About / Our Tribe
As a leader in ecotourism and adventure travel that pioneers new approaches to travel in Namibia, Ultimate Safaris is committed to providing world-class experiences for discerning travelers in some of the most spectacular natural locations on earth. A journey with us is an adventure that promises not only to capture imaginations, but is also one that leaves guests awe-struck by the pristine nature of the destinations visited. This is all facilitated by dealing with a highly motivated and enthusiastic tribe.
Our guests are taken care of by some extraordinary people whose only desire is to ensure that each moment spent with us is as perfect as possible. From responding to initial enquiries, to providing days filled with thrilling encounters, and to arranging nights entranced with exclusivity beyond most people’s wildest dreams, our tribe offers a seamless service - and it goes without saying that they know exactly what is expected of them to create perfect the Namibian safari.
Our naturalist guides are of the highest order and are considered to be the most important ingredient for providing these life enriching journeys. We hear the same praise from departing guests time and again: “Ultimate guides are out of this world!”
From Day One we have made it our priority to recruit and develop the best full time guiding team in Namibia, striving to match the ‘perfect guide’ to any given safari and thus ensuring ‘out of this world’ experiences. Our guides are all Namibian, and well known throughout the country; some of them are published writers and photographers, some are lecturers, but all are recognized Namibian personalities.
Knowledge, experience and character can be taken for granted, whilst charisma, passion and motivation combine with these traits to create the perfect guides - Ultimate guides. These are personable, engaging, caring and have a passion for travel and the world around them, thus enriching the lives of our guests as well as the people we take them to visit. Such unique individuals are a rare find indeed, and these particular individuals are dedicated to the values that make us Ultimate Safaris.
Meet our Naturalist Guides
Arnold Tsaneb (Naturalist Guide)
Arnold was born in the farming town of Otjiwarongo, where he completed both his junior and senior schooling. His mother moved there from Damaraland where she met his father who was involved in the road construction industry. During his school years, Arnold became a very keen and avid golfer and ended up teaching golf lessons at the local high school in between working at pharmacy in town. It was through his golfing that he made a connection with someone in the tourism industry.
He was offered a job on a game farm near Etosha National park, where he would track animals and take guests to them. This is where his love nature developed; he then went on to work as a guide at several different tour safari companies before joining the Ultimate Safaris family. He met his wife in Windhoek and moved to the coastal town of Swakopmund due to job opportunity for her. They both still live at the coast with their five year old daughter, who Arnold has all the love in the world for.
After working as an animal tracker on the Game farm; where he gained valuable experience in tracking wildlife and understanding their behavior, Arnold followed his current manager to Okonjima, where he was offered a position as a guide. Here Arnold got his first taste of working with big cats, as he took guests out tracking both leopard and cheetah using telemetry, another great skill to have under ones belt. He was part of the Okonjima family for four years before he moved to Windhoek to become a freelance tour guide.
He did freelancing for various companies which not only allowed him to explore the entire country, but had various specializations. He mastered the art of cooking over an open fire for large groups while he did camping safaris across Namibia, and also had the opportunity to explore areas off the beaten track in the North West of Namibia. He also freelanced for companies at the coast where he got to run day trips into the dune belt, where he got to specialize in the small desert dwelling creatures.
After freelancing for a couple of years he joined Wilderness Safaris, where he was placed at a variety of camps in remote areas of Namibia. He was able to master the Sossusvlei area and the Namib Desert before he made his way back to the North West of Namibia. His time up there proved valuable as he learnt all the small roads around the Hoanib River and the Hartmann's Valley. A desolate and harsh terrain; where he polished his guiding techniques.
With a lot of experience under his belt in many of the areas in Namibia, Arnold has grown into a brilliant Naturalist guide and adds great value to the already strong Ultimate Safaris team. He is a pleasure to travel with and will ensure you get the most out of this beautiful country.
Golf and studying up on conservation
Why I enjoy guiding
It is all about the passion.
Memorable experience on trail
While I was based at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, I took my guests out to search for the desert adapted elephant. We went out soon after breakfast and we searched for them the entire day, luckily I decided to bring a picnic lunch with me. With no luck in finding the elephants I set up a beautiful picnic lunch under the shade of an Ana tree in the middle of the river. As we sat down and started talking about the morning, out of nowhere a big bull elephant approached from the thickets across the river and snuck up on me.
I managed to scramble my guests into the vehicle and we drove off to get away from him, as he started to charge at us the closer he got. In my haste I was not able to pack away the picnic I had set out. Once we came to a stop and looked back at the tree we saw the elephant sniff the picnic before rejecting human food and reaching for the pods of the tree. We sat there in awe, having not seen them that morning, they found us. It was so amazing to this gentle giant doing what nature intended him to do and not taking any notice of us or our picnic.
Elvis Nghimutina (Naturalist Guide)
Elvis comes from an extended family that originates in the north central region (former Ovamboland), although his immediate family are based in Swakopmund. They moved to the coast in the early 1960's, following relatives who had already made this move, in search of work in the mechanical field. Elvis was born in Swakopmund but spent his childhood in a small village called Eedunja in North Central of Namibia, where he completed his primary school before moving back to his birth town to complete his education.
After completing his schooling Elvis went directly into the workforce, starting his career in a Fishing factory in Walvis Bay. While he was there, he started attending short courses offered by NATH in order to further his knowledge in the field that he really wanted to be in, tourism. As he had already demonstrated his enthusiasm and determination, it was a logical step for him to continue to expand his knowledge and experience by working at lodges which were based in the desert regions to the south of his home town
In addition to his passion for guiding, Elvis is very interested in world affairs and local politics, knowing the families of many of the local senior politicians who come from his area. As a result, he is a very interesting companion with whom to discuss local issues and he is often able to offer interesting, and sometimes unexpected, African insights and perspective.
He is single and lives in Windhoek although he still visits Swakopmund to see his family when he has time between safaris to do so. Some visitors initially find his accent a little hard to understand, but they swiftly get attuned to this so they can fully appreciate the depth of his knowledge in a wide variety of subjects. The insights he can offer in order to bring the country alive are greatly valued, and he showcases aspects of what they are seeing in a way that is both unique and fascinating
After completing many of the NATH courses while working in Walvis Bay, Elvis left his fishing job to start his full time career in tourism. He started at CC Africa's Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge (now called Sossusvlei Desert Lodge) on the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in the southern part of Namibia, where he developed his desert guiding skills. Whilst there, he was sent by his employers (later to become &Beyond) to attend guiding courses at Nqwazi in South Africa, where he learned even more about general guiding techniques. He stayed on for a few more years and then moved on to work at Wolwedans on the southern side of the Nature Reserve where he continued to develop his skills while applying what he had already learned at Mountain Lodge and Nqwazi. He also kept working on completing his NATH courses.
After completing all the necessary courses and continuously adding to his experience in the desert, Elvis decided it was time to expand into guiding on a National scale. He therefore came to join SandyAcre Safaris in Windhoek where he worked with other National guides to expand his knowledge into other areas. He stayed on when the company merged with Tou Safaris in 2008 to become Ultimate Safaris and has continued to grow in stature and experience, becoming one of the most respected safari guides in the country.
He is extremely well informed on a wide variety of naturalist subjects and is particularly well versed in the ways of the desert having spent so many years as a guide based on the Namib Rand Nature Reserve, where he also spent time in that ideal environment to become an accomplished star gazer. Since coming back to work from Windhoek, he has also developed a keen interest in photography as a result of having acted as lead guide for a number of specialist photographic groups who come in with very experienced accompanying photographic tour leaders. He has been able to learn a great deal while working with these groups and he is now able to take others to areas where he knows there is significant photographic interest while also being able to assist with matters such as the framing of images.
Elvis is a very articulate and intelligent guide and a fascinating travelling companion who justifiably gets consistently excellent ratings from the guests he has taken around the region.
Photography, History, Economics and Politics
Why I enjoy guiding
Being able to give visitors a better understanding of the situation in the country that I call home
While spending a month out in the field at Nqwazi, we went on many walks in the bush amongst the animals. On one early morning walk, after about 3km, we came across a rhino walking in our direction which did not initially offer any sort of threat. The ranger told us to stop walking and raised his rifle to his shoulder in order to be prepared. The rhino started to pick up speed and continued to make its way directly towards us. It then broke into a charge and the ranger had to make the decision whether to fire a warning shot or shoot it. As it got even closer, it suddenly changed direction when it was only a couple of metres away thus saving the necessity to shoot, but leaving us standing there breathless with fear. This could have been a bad experience, leading to either the loss of a rhino or some of us getting hurt. What I learnt from this is that all animals can be dangerous, even if they don't seem so initially. No matter how much experience you have, wild animals are unpredicatable and we should always remember to respect them.
Francois Gowaseb (Naturalist Guide)
Francois was born in Windhoek, where he spent the majority of his childhood. His father originally moved to Windhoek to become a well-respected businessman and the president of the National Small Miners Association before he passed away. His mother, originally from the small town of Otjimbingwe, where she studied to become a pastor, is now a minister at a Pentecostal Church in Windhoek.
Francois developed a passion for nature during his holidays on the farm near Otjimbingwe and he went on to study Travel and Tourism at Illiongwe College. After graduation he decided to specialize in guiding in order to share his love for the country and its inhabitants with guests coming to experience the splendor of Namibia for themselves. He therefore went on to attend guide training courses at NATH (Namibian Association of Travel and Hospitality) where he received the top level guiding certificate, which then qualified him to act as a National guide within Namibia.
Francois has worked for a variety of tourism companies which has given him extensive experience of various parts of the country, including the Kalahari, Damaraland and Etosha. He has also worked as a national guide specializing in camping safaris operated in the more remote areas of the country which allowed him to get to know areas outside those in which he had already worked as a resident lodge guide
Having developed the experience required to guide on specialist naturalist safaris, he approached Ultimate Safaris in 2015 as he believed becoming a guide there would offer him the best possible opportunity to interact with the sort of guests who would most appreciate the insights he could provide on the experiences they would have when on safari. This has worked out extremely well for all concerned and he has shown the confidence and enthusiasm required to provide excellent safaris with extremely positive feedback from the guests he has taken out.
Francois is a professional, personable, and caring guide who has fitted in extremely well with the existing team of guides, and he has proved to be an absolute delight to travel with.
Music (he plays both keyboard and the guitar), travel and wildlife
Why I enjoy guiding
It connects me to the world and the world to meâ
Memorable experience on trail
I was in the middle of my two week safari, where my guests and I were in Damaraland with the main focus of finding the desert adapted elephants. We headed out in the early morning, with a picnic packed, and went to the last area that the elephants had been seen. When we got there, the only thing we came across was old footprints and dung. And so the search began! We spent the entire day following footprints in the sand but with no success, and after our lunch we decided to give up on the search and head back to camp. About halfway back to camp we came across a troop of baboons, and after having no sightings all day, we stopped to observe these entertaining animals.
While we were sitting there we heard some cracking of branches and before I could do anything about it, we were surrounded by an entire herd of the elephants' the ones we had been searching for all day. We were now right in the middle of the herd, which is not where we would normally want to be but everyone, including the elephant remained completely relaxed so we were all able to sit back and enjoy a truly memorable and very unique experience. After spending some 45 minutes among these peaceful giants, we had a gap where we could get out and head back to camp.
It was one of the most awe inspiring interactions I have ever had with elephants and it showed just how amazing these giants as, despite their bulk, they can disappear in the desert environment and appear again when you least expect it.
Jan Mohrdieck (Naturalist Guide)
Jan was born in Erlangen in Germany where he spent the majority of his childhood and he only really got his first real taste of Namibia when his father purchased a farm near Outjo, just South of Etosha in 1998. After spending a couple of years there he moved back to Germany and started his tourism career working in a local hotel while also taking courses in English translation training.
Jan moved back to Namibia in 2006 and started working for as a guide for &Beyond, before moving back to Germany again in 2009 to continue his education in natural history. In 2011 he finally moved back to Namibia and helped his father work their family farm. During that time he also did more specialist language freelance guiding for Ultimate Safaris and others before joining the Ultimate guiding team in mid-2013.
Jan is now based in Windhoek with some of his family in Namibia, but is single with no children. He is very dedicated to his job and enjoying the opportunity to work with some of the most experienced naturalist guides in the country. He has always taken an active interest in the bush, especially when living on the farm, and he is very happy to have the chance to have a career in an area which gives him so much pleasure and satisfaction.
Jan started in the tourism industry from a young age but only started professional guiding in Namibia from 2006. Being with &Beyond (formerly CC Africa) he was sent on a number of excellent training courses, including the Nkwazi guide course in South Africa where he went through an intense field guide training programme. Through this course he learnt valuable skills for use when guiding on foot, as well as gaining great insight into animal behaviour. These skills were then honed even further when he worked at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the Namib Desert and he had to learn even more about the behaviour of the smaller animals and reptiles that were mostly seen there
Whilst working with &Beyond he completed all his NATH guide training courses ranging from history to flora and fauna, and thus qualified as a National guide. These courses added valuable depth and experience to his existing knowledge base and provided him with a firm basis on which to build on his experience in the guiding field. After finally returning from Germany he did freelance guiding for a number of local companies to gain further experience in National guiding and to help him to decide on the sort of guiding he most wanted to do. This also had the added advantage of allowing him to see more different parts of the country and expand his knowledge even further.
Jan joined Ultimate Safaris in mid-2013 and quickly slotted in. His former experience means he has already established himself as part of the strong Ultimate Safaris guiding team, which is arguably Namibia's strongest guiding team.
Spending time out in the wilderness, birding and reading.
Why I enjoy guiding
Experiencing once in a lifetime opportunities and meeting new and interesting people from a variety of different walks of life.
At one point when I was tracking desert elephants in Damaraland with guests, we were following the tracks and came across the elephant herd feeding in the river. We spent time with them as they went about their daily activities. However, due to the rough road on the way in to find them I had ended up with two flat back tyres which I only noticed when I wanted to leave. The elephants were still roaming around in the riverbed and this made it difficult to get out and change these tyres.
Once the elephants moved off slightly I got some of my guests to watch out for me as I was changing the tyres. The elephants continued to feed sedately around us and this allowed my guests a fantastic sighting as they became comfortable with us just standing there. Once it was all fixed we climbed in and reluctantly headed off. The day therefore gave us a challenge which led to a solution that was both practical and enjoyable. This confirmed my long standing belief that nature will always find a way to surprise you.
Jason Nott (Naturalist Guide)
Jason comes from a well-known family of Namibian Nature Conservators who have been very involved in development issues in the country for decades. The Nott family first came to South West Africa in the early 80's to work for the South African administration in Nature Conservation, and they stayed on after Independence in 1990 when they all opted to take Namibian Citizenship. They have continued to work on conservation and community development issues, mainly in the north of the country, ever since.
Jason spent his early years living in a small town called Omaruru where a love of nature was instilled in him from a young age. He took every opportunity to be outdoors, either with his parents or his godfather (Dr Flip Stander who has become well-known for his veterinary work and scientific research on Namibia's desert lions). He gained a huge amount of knowledge and expertise through being with them as they worked, and he has added to this experience with his own book learning as he is also an avid reader of any publications on the subject.
As he also enjoys working with people, he soon found a way of combining both interests through running his own safaris and then getting more heavily involved in the tourism industry. He studied to get his diploma in Travel and Tourism management, and then started his formal career off in lodge management when he ran a lodge in north-western Namibia. While he was there, he found his way to his true joy, sharing the wonders of the more remote areas of Namibia with visitors and that is why he became a safari guide.
He is now working at Ultimate Safaris where he has found a way to continue his professional guiding career while still being able to give back to conservation and sustainable tourism. As his background and interests were ideally suited to this, Jason has been entrusted with helping to run the Tou Trust, Ultimate Safaris non-profit registered trust, which is involved in a number of humanitarian and conservation initiatives around the country. He also uses a separate part of his former experiences to manage the mobile (under canvas) safari department at the company, ensuring mobile camps run smoothly and efficiently whilst in the field.
Jason is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable birder, although not yet quite able to claim that he is a specialist guide in the field, and he is an accomplished photographer. He is very personable and brings his passion for his country across to his guests, leaving them an abiding love for Namibia and its various inhabitants.
Jason's enthusiasm for protecting the environment was part of his up-bringing. He witnessed for himself the effects of protecting land resources through tourism, and saw the progress and development of rural conservancies at first hand. He then went away for a GAP year in England, returning to run his first private safari for pupils from the school had been working at. This was at the tender age of 19 while also studying Travel and Tourism management at a local university.
He then went on to fine tune his guiding skills while working at Palmwag Lodge in Damaraland. He quickly proved his competence there and soon became the lodge manager while also taking responsibility for the training of local guides. Since leaving Palmwag, he has continued to guide a variety of trips, ranging from camping to more upmarket fly-in safaris. Jason has a great understanding of conservation and sustainability issues concerned in the development of the country and this allows him to look further into the natural environment than just identifying the fauna and flora.
Jason also has many existing relationships with local communities that he has worked with all over the northwest, and this means that any guests he takes in to visit these communities are treated as family friends rather than just as visiting tourists. He is also an interesting and informative travelling companion so, by the end of any safari guided by him, you will have a greater understanding and love of the country that he calls home as well as having had an unforgettable experience.
Birding, Conservation, Sports, Camping, and Traveling (preferably with my wife)
Why I enjoy guiding
One of the greatest pleasures is showing someone something new and fascinating about the country I love, and guiding is my tool for doing this.
I have many fond memories of lion encounters, especially when out in the field with Flip Stander, but there is one that will always stick out in my mind. This is the time that I really gained my respect for these wonderful animals and I will always admire their strength and beauty. We were on a school trip hike through the Palmwag concession, and decided to take a major detour so we could have a swim is some natural springs. We were approaching the spring quite fast as we made our way up the gorge it was located in and the closer we got the more lion tracks we saw, and all of a sudden there were lion cub tracks too, lots of them.
Before we even knew what was happening, there was a rustle in the bushes and out came a female lion charging out at us. As she approached us standing in a line, we just froze. She then hit on the brakes and skidded towards us and, as the dust settled and my eyes cleared, directly in front of me was the head of a female lion just an arm's length away. As she stared me straight in the eyes, my outlook on lions changed in an instant. She walked up and down the line disdainfully then made her way back to the bush after collecting her cubs, and they all ran off into the distance. This was how I realized what great and magnificent animals they really were.
I was just 13 at the time!
Jimmy Gariseb (Naturalist Guide)
Jimmy was born in the Capital City Windhoek, where his family has been based for the majority of his lifetime. His father is originally from the South African Xhosa tribe and his mom is a combination of Herero and Damara, which gives Jimmy a diverse outlook on culture and how the different tribes interact. This also meant that he traveled a lot within Southern Africa to visit family and friends. He completed his schooling here in Windhoek and during his holidays he would visit family on neighboring farms, where he developed a keen interest in nature.
After completing his schooling he went into the retail industry and soon realized that this was not the career for him and wanted to go back to the thing that he loves, being out in nature. After making his move he furthered his studies through the Desert Academy, set up by the Wolwedans Collection and completed his National guiding qualification using a scholarship from the Millennium Challenge Account. After working as a site guide on a couple properties he made the transition to a National Guide with his new qualification to become an enthusiastic and well qualified national guide.
Jimmy comes from humble beginnings and has developed into a very professional and enthusiastic guide. He has a very warm personality and guests are able to make a connection with Jimmy as soon as they meet, and this allows him to show his guests the country through his eyes and give them the experience of a lifetime.
With a deep interest in wildlife, guiding was Jimmy's opportunity to combine work and the thing that he loved. After leaving the retail industry, his guiding career started on the NamibRand Nature Reserve, where after completing the Desert Academy, he guided on the reserve as a site guide, where he gained valuable experience in desert guiding. Once he had mastered the art of desert guiding and focusing on the smaller creatures, he made his move to Etosha where his focus shifted to the larger mammals.
After making his move to Etosha, he was based on the Ongava Reserve, where he was trained in walking safaris and gained more in-depth information on wildlife and their behavior. Based from here Jimmy had access to the largest wildlife park in Namibia and gained a much deeper love for wildlife and their habitats. The walking safaris allowed him to experience nature on foot and get up close and personal to animals both large and small.
Jimmy then received a fabulous opportunity to complete his National Guiding Qualification through a sponsorship form the Millennium Challenge Account; the course trained him in all aspects and topics needed to be a qualified National Guide. After he completed the course, he made the move to overland guiding for tour operators, which gave him the experience of traveling around the entire country and guiding guests throughout. After working for Chameleon and Karibu, both reputable tour operators, he joined the Ultimate Safaris family as a well-rounded naturalist guide and is quickly working his way up the ranks, as a well-loved guide by guests.
Sports, reading, community development and wildlife
Why I enjoy guiding
Guiding allows me the opportunity to travel, meet new people and spend time out in the bush with wildlife.
While I was guiding at Ongava on the boundary of Etosha, we would take guests on guided walks on the private game reserve, we would be armed as the chances of walking into dangerous game animals were high. About halfway into the walk, we were all still feeling fresh as we headed through some thick shrubs to get to a clearing on the other side. Before I or the other guide with me realized, a black rhino in the thicket had picked up our smell and started grunting at us. Instinctively we got the guests to climb trees just before the rhino started charging.
This meant that there were no trees left for us, the only thing available to us was a thin scrawny tree with not much cover. With no other option the two of us hid behind the stem of the thin tree and wished for the best. As we stood there huddled up behind the thin trunk of the tree, all we could hear was the grunting getting louder and louder. As the grunting got as loud as it could we looked out to the side and saw the rhino come charging right by us a total of an arm's length away. I learnt a valuable lesson that day; always go walking in an area where there are enough escape routes for your guests and yourself!
Michael Haindongo (Naturalist Guide)
Michael’s family is Oshivambo speaking and originally comes from southern Angola, although they are now split between the southern part of Angola and northern part of Namibia. Michael was born in Angola during the liberation struggle and spent much of his childhood in a refugee camp near Kwanza, before UNICEF moved him and many other children to Cuba so that they could get an education in a safe environment. He returned to Namibia after Independence at the age of 16, and he completed his schooling in Windhoek before going on to study Natural Resource Management (Nature Conservations) at the Polytechnic of Namibia.
During his studies, he did some in service training with Wilderness Safaris and Save The Rhino Trust (SRT). During that time, he met the owner of the premier Londolozi Camp in South Africa, and was offered his first job at Londolozi in 2003 as a result. After a year there, he moved to work for a year with a South African tour operator before returning to Namibia to join Wilderness Safaris. He stayed with them for a period of eight years, working in a variety of their camps situated across Namibia. He then made the transition to becoming a National guide and joined the Ultimate Safaris ‘family’ of expert guides where he adds his own experiences to the general ‘pot’. He is married with two children, who he cherishes more than anything else in the world.
Having got a taste of nature during his studies at the Polytechnic, Michael knew he wanted to be involved in nature and, as he had realised he was a people’s person rather than a solitary researcher, he knew that tourism was the way to go. Starting at Londolozi as a guide on the reserve gave him a great platform to work from as there is a large variety of Fauna and Flora there. This also gave him the opportunity to do his FEGASA level one qualification which added to the experience he gained in walking safaris conducted with one of the ‘old timers’ at Londolozi.
Once he had mastered the immediate area, Michael pushed himself further and went into safari guiding throughout Southern Africa. Here he picked up more knowledge from the other more experienced guides working the ‘circuit’, and he was also introduced to the fascination of birds and birding.
On his return to Namibia, he joined Wilderness Safaris as a full time guide. He attended many of the internal training courses that were on offer as well as doing more of the official guide training modules through NATH. All of this helped to broaden his knowledge as well as adding the Namibian specific information that had been lacking to this point.
As he already had more experience than most new employees, he started off at by guiding at the prestige Skeleton Coast Camp in the north west of the country. After that, he moved many of the other camps in different areas, working as a guide at each and adding intimate knowledge of those areas to his repertoire. He therefore has detailed information in all these areas, adding Sossusvlei, Etosha and Damaraland to his starting point at the Skeleton Coast. This has given him a great basis from which to make the transition to becoming a National guide with Ultimate Safaris where he needs to be able to take groups of guests into all the different parts of the country.
The variety and breadth of experience that he has been able to build up in a relatively short time, both inside and outside the country, make Michael an exceptional guide. He shows huge enthusiasm for his role and still gets excited at the prospect of every new safari and the opportunity it brings to meet others who are likely to share his passion for the country and its inhabitants
Traveling, Reading, Hiking and Birding
Why I enjoy guiding
When I am out there in nature, my life is complete!
When guiding at Ongava, I took a family in to visit Etosha for the day. We had just been to the fairy forest near Okaukuejo and were on our way back when one of the children spotted some movement in the distance. We stopped to have a look at what it was and saw it was a cheetah dragging a springbok fawn it had just killed, and it was clearly dragging the fawn across the plain towards a thicket in the shade of mopane tree. Once it had got finally got there and reached the shade, it suddenly got ‘spooked’ and ran away from its prey. The father of the family I was guiding was taking a photo at the moment this happened so we zoomed in and saw that a python had appeared and latched onto the fawn. We thought that that was the end of it, but the cheetah returned and it soon turned into a tug of war between the cheetah and the python. It looked like it might be a stalemate but we then noticed that, as the battle was going on, the python was slowly swallowing the fawn inch by inch until he finally wrestled it away from the cheetah altogether. This was nature at its best, with survival of the fittest clearly on show. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to witness this fantastic and unique sighting.
Orlando Haraseb (Naturalist Guide)
Orlando and his family come from a small town called Erwee close to Kamanjab in north western Namibia. He started his school career in Windhoek and later moved on to attend High School at a mining town where he got his first taste of nature through a program called ‘footprints’ run by the Rossing Foundation – supported by the Rossing Uranium mine near Swakopmund. After finishing school he joined the Namibian Police Force and worked there successfully for nine years ending up as a detective. During this time he represented Namibia in the national soccer team on 49 occasions, in many of which he was the team captain. This also enabled him to travel extensively, having visited numerous countries around the world.
After leaving the Police Force, Orlando then tried one or two other jobs before changing his direction and deciding to focus on tourism, starting work at Hobatere Lodge near Kamanjab in 2002. He stayed there for the next four years under the mentorship of renowned birder and naturalist Steve Braine until he decided he needed to broaden his horizons and work on a national rather than local basis. He therefore came to join the guiding team at SandyAcre Safaris who were offering safaris into all parts of the country based from Windhoek. This company later merged with another to become Ultimate Safaris in 2008 and Orlando stayed on to become the lead guide and guide trainer for the new company.
Over the years, Orlando has continued to learn the skills of his trade and has furthered his knowledge through attending the full range of training courses offered by NATH (Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality). His extensive knowledge and enthusiasm ensured that he quickly became a guide trainer himself, and has developed this into being the instructor of choice for courses teaching guiding skills to members of rural conservancies who are keen and able to become involved in tourism activities in their area. He has been such a successful ambassador for NATH that he was voted in to be the Academy’s vice chairman in 2010, and this is a post that he still holds.
Now based in Windhoek, he stills spends much of the time when he is not on safari himself running training courses in the local communities – including the one from which he originates himself, thus demonstrating the principle of ‘giving back’. Orlando is single, with four children who he loves and adores, having already got them interested in wildlife from a young age. In fact, even the youngest (twins) consider their favourite treat to be going out to the dam with Daddy trying to identify the birds they find there – and that at just five years old!
Orlando is one of the most knowledgeable and respected national guides in Namibia, in addition to having a wide spectrum of experience from his previous jobs – particularly his time as captain of the national football team which still makes it difficult to walk down a city street with him without having someone want to stop him and talk to him. His love of nature was imbued in him at a young age and he willingly returned to that love after years of official occupation elsewhere. Having spotted his guiding potential, Steve Braine not only took him under his own wing, he also sent him off on a series of official training courses to widen his knowledge in a variety of subjects. However, birding was still the aspect of guiding that brought them closest together and that they both enjoyed the most. As a result of this, Orlando left Hobatere with an excellent basis for his own birding skills and he has continued to work on them ever since, becoming a respected ‘birder’ in his own right and well able to act as specialist guide on birding safaris.
Orlando has now been a national guide with Ultimate Safaris for eight years and his approach to learning and training means that his own knowledge increases every year. He already has the highest non specialist guiding qualification possible in Namibia and now teaches many of the subject modules that were involved in getting that himself. He is very popular with those that travel with him, and he invariably returns with a ‘Guide Critique’ form showing him as being scored 10 out of 10, as well as often being identified as one of the highlights of the safari.
In late 2015, Orlando was recognized for the great work that he is doing when he was awarded Silver at the Wanderlust Guide Awards. He was one of over a thousand nominees and after much deliberation and guest support he was awarded this high honour, and is now recognized as one of the best guides in the World. This is a great testament to his guiding experience and showcases what a great personality he is.
He is often quiet while others are noisy, thoughtful where others rush in, and calm where others are over excited, but he has strong beliefs, strict professionalism, and great depth of character. As a result, he is interesting and informative company on safari and he has a quiet but occasionally wicked sense of humour which is not always obvious, but can be hilariously funny.
Football, tennis, birding and travel.
Why I enjoy guiding
A way of meeting new people and enjoying the thing I love – the wonders of nature!
In my first years of guiding, working at Hobatere lodge I went out with two guests, one a fanatical photographer, sitting on the roof of the vehicle to look for endemic bird species on the Hobatere Concession. When we approached the hide we planned to use, we came across a female lion with two cubs who were feeding on a young zebra. The road continued up an embankment and, when trying to go up that, the car got stuck and was unable to move forward or backwards. As fate would have it, the moment the car finally stopped the lion started charging at us but, with the car going nowhere, I had to climb out of the vehicle to lock the wheels so we could use the differential lock. I hopped back into the vehicle and at that moment the lion was just five metres away – so close you could clearly see her eyes. I put my foot on the accelerator and the car went nowhere, but it did create a big cloud of black smoke which, to our relief, scared the female off. Finally the car moved forward, but as we climbed the bank we noticed a male lion was also approaching us at a high speed, so I put ‘pedal to the metal’ and sped off. When we came to a stop some distance away, I opened the bonnet and a puff of steam came out as the engine had overheated due to the loss of the fan belt. While waiting for it to cool, I calmed myself and cleared my throat and distinctly heard the guest sitting in the car saying to his companion “Wow, that was great, I almost messed in my pants”.
What I learnt from this experience is that, no matter what equipment you have, you can’t only rely on that. You also need to keep a cool head – even in the most difficult situations.
Perez Kamukuenjandje (Naturalist Guide)
Perez was born in Amino in the north eastern part of Namibia, although his parents originated from different parts of the country, and he grew up in a large family of Herero speakers. He attended Pioneers Boy School in Windhoek and left there to go directly into the tourism industry. He started work as a barman at Kulala Desert Lodge near Sossusvlei and this gave him his first exposure to the beauty of the Namib Desert as well as his first exposure to international tourists.
As he enjoyed learning about the desert environment and he is especially good with people, he very quickly found himself moving into the field of local guiding so he spent the next three years working at that and constantly improving his knowledge. After that, he decided he needed broader horizons so moved to work at CC Africa (now known as &Beyond) where he started as a Camp Captain arranging the establishment of mobile camps ready for the arrival of guests. As before, his obvious capacity for interaction with people from all walks of life meant he quickly got drawn back into becoming a guide / ranger who escorted guests around the country rather than just looking after them in camps.
When the regular safari programme he had been working on was stopped in 2007, Perez worked as a freelance guide for a year before joining Ultimate Safaris soon after it was created by the merger of two other companies in 2008. Since then he has extended his knowledge into all parts of Namibia and also into parts of neighbouring countries; he has gained hugely in experience and exposure to a wide variety of discerning visitors; and he has completed most of the formal Namibian National guide training courses that will give him the highest non-specialist guiding qualification possible.
Perez is a natural entertainer and he is in great demand as many of those that have traveled with him return for a second (or third) safari, but only on the condition that he can be their guide again. Perez has great knowledge of the natural world which he loves to share with his guests, and the lively intelligence and wit that makes him a fascinating guide and travelling companion.
As with all the Ultimate Safari guides, Perez receives unequivocal top rating from former guests for his guiding skills and his company when travelling around the region. He has shown particular interest in travelling outside Namibia and has taken several groups through the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (bordering with South Africa and Botswana) as well as bringing guests up from Cape Town, and dropping others in Livingstone or Victoria Falls. He is a great enthusiast and an all rounder, who has proved to be a great asset to the company.
Perez lives by himself but does have children, a son and daughter who are 7 & 2 years respectively. He has a great involvement with his children and tries to let his own love for the environment rub off on them.
Perez started guiding at Kulala Desert Lodge began by going out with the other guides who were based there, before graduating to taking guests out by himself. From this beginning, his personality ensured that he was fast tracked on his way to becoming a full time guide. His great sense of humour and his ability to absorb a large amount of knowledge meant that he soon became the head guide for all the Wilderness Safaris camps in the southern half of the country. He was also sent off to train at Kaporota where he achieved his level 1 FAGASA qualification.
He then moved on to try out other skills at CC Africa, where he was taken on as a camp captain in recognition of both his organisational ability and his ability to relate to a wide variety of people. He was then sent to attend a training course at Nkwazi in South Africa where he learned even more about general guiding techniques, focusing on guided walking safaris and animal behaviour. As he now had a deep knowledge of desert guiding and eight years worth of guiding experience, he decided it was time for him to take the next step and move his guiding career onto the National level. He therefore moved to Windhoek where he took freelance guiding work that took him to new parts of the country while he worked out exactly where he wanted to settle. At the end of that he came to join the newly created Ultimate Safaris.
Perez is now one of the most sought after guides with a following of former visitors who stay in regular touch with him, many of whom return to travel with him again. He continues to work on finishing his last few courses with NATH (Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality) as these will give him the high level of qualification that guides of his stature need. In the meantime, he is on the road and gathering more and more information, while also ensuring that he is up to date on new finds and reports about Namibia and its wildlife.
Birds, animals and nature
Why I enjoy guiding
I love meeting new people and showing them our beautiful country
When out on safari as a guide you see many fascinating aspects of wildlife and nature, but there will always be one that sticks in your mind. Mine shows the lengths that elephants and other animals will go to in order to survive. While driving in the Hoanib River in the North West of Namibia, I noticed elephant tracks leaving the river bed and heading up a valley which got very narrow and steep. I decided to follow them to see where they led and I soon got to a point where the vehicle could go no further so I continued to follow the tracks on foot. They went up into a ravine which shortly turned into a watershed by a steep mountain face. The tracks continued and as I looked up, I saw elephants on the watershed having a dust bath. I continued my way up to the watershed and I saw the elephants had moved down into the next valley, but that was not all that I saw. There was another reason why they had climbed this steep mountain and left their tracks were all over the place, even up sheer cliffs that came up to my chest. This was to chew on the Commiphora plants on the side of the mountain. There were remains of plants everywhere, some of which had been ripped up, chewed on and spat out. For some reason they needed to get something from this plant into their diet and were prepared to climb this mountain to do so. This sort of behaviour has always absolutely fascinated me.
Ronnie Tsowaseb (Naturalist Guide)
Ronnie comes from a small Damara community around the famous Spitzkoppe area, where his father was a livestock farmer. Although he was born in the nearby town of Usakos he spent a lot of his childhood exploring the area with his friends and developed his interest in nature from young age. He attended the local primary school before heading off to the coast, where he was at a boarding house and attended a Technical high school.
He got his first taste of the tourism industry when he started work at the Spitzkoppe rest camp as a receptionist. He enjoyed contact with visitors so much that he soon started leading guided walks to the local sights such as the bushman paintings. He then left to work in the fishing industry for a while before deciding this didn’t suit him, so he grabbed the opportunity to take a job with &Beyond working at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. He stayed with them for eleven years, working his way up through the system and ending up as a senior guide at the lodge.
Having reached his ceiling as a lodge based guide, he decided it was time for another change and the bigger challenge of working as a National guide so he approached Ultimate Safaris with the intention of joining a guiding team that he had seen growing in expertise and experience during all the years he worked in the Namib. The knowledge he had gained and his many years of experience when interacting with the discerning guests at the lodge made his an ideal match and he has since become a valuable member of the Ultimate Safaris guiding team
Guiding for &Beyond for such a long time allowed Ronnie to become an expert in desert guiding and to pass on the experience he had gained to others who came to join him. However, it also gave him the opportunities to guide in other areas of Southern Africa where &Beyond operates – as well as attending a number of in house specialist training courses
He attended training courses at the well-known luxury lodges of Nkwazi and Phinda in South Africa where he learned even more about general guiding techniques, focusing on guided walking safaris and animal behaviour. Once he completed that training, he went on two guide exchanges, one at Victoria Falls where he was able to learn from some of the best guides in Zimbabwe, and the other a return to Phinda .
This accumulated knowledge and experience was what gave Ronnie the confidence to join some of best guides in Namibia and find his new home at Ultimate Safaris. His passion for nature and for sharing his experiences with visitors to the country makes Ronnie an ideal guide, with a caring personality and a well-developed sense of humour. All of these characteristics make him a great travelling companion as well as a fount of knowledge which will ensure you enjoy your travels around Namibia with him.
Birding, reading and soccer
Why I enjoy guiding
It allows me the opportunity to meet people from different cultures, and to learn from them while also sharing aspects of my own culture with them
During one of my very first trips out on quad bikes on the Northern part of the NamibRand Reserve, I was leading a group of visitors and quickly realized they spoke very limited English. I sat down with them over a cup of coffee and did my activity briefing, but had the strong feeling that they were not understanding to a word I said. Before we finally set off, I went through the safety briefing again just to be sure I got the message across, but a lot of the communication still had to be done by sign language.
The first half an hour went by and all was going well, so I relaxed and thought the rest would run smoothly. Not long after that, I looked over my shoulder and realized that none of the guests were following me, although in the distance was a cloud of dust which showed me where they were. I then realized that, despite all I had said, the guests had decided to go off road and chase an oryx over the gravel plains. I had to race to catch up with them, and when I did I was able to stop them and prevent them from harassing the wildlife any further. This was a very scary experience and I learnt some valuable lessons about differing values as the guests were unable to see why what they had done was wrong. This showed me that any assumptions that are made with people who come from different backgrounds are potentially dangerous, and also that it is essential to be sure that guests have local the situation explained in a way that makes sense to them – even if this requires the enlistment of a proper interpreter.
Stewart Matsopo (Naturalist Guide)
Stewart was born in the small town of Nyanga on the eastern border of Zimbabwe, and attended school in Harare. After completing his time at High School he went on to attend courses at a tourism college as he knew from an early age that this was where his interests would lie. Unfortunately, this was at a time when tourism in Zimbabwe was on a downward spiral so he had to drop out of school due to lack of funding. Stewart filled his time by selling a variety of goods, ranging from curio craft for tourists to truckloads of fish caught in a nearby dam, and he then moved on to South Africa in 2004 in the hope of finding something more constructive to do. He ended up doing part time laboring work on a variety of farms and one of those was on a hunting farm where he drove a tractor and learned about tracking game from the resident hunting guide. This is where he got his first taste of dealing with international visitors but it did not last long as he had to leave and return to Zimbabwe after only one year.
On his return, he went back to selling goods locally until he came across someone who took curios across for sale in Windhoek and who wanted Stewart to act as a salesman for him. At that stage, Stewart had never been to Namibia but he set off across to Windhoek in 2008 and has been based in Namibia ever since. His break came when selling curios in the town center when a couple of German tourists asked him to show them around the town after he had sold them some curios. He agreed to do so and quickly did some studying from a city guide book before setting off later that day. After this, the guests told Stewart he was too talented to be selling curios on the street and that he should become a full time guide as he was clearly so good at that. Once his enthusiasm for sharing his knowledge with visitors had been rekindled in this way, he went off to learn more about his new profession and developed a real passion for guiding.
Once he had identified that this was what he wanted to do, he did his research and found that he could do all the necessary training at the Namibian Academy for Hospitality and Tourism (NATH), but that this was expensive and he did not have enough money to do so. His next lucky break came when he contacted the guests who had originally set him on this path and they offered to pay for his training which he started in early 2009. After completing many of the relevant courses, he was offered a job at Mowani Mountain Camp as part of his on the job training, and he spent the next three years at this lovely camp. This is where he got his first taste of real naturalist guiding out in the wilderness, and it also gave him the chance to get to know most of the wonderful scenery of Damaraland based, from the Twyfelfontein area, as well as learning many intimate details about the desert adapted wildlife found there.
After three great years in Damaraland, he felt that he needed to broaden his experience and learn about other parts of the country so he applied to join Wilderness Safaris. He went off to work in the South where he had the opportunity to learn about the desert conditions in the Namib, and he practiced his guiding skills when conducting daily excursions into the Sossusvlei Area when based on the Kulala Reserve. As this is a completely different area with far less game, he had to learn about all the small things that make time in the desert so interesting for visitors. This did wonders for his guiding skills as it meant he had to be much more inventive in what he showed his guests in what was a unique and challenging environment. After spending a year guiding in the desert he returned to Damaraland, but took the opportunity to continue with his NATH courses and attend a specialized birding course on Damaraland residents as well as another highlighting the behavioral differences between desert adapted elephants and elephants living in other areas.
On his return to Damaraland, Stewart worked at Damaraland Camp where he became an assistant camp manager as well as a guide, taking on more responsibilities and a wider variety of tasks. He then continued working his way North and ended up working at Serra Cafema on the Kunene river, where he got to explore the North Western part of the country as well as gaining valuable experience when running boat cruises on the Kunene river. This gave him the chance to really focus on the birding aspect of his guiding skills, and the exposure he got in the various areas gave him a firm grasp on the greater picture of Namibia and how it all comes together.
Stewart decided during 2014 that the time had come to move on to becoming a guide on a National level so he joined the Ultimate Safaris guiding team in early 2015, and arrived with a valuable breadth of experience as well as a lovely cheerful personality. Everyone lucky enough to travel with him values these traits and enjoys every moment of their safari with him.
Many sports including tennis, and spending time outdoors.
Why I enjoy guiding
It allows me the opportunity to be out there in wilderness where I feel free and able to fully relax in an environment that I am very comfortable with.
While I was at Mowani, I took a group on a morning drive to look for desert elephant and I was asked at our tea time break if we at the lodge went out to put up the round nests, that the guests thought were decorations, in the trees to make them more attractive. I explained that nests were built by various species of birds, mainly weavers of one sort or another, and I had illustrations to show her what these birds looked like, but one guest still didn't believe me. On my way back to camp I stopped at a tree with White-browed Sparrow-weaver nests in it and we walked up to the tree to have a closer look at the nests. Even after that, she still didn't believe me and insisted that we were the ones that put these clumps of grass in the tree.
We went out on the afternoon to visit Twyfelfontein and I stopped again at the same tree on the way back in the hope that the birds would be coming in and out of their nests. We sat there for about fifteen minutes and finally the birds returned to the nests and luck was on my side as they were making repairs to their nests. Finally, these guests now believed what I had been telling them all day. What I learnt from this experience is that some people really have no idea about Africa and the wildlife that inhabits it, and this increased my pleasure in being able to share information about our wonderful continent with them.
Tarry Butcher (Naturalist Guide)
Tarry is a true Namibian, who was born in Windhoek and attended primary school at St. George’s Diocesan School and high school at St. Paul’s College. While there, he took part in many outdoor activities including hiking the Fish River Canyon, and doing volunteer work for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Etosha National Park.
From a young age, Tarry had a keen interest in nature, birds and photography which was inherited from his parents, fostered during many family camping holidays, and extended through intensive involvement in the Scouts of Namibia. He started in Scouts at the early age of seven and went on to become a troop leader, later also being involved in two Cederberg Senior Scout Adventures. He then developed his skills further when he went to study at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, and he spent his final year on their Game Ranch Management course where he extended his knowledge on wildlife and gained even greater understanding of the subject which provides his major graduate qualification.
In addition to his general outdoor interests and academic studies, Tarry has also always been a keen sportsman. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and trekking as well as a number of team sports. He has regularly represented Namibia in the National field hockey team in both the indoor and outdoor form and he plans to continue doing so (when he has time) for the foreseeable future.
Tarry has traveled all over southern Africa for personal and professional reasons, and this has given him a greater understanding of the relationship between Namibia and its neighbours. Now based in Windhoek and working at Ultimate Safaris.
After leaving school, Tarry took a Gap year where he started his tourism career working as a river guide for Felix Unite on the Orange River. He started as a basic guide and quickly worked his way up to an A-rate guide in the one year he spent there before leaving to continue his studies at the Nelson Mandela University. He studied game ranch and natural resource management and also qualified as a professional hunting guide - although the latter was done in order to learn more about game than to be used in a professional capacity. He did his in service training during his third year at Bucklands Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape and while working on the ranch he acted as guide for guests, taking them through thick coastal terrain both on foot and by vehicle to give them a series of close encounters with the wildlife to be found there.
Once he started guiding in this way and had gained experience as well a greater confidence, he discovered he had both a talent and a passion for sharing his own knowledge of the local wildlife with guests coming to visit the ranch. He therefore decided that this was where his future career would lie and stayed on at the ranch for another eighteen months after completing his in service training and used that time to complete the official FGASA level one and three guiding qualifications. This meant he was officially qualified as a trails guide who was able to take guests on foot into dangerous game areas.
With this expanded experience base, Tarry was in a good position for his move back to Namibia. He came to join Ultimate Safaris in 2012 and quickly proved he had no problem applying the knowledge gained in South Africa to the Namibian context. He worked with all the more established lead guides before starting to lead his own short tours, but soon proved his worth and moved on to deal with longer safaris with more specialized requirements. When he is not out guiding, he works as the company operations co-ordinator as well as helping on the office where he has taken on the responsibility for promotion in social media etc. He is also working on adding any NATH courses he needs to convert up his FAGASA qualifications to a full Namibian national guide certification.
Tarry had an opportunity in early 2015, where he spent a total of two months in the Masai Mara. Himself and Nestor went there on a guide exchange and helped out at a safari company which gave them the opportunity to explore the Mara. While up there Tarry had time to do birding in a different region of Africa and also gained major experience in wildlife behavior, with new species and familiar ones. This was a great aid to his guiding toolkit, as he can now make comparisons to an area that many of his travelers have been to.
He has a wide knowledge of fauna and flora, with a specific enthusiasm for birding which he plans to take forward to becoming a recognised national birding guide. He is also a keen photographer who is always willing to learn more as well as sharing the skills he has already acquired. Overall Tarry is a fun and knowledgeable travelling companion who will push himself to the limit to ensure you have an excellent safari.
Hockey, sports, traveling, hiking, photography and birds
Why I enjoy guiding
Meeting new people, and working where no trip is the same.
While I was working as a volunteer in Etosha National Park, I went out on a game count with colleagues from the Ministry. We were counting zebra from the road in the western part of Etosha, which at that time had restricted access for the public. Not long after leaving a large herd of zebra our vehicle died so one of my colleagues and I climbed out to check the engine, leaving a lady that was with us in the vehicle as a look out. After getting the all clear, we opened the bonnet and bent over to try to find the problem. While we were busy, the lady in the car had problems with her contact lenses and decided to change them. She fiddled for a bit and when she looked up with her glasses on, she saw a black rhino charging at the vehicle. She shouted at us to get out of the way and as my colleague was next to a door, he swiftly jumped in. However, I was at the front of the vehicle and had to scramble over the engine to get to safety. Once we all settled we saw the rhino come to a halt, at the exact position where I had been standing so, if I had not moved, I would have a rhino horn piercing my body. I am not sure I would normally have managed this feat of acrobatics, but it’s amazing what a major shot of adrenalin can achieve!
Usko Hanghuwo (Naturalist Guide)
Usko was born in the small of Ohangwena, in the northern parts of Ovamboland, where his parents have resided for many years. His family are part of the Oshivambo tribe, who are primarily farmers, and fall under the Kwanjama sub tribe. Usko grew up in the village where he helped his parents with crops, collecting livestock from the field and milking the cows. His mother was a manager at a local supermarket, but his dad had to travel away from the small village where he worked at Transnamib, Namibia’s transport company, where he was based in the larger town of Otjiwarongo.
Usko attended junior school in Grootfontein, which was a major shock for him as he had never had running water, electricity and a TV, which he really enjoyed. Although he started his schooling in Grootfontein he completed his primary schooling in Okahandja, where he boarded for six years, starting at the young age of six. During his school holidays he would either head back to the village or make his way to the capital to visit family. These visits helped him as he attended high school at Ela Dupleseis High School in Windhoek, where he stayed with family that he had previously visited.
After completing school in 2002, he followed in his brothers footsteps, who trained him up as a graphic designer, where he worked at the same company as his brother for over six years. Although this was a job that could sustain him for the rest of his life, Usko has always had a love for nature which stemmed from his childhood where he spent time out in the field while herding the livestock. He always came across different birds and trees, and while working with his brother he was always on the lookout for an opportunity to get involved in the tourism industry. He finally got his opportunity to work at Wolwedans and be trained up as a guide, this is where his guiding career started and after experience throughout the country he has now joined the Ultimate Safaris team.
In 2009 Usko joined Wolwedans where he was giving field training on the NamiRand Nature Reserve and quickly became a successful guide for them. He was based on the reserve for a total of three years he mastered desert guiding, which forms and integral part of a National guides repertoire. During his time here he was able to focus on the geology of the south, the small critters that inhabit the Namib Desert and some of the rare and special bird species we find in this area. His time here assisted him greatly when he moved further north in the Namib Desert to Damaraland Camp.
In his move here he had his first encounter with large wildlife, mainly the desert-adapted elephants that roam through this area. Once again there was more emphasis on the geology of the area, as geology is one of Usko’s passions, but he able to master his guiding skills around these larger mammals and started focusing on mammal behavior. After spending a year in this area and mastering his off road skills through this mountainous and stark terrain he was moved to another camp within the larger group. This camp was Serra Cafema which is on the most northern point of Namibia on the Kunene River.
Usko spent two years here where his guiding skills were tested as he now had to learn how to drive a boat, focus on birding and have his first go at cultural guiding. He spent a total of two years here where he became a stalwart in the guiding team and amongst the local Himba people, which he visited on a regular basis with his guests. He also mastered the Kunene River system, where there are no large mammals but an abundance of bird species. During his time here he was able to complete the majority of his NATH courses.
These NATH courses covered the basics to more complicated courses such as ornithology, politics and history. With these courses and the experience he had picked up over the last six years, he approached Ultimate Safaris and was seen as a strong candidate. He joined the Ultimate Safaris guiding team in early 2015 and has fitted in well as a team player, with fantastic reviews from his guests. Usko is a knowledgeable and experienced guide; and is a pleasure to travel with.
Geology, plants, birds and traveling in the areas where these are found.
Why I enjoy guiding
Brings me closer to nature and unites people from around the world.
Vincent Kahiha (Naturalist Guide)
Although Vincent was born in Windhoek, he spent the majority of his time growing up on his family’s farm near Aminuis, where his father raised livestock. Young Vincent spend a lot of time out in the field tending to the livestock, which is where he developed his knowledge of the other wilder inhabitants of the area and his love for nature. His mom was a teacher at the local primary school, which Vincent attended before going to boarding school in Windhoek and then obtaining a diploma in Travel & Tourism Management.
He decided that guiding would give him the opportunity to re-establish his connection with the bush so went on study at NATH (Namibian Association of Travel and Hospitality) and was fortunate enough to have his studies funded by a scholarship for suitably able candidates that was offered by the MCA (Millennium Challenge Account). He completed all the courses there and received the highest, level 3, National guiding qualification. Despite being a full time naturalist guide, Vincent is continuing with his studies and is currently in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree in Travel and Tourism Management.
Vincent went on to work in the Namib as a guide at Wolwedans on the Namib Rand Nature Reserve where he had the opportunity to master the intricacies of the Namib Desert which forms a major part of all safaris to Namibia. He proved to be so impressive that he was selected to work as a field guide at Animal Kingdom in Disney World in Orlando for a year before rerunning to the country he loves best.
His amiable and pleasant personality combined with the skills and enthusiasm he demonstrated identified Vincent as an ideal candidate to join the professional team of naturalist guides at the Ultimate Safaris. He has shown that he was an inspired choice as he has fitted in extremely well with the rest of the team and has proved his abilities by consistent positive responses from the guests he has worked with
With the passion for wildlife that was instilled in him from a very young age and with the knowledge he has acquired since he began his guiding career, Vincent has proved to be a valuable asset. He is a ‘gentle soul’, an intrepid explorer, and an absolute pleasure to travel with.
Travel and sports such as Soccer
Why I enjoy guiding
Allows me to interact with people from cultures all across the globe, allowing me a platform to demonstrate many aspects of my amazing country and to show them the detail of what it has to offer.
Will Novell (Naturalist Guide)
William ‘Will’ was born in the English town of Bristol, where he spent the majority of his childhood as a boy who enjoyed the outdoors and spent every minute he could outside. He then moved to Ireland with his family and attended school in Dublin before returning to Wells Cathedral School near Bristol. Wanting to travel, he took the opportunity study abroad and went to study Political Science in Canada.
As he retained his urge to be outdoors, he discovered he was taking the wrong degree and left to study Natural sciences. During this time, he went to work as a volunteer in Borneo and travelled through other parts of Asia before deciding to join the Army. Before going far down this path, he spoke to a friend who had a just completed a field guide training course in South Africa and he realized that this was exactly what he wanted to do too.
Will trained in Kruger National park and went on to work as a guide at Erindi Game Reserve in Namibia where he stayed long enough to meet his wife, Helen, who came to work as a manager there. After they got married, they moved on together to become a management couple at Ongava Lodge on the southern boundary of Etosha. They spent two years working on the Ongava Reserve and dealing with the wildlife as well as the guests there. Helen then took a new management job in Windhoek and Will decided that this would be his new base while renewing his enthusiasm for full time guiding. He therefore set himself the challenge of joining the Ultimate Safaris tribe and quickly established himself as an important part of the team.
Will’s guiding experience started when he went to South Africa to attend and intensive training course which ended with him gaining his FEGASA qualification. During the course he spent nearly every day out in the field with a major focus on tracking wildlife, rifle handling, naturalist guiding, and birding. He completed all the modules with flying colours and went on to get more wildlife experience while guiding on the private Erindi reserve
He worked his way up the ranks and very quickly found himself in the position of senior guide. Although this was a major feat for him, it was his other activities that offered the most valuable experience. He assisted the researchers working at the reserve with tracking the habituation of wildlife that they had introduced into the area, and he worked very closely with CCF (Cheetah Conservation Foundation) on monitoring the behavior of cheetah that were introduced to the area after spending time at the CCF base. He was also part of the team that went to Khaudom National Park to capture Elephant that were then relocated to the Erindi reserve and became more candidates for his tracking and monitoring activities.
When he moved to the Ongava game reserve, he acted as assistant manager at Ongava Lodge, but his main focus was on walking safaris and guide training, especially concerning the use of weapons. This gave him valuable additional experience as well as allowing him to pursue his main interest by acting as guide on the reserve as well as inside Etosha when the lodge was short staffed
During his extensive time based in Namibia, Will has always travelled as extensively as possible during their time off, and he does so with his Namibian born wife whenever possible. They have explored many areas of Namibia and taken the opportunities offered to further develop their fascination with birding. He is an enthusiastic and energetic guide who retains his foreigner’s excitement for everything he gets to see while travelling around the country, and nothing gives him more pleasure than sharing what he has been privileged to learn with visitors to the country. In addition to this, he is naturally a very caring person who will go to great lengths to ensure that all those with him have the best possible time on their safari
Birding, travel, nature and predator behavior
Why I enjoy guiding
It allows me the opportunity to experience and interpret and nature with people who are here to share the wonders that I experience on a daily basis
While out assisting the tracking team in locating a black rhino that we thought had just given birth, I drove into the local area by myself. I got to a point amongst some thick bush where I stopped the vehicle so that I could pop my head out to get a better view of the area. As I brought the car to a halt with my foot still on the clutch, the noise of the vehicle stopping startled the mother rhino who was asleep under a nearby bush. The moment my head popped out, the first thing I saw was a charging rhino, but it was too late, she rammed into the back of the vehicle.
The first knock of the rhino’s horn tore a gaping hole in the body of the vehicle, but it also knocked my foot off the clutch and the vehicle stalled. With the vehicle now stationary, the mother rhino went on to puncture the vehicle another fourteen times before she felt satisfied the threat was gone and returned to her calf. When I had I calmed down after this experience, I returned to the lodge and explained what happened to tracking team. Understandably, they were not impressed, but I learned a good lesson and I will never again approach a thicket without knowing exactly what is inside it !.
Why travel with an Ultimate naturalist guide?
An Ultimate Safaris naturalist guide will quickly turn a normal safari into a life enriching journey, creating a deeper understanding and appreciation for the incredible places and people that we visit. The guides are the link between our guests and the intricacies of the natural world, sharing their knowledge with enthusiasm and humour. Guests are taken on a journey through some of the world’s most beautiful wild places, encountering wildlife spectacles and engaging with age-old authentic cultures while receiving detailed interpretation as offered by our highly trained naturalist guides. Throughout this experience, they are wrapped in the warm and caring hospitality that makes us Ultimate Safaris.
A guided safari offers our guests constant access to one or more of these exceptional guides who have an intimate knowledge of each camp/lodge and area we visit. This allows them to be able to expose the relevant highlights, adding continuity and depth to your safari, and effectively tailor-making your experience. It also means that they are able to take guests to stay at less sophisticated rural venues which might not otherwise be suitable for discerning visitors. The presence of our guide adds another level to the hospitality and service that can be offered there and thus ensures that we have the widest reach of options available to us while still maintaining the standards to which we aspire.
Our guides share in a philosophy that ensures they never cease adding to their encyclopedic knowledge and this makes them lifelong scholars in the fields of their expertise. Their infectious enthusiasm, dedication, character, and in-depth knowledge of the country ensure that guests are at the forefront of real, unique and authentic experiences throughout their journey. Being native to Namibia, our guides are welcomed as friends or family everywhere they go, thus ensuring authentic and life enriching journeys. These often result in guests becoming personal friends of both our guides and the people that they visit.
Our safari specialists are considered to be amongst the leading authorities on travel to Namibia. They also all live and work in Namibia, and between them have over 100 years of experience in the local travel industry. Great importance is attached to identifying specific expectations and requirements from the onset as this allows us to provide seamless and memorable safari experiences. Great efforts are made to foster and maintain excellent relationships with all our local suppliers of accommodation and other services so that we can be sure that we have their full support when making arrangements that are out of the ordinary and ensuring all aspects of any given safari are properly tied together. Keeping on the cutting edge of what is new and exciting is a high priority at Ultimate Safaris and, as a result, you are assured of a safari that makes use of original thought and inspiration to put together the best possible options available.
Meet our Safari Specialists
Alfons Kaura (Africa Senior Safari Specialist)
Alfons always had a passion for the open road, keen to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. During his school holidays he travelled to a family farm in the Erongo region of Namibia where his love for nature was nurtured. After seeing pictures from a tour his friend did, he knew then that he wanted to be in the tourism industry. After completing his diploma in Travel and Tourism, he worked for three years at the Canon Lodge in the Fish River Canyon. He was then offered a fully paid scholarship by the Millennium Challenge Account of Namibia (MCA) to study at the Namibia Academy for Tourism and Hospitality (NATH), where he obtained his Level 3 National tour guide qualification, graduating at the top of his class. He did his guide internship at Wolwedans on the NamibRand Nature Reserve and from there he joined Ultimate Safaris as a trainee guide. However, with his strong drive to get the job done and willingness to lend a helping hand, as well as a composed but friendly demeanor, accepting all responsibilities and challenges resiliently, solidly and confidently, he is quickly established himself as a valued member the Windhoek office amongst the consultant team, moving up from junior to intermediate consultant in only a short time, until his recent promotion to senior tour consultant. Add to this the knowledge he gathered over the years on his travels around Namibia, no challenge is too much to use the experience and understanding of his home country to prepare the ideal safari. Alfons still regards the Canon Lodge his favorite place in Namibia and visits it any chance he can get where he got his first employment in his life and started his career in the tourism Industry and will always be his first love.
Sharon Kandukira (Junior Safari Specialist)
Sharon Kandukira was introduced in the tourism industry in 2009 when she joined the family business working at her at her father's bed & breakfast in Otjiwarongo. Instead of being scared off, she enjoyed the extensive experience she gained from dealing with guests direct and managing guest expectations.
Whilst working at the bed & breakfast, she was able to complete a few courses at ICT though realized that computer and IT isn't where her heart is. In 2014 she joined Wilderness Safaris and worked as a trainee guide at Damaraland Camp, located at the north-western part of Namibia. From here she was also able to explore places such as Sossusvlei, Etosha, the Waterberg region as well as extensively around the Damaraland. Sharon loves geology and astronomy, so it's not surprise that the Damaraland is her favourite place in Namibia for its diverse beauty and which was her home for the past two years. She's returned to Windhoek and joined Ultimate Safaris as a Junior Sales Specialist. With the training and knowledge she has gained working at the camps, she enjoys the next challenges in her career to develop as a tour consultant and assist her team in creating great journeys.
Sharon's favourite quote is by Marc Anthony: "If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life"
Birgit Bekker (Sales Director)
Birgit is a fourth generation Namibian, of German descent, and has worked in the Namibian tourism sector for nearly two decades. She has travelled to more than 400 lodges, camps and hotel in the country, and is one of the most passionate Namibians in the industry. She has also enjoyed many safaris to the Okavango Delta, got soaked by the Victoria Falls and regularly travels to South Africa for work and pleasure. She has also ventured to the northern Hemisphere a few times, including the UK, many of the big cities of the US (loving the west coast especially) and Berlin; and whilst she enjoys the pulsating vibe of big city life, she prefers her soul to be rejuvenated in her favourite place of Namibia, the north west of Namibia. Any of the ephemeral river systems, the purple pink colours of the Damaraland and especially the wild isolation of the Kunene region is where her seemingly inexhaustible positive energy gets its much needed recharge. She serves on the TASA board for the past three years and is fiercely committed to continuously promote Namibia as a safe, unique and pioneering tourism destination.
Colleen Bleach (North America Senior Safari Specialist)
From a young age Colleen always had an interest in wildlife and travel, especially birding and discovering the little things. Add to this, she lives in a perfect country to develop her passion for photography (which is also why the NamibRand Nature Reserve as her favourite spot in Namibia - this magical place makes it impossible to take a soulless photo). Namibian born, she started her tourism career in South Africa with 3 years in retail travel and then worked for over 13 years at AndBeyond; 5 of which were at a lodge in the Sabi Sands. She moved back to Namibia in 2012 and has been with Ultimate since February 2013, where she can continue to indulge in her passion for the bush and work with people who share that interest. Colleen herself has not only explored Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Victoria Falls, Zanzibar, parts of Kenya and most of the &Beyond lodges; but has also ventured to places beyond Southern Africa, including Thailand, Singapore, Australia (relishing the 2000 Olympics), London and many countries in Europe. Colleen's attention to detail is like no other and her enjoyment for people and travelling combine well to put together life enriching journeys to the beautiful diverse country she calls home! One of her favourite quotes: "Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion."
Ivan Cameron Malgas (Oceania Senior Safari Specialist)
Ivan was bit by the tourism bug from watching wildlife documentaries. After completing high school he enrolled for a National Diploma in Travel & Tourism Management at the Polytechnic of Namibia, after which he did his internship as a trainee tour consultant at a local tour operator in Windhoek. Completing his internship, he returned back home to Okahandja, where he worked as an assistant manager and then later as the manager at the Khaya Guesthouse. But Ivan was looking for the next big challenge and joined the Ultimate Safaris team in Windhoek in 2012. He started as a junior consultant, where he quickly became an integral part of the team because of his ability to handle pressure and work well within a team. Throughout his studies and earlier on in life, he had the opportunity to travel through the country visiting the main tourist attractions including the Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, the Kolmanskop Ghost Town, the Damaraland, Africat Foundation, Waterberg, the coastal towns of Swakopmund & Walvisbay and a small section of the Skeleton Coast National Park. This makes him a great generalist when it comes to putting itineraries together. His favourite place in Namibia is the Kaokoland/Kunene Region, because of its unspoiled & unexplored beauty, its wide open spaces, it's rugged and contrasting scenery from the windswept dune fields to the rocky desert outcrops and the mighty crocodile infested Kunene River. The sheer number of endemic species of fauna and flora found in the Kaokoland as another reason why this is his favourite area in Namibia.
Swenja de Vos (UK & Scheduled Safaris Senior Safari Specialist)
Swenja de Vos didint' initially consider venturing into the tourism industry as a possible career option, however, a short stint after school working as receptionist at a tour operator quickly ignited in her the passion to make tourism her chosen calling and in 2007 she started to develop her career in tourism when she started to specialize in self-drive FIT tours. She is believes tourism is exactly where she belongs and as a Namibian loves nothing more than present her lovely country, with its amazing landscape and wildlife, to the rest of the world. The Etosha National Park is her favourite place in Namibia as this is where her utter love affair for elephants was ignited when she had her first encounter with a baby elephant playing at a waterhole while her mother was drinking. Swenja has travelled to most areas in Namibia apart from the Kaokoland and Fish River Canyon, which she is planning to visit soon. She has also explored parts of Botswana and the Okavango Delta, as well as the Victoria Falls. Swenja is often called "Smiley" because she smiles and laughs a lot, having fun whilst being highly driven to offer nothing but the best service to her clients, always with her heart-warming smile.
Vernon Swanepoel (Western Europe & Beyond Senior Safari Specialist)
Vernon Swanepoel was born in South Africa, but his family moved to the remote desert area of northern Kenya when he was 8, where growing up gave him a life-long passion for desert areas. After high school Vernon moved to South Africa to study, initially going into sport studies before he changed course to follow his passion and started studying Nature Conservation. During this time he developed a keen interest in birding and cycled around much of the southern Cape in pursuit of birds. As a student he worked for a team of scientists researching arid ecology, and Namibia seemed like a good next move. In 1998 a guiding job became available with Afro Ventures in Namibia, so Vernon took the job, expecting that it would be a short term thing. However, very quickly he fell in love with the country, and here too he met his future wife. In 2000 a job as head guide became available at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (then Mountain Lodge) and they moved to the desert. In 2003 when expecting their first child he worked in Windhoek as a tour coordinator, but moved back to the lodge by the start of 2004 and a year later the couple became assistant managers at the lodge. In 2008 Vernon and his family moved to Swakopmund where he did day tours for a number of local operators, before finally moving back to Windhoek. He worked as a freelance guide initially before managing the DMC office of AndBeyond and eventually starting his own touring company, before joining the tribe at Ultimate Safaris.
Our operations tribe is the engine room at Ultimate Safaris, quietly working behind the scenes to ensure all aspects of the operation run smoothly and cohesively. This includes checking that all the necessary arrangements are properly in place, helping guides to prepare for guest arrivals, ensuring the correct vehicles and information packages are ready for specific safaris, and preparing and running our own fully-serviced mobile camps. They also assist with marketing, looking after tribe and company welfare, ensuring accounts are sent out and paid, and running our very own Tou Trust to the benefit of the local communities with whom we work.
Meet our Operations Tribe
Martin Webb Bowen (Director & Co-founder)
Martin came to Namibia from Kenya in 1993 to run the Namibian end of a British safari operation, but this quickly developed into a fully Namibian safari company called SandyAcre Safaris. The company initially only concentrated on providing private guided safaris for visitors from the UK, but this soon spread into other source markets such as the USA, Switzerland, France, Spain and Australia. It also became established as a reliable film services support company, specifically as a sub-contractor for the BBC. SandyAcre Safaris was incorporated into the newly formed Ultimate Safaris in 2008, and Martin now oversees the running of the new company in partnership with Tristan Cowley. At various times, they have filled most of the executive positions in private sector tourism associations, and they are still Trustees for NATH (Namibian Academy of Tourism and Hospitality) as well as acting as Administrators and Trustees for the non-profit Conservation Travel Foundation which works to assist rural development and conservation initiatives in the areas where the safari company is most active. Martin has retained his passion for arranging seamless holidays for individuals as well as for the larger tour groups that now make up the majority of the company's business - and the words "A holiday of a lifetime" are still guaranteed to provide considerable satisfaction
Raymond Pande (Guest Liaison)
Our strikingly handsome guest liaison Raymond Pande is originally from Zimbabwe but has made Namibia his home for the past decade when he met a Namibian and fell madly in love. Raymond was exposed to the tourism industry at an early age through his father, who specialized in hospitality management. He’s visited South Africa’s cities of Johannesburg, Durban and ever the lovely Cape Town, as well as travelled to Livingstone, parts of Botswana and of course around his home country Zimbabwe.
In Namibia he loves visiting cool sleepy Swakopmund and surprisingly really likes Rehoboth, which reminds him of his birth town, Gokwe.
He is a passionate musician and the lead singer in a local jazz band, and thoroughly enjoys meeting people of all walks of life. He never gets tired assisting guests, even when they arrive cranky off a long-haul international flight and takes great pride in making sure all of Ultimate Safaris guests receive the warmest, friendliest welcome upon arrival in Namibia. Most Windhoek airport transfers and city tours will be under the capable attention of Raymond, who will also be meeting guests at the end of their safari.
Tristan Cowley (Director and Co-founder)
The Cowley family has been involved in tourism in southern Africa for almost two decades. As one of the pioneering families in the tourism field in Namibia, the Cowley family (Clive and Doris) produced the first in-depth travel guide for Namibia in the late 1980's, setting an unprecedented benchmark for others to follow. The Namibia Guidebook (now called Clive Cowley's Journey into Namibia) was the first tourist guidebook which offered both visitors and potential visitors an in-depth account of this great country. Having a true love and passion for the natural environment, Tristan followed in his parents' footsteps and founded Tou (meaning "elephant" in the Lozi language) Safaris in 2003, specializing in naturalist guided safaris to Namibia. In 2008 Tou Safaris merged with another like-minded safari company to form Ultimate Safaris, which has grown to be one of Namibia's most renowned naturalist and specialist guiding safari companies.
Tristan is married to Stefanie, who is a lawyer in Windhoek, and together they have two sons called Dylan and Joshua. He has a passion for photography and developing tourism in Namibia in a sustainable way, to ensure benefit for everyone involved.
Tristan's life in the natural environment and tourism began as a teenager working as a river guide in South Africa, guiding canoe and kayak safaris on 3 different rivers. After school he moved on to manage one of Africa's finest camps, Wolwedans, where he became a specialist desert guide. He then studied Natural Resource Management (Nature Conservation), where after he completed both the National and Hunting Guide Qualifications and was assigned to lead exclusive safaris in southern Africa for leading safari operators. Tristan is a Namibia specialist, but has led safaris in South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. In his early guiding years, Tristan also worked as a field researcher, conducting field research on two sandgrouse species as well as the newly described endemic black mongoose. He has had numerous research papers published in learned journals as well as popular publications. Tristan has also spent a fair amount of time as a lecturer at NATH (Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality), lecturing young and aspiring safari guides.
Having served as the chairman of TASA (Tour and Safari Association of Namibia), vice chairman of NATH (Namibian Academy for Tourism and Hospitality), on the executive council of FENATA (Federation of Namibian Tourism Associations) and the advisory council to the school of natural resource management at the University of Technology in Namibia, it is fair to say that Tristan is a well-known and respected personality within the Namibian tourism industry.
Tristan was also the founder of the Conservation Travel Foundation, a legally registered non-profit trust which has been established to assist humanitarian and conservation initiatives in the areas in which Ultimate Safaris operates. He is one of the trustees for the NATH Education Trust, another legally registered trust which is responsible for granting bursaries for up and coming aspiring safari guides in Namibia.
Since its inception, Ultimate Safaris has grown to a team of almost 25 staff, so Tristan spends most of his time running the operations as well as the marketing for Ultimate Safaris, which also involves extensive travels to Europe, Australasia and North America, as well as more occasional visits to South America. However, he still finds time to guide the occasional specialist or specific repeat groups, so continues to engage in what is his real passion.
Sport, traveling, socializing and photography.
Why I enjoy guiding
It's not a job, it's a way of life!
Having spent many months in the field on my own (mainly during research expeditions) the most humbling experience for me was coming face to face with a leopard at very close range on a narrow ridge in the Erongo Mountains. The encounter happened when I was coming around a blind corner on a mountain ridge and I suddenly came across, and woke, a large sleeping male leopard. The leopard got to his feet instantly, staying stationary and staring straight at me. He then took four steps toward me, before grunting and then turning around, making off in the direction I was going (the path was narrow so there was obviously no way past me). I was able to stand and watch him walk away from me for about 200 m, before he disappeared around another corner. Having had a sufficiently memorable encounter for that day, I turned around and decided to go back the way I had come!