Rija was born in 1975 in Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo, into one of the country's pioneer guiding families. Greatly influenced by his father, who was one of the country's first English-speaking naturalist guides in the 1970s, Rija
learned the ropes of the guiding business along with all his father taught him about local wildlife. Shadowing his father, he spent most of his childhood among the wildlife of Madagascar's mid-altitude rain forest, immersed in nature from an early age. His grandparents on his mother's side were responsible for the fish farm in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, and young Rija lived there among the lemurs, birds and reptiles during his long winter breaks from school. It came as no surprise when he
decided to follow in his father's footsteps to became a guide. After high school, Rija enrolled in a tourism training program where he studied botany and primatology, among other subjects. He began working as a general naturalist guide in 2001, and in 2005, he became a specialist birding guide. Since then, Rija
has had the pleasure of leading natural history tours throughout Madagascar. He joined Nat Hab as an Expedition Leader in 2013. He feels lucky to spend his time introducing travelers to the biodiversity of Madagascar and supporting conservation through responsible tourism. Rija's passion for nature and love of meeting people from different backgrounds animates him every day in a career he treasures. When he's not busy guiding, he enjoys reading, running and having fun with his two daughters.
Praise from Natural Habitat travelers:
"We thought Rija was amazing—maybe the best guide we have ever had! He was really good about managing the range of personalities in the group and was very attentive overall. Most important for us though was that he seemed to have a lot of respect for the animals and the environment in general. Also he was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna but also very open to hearing what other people had to say as well. He was just fabulous—can't say enough about him."
"Rija was an excellent Expedition Leader: patient, considerate and very knowledgeable."