Kenya kidnap: tourists are more likely to fall victim to crime in Spain.
By Jonny Bealby, adventure travel writer
13 Sep 2011
Until this weekend, Kiwayu Safari Village was a paradise on the Kenyan coast, a bubble of beauty that no doubt felt incredibly distant from the Somalian border less than 30 miles away. This is the remotest part of the east African country’s coastline, where pink crabs patrol the shore and buffalo are commonplace. It isn’t really a surprise, then, that guests at the resort pay upwards of £280 a night for a bed in one of the 18 thatched cottages dotted along a mile of sheltered private beach.
But this utopia was shattered in the early of hours of Sunday when gunmen stormed the resort and murdered David Tebbutt, a 58-year-old finance director at the Faber & Faber publishing house. His wife, Judith, was taken hostage; the SAS are travelling to the region to try to find her.
It’s low season in Kenya, so the Tebbutts were the only guests in the resort, which may have helped the perpetrators â€“ either pirates from across the border, or Islamic extremists known as Harakat al-Shabab al Mujahideen, a Somali terrorist group.
Less than a year since Paul and Rachel Chandler, a couple from Tunbridge Wells, were released from their 13-month captivity by Somali pirates, following a $300,000 ransom payment, this latest appalling crime against Western tourists raises an important question: just how safe are we in these remote pockets of paradise?
As the founder of Wild Frontiers, an adventure travel company that offers trips to some of the world’s most remote regions â€“ including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Congo and Sudan â€“ my answer is simple: generally, we are very safe indeed.
The Foreign Office reports that in 2010, 174,051 British tourists visited Kenya, the largest proportion of any nationality; of those, only 81 tourists got into trouble. The Kiwayu Safari Village is unusual in its proximity to such uncertainty â€“ and yet my experience suggests its remoteness will have been its attraction to the Tebbutts.
Police have said that the Tebbutts’ attackers were able to enter their bungalow easily because there was a piece of cloth for a front door â€“ but this is a red herring. Armed gunmen will enter a resort through a piece of cloth or a locked door. The couple would have chosen the resort precisely because they would be able to feel the breeze of the Indian Ocean as they slept.
In the past 10 years, the tourism industry has evolved hugely. The abundance of no-frills airlines means that the public no longer desires to travel â€“ they expect it. Events such as 9/11 â€“ and the subsequent increases in airport security â€“ have not put people off travelling. If anything, we are much more knowledgeable about the world, and understand the risks better.
Last year, I was in Argentina, staying in a boutique hotel at a winery. The owner told me that three weeks before, the restaurant had been held up at gunpoint as men went through diners’ rooms ransacking their belongings.
The other day I heard of someone who had a machete held at her throat in the Seychelles. I have been held up by an AK47-wielding 14-year-old in Ethiopia, and narrowly avoided being shot in Angola.
But how ironic that last month, my employees in Kabul were emailing to check I was OK as teenagers rioted in London.
And that’s the thing: crime happens everywhere. The key is to be aware of that, but not let it frighten you so that you never go through your front door. Because the world is a far more beautiful place than it is a dangerous one.