The ecotourist's guide to Africa

A bachelor of applied science, a business, and a one way ticket to Africa. After graduating from JCU’s Bachelor of Applied Science, majoring in Environmental Management in 2005 and working in his field for several years, there was something missing for Shane Ross.

“I flew to Africa in 2015 on a one-way ticket, and completed a three-month nature guiding course in South Africa, which qualified me to be a guide anywhere in Africa,” Shane said.

“After that I did a little bit of travel, I travelled all over Africa visiting as many parks as possible, to  get an understanding of how each park is managed and discover what species live in each.”

Shane Ross standing at the front of his red four-wheel drive on a dirt road. Green trees stand in the background.

Shane’s idea of, “a little bit of travel,” may vary from the average’s person’s experience. He covered 90,000km in two years, mostly on dirt roads.

“I bought a small four-wheel drive in Namibia and travelled every single country between South Africa and Kenya, just visiting parks and spending time in local communities,” Shane said.

The original plan was to be a guide in Africa, but the income wasn’t sustainable, so Shane headed back to Australia before finding a mentor in Cairns to help him realise his business aspirations.

“I needed someone to give me some idea of how to get into business and what to do with my skill set,” he said.

“My mentor really helped me look at my skill set and go ‘this is what you can do’. I’d already been building a portfolio as a photographer and videographer, but I wanted to guide too.”

A Rhino silhouetted at sunset.

Shane has wasted no time developing a photography portfolio, capturing Africa's incredible animals on camera. Image credit: Shane Ross

“She helped me come up with my first product, which is a nine-day safari to Tanzania, targeting the great wildebeest migration and also the big five: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and black rhino.”

A Lion "smiling" at the camera.

Shane uses his guiding and science skills to get his clients close to Africa's wildlife. Image credit: Shane Ross.

From June to November, Shane gets to lead people to some of the most incredible experiences in the natural world.

“My main safari now is to Tanzania, where we take in a live volcano, the biggest breeding lake for lesser flamingos in the world, and amazing, up-close and personal wildlife experiences in the northern section of Serengeti national park,” he said.

Shane now runs safaris in Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia.

He’s also more than a tour guide, employing his unique skills based in environmental management, animal behaviour and tracking to guide his trips.

Photography and public speaking also play a key role in the entrepreneur’s business.

“I’m selling photos and running photography training, I’m a nature guide, but I’m also getting involved in community projects including endangered animal wildlife surveys, and school engagement,” Shane said.

Shane with his arms around two locals in Africa, the man on his right wears a bright orange garb, while on the left a man wears western-style clothing.

Shane had plenty of time to meet the locals during his trip through Africa. Image credit: Shane Ross

With so many skill sets, Shane has found his most important commodity is education, and every tour has a strong focus on teaching his clients about the environment.

“The education part is the whole reason I’m doing this,” Shane said. “It’s one of those things you’re asked when you’re growing up, about where you can have influence and, ‘can I make a difference?’”

“Through ecotourism and through public speaking and writing, which are my other passions, I’m able to influence people.”

Shane taking a selfie in front of an African plain.

Touring Africa offers Shane time to educate his clients on the animals they come to see. Image credit: Shane Ross.

Shane has also found a perfect balance between quality and quantity of information, something he says is key to maximising his effectiveness.

“I run tours for nine to 30 days at a time, with a maximum of six people, so I get a really good interaction with my clients, and them with me as their guide,” he said.

“That interaction really helps me influence them and teach them the intricacies of the natural world and embed the right messages with them from the start.

“Through public speaking and networking events, and posting regularly on social media accounts I can reach a broader range of people.

“I’m finding I can satisfy both sides of that education idea, I can still reach a lot of people, which is the whole reason I want to do this, to have a positive impact.

“By offering safaris in Africa using the skills and knowledge I’ve learned at JCU and as a nature guide, I’m able to positively impact the environment as well as the attitudes of those who want to experience it.”

If an adventure with Shane sounds like it’s for you, check out his website. If you don’t have the time right now for an adventure, you can live vicariously through his Instagram page.

If you want to discover where a practical understanding of the world and its inhabitants can take you, consider JCU Environmental Management.