Rob Janisch joins The Shackleton & Selous Society as Ant Kaschula‘s partner at Private Guided Safaris. Private Guided Safaris is a small safari operation that conducts personally tailored safaris into twelve different African countries. Learn more about Rob by reading our interview with him below!
What is your background, where do you call home, and do you have a family?
Born & educated in South Africa (Hilton College, then University of Natal & Rhodes University) – then have lived & worked in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique & Tanzania since. Based in Harare, Zimbabwe which has been home for some years now. My wife, Jos, heads up the office here in Harare with Ant’s wife, Rawana. I have two awesome little girls, Lula Blue who started in grade 1 this year and her younger sister Indiana who is coming on 2. I’ve been involved in the safari & wildlife conservation world for better part of 18 years since leaving uni.
What did you do on the day that you decided to make this your career?
My first involvement with the world of safaris came about whilst hosting the Cambridge University ‘blue’ boat crew during their summer tour to South Africa in the late 90s. I was heavily involved with university rowing at that stage & offered to take them for a jolly to the bush to end off their tour. A few beers & a great trip later, I thought that perhaps a life in elite sports was not what I wanted after all. Still I went on to London from uni and not long thereafter whilst sitting in a pub one cold & grey January day after the millenium hogmanay celebrations in Scotland and feeling mighty sorry for myself (not to mention very cold), I met up for a drink with a friend who was on a break from guiding in Botswana at the time. It took all of 10 minutes of his latest bush stories to get me straight to a travel agent and book a one-way ticket home. The rest was history…
What are your favorite places and activities during the trips?
I thrive in the newly emerging or recently restored wilderness areas of Africa. Places like Niassa & Gorongosa in Mozambique, the Selinda in Botswana, Chimanimani & Sapi in Zimbabwe, Northern Luangwa & Liuwa in Zambia, Virunga in DRC & more recently Zakouma in Chad. The more wild & ‘real’ the experience, the better. Camping under the stars on a bedroll around a campfire on a large inselberg in Niassa or paddling the more remote sections of the Zambezi river or hiking the highlands of Chimanimani, a place Tolkien could have set his books… these are the types of places & experiences that I love. The beaten path is for the beaten man after all… I love walking. I love exploring new places. And I love it when the place concerned has a real & meaningful story – conservation, community-involvement, cultural heritage protection, etc. The bigger the story, the wilder the place, the more exciting the trip…
How long have you been a safari guide?
18 years now – with various overlaps & interludes in other aspects of the world of safari tourism & wildlife conservation. For example, at the moment I am split between hosting private guided safaris in Africa from Chad to the Cape, biomimicry workshop facilitation & specialist consulting, working with Gonarezhou National Park & FZS on designing & implementing their human-wildlife conflict program, and all at the same time facilitating a guide training course through one of the local high schools here in Harare… I have always been told I take too much on, but I think it is a result of mild ADHD mixed with a boredom of the mundane!
What are your guests most surprised or delighted by during a trip with you?
My guests are most surprised that I am often more excited & enthusiastic about life on safari than a kid before xmas… But seriously, I guess the thing that I like to share with my guests more than anything is an introduction to & appreciation for the genius of nature, and how the natural world can supply so many answers to some of the challenges we face on our planet today – be it water & food security, pollution & waste management, population dynamics & urbanisation, relationships & communicaton, etc. Inspired by the emerging science of biomimicry, I have realized that we as guides can have a positively influencing role on the message & impacts our largely influential collection of guests take home to their homes, work & relationships.
Do you have hobbies/side projects/etc outside of operating your company?
Love sport of every flavor as mentioned already from my own background in elite sports. If there’s a good rugby game on it might trump most other pursuits…!
Have a series of side projects relating to education, specifically opening kids’ eyes up to the genius of nature & the wonderful applications thereof. Also really feel that human wildlife conflict is going to increase as developing country populations explode & prove to be a far worse threat to endangered species than sport hunting or any other (as we are seeing with Africa’s lion populations). As such, am developing a model towards human-wildlife coexistence on the boundaries of protected areas that incorporates family planning, women’s health & education, and more resilient lifestyle methods.
Why did you join S&S?
I realise the important role a professional guide plays in planning, hosting & managing all aspects of a trip – in order to make it not only a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but also to ensure that the body of influential guests who are able to undertake trips such as these are well informed about the reality of wilderness conservation efforts across the world. The fellows of S&S all share, I feel, a similar approach to making the world a better, more meaningful & more exciting place through the trips & experiences they host for their guests. The idea of being able to share & refer guests to experiences across the globe is a very exciting one.