I qualified as an Ichthyologist and Fisheries Scientist, including undergraduate Botany and Zoology, in 1989 (last century), during the dark and uncertain days of apartheid. This was at a time when the ANC, today's government, led the struggle to shift the governance of South Africa to a more representative and democratic dispensation. In those days, research and science were not high on the agenda of the incumbent apartheid government. Research funding had been cut drastically, and the funds used to bolster the police force and the military instead. So, after completing my degree in 1988, I was forced to undergo two years of compulsory conscription in the South African Navy.
On completing that, I then decided to opt for tourism, as there were few - or even no - research posts available. I saw myself using my knowledge and communication skills in a market that I hoped would always attract lots of interest and many eager travellers visiting South Africa after the fall of apartheid. South Africa is recognized as a mine-field of fascinating, unique ecosystems and cultural diversity. My strong science background, I realized, would be a great way to establish myself in this growing market; it would easily allow me to fight my way up the "food chain." Or at least it would help me position myself as a leading tour guide and environmentalist. And, in Africa , tourists are always the first to arrive and the last to depart as far as a business is concerned! So, armed with this strategy, I entered the tourism market.
But after several years in this field it became apparent that there was a need for a fresh approach to guiding, and to responding to people's deep curiosity about our world. They wanted to know more, and I wanted to share my knowledge about South Africa's unique biodiversity with them. Have you ever wondered how animals and plants stay alive, or how they grow and reproduce in harsh environments without assistance (and survive the interference from Man)? Well, taking a Shakabarker tour will help explain many of the mysteries of nature, and of how this complex system of life and death fits together. You will explore these two extremes, but will also see how a natural balance is created between them. And you will wonder at the ways in which plants and animals balance their existence, using all kinds of classic - and sometimes brutal - means to maintain a little space under the African sun or the African moon.
For the novice and the well seasoned traveler alike, a tour with Shakabarker into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park is an unbeatable learning experience. Our tours have received huge amounts of positive feedback, and are listed in a wide variety of tour guides and publications. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Dirty Boots and Greenwoods all recommend Shakabarker Tours. Added to this there are many other publications and articles about the tours, and a Google search for Kian Barker or Shakabarker Tours will deliver a variety of articles, websites, and references to give you a little more insight into what awaits you.