ROAR AFRICA’s South Africa and New York-based trip designers are people to trust for their knowledge and candor.
Every itinerary is handcrafted and custom designed, with access not only to the best private houses, lodges, chefs and wine cellars, but the region’s conservationists, artists, designers, philanthropists and captains of industry on expert-led itineraries.
Deborah Calmeyer – CEO & Founder
As the CEO of ROAR AFRICA, Deborah Calmeyer’s life work is dedicated to creating life-changing journeys in Africa for her international clientele, whilst impacting the vital conservation of wildlife and providing employment on the ground. Based in New York but with offices in Southern and East Africa, Deborah and her team at ROAR AFRICA curate, design and deliver highly refined travel experiences that essentially match people to places. Such is Deborah’s dynamism that she was invited by Lan Yang, the Oprah of China, to speak in Beijing at a conference entitled, ‘Women: The Power to Change the World’. In doing so, she became the first person in the tourism sector to speak to Chinese elite about the consumption of luxury products from illegal wildlife trading. Deborah also represented South Africa at the BRICS Economic Forum in New York in 2014 and was voted one of South Africa’s top 25 entrepreneurs in 2015 by Destiny magazine. As a company, ROAR AFRICA won the ‘We Are Africa’ award in 2014 for changing the face of luxury travel in Africa.
Caroline Hunt – Luxury Travel Designer
As Vice-President of Sales at ROAR AFRICA, Caroline Hunt combines her extensive background in hospitality with her passion for travel and her love of Africa. Growing up in Zimbabwe, Caroline forged a deep connection with her homeland and it is undoubtedly her early travels as a child in Africa that sparked her wanderlust. This love of adventure has seen Caroline travel extensively, traveling to six out of the seven continents and more than 80 countries globally. Caroline began her career in hospitality at the luxury 5-star, Hyde Park Hotel, and from there she moved to New York where she took on various global Sales and Marketing Roles with Le Meridien, Swissotel, Raffles and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. Caroline’s passion for and insights into eco-tourism are invaluable to ROAR AFRICA and our guests, who rely on her innate understanding of responsible tourism as a means to impact positively on wildlife and local communities.
Merritt Howerton – Luxury Travel Designer
As Vice-President of Sales at ROAR AFRICA, Merritt Howerton brings an invaluable wealth of experience gleaned from more-than-a-quarter of a century in the luxury travel and tourism industry. Having grown up in Kentucky, Merritt cites a trip to Spain with her parents when she was just fifteen-years-old as the beginning of a wanderlust that has yet to be assuaged. As such she has traveled extensively and visited more than 85 countries on all seven continents, in both in her personal and professional capacity. After receiving her B.A. from the University of Louisville, Merritt worked with Ambassadair Travel Club and American Trans Air before taking on various global sales roles with operators such as Lindblad Expeditions and TCS Expeditions Private Jet Services. Such experience served to reinforce her commitment to authentic, experiential and sustainable travel, as did her tenure as Vice-President of Sales for Cox & Kings before joining ROAR AFRICA. While memorable travel experiences are too many to mention, those that stand out for Merritt remain gorilla trekking in Rwanda and the privilege of seeing one-week old lion cubs whilst on safari in South Africa.
Dr. Ian McCallum – Specialist Guide
A multi-talented individual, Ian is a medical doctor, psychiatrist, poet, specialist wilderness guide and co-founder of the Wilderness Leadership School in the Cape. Ian was the writer/poet for the prestigious Dylan Lewis ‘UNTAMED’ exhibition at the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town in 2010, and wrote the award-winning book ‘Ecological Intelligence – Rediscovering Ourselves in Nature‘, that addresses the interconnection of all living things and, ultimately, the survival of the human animal. Ian is one of ROAR AFRICA’s most elite specialist guides.
Humphrey Gumpo – Specialist Guide
Humphrey grew up in the Kariba area and passed the Zimbabwe guiding exams (the toughest in the world) with flying colors. With over 15 years of professional guiding experience, he is one of the few qualified safari guides to guide in several African countries. He is a master at sharing his interest and indisputable passion for wild and remote Africa with discerning travelers, who are looking for unique adventures. Listening more carefully to the bush, he says, has made him a better guide.
Steven Lake – Specialist Guide
Steve was born in the small Malawian town of Mzuzu. After earning a diploma in Nature Conservation, he completed the Cape Town Guides and Botswana Wildlife Departments professional guides courses. He worked as a camping safari guide before he and his wife, Sharon, managed lodges in the Okavango Delta. The memories cultivated during these experiences are what Steve strives to pass on to all our guests. Steve enjoys wine tasting, running, squash, hiking, birding, and watching visitors fall in love with Africa.
Tim Meadows – Specialist Guide
Timothy lived with the Maasai in Kenya while completing a course in Anthropology at the University of Nairobi. After briefly working in the worlds of education and finance in South Africa, his adoration for the country prompted him to embark on a career in travel. Tim’s ethos is that each travel experience should be unique, personal, fun, educational and inspirational. For any guests wishing to play a round of golf whilst in South Africa, you can be sure that Tim will enthusiastically provide some company!
Brian Vandayar – Specialist Guide
Brian was deeply inspired by Nelson Mandela’s first speech as a free man, in which the future President of South Africa emphasized the importance of education. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of the Western Cape, Brian then completed an Advanced Business Management course in Tourism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. As a tour guide, Brian treasures the opportunity to show the most beautiful and hidden sides of Cape Town to ROAR AFRICA’s guests.
Peter Veerapen – Specialist Guide
Growing up in a politically hostile yet vibrant suburb of Athlone, Cape Town, Peter initially wanted to study law. Then things changed in South Africa, and he wanted to tell the other side of the story. He developed a tour that wasn’t being offered elsewhere, taking tourists to the townships. Today that tour is fast becoming part of the mainstream and the people from these areas are benefiting directly. As a tour guide, it also gives Peter great pleasure to educate and mentor new, young and up and coming guides.
Lucija Bellairs – Specialist Guide
Lucija grew up in Johannesburg and moved to Cape Town in 1998 to start out as a junior receptionist. She worked her way up the ranks and, after 10 years of consulting, she was motivated to become a qualified tour guide. Today, she is still doing what she loves most – sharing her passion for her country, culture, history and its people with her guests. Lucija’s favorite saying: “Once you get the sands of Africa in your shoes, you’ll keep coming back. Obey that impulse.”
Stephen Bell – Specialist Guide
With a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, Stephen Bell has built up an incredible repertoire of experience over the last two decades with his work as both a field guide and biologist in the Conservation and Tourism Industry. After the completion of his studies, Stephen started out as a professional field guide and has since worked in areas as diverse as Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, the Timbavati Private Nature & Game Reserve, Manyeleti Game Reserve in Kruger and the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Combining both his theoretical and hands-on knowledge has seen him in the last decade involved in research as a biologist. This has taken him all over the world in the research and protection of some of the most endangered flagship species living on our planet. Most recently he worked in the area of Dubai desert conservation as a terrestrial biologist. Stephen has also published numerous articles in scientific journals and is now based in Cape Town, where he continues his research whilst working full time as one of ROAR AFRICA’s specialist tour and private guide.
Gregor Rohrig – Photo Specialist & Artist
Through his art, Gregor captures the complex strength and fragility of the human condition. He explores what it means to be, think, feel and dream in the urban world. He has exhibited internationally, from Rotterdam to Milan, and has held various successful solo exhibitions in South Africa. Gregor is also a professional photographer. His background in anthropology, journalism, psychology and business has allowed him to develop a distinctive way of carefully and respectfully documenting events and processes, focusing on capturing the atmospheric and emotional essence of a moment. Gregor accompanies ROAR AFRICA guests who want their trips photographed as a record of their experience. This means as our guest you can get on and enjoy the journey instead of constantly looking through a lens.
Richard Hilton – Wine Specialist
Born and raised in the UK, Richard landed in France at age 21 and fell in love with wine and the culture surrounding it. Richard called France his home for seven years, when he became immersed in every aspect of viniculture – from tending the vines, to treading grapes, to learning the craft of coopering (barrel making). He then headed to South Africa. Inspired by his work with famous Burgundian producers Louis Latour and Olivier Leflaive, he created his own wine business, Pax Verbatim. Richard is a ROAR AFRICA specialist guide who delights in exposing wine lovers to some of South Africa’s rarest and most refined vintages.
Lee Cooper – Managing Director of Operations
As the Managing Director of Operations, Lee Cooper’s passion for wildlife conservation and outdoor pursuits, not to mention her extensive knowledge of Africa’s properties, makes her a formidable planner when it comes to creating the kind of experiential travel experiences that ROAR AFRICA does best. Lee’s on the ground knowledge and her innate ability to cut to the core of what constitutes a well -planned, authentic itinerary, as well as her intuitive approach to guest relations, makes her an invaluable member of the ROAR AFRICA team.
Liesl Bisschoff – Operations Manager
A passion for people and places is what drives ROAR AFRICA’s Liesl Bisschoff in her role as Operations Manager, a role in which she has excelled for almost a decade. Liesl’s extensive travel experiences abroad in her early 20s, combined with her work experience in hospitality and hotel management thereafter, inform the creation and delivery of the tailored experiences that she creates for ROAR AFRICA’s clientele. And she never loses sight of the fact that as an authority in African travel, ROAR AFRICA has the power to change people’s lives for the better – with respect to communities, conservation, and her clientele.
Barbara Sherwood – Finance Manager
The stark realities of growing up on a dairy farm in the Eastern Cape proved a fertile training ground for ROAR AFRICA’s finance manager Barbara Sherwood, judging by her affinity for the disparate worlds of numbers and nature.
Having started her career in the retail world where Barbara gained invaluable insights into client behavior patterns, she was drawn to work with companies such as the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and Affinity Programs that are associated with conservation and environmental sustainability.
Barbara’s passion for Africa and the positive impact that travel engenders provides critical balance to the financial creativity of Barbara’s work.
Kerrie Miller – Client Liason
Born in Zimbabwe but raised in Switzerland, Kerrie Miller traveled the world extensively as a child, thanks to her father’s work as a pilot. When as a teenager Kerrie and her family returned to Africa, it was still her favorite destination. Inspired by her memories of new experiences, and the places and spaces that she traveled to as a child, Kerrie pursued a career in travel. Prior to coming to ROAR AFRICA in her role as client liaison, she had worked for almost two decades in the travel industry. Her passion for Africa, a commitment to conservation and a curiosity for what makes both people and destinations unique, makes her an indispensable part of the team.
Nicci Wichman – Operations Consultant
While working at Royal Malewane in South Africa, Nicci had first-hand experience of the profoundly positive impact that tourism in Africa has on communities and travelers alike. Nicci’s belief that job creation and wildlife conservation are not mutually exclusive, informs every aspect of her work. Having worked in Safari lodges and traveled all over Africa, Nicci has a keen understanding and appreciation of Africa’s diverse cultural, natural and intellectual resources and is passionate about sharing these with visitors to Africa.
Natalee Whittington – Operations Consultant
As an operations consultant for ROAR AFRICA, Natalee Whittington’s passion for all variations of wildlife gives gravitas to her role. Her ability to curate and deliver travel experiences for clients, coupled with her on -the-ground experience in management roles at many of South Africa’s premier hotels and lodges, ensures the delivery of life-changing journeys for our guests. This, coupled with her deep connection to the world’s wild places and all living things, carries an indelible imprint in every itinerary she creates.
Bongi Qandashe – Operations Consultant.
Originally from a small, rural village in the Eastern Cape, Bongi’s inordinate desire to see the world was apparent from an early age. So much so, that after finishing school, she wasted no time in moving to Cape Town to fulfill her dream by studying Hospitality Management at the Cape Town Hotel School. Bongi’s successful application for a third-year internship program in England led to her selection to complete her Honors Degree at the University of Birmingham. In the more than five years since her return from the UK with a first-class degree, she has worked as a concierge for a leading hotel group and then a travel consultant for a luxury travel company specializing in tailor-made trips to Southern and East Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. Her resultant travels around South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, and Mauritius only served to further ignite her love for Africa. This informs the creation and delivery of the tailored experiences that she creates for ROAR AFRICA’s clientele, an aspect that she cites as the most fulfilling aspect of her job.
Catherine Kennedy – Executive Assistant
Tish Keth – Financial Manager
As Senior Finance Manager for ROAR AFRICA for more than a decade, Tish is well versed in all aspects of the travel business from hospitality to operations and of course finance. Tish’s childhood in South Africa was an outdoor one that saw her travel extensively with her parents and grandparents throughout Africa from whom she inherited a well-developed sense of wanderlust. After graduating with a degree in psychology in the late 60s, Tish moved to Zimbabwe where together with her husband, she raised a family and pursued a career in marketing at Unilever. However, Tish’s passion for adventure and her indomitable can-do spirit soon found a new outlet – flying. This passion saw her obtain her Pilots Licence launch, together with her husband, an air charter company in Harare that for many saw them traverse the length and breadth of Southern Africa. Based in Cape Town, Tish’s passion for Africa and the conservation of the continent’s wild places and animals makes her a dynamic and indispensable member of the ROAR AFRICA management team.