rhino nakuru

Frank posing with a white rhino and calf in Lake Nakuru National Park. It’s hard to smile with a very protective mother rhino behind you.

Frank Coates was born in Melbourne, left school at an early age, then after years of night school, graduated with an engineering degree and post-graduate business administration qualifications. He worked for many years as a telecommunications engineer in Australia, including a number of short term international projects, and more substantial appointments in Papua New Guinea (1974 – 78) and Malaysia (1980 – 81).

In 1989 his Australian employer gave him 12-month’s special leave of absence to take up an appointment as a United Nation’s technical specialist based in Nairobi, Kenya. At the conclusion of his one-year contract he was asked to return, but by then he was hooked on Africa, and quit.

Soon after arriving in Nairobi he met a beautiful African woman. It was at a flashy nightclub appropriately called Carnivore, whose other claim to fame was a dining area serving all manner of barbequed game-meat including gazelle, giraffe, crocodile and warthog. Shayllah, a Tanzanian, was at a table with a number of friends including a Dutch engineer that Frank had met at his UN office just three days earlier. A year later, he and Shayllah were married on the shores of Lake Victoria.


On the edge of the Masai Mara is Nyumbu Camp, run by the local Maasai people. Here I am with Kurinkai - an elder of the Loitai section of the Maasai, and my guide while in the Mara.

Having severed his Australian connections, Frank established a telecommunications consultancy company with clients scattered around Africa including in Mozambique where – at the time – anti-government forces with surface-to-air missiles controlled the territory just beyond the perimeter fence of the international airport.

For nearly four years he and Shayllah travelled extensively throughout Africa during which time he cultivated his avid interest in the political and cultural history of East Africa.

Eventually he returned to Australia, starting his own consultancy business, with clients in the IT and telecommunications industries in Sydney.

The marriage to Shayllah didn’t survive the continental shift, and Frank was again alone and on his way overseas, this time to ride a bicycle through the south of France. It was on this brief holiday that he decided, after denying his urge for thirty years, to start writing. He began his first novel in 2001, and after he presented his finished manuscript to Selwa Anthony he soon had a contract with Harper Collins. When Tears of the Maasai made the best-seller’s list in 2004, he retired from the telecommunications industry to write full time. The book is now in its sixteenth edition, including four German editions.


When on safari I like to stay in a tent – even if it is 5-star like this one near Masai Mara. The river flowing outside the tent followed a ferocious downpour.

All five of Frank’s novels have made it to the best-seller lists and have, or soon will be, published in both Germany and Poland.

Frank has two adult sons from his first marriage and five beautiful grandchildren. He has now remarried and lives in Sydney’s Northern Beaches area.