NHA Staff Naturalist John Mittan was born in 1979 in South Africa, where from a very young age he was introduced to the joys of the African bush. At the age of 5, he left with his family to live in Australia where his passion for the natural world and all living things continued to grow. His memories of Africa remained powerful, however, with fond recollections of camping safaris with his parents in many of South Africa’s game and coastal reserves, and he continually hankered after the African bush he had left behind.
John was schooled in Perth, Western Australia, where he remained an avid outdoorsman, participating eagerly in sports such as soccer, tennis, swimming, and in particular, surfing. He took numerous trips with family and friends to experience Australia's many natural wonders, and he was also fortunate to travel back to the great wild places of Africa on many occasions. These trips further cemented John’s conviction that he wanted to return to his country of birth and fulfill his dream of becoming a field guide.
John pursued a biological science degree in Sydney, studying biology, microbiology, ecology and geology. One inspired day he responded to a Getaway
magazine ad for EcoTraining, the most recognized field guide training facility in Southern Africa, based in the world-renowned Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The only available opening was in a scant three weeks' time. John decided it was "now or never." He went straight into the month-long course where he underwent intensive training to learn about birds, plants, animals, insects, geology, ecology, weapons handling, walking in dangerous animal areas, and, of course, guest relations. John showed a rare passion and enthusiasm that was noticed by the lecturers/owners of the facility. They requested that he start work immediately for EcoTraining: John's career as a guide had begun.
After gaining experience as an instructor, John worked as a guide at Ingwe Game Lodge, spending two and a half years as a ranger and head ranger, as well as assisting a research organization called K.E.R.I., which studied leopard and cheetah. John’s parents had returned to South Africa and bought a lodge in the Blyde River Canyon region, and while he could have joined the family business, he opted to work for Wilderness Safaris because of the company's exceptional dedication to the environment, communities and people. John became a senior guide with Wilderness Safaris Namibia in April 2003, a tremendously fulfilling post that furthered his development as an experienced specialist guide. There, he went on to lead the guide-training department, educating guides and leading safaris himself, all over Africa. He also took pride in bringing guide-training opportunities to underdeveloped communities in Namibia. Working in cooperation with NGOs and donor bodies, John firmly believes that since the future of the environment lies in the hands of the youth, this is where training is most needed.
While John has led safaris for Natural Habitat Adventures for years, in 2014 he joined the ranks of Nat Hab's select staff naturalists, acknowledging his exceptional guiding skills, extensive knowledge and superlative relationship with his guests.
Upcoming Adventures with John:
The Wilds of Borneo: Orangutans & Beyond
Madagascar Wildlife Adventure
Wild Ethiopia: The Roof of Africa
Sailing Antarctica: The Ultimate Polar Nature Expedition
Praise from Natural Habitat travelers:
"John is the best guide I have ever had. He was most professional. He gave so much of his time being helpful to each and everyone on the trip. He knew so much about every living creature, both big and small, that we saw. He knew the history of Uganda and of Africa. He made the trip interesting. He has a great sense of humor and is fun to have as a guide."
"John was an exceptional Ambassador of Africa. His knowledge and compassion for both political and environmental issues was exhaustive. His knowledge of photography assured me great photos. John made the trip a great multidimensional exploration of Africa."
"John Mitten was outstanding as a guide and leader. He was enthusiastic, the breadth and depth of his knowledge was unmatched, he was exceedingly friendly and he kept all of us working together as a team. He both met and exceeded all of my expectations. I can't rave about him enough, he was that good! John made our trip spectacular."
"John - should be cloned. He did an absolutely fantastic job of dealing with diverse personalities and abilities. His knowledge of wildlife, flora/fauna and birds is outstanding. Excellent!!!"
"John is an extraordinary ambassador for Natural Habitat and for the wonders of Madagascar. His encyclopedic knowledge of the wildlife -- from the smallest tree frog, to the largest lemur -- is matched only by his delightful sense of humor and unflagging patience. Above and beyond, he is an amazing photographer, who is generous (and kind) in making sure we all got the best possible photos of this once in a lifetime experience. I've traveled with countless guides and expedition leaders -- John ranks right at the top!"