascinated by the transformative properties of disguise. Unencumbered by the burden of celebrity and liberated from any preconceived expectations, he could indulge his every impulse or curiosity. It was total freedom. […]

From Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at 50: What Inspired the Title Track – Rolling Stone

One of the things about the Beatles is that we noticed accidents. Then we acted upon them. When we had a tape playing backwards by accident, we would stop and go, “What is that?” A lot of other people would go, “Oh God, what is that bloody noise?” But we always loved being sidetracked by these ideas. In this case, I’d gone to the US to see Jane Asher, who was touring in a Shakespeare production and was in Denver. So I flew out to Denver to stay with her for a couple of days and take a little break. On the way back, I was with our roadie Mal Evans, and on the plane he said, “Will you pass the salt and pepper?” I misheard him and said, “What? Sergeant Pepper?” We had recently played Candlestick Park. That was a show where we couldn’t even hear ourselves; it was raining, we were nearly electrocuted and when we got off stage we were chucked into the back of a stainless steel minitruck. The minitruck was empty, and we were sliding round in it, and we all thought, “F***, that’s enough.” That day we decided we wouldn’t tour again. The idea was that we would make records, and the records would tour. We’d once heard that Elvis Presley had sent his gold-plated Cadillac on tour, and we thought that was just brilliant. So we thought, “We’ll make a record, and that’ll be our gold-plated Cadillac.” On the way back from Denver I suggested to the guys that we take on alter egos. The concept was that we’d stopped being the Beatles. We were now this other band. I did a sketch in which the four of us were pictured in front of a floral clock. It was as if time stood still, because the clock was made of flowers. There was something lovely about that. The idea was that the band were going to be presented with a trophy by the Lord Mayor of London, or someone like that. So, we agreed on the cover idea, then went down to the costumier Monty Berman, in Soho, to be fitted with the band’s outfits. I must admit I’d taken some acid in Denver, and this was all a kind of game I was playing after that trip. I had drawn the sketch to show the guys what this new project might be like. They loved it. And it really freed us up. It gave us a kind of anonymity and a new lease on life.

Paul McCartney – From Paul McCartney on his lyrics: ‘Eroticism was a driving force behind everything I wrote’ | Times2 | The Times – From “The Lyrics” book, 2021 – Paul McCartney confuses his trip to Denver in April 1967, and his trip to Kenya in November 1966 – “Sgt. Pepper” was recorded in February 1967, a couple of months before the Denver trip.

Still photos enhanced by AI

MAL’S PAGE – A special report by Mal Evans who went on safari with Paul

[…] The original intention was to drive East all along the coastline beside the Mediterranean and meet up with John at Almeria. But by phoning London we found that John had finished work on “How I Won The War” earlier than expected and was on his way home with Cyn and Neil!

“That’s torn it,” exclaimed Paul, “O.K., how about a safari as compensation?”

“Spain isn’t really safari country, Paul,” I replied blankly. “No, but Kenya is!” came the prompt reply.

We sorted through maps and got in touch with our very helpful travel agency. In no time the spur-of-the-moment schedule was planned. Drive to Seville and have someone get the DB6 back to London while we flew to Madrid. Then another plane from Madrid to the city of Nairobi in Kenya. By way of Rome where we spent ten hours looking at St. Peter’s and everything. And taking a sightseeing bus trip which ran all through the sort of Knotty Ash of Rome and back into the centre!

At Nairobi we were introduced to our African driver, who had this shiny big Plymouth all ready to go.

“Got a radio?” Paul asked the driver.

No radio.

“I hope you can sing then!” And we all did!


First stop — Tsavo National Park, with this fabulous lodge (more like a luxury hotel complete with blue pool) as our base. Some British soldiers in the bar started talking pointedly about Beatles until we joined them, Paul admitted his identity and went on to play and win a great game of poker!

A highlight of the two days at Tsavo was a trip to the big springs and the chance to gaze through an underwater observation window and watch all these massive fish and so forth. Monkeys, elephants, hippos, alligators, deer, zebras — we saw the lot and Paul’s got loads of movie to prove it.

Our next stop was a quickie visit to Ambosali Park, the least happy bit of the holiday because Paul had caught too much sun and felt really bad for a day or too. Here we were housed in individual chalet-type huts at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Driving back we were 200 yards from the huts when we came to this narrow stretch of road with high, steep banks. A whacking great elephant blocked our way. It was a bit scary because if we frightened him he could easily charge. We couldn’t back up because there was another car right behind ours. And we couldn’t pass — there wasn’t room, Eventually, with fingers crossed, we let rip and roared past at top speed before the elephant realised what was happening!


And so, back to Nairobi and the best bit of all — our stay at the fantastic Treetops Hotel, really built in trees with massive trunks going right through the rooms! To get there we had to use a landrover—and the services of an expert hunter to guard us because this was the really wild country. The people at the Treetops were wonderful company. About 40 of us all told and it was like a big dinner party with a friendly sort of family atmosphere. On the final morning Paul and I crawled out of bed at five o’clock to film the sunrise.

One last thing — a simple memory from Nairobi. We stayed over at the YMCA before taking a Friday night flight home. I left Paul to go into the town for a few last-minute gifts. When I got back he was sitting on the grass surrounded by this “audience” of ten or twelve little kids who had a half-day school holiday. Paul got a great kick out of just chatting to them… now if John hadn’t finished his film early those kids would never have met a very thinly disguised Beatle outside Nairobi YMCA! And I wouldn’t have had the most memorable safari holiday of my life!

From The Beatles Monthly Book – January 1967
From The Beatles Monthly Book – January 1967


Just as George, John and Ringo returned to this country from their various trips abroad, Paul took off for Spain. He had intended to tour, start off by visiting John on location in Almeria before flying to Kenya. But John finished shooting earlier than expected and returned to England before Paul had a chance to meet up with him. Mal travelled with Paul both to Spain and on safari in Kenya.

From Beatles Monthly Book – December 1966
From Beatles Monthly Book – December 1966


There’s one driver in Nairobi, Kenya, called Moses, who could get a big price from any of the Kenyan teenagers, to sit in the back seat of his big Plymouth car.

Yes, you’re quite right, it’s the car that Paul and Mal used when they went on safari. Only trouble is, if no one believes you, how do you actually prove that a Beatle used your car?

From Beatles Monthly Book – January 1967
From Beatles Monthly Book – January 1967

Last updated on December 27, 2023

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