Africa is a rich destination with complexities that can be overwhelming even to the seasoned traveler. The subtleties of nature require very specific knowledge to interpret and the cultural dos and don’ts can be hard to keep track of. Most visitors will not spend nearly enough time in Africa to really understand all of her intricacies on their own. For these reasons our guests rely on guides to help get to know Africa better, and to help make the visit as comfortable and informative as possible. Each of the camps you visit will have their own resident guides and no one will know that area better. They understand the movements and moods of their territories and are a pivotal part of your experience. The guides breathe life into every rock and track and illuminate the meaning behind the lion's roar.
Some travelers come on Safari with very specific requirements and will need a specialist guide to ensure that all their needs are met. With many years of our own guiding experiences behind us, we know many of the best guides within each area of expertise, from professional photographers to accomplished ornithologists to geological geniuses. Your specialist guide will accompany you on your entire voyage ensuring seamless transitions between camps and countries. We have here a list of some of our friends who we trust to take care of you.
Click on a guide below to see their full bio.
Born and raised in Namibia, Chris has always had a passion for conservation and travel in Africa.
“When I was six years old, a teacher asked me what I want to be when I grew up, and I responded that I wanted to drive a Jeep in the bush.”
Chris’s passion for wild places led him to work on game reserves when he was only 14. “I just wanted to be in the veldt and made a nuisance of myself with anyone who would listen. And this led to some great experiences.” Chris’s passion for the land is all-encompassing, and he is able to share his passion and expert knowledge on birding, history, culture, zoology, ecology, geology, photography, and a number of other disciplines in a natural dialogue. His home country of Namibia is his first love, “I can’t get enough of this place; I want to know it all, every nook and cranny, and then make sure it is looked after.”
Chris now lives in San Diego, California with his wife and two sons, and together they share their passion for Africa through Piper & Heath Travel.
Roy Toft is an award-winning wildlife photographer who is committed to not only documenting the wild for future generations but also using his photography as a conservation tool.
Roy's photographs advance conservation efforts globally, in part through his work with the International League of Conservation Photography (ILCP), where he is a founding fellow. His work has been featured in National Geographic, Audubon, and Discover magazines among others, and he has received top honors in the most prestigious competitions in his genre including Nature's Best and BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competitions. Roy makes his home in the San Diego mountain town of Ramona, California.
Roy's background is in wildlife and teaching, having degrees in both. He shares his love for teaching & photography by regularly instructing photographic classes, tour groups and workshops in the field. His company, Toft Photo Safaris & Gallery, sponsors annual workshops for photographers of all levels in destinations including Costa Rica, Brazil, Alaska, India, and Africa.
Michele is a freelance photographer with a variety of photographic skills.
Westmorland Images, LLC operates from her home in Redmond, Washington. Michele has created a vast library of imagery from around the world. Although her commercial work is a large part of her portfolio, it is the personal portfolio that brings her the feeling of accomplishment. Conservation in terrestrial wildlife, marine life and cultural heritage are important factors to her commitment to preserve the most delicate elements of our planet. As a member of International League of Conservation Photographers, Michele understands the need to tell a visual story to share the natural beauty of our world. Her expertise in areas such as Papua New Guinea and Africa are well recognized. She had led many photographic tours to both countries.
Michele is also a Fellow National of the prestigious Explorers Club, a member of the Society of Woman Geographers, Wings WorldQuest, ASMP and NANPA. Much of her imagery has appeared in national and international publications. Her book “Ocean Duets” was published in 2006 and is focused on the beauty of the underwater world. A documentary film and book project, Headhunt Revisited, is currently in post production. To see more on this project, visit headhuntrevisited.org
Mark’s naturalist background has provided a unique opportunity to capture wildlife in their natural habitat, and he continues to lead photography tours to Alaska, Africa, and South America.
Mark started his career as a wildlife photographer and naturalist with a special interest in ornithology (birding). More recently, he has expanded his photography business into industrial work, applying his passion for nature to capture images that deliver a corporate message in an environmentally sensitive manner. Today, Garbutt Photography provides a robust service offering one-on-one photography workshops, guided photo tours in Africa, South America and Alaska, industrial photography on assignment contract, and a full range of stock images.
Mark has over twelve years of experience working as a professional photographer and guide in numerous locations around the world. Having lived and worked throughout Canada, Europe, Alaska and Texas, Mark has stock files covering a wide range of commercial and natural images. He has received global recognition for his photography including contributing photographer in the award-winning “Focus on Africa” travel book, articles in Houston and other Texas publications, as well as various conservation & ecotourism projects in East & South Africa. Mark was recently awarded “Highly Honoured Photographer” in Nature’s Best – Windland Smith Rice International Award which was published in the 2010 Fall/Winter edition. He was also a semi-finalist in the world-renowned BBC 2007 Wildlife Photographer of the Year in London, England.
Mark has enjoyed running numerous interpretive programs for schools and clubs in the US and Europe. As a volunteer interpreter at Brazos Bend State Park in Texas, Mark has led interpretive programs for special needs students, school outings and weekend bird hikes. Mark’s naturalist background has provided a unique opportunity to capture wildlife in their natural habitat. He has spent many years sharing his knowledge of both wildlife and photography through workshops and continues to lead photography tours to Alaska, Africa, and South America.
Simon has a wonderful in-depth knowledge of all things wild and historical, with a passion for conservation and Africa that is contagious.
Growing up on a farm in the central part of Botswana, Simon spent his childhood camping out and enjoying nature as his playground. Numerous family holidays to the Okavango and many other wild places in Southern Africa engrained a passion for wild and remote places. "I spent every free moment during university holidays in the bush, either traveling or guiding (to pay for my student life). After I finished at the university, guiding was the natural thing to do . . . and here I am today, still at it!"
Most of the work Simon did during and after university was for Wilderness Safaris. He was associated with Wilderness and most of their Botswana properties (Linyanti, Vumbura, Xigera, Chitabe, Selinda, and Mombo) for ten years. "Lodge guiding was a blast, especially spending long periods of time in one area and getting to know it and its animals intimately."
Simon left Wilderness in 2010 and now works as a freelance private guide as well as dedicating much of his time to the conservation and education trust he has since started. He spends his free time traveling and reading.
Pete Oxford & Reneé Bish
Pete Oxford, a British Biologist and his South African wife, Reneé Bish, have lived in Ecuador, South America since 1985 and 1992 respectively.
Since childhood Pete has known two things: firstly, that he wanted to spend his life in nature, and secondly, that he wanted to travel. When Pete and Reneé met while he was working as a naturalist guide in the Amazon Rain Forest it was immediately obvious that their combined wanderlust and passion for wildlife would stand them in great stead.
Pete began in tourism in 1987 while living in the Galapagos Islands where he worked as a naturalist guide for three years. He subsequently decided to travel around the world and after sailing across the Pacific in a 10 meter yacht he worked catching crocodiles for six months in Australia followed by croc work in India and Zimbabwe, (where he also did a stint in game capture). After working on the high seas in the South Atlantic as an observer for the Falkland Islands Government fisheries, assigned to foreign flag vessels, he returned to Ecuador to work in the Amazon rain forest. It was in the forest that Pete and Reneé met and where they lived for three years. While Pete worked as a naturalist guide, Reneé set up community centers aimed at the local women.
The next stage in their lives was to begin work as an expedition team in the ecotourism adventure industry, both on ships and remote wildlife destinations on land. They have vast experience around the world where they worked continuously for eight years on all oceans and every continent. It was during this time that their photography developed and they soon found that they were selling images and feature articles to a wealth of international magazines.
Pete and Reneé work as a team and today photography has become the vehicle by which they are able to spend their lives in the remaining wild places of the planet.
Not wanting to be solely commercial, their mission is firstly to approach photography from a solid ethical standpoint and secondly – through their images – let photography be the communicator of a story – a conservation message. Pete is in fact very proud to be one of the founding members of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers (www.ilcp.com) whose goal, as a group, is to further conservation through the use of photography.
Pete’s images have been featured 10 times in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. He is published in many international magazines including National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, International Wildlife, GEO, Smithsonian, Nature’s Best, Airone and The Geographical.
They reside in the Andean city of Quito, but continue to travel exhaustively around the world in pursuit of stories to tell through imagery.
Their books so far are:
Born in 1955, Map Ives was raised near Francistown in Botswana. A lifelong interest in wildlife was first nurtured amongst the Kalanga people living along the southern region of the Makgadikgadi depression, and by a father who was a gifted amateur ornithologist.
After completing high school in 1972, Map joined the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in Zimbabwe and became a field ranger. He enjoyed postings at the Darwendale recreational park and bird sanctuary, Hwange National Park, Chizarira National Park, and the Chete Game Reserve. Duties included the monitoring of wildlife populations, anti-poaching duties, animal management, fire control and assisting with research. This included assisting with a collection of plants for the herbarium of the Chizarira National Park, as well as collecting data on birds of the west Zambezi escarpment.
In 1978, Map left Zimbabwe to join the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa as a wildlife guide, where he remained until 1981. He then returned home to Botswana and the Okavango Delta area. Over the next 20 years he has lived and worked throughout northern Botswana and especially the Okavango. He has carried out a personal study in conjunction with universities and museums on the dynamics and structures of this pristine wetland. He is currently the Wilderness Safaris' Environmental Officer in Botswana.
He is a senior licensed professional guide who has outfitted and led highly successful safaris throughout the area for the last 20 years. His expertise, passion and knowledge ensure that any safari will be exciting, enjoyable and memorable.
Festus grew up in Otjinene, a village in the Kalahari Desert in eastern Namibia.
Festus was raised in the bush where tending his family's free-ranging cattle herds was an important full-time occupation from early on. Growing up side by side with Kalahari San Bushmen, he absorbed much of his superb bush knowledge. Initially, Festus and his friends walked to the local farm school, but later his village life was interrupted when he was packed off to high school in the capital city, Windhoek.
After completing secondary school, Festus's first job, in 1992, was as an ovaHimba translator on Wilderness Safaris trips. Soon his natural field guide talents became apparent and his big break came when he was promoted to a guiding position at Ongava Game Lodge. Four years of guiding experience in the big game country of Etosha National Park was the launching pad for his career into specialist guiding. When Wilderness Safaris opened Skeleton Coast Camp in 2000 Festus was the natural choice for leading safaris in the living desert.
Cross-country safaris were a natural progression for Festus and demand for his leading and guiding skills is at an all-time high. His profound knowledge and passion for Namibia and its people, is a marvel to experience.
Martin is a specialist ornithology guide and is nuts about leading birding safaris. Dawn to dusk birding is when Martin is happiest.
Born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa his keen interest in birds began with his gran shoving a tatty copy of Newmans' (the only decent bird guide of the day) in his hands saying, "No I don't know the name of that bird, go explore!". Perhaps it was her way of getting a bit of peace and quiet on the school holidays, but it certainly sparked a life-long passion in Martin.
After completing his tertiary studies in Financial Management (B. Comm degree with research investigation into the economic and social importance of bird tourism) he decided against a career behind a desk and chose rather to follow his obsessive interest in birds. As a result Martin has been involved in the avi-tourism industry since 2000.
He began as a local bird guide in the spectacular Nylsvlei Wetland Reserve (a RAMSAR Site) in South Africa and then moved on to manage a private camp in a large conservancy adjoining the Kruger National Park. This however did not satisfy his wide-ranging birding itch and he decided instead to pursue a broader geographic area as a specialist bird guide for a variety of well known bird tour operators from both South Africa and the United Kingdom. As a result he has birded widely across the subregion and interacted with bird enthusiasts from across the world.
He remains passionate about locating difficult-to-find species and localised endemics and is a qualified birding specialist (THETA/FGASA Level 3 and SKS Birding). As well as being an expert on South African birds, he is also an extremely capable African birder, and has led many birding tours in South / Central Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi) and to the island of Madagascar. Martin's favourite bird families include African raptors, larks and the bizarre Malagasy Vangas.
In addition Martin is a freelance photo-journalist specialising in travel writing. His newest passion is photography - be it birds, mammals, landscapes or the amazing cultures that all call Africa home. Botany is another keen interest due to its close affinity with birds and the needed knowledge about their habitats.
Although birds are often the main subjects of a specialist safari with Martin he strives to ensure that guests enjoy an all-encompassing journey learning as much possible about the many intriguing facets of African natural history.