"Welcome on board, thrillseekers and adventure lovers! My name is Robin and I will be your Captain for the next three months on board the African Queen! So before we get too far away, I'd like you to raise your right hands - c'mon raise your hands and wave goodbye to civilization - for you may never see it again!
On your right now you will see Lake Victoria, home to our family of Hippos and the largest body of water in the whole of Africa! Migratery birds use this as a stop over point on their seasonal treks, and sometimes the flocks are so large, they can actually block out all the light from the sun............................."
6 minutes later.....
"If you look up ahead there, you can see Port Livingston, which means we've come to the end of our journey. We are going to be meet on the dock by Lee - thats UgLee! And they will help you from the boat. Well I hope you've enjoyed your ride onboard the African Queen today, if you have then my name is Robin - if you haven't, then my name is Paddy! (loud applause, etc, etc) - Thank you, thank you. You're the best crew I've had in the last 5 minutes! Thank you, come back some time soon, just make sure its my day off! Please watch your head and step as you leave the boat and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day, here at Windsor Safari Park!"
40 times a day, 6 days a week for 2 years! I will never forget the African River Boat Ride and WSP - still the best job I have ever had!
1989 - 1990, a chap called Lenny played a cannibal on the island of the ride. He would jump out of the hut, or appear from behind the skins on the jetti of the second hut just before the gorge! Unfortuantely, around the latter end of the 1990 season, we received several complaints about "racism" and it was decided to cancel Lenny's cannibal. It later fell to the rest of the team to take turns as a lost explorer, trying to escape the jungle! I spent many, many days as one of the live actors, jumping out of the hut and scaring the kids - including one particularly funny, but painful, day, when I lept from the hut, with walking stick in hand, only to have both ends catch on the door frame, trap my foot in the wooden slats, flip foward onto the dock, breaking my ankle and having the stick land squarly on the familt jewels - in front of a full boat - who applauded wildly. It took seven more boats to go round before someone realised I wasn't actually acting!
As for the entrance in the photo, that is not correct. The entrance was much larger and incorporated the queueing system and staff hut - also two cages with some very talkative parrots in them. All this was about ten yards to the left in your photo. The building in your photo was a fast food restaurant.
I worked in the rides team, almost exlusively on the African Queen from March 1990 until November 1991. My best friend, and eventually Best Man is Marc Witkowski, who I meet and worked with in 1990. He ended up on the toboggan run mostly, but has always regreted not having a go at the African Queen. I actually meet my first fiancee on one of my boats as a passenger! Unfortunately the romance of the African Queen faded and we split in 1996 - oh well!
I have some photos which I will dig out.
'Captain' Robin Hughes