College of Science and Engineering

Publish Date

24 June 2019

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The ecotourist's guide to Africa

A science degree, 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.”

A Rhino silhouetted at sunset.
Shane Ross pictured with two local men in Africa
Shane's stunning wildlife shots (L); Shane on tour (R)

Taking his passion to the next level

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.”

“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.”

"Through ecotourism and through public speaking and writing, which are my other passions, I’m able to influence people."
Shane Ross, JCU Alumni

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

Educating the world one tour at a time

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 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.

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