Scottsdale man finds niche as Africa safari guide

Childhood dreams to travel to Africa on a safari often remain just that — dreams. But Scottsdale native Mathew “Mat” Dry refused to give up on his childhood aspiration.

That is why he spent the past four years working as a safari guide on an African reserve.

Dry, 40, has returned to Scottsdale to launch his own safari guide agency, TIA (This is Africa) Safaris, and promote his book, “This is Africa — True Tales of a Safari Guide.”

“When I was on the reserve I would write e-mails about my experiences,” Dry recalled. “I went back (to the e-mails) and I said, ‘You know what? I could get a book out of these.’ “

“This is Africa” is a collection of Dry’s favorite stories from his trips. The book is scheduled to be released on Amazon.com in late February.

Dry plans to launch his own business for leading guided tour trips around Africa.

Overall, he hopes to not only increase tourism from the U.S. to Africa, but to educate Americans on African wildlife preservation.

“I love Africa and I want everybody to love Africa,” he said. “It’s going through some tough times, environmentally, so I see half my job as educating people so that it can survive.”

That is why Dry has chosen to give 33 percent of his book’s proceeds to the African Wildlife Fund.

He also has volunteered to speak in local schools and give “virtual safaris” to students to teach them about different species and the importance of wildlife conservation.

As a child, Dry loved animals and wanted to become a zoologist, until he found tennis, which earned him a college scholarship. He traveled and played tennis until he was 30 and had to quit due to injuries. After that, Dry attempted to make screenwriting, another lifelong hobby, into a career.

“I gave myself five years to make it and if I didn’t make it I’d find something else to do,” Dry said. “When I was 35 and hadn’t made it as a screenwriter, I went on a trip to Africa.”

Dry spent two months on his initial trip to South Africa. He loved it so much that when he learned he could go to school and train to become a safari guide, he decided to become one, another lifelong dream of his.

Dry returned to Scottsdale, sold his home, donated most of his possessions and returned to South Africa.

“I thought he was crazy,” said Sandy Gerber, Dry’s longtime friend. “But he was doing something he loves and he’s probably one of the happiest people I know.”

Dry found the Ulovane reserve near Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The reserve offered a yearlong program in which students could earn their qualifications to guide safari trips.

After completing his training, Dry worked as an overland trip guide at the Amakhala Game Reserve.

Dry guided dozens of trips over the next four years. He said he led groups of tourists from all over the world and of all ages on trips throughout the entire continent.

One special guest on a trip was Dry’s father, Ken Dry, who was 66 at the time of his first of two trips to Africa.

“I was usually twice as old as most of the people on the tours,” said Ken, now 68.

Ken said his trips to Africa were incredible experiences with his son as his guide. He slept in a tent for two weeks, whitewater rafted on the Nile River and met several friendly locals.

He was also impressed with his son’s skills as a guide.

“He seemed to be one of the most knowledgeable guides,” Ken said. “Whenever the other tour guides couldn’t answer a question they came to Mat for help. It made me proud as a father.”

Ken said he knows his son’s business will take a lot of work, but the younger Dry has the potential to do great things with it.

“I always told him and his brother, ‘The most important thing is to be able to look in the mirror every morning and like what you see,’ ” he said.

To learn more

For more information about Mat Dry and his trip opportunities, visit tiasafaris.com.

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