Documentary to mark anniversary of Born Free

Born Free is 50 years old!  Travel With Jules can offer you a special ‘Born Free Footsteps Safari’ to Kenya to experience first hand the stunning landscapes, beautiful wildlife and history of Elsa and the lions featured in the film.

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Issued October 2016

Read about the background to Born Free here in this update issued February 2017

On TV 23 October 2016 for a one off documentary featuring Virginia McKenna who played Joy Adamson in the 1966 film BORN FREE and went on to do so much to highlight the wildlife of Kenya and Africa around the world. 

Channel 4 put the spotlight on Kenya as Virginia McKenna, award-winning actress and founder of the Born Free Foundation, returns to the setting of her 1966 film, Born Free, in a one-off documentary entitled Virginia McKenna’s Born Free was shown at 7 pm Sunday 23rd October 2016. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous film based on Joy Adamson’s autobiographical book which tells the endearing tale of Elsa the lioness in which Virginia McKenna and her late husband, Bill Travers, play Joy and her husband. Adamson’s Born Free follows the story of how Joy and George Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood and released her into the wilderness of Kenya where she successfully made the transition back in to the wild and went on to have cubs of her own.

Following their encounters in the Kenyan bush whilst filming Born Free, Virginia and Bill went on to set up their own conservation charity, the Born Free foundation in 1998 for the protection of Africa’s wildlife. The Channel 4 documentary Virginia McKenna’s Born Free will follow the 85 year old BAFTA-winning actress and her son and CEO of the Born Free Foundation, Will Travers, as they retrace their steps and return to the locations where the film was set in northern Kenya.

The documentary’s executive producer Paul Stead said, “The challenges Virginia and Bill faced in playing George and Joy Adamson went way beyond learning a script and portraying them accurately and sympathetically. With no CGI to create the interaction between human and wild animals in the 1960s, the actors had to work with real lions with all the dangers that presented. It was a massive risk, the film went way over schedule and budget, resulting in Virginia, Bill and their young family having to stay more than nine months in Africa. Despite the dangers involved this was a movie that changed the couple’s future and would lead them to a lifelong campaign to keep wildlife living free. It’s always a great treat as a producer to follow a journey that clearly means so much to those involved as this one does to Virginia and her son Will, who is accompanying his mother to Kenya.”

Today guests can stay at Joy’s Camp in Shaba National Reserve and Elsa’s Kopje in Meru National Park which pay tribute to Joy Adamson with Joy’s Camp even housing a small museum dedicated to her life.

To celebrate this milestone 50th anniversary luxury East Africa safari operator Cheli & Peacock Safaris have launched a bespoke Born Free Footsteps safari contact Travel With Jules for details – we can include flights from the UK and transfers and extend your time in Kenya if you wish, maybe visit some other parks or have a break on the coast.  Contact us on 01728 748209 or send an enquiry here. 

This exclusive experience includes visits to the film’s stunning locations and places of historical relevance to one of conservation’s original pioneering couples. The nine-day itinerary will also include a visit to a small museum in Elsamere Conservation Centre at Lake Naivasha, displaying memorabilia from George and Joy Adamson’s work and in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, where visitors will have the opportunity to observe the abundance of wildlife that inhabit the reserve including its famous big cats. 


Sunset at Elsa’s Kopje (Elewana Collection)