About Me.

Leon Marais

A little bit about me:

I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the 13th of February 1975. My father was a veterinarian and my mother a professional dancer and a fantastic planner of family holidays, providing an upbringing in which travel and wildlife were core ingredients. This love of wildlife was instilled in me from a young age and by the time I finished school I had visited most of Southern Africa’s great game parks on family 4 x 4 adventures. During these holidays I took over the role of photographer, using my parents’ old  Canon SLR film camera, with mixed results. A career in wildlife should have been an obvious choice to others, but by the end of my high school years I was still at a bit of a loss as to what to do with my life. During a gap year after school I went on a safari guide’s course with a well-known local overland and safari operator, and after the course was offered the job as assistant and photographer for a grand sum of R 500 per month. This didn’t last long however, and the following year I began my first year at the University of Natal Pietermaritzburg, completing a Bachelor of Social Science degree in 1996 and an Honours Degree in Geography in 1997. In early 1998 I was once again thinking about what to do when my fate was sealed by an offer to ‘run the bar’ at my uncle and aunt’s game lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Grateful for the opportunity to delay getting serious about life for a few more months, I soon got the hang of lodge life and aspirations to become a field guide paid off when I was given the opportunity to become a trainee guide in September 1998. After around two years of guiding at the lodge, I decided to give life in the UK a try. Needless to say, the jump from the South African bush to the grey streets of Tooting Broadway was just too much however, and eight months later I was back to guiding, this time at a brand new concession lodge in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. From there I took up two further field guiding jobs in the Greater Kruger National Park region; travelled to the USA to work in environmental education at a summer camp in New England and eventually landed up back in Johannesburg. By this time I had developed a passion for writing, and soon began to see my efforts paying off with my work being published in The Saturday Star Travel on a regular basis. I took up and completed a course in Journalism and Media Studies, and then moved to Nelspruit to join Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris on a full-time, partnership basis, where I have been since 2007. This gives me the ideal balance between a settled existence and time out in the field, where I get to visit some of Africa’s finest wildlife regions while leading international birders, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts on safari. I am married to Chantelle, and we have a son, Nathan who was born on 19th June 2012.

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