President Obama, the MGM Lion and the Kirky adventure expert


AN ADVENTURER from Kirkintilloch has told the Herald all about his wild life.

Cliff Giddings served as a distinguished member of elite British Armed Forces – one of only a handful of people to have been both a Marine and a Paratrooper.

Cliff – who has run an eco-adventure company based in Eastside, Kirkintilloch, for four years – moved to Scotland in the mid-1990s to complete a degree in outdoor education.

After graduating he went travelling for eight years all around the world, working as an adventure guide and with indigenous people in the likes of the Amazon, Burma, Lapland and the safari lands of Africa.

While in Kenya in east Africa, Cliff (43) became involved with the Kikuyu tribe, which has more than five million members – around 25 per cent of the country’s total population.

He regularly employed members of the tribe to act as guides for his wildlife adventure company, which promoted adventure tourism to Mount Kenya.

Having gained the trust and respect of the Kikuyu elders, Cliff was asked to become a member of the Kikuyu tribe – a huge honour – where he is, to this day, the only ‘musungu’ (white foreigner) in the tribe.

Cliff said: “I was so interested in the story of these people and had an understanding with their traditions.

“I had never heard of anybody like me being invited into the tribe.

“We drove for hours in a Land Rover to a special Kikuyu village. I can still remember it clearly, there was a smell of charcoal wafting through the air.

“I was taken into ‘the parliament’ where the elders were sitting on tiny, tri-legged seats and asked questions about my life.”

To complete his acceptance into the Kikuyu tribe, Cliff was told to carry a specially-chosen goat deep into the bush, face Mount Kenya and kill the animal by slitting its throat – an ancient ritual which is part of the initiation ceremony.

He was even given a tribal name – ‘Mwangie’, meaning ‘last born’.

Cliff’s frequent trips to Africa have also seen him become friends with Ralph Helfer, the highly-respected animal trainer who was responsible for making MGM’s Leo the Lion roar.

He also started a relationship with his girlfriend Georgina – who is a member of the same tribe as US President Barack Obama.

Georgina, who lives very close to Barack Obama’s grandmother, was part of the special celebrations organised by the Lou tribe when Obama visited his family homeland in 2006.

Another Obama visit is heavily mooted to have been arranged for later this year.