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The First Time the Queen Visited these African Destinations

As a young woman, the Queen was not particularly well-traveled, and by the age of 20, she had never even left the U.K. But in February 1947—just a few months before her engagement to Prince Philip that summer—her father George VI announced that the family was going to South Africa.’ The family arrived in Cape Town for a two-month-long trip across the country—the first state visit since 1939 and the outbreak of World War II—and spent 35 nights traveling by royal train. Princess Elizabeth was the main focus of the royal tour, as she turned 21 while they were there on April 21. Her Majesty was abroad when she first heard the news about her father’s death—and so while she may have started her trip to Kenya in 1952 as a princess, by the time she returned home she was Britain’s head of state. The trip had originally been planned as a personal holiday for the Queen and Prince Philip—a short safari getaway with her husband before an official tour of New Zealand and Australia. The young couple stayed in Kenya’s oldest safari lodge, Treetops, an elaborate treehouse on the edge of a watering hole in Aberdare National Park (up until last year the hotel was still in operation before it was forced to close due to the pandemic). While there, the Princess spent her days taking photographs of charging rhinos and rampaging waterbucks, which could be spotted from the hotel’s vantage point in the upper branches of a giant fig tree. It was here that she first learnt about the death of her father.