Along with his wife, Gillian, Joe Charleson manages Natural Habitat Safaris from Kenya, where he divides his time between Nairobi, Leleshwa Camp, and the bush, when he's out on safari. Joe was born in 1975 in northern England and at the age of 10 moved with his parents to Kenya, where his lifetime of adventuring in Africa began. Joe's father soon had the family out on camping trips exploring many unfamiliar corners of the map – the more remote the better -- and in such settings, Joe's passion for nature and wilderness was nurtured.
After schooling in Kenya, Joe returned to England to attend Bristol University, graduating in 1997 with a degree in Biological Sciences that has supported his deep interest in wildlife and its conservation. Joe captured a coveted position as a resident guide at prestigious Jack’s Camp in Botswana, cutting his professional teeth in the arid, inhospitable Makgadigadi Salt Pans on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. With his family still in Kenya, he returned ‘home’ to continue a career as a professional safari guide and manager at Cottars 1920s Camp in the Maasai Mara game reserve, where he met his wife Gillian.
Soon Joe established his own company offering professional safari guiding services and shortly thereafter he and Gillian established Leleshwa Camp, an intimate private tented camp on the edge of the Maasai Mara. Owning a camp provided invaluable experience in developing his skills as a guide, leading trips, acting as a host and revealing the natural wonders of Africa to guests. In the process, Joe got to know the local Maasai community well, living side by side in a remote part of the Mara ecosystem, untouched by tourism. Joe took an active role in working with the community leadership to establish the Siana Conservation Area, and continues to work with the community as a whole to ensure that this important wilderness areas is protected and that all community members see the benefits of tourism on their land.
In March 2005, Joe was invited to join The Original Ker & Downey Safaris, one of the oldest and most respected safari companies in Africa, as a partner and professional safari guide on their truly traditional private luxury mobile camping safaris, further enhancing his depth of skills. Joe loves to explore new areas and search out unique experiences which, when combined with a sense of fun and adventure, guarantee an amazing safari. In 2009 Joe and Gillian welcomed their son, Kian, opening up an opportunity for Joe to watch a son of his own grow up in the bush, sharing his parents' passion. Family life has added a new dimension to Joe's safari experiences, with a deeper appreciation for the joy of learning about Africa, its remarkable wildlife and fascinating people, and sharing this knowledge with people of all ages.
2012 marked the next big step in the evolution of Joe's safari-based career path, with the advent of his and Gillian's partnership with Natural Habitat Safaris.
Praise from Natural Habitat travelers:
"Joe is an elite expedition leader in every aspect that was so important to our group. He loves what he does and combines that passion with a deep knowledge of the wildlife and the ecosystem in ways which created amazing close up and personal encounters with the wonders of migration. He is a great and engaging teacher who listened to each of our individual Safari dreams and brought them to life. We could not have been closer to multiple wildlife species, saw hunts, kills, river crossings, mating, nursing, yet also the magical comings and goings of daily life on the savannah. With Joe's experienced guidance we saw, heard, and felt SO MUCH. Maybe we were lucky but we came to know that Joe is an expert expedition leader who makes luck happen."
"Absolutely fantastic expedition leader. His wealth of knowledge was outstanding and the passion he has for what he does, the wildlife and his country was infectious. He was the best and I would want him as my expedition leader if I ever get a chance to go back. "
"Joe was a fantastic leader in every way. He was very patient with everyone, and encouraged everyone. His knowledge of the animals and their environment was truly amazing. Fantastic choice of a GREAT leader!"
"Joe was an exceptional Expedition Leader always willing to please and caring in every way, we could not have asked for a better person for our safari."
"Joe was a super Exp. leader. He left nothing to chance and took care of every detail to make our Safari the best. He remained on top of everything. He's the best!!"
"Joe Charleson was an outstanding trip leader, and we were most impressed by his local knowledge, organizational skills and pleasant personality. Hard to imagine how he might improve."
"Joe was a superb expedition leader. He paid attention to what each guest especially wanted to see and tried his best to get them what they wanted."