Meet the team

When you’re planning a trip deep into the African wilderness, where there’s very little sign of civilisation and wild animals roam free, it’s good to know you’re being guided by someone who has a real understanding of the bush, along with its camps and lodges – to offer sound advice and well informed answers to your questions. The same goes for when you are out on safari: the right guide can uncover the mysteries of the bush and its inhabitants and give new meaning to your African adventure.

  • Mary Rijnberg
    Director & Sales
  • Leah Humphreys
    Sales Consultant
  • Caitlin Carter
    Business Development Consultant
  • Nikita Smallberg
    Sales Assistant
  • Saada Kyelula
    Operations Manager Tanzania
  • Brendan Charlton
    Safari Specialist
  • Marleen Haverkamp
    Online Marketing Project Manager

Mary Rijnberg

top pick: Mahale Mountains National Park , for the remote location and wild verdant forests.

travel tip: Take beautiful pictures on safari, but for the rest of the time try to really sink into the experience, looking at it with your eyes and not too much through your camera lens.

Despite the fact that she is tall and blonde, Mary was born in Ethiopia, which is probably where she first caught the ‘Africa bug’. Mary’s parents worked as Flying Doctors in Zambia and Ethiopia in the 60’s and 70’s and also travelled through the Serengeti in a Volkswagen Beetle. So, it comes as no surprise that Mary is exceptionally safari savvy.

She studied criminal law and history at Leiden University in the Netherlands before working for a beer company in Amsterdam for a few years. Then in 2003, Mary and her partner Bas decided to take a year off from their corporate jobs in Amsterdam and went to work in Tanzania. She was immediately inspired by the bush and going on safari, which lead to her becoming co-director of a small safari company in 2004. In 2009 Mary became the sole owner, moved down to Cape Town and changed the company name to Planet Africa Safaris. Mary loves going on weekend trips to the bush with Bas and their children, Morris and Kiki. She is extremely fond of giraffes and elephants, but with her feather-phobia, you won’t catch her anywhere near the local birdlife!!

Leah Humphreys

Originally from the West Coast of Canada, Leah has been living in Cape Town since 2003. With a decade of experience arranging travel and safaris in Southern Africa, Leah is now applying her love of safari and attention to detail to our East Africa safaris.

She is a huge fan of the tented safari camps - going to sleep with the sounds of hyenas and lions whilst still having the comfort of a hot shower and comfortable bed is an unforgettable way to experience the African bush!

Caitlin Carter

top pick: Deception Valley, Central Kalahari, Botswana , where the land comes alive in the green season; it’s possible to see pythons, 10+ honey badger, 3 cheetah, 2 male lion and an aardwolf in one morning out, TRUTH!

travel tip: Invest in binoculars. Bring a kikoi (or sarong). Wear sandals.

At age 15, when she went on a trip to Kenya with a high school Biology teacher, Caitlin’s dream of seeing wildlife was realized, but she returned then with a love of both people and wildlife. Unable to shake it, she spent her last year of high school in South Africa. Witness to great change – Mandela’s election - the seeds of Africa were firmly sowed. Back in the US for undergrad and ultimately, a degree in Biology from the University of Oregon, she was set on a career in conservation and tourism. The path then went a bit astray - although lots of fun was had – as a ski bum in Utah and an event planner in the golf and music industries. But Africa remained irresistible, and Caitlin obtained her first job in the safari industry as a young office manager of a Tanzanian safari company, but in Boston! Turned out the love of Africa translated well to others, and she began selling safaris.

A couple of safari career steps later, she returned to the continent as a camp manager in Botswana and a Masters student in Protected Areas Management at UKZN in South Africa. This lead her to complete the degree, publish a few articles on Community-based Resource Management and end up in the non-profit bowels of Washington DC as an Ecotourism Advisor for Conservation International. But the heartbeat of tourism, where its impact on conservation is most felt, stuck with her, and she returned to the safari world by joining a well-respected safari camp company as North American Business Development Manager. After 7 years in that role, working on many rewarding tourism and conservation projects, she bid a fond farewell, and with her young family in tow, moved back to Africa. Now in Cape Town, Caitlin works as a private consultant in business development in the safari industry for a wide range of companies. In this role, she does sales and marketing for Planet Africa Safaris. The safari industry can be all consuming – in a good way – but Caitlin still finds time to explore the Cape Town surrounds with the family by foot, bike, or even boat.

Nikita Smallberg

Nikita is a born and bred Capetonian. She studied Travel & Tourism, and her passion for people and tourism started at a very young age when she travelled with her family along the garden route and Western Cape. Through her previous work she has had the opportunity to explore Southern Africa, with highlights including the Kruger National Park, Namibia and Victoria Falls.

She has always been fascinated with beautiful destinations and has recently been on safari in Tanzania. Nikita has come to appreciate so many parts of being in the wild. Though terrified of little insects, this will never stop her from enjoying an adventure in the African Bush.

Saada Kyelula

Saada is our trusty Operations Manager, based in our Tanzanian office. After completing her studies, Saada joined the tourism industry and has not looked back since. She is responsible for organizing all of our on-the-ground activities in East Africa. Saada has an indispensable wealth of knowledge about East Africa, having lived in the area all of her life. She has so many wonderful memories of all the camps and wildlife in Tanzania that it's hard to narrow them down, but she does have a particular soft spot for the Serengeti, which, like any self-respecting Tanzanian, she is extremely proud to share with the world.

Brendan Charlton

Originally from Zimbabwe, Brendan now calls the beautiful Cape Town home. It was on visits to Mana Pools and Hwange National Park where Brendan fell in love with the bush and since then has ventured into the bush across the continent much more; though he’s most impressed with East Africa’s diverse offerings. Most recently, Brendan traversed Northern Tanzania visiting some of our old favourite camps, as well as some new ones.

Enjoying a gin and tonic while watching the sun set over the African bush is a favourite experience of Brendan’s and his advice for novice safari-goers is to actually take some time to ‘slow down’ and relax on safari and just soak up the sights, sounds and energy of the bush.

Marleen Haverkamp

top pick: Mana Pools, Zimbabwe , a beautiful park to spot diverse game, and combines well with an adventurous canoeing trip on the Zambezi river; sleep under a fly tent and listen to hippo sounds. It doesn't get better than this!

travel tip: Be patient. Especially in the more remote, wild areas you may need to drive quite some distances for great sightings. Although animals are usually the best, don't forget to enjoy beautiful landscapes, smells and sounds of the African bush.

Marleen lived in Cape Town, South Africa for almost 5 years, and worked for a safari operator in East Africa. She fell in love with the bush and travelled extensively through East and Southern Africa. From experiencing pure luxury in the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Okavango Delta to canoeing adventures on the Zambezi river and camping on top of a Landrover while driving from South Africa to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.

According to Marleen, one of the most special things on a safari is to experience the contrast in landscapes this beautiful continent offers. From the extreme dry Kalahari desert and Makgadigadi salt pans in Botswana, to the stunning Okavango Delta water ways. Or from the brown yellow Serengeti plains to the lush, green forrest on Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria.