Safari Planning Team

The convenience of a USA-based planning and operations office.

Wildlife-Focused Safari Planning

Our team of safari planners are based in the United States – and we also have ground operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana

When you’re choosing a safari operator, it is essential that they have first hand knowledge of each safari destination they offer.  

Our planners have years of safari experience traveling to the primary safari destinations in Africa (and beyond). Each of our planners has been to national parks, game reserves, and concessions throughout Africa.

Our safari planners have also participated in a wide variety of Africa Safaris. We can help you plan your traditional safari to East Africa or Southern Africa.

Traditional & Specialty Safari Travel

We can also help you with less traditional safaris – our team has experience in going on – and planning – unique safari experiences like these:

  • Mountain Gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda
  • A walking Safari in Zambia
  • Family Safari that can accommodate and thrill kids, parents and grandparents
  • A safari honeymoon that finishes with a relaxing Cape Town Tour – or a beach vacation in Zanzibar
  • Mokoro (canoe) safari in the Okavango Delta of Botswana
  • Desert Safaris in Namibia
  • Safaris that focus on a particular game animal – like elephant, cheetah, lion

Safari Camps

Additionally, we’ll make sure that your accommodations meet your needs. Our goal is to always get you into a camp or safari lodge that is close to wildlife and meets your lodging requirements.

Our Founder

Bill conducting conditioned taste aversion research on a tranquilized lion in Botswana.

Bill Given

Founder, The Wild Source

Bill has always been passionate about wildlife and wild places. Growing up in the Washington, D.C. area he had to cut his teeth on Wild Kingdom, the Adventures of Jacques Cousteau, and trips to the National Zoo. The result has been a career as a wildlife biologist, followed by the unique advent of wildlife biologist planned safaris.

After landing a bigger than expected endangered species survey contract, Bill had the funds to fulfill his dream of taking his first safari. Usually, when you want something so badly, it cannot live up to the expectation. In this case, Bill was blown away by the experience: the wildlife, the wilderness, and the people! As he discussed animal behavior and his wildlife experiences, a couple of guides and guests told Bill he should be guiding safaris. Bill followed the sage advice and started leading small group trips as a Biologist Guide.

Subsequently, Bill was recruited to conduct research on African lions in Botswana. As word of mouth spread, there were far too many interested clients to fit on the few trips a year that Bill could personally guide. The formation of The Wild Source ensured that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from Bill’s knowledge and passion to plan amazing safari experiences with the Wildlife Biologist approach.

Working for two decades as a Wildlife Biologist, Bill has conducted studies on a diverse array of species ranging from endangered butterflies and jumping mice to owls, Mexican wolves, and African lions. Currently, as a Research Associate of the Denver Zoo and member of the Botswana-based Kalahari Research & Conservation group, his focus is as the Principal Investigator of a lion research project in Botswana. The study is an effort to determine the effectiveness of trans-locating lions from cattle areas back into protected reserves. Bill is also applying a powerful technique, conditioned taste aversion, for the first time on African lions, and if successful, it could be a revolutionary conservation tool for predators around the globe.

Colorado Safari Specialists

Emily Hancock

Safari Specialist + Marketing Director
Colorado, USA
Born and raised in Colorado, Emily is an avid traveler, outdoorswoman, and adventure enthusiast. She first traveled to Africa on safari in 2019, visiting Tanzania and Kenya where highlights included witnessing a cheetah hunt in Ndutu and spotting an endangered rhino in the Ngorongoro Crater. Later that year she traveled to southern Africa for the lifetime highlights of following African wild dogs on the hunt in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, and swimming in the Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls.

Outside of Africa, Emily has adventured extensively across her home state of Colorado and throughout the Rocky Mountains, and studied abroad in Europe. Emily became increasingly interested in wildlife and conservation after spending three months in 2018 living in a camper in the untamed wilderness of Canada and Alaska, from backpacking among grizzly bears in Banff, to hiking among Dall sheep in Denali National Park, to boating with humpback whales in the Kenai Fjords.

Known among her friends and family as the first to spearhead the planning process for every trip, it was no surprise to anyone when she put her trip planning skills to work and joined The Wild Source as a safari planner and marketing specialist. Emily is passionate about planning the trip of a lifetime for each client, and sharing the incredible fulfillment that is unique to safari travel.

Prior to joining The Wild Source, Emily was an account manager in public relations and communications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Bachelor of Science in Apparel & Merchandising, both from Colorado State University. In her free time, Emily can be found reading, doing yoga, hiking, snowboarding, dirtbiking and generally enjoying the “homestead life” in western Colorado.
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Annie Garner

Safari Specialist
Colorado, USA
Annie Garner is a native Coloradoan and has loved to travel and plan trips all of her life. It started at age 7, when Annie to took the lead in planning the family trip to Disneyland – she studied a map and plotted out the best order in which to ride the rides. After graduating from college, she planned a trip to Italy with a travel agent who was impressed with her planning skills and offered her a job upon returning. Following five years of planning trips to destinations worldwide, Annie discovered her top love was Africa.

Since 2010, Annie has been an African safari specialist and joined The Wild Source team in 2015. Annie enjoys getting to know her clients and custom designing the perfect trip for each traveler, with a passion for authentic and sustainable travel. Annie has traveled to East Africa (where she had a Maasai wedding ceremony) and within Southern Africa. Annie was a board member for the Colorado chapter of Young Travel Professionals. Among her peers at The Wild Source, Annie is known as the go-to encyclopedia for ideas on incorporating clever, small touches, finding value with special safari combinations, and planning remarkable honeymoons.

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Ron Thompson

Planner/Guide
Colorado, USA
Ron is one of North America’s most experienced big cat biologists, conducting extensive research on both jaguars and pumas (mountain lions). Following a career with Arizona Game & Fish, including serving as the Large Carnivore Biologist in charge of mountain lions and bears, Ron founded Primero Conservation. Ron’s research with Primero focuses on jaguar and puma conflict with livestock in Mexico, as well as working to decrease puma predation on desert bighorn sheep because that conflict ends in persecution of pumas.

Ron is internationally recognized for his big cat knowledge. He was the first non-Mexican citizen to be issued a permit to capture and satellite-collar jaguars. Renowned big cat NGO, Panthera, has contracted Ron to train Latin American biologists on capture and handling techniques for jaguar and puma to support studies in Mexico and Belize. He has also been employed by Turner Endangered Species and Borderland Research Institute to research pumas in New Mexico and Texas, respectively.

Ron has worked in concert with Bill Given, founder of The Wild Source, on ground breaking big cat/livestock conflict research. It is an extension of this connection that Ron joined The Wild Source team as a big cat expert advisor for our trip designs, and as a specialty guide for select small group departures to big cat destinations like our jaguar-focused Pantanal safaris.

Kelly McBride

Operations Specialist
Colorado, USA

Kelly’s love affair with Africa goes back to very early childhood in Illinois where she remembers fondly pouring over the pages of National Geographic Magazine.  Completely captivated by the imagery of African wildlife, landscape, and culture, she dreamed of finding herself there one day.

That day finally came in 2001, after college, when she joined the Peace Corps as a health education Volunteer in Kenya, East Africa. She had the privilege to live with a host family during the 10-week training and experience daily life firsthand.  It was a memorable time, and she continues to cherish those relationships today. In 2010 she even brought her husband Chris and 2 sons Henry and George to meet the family in Kenya and see where she stayed during Peace Corps. Kenyans adore children and the boys were showered with love and kindness everywhere they went.

That trip fostered a love of Africa for the rest of the family and eventually resulted in a 9-month road trip throughout East and Southern Africa when the kids were 8 and 5.  Starting in Dar Es Salaam Tanzania where they imported a car from Japan, a Toyota Hilux Surf, they drove up to Kenya and then down to the Southernmost point in South Africa before making their way back up and eventually out. They visited 8 countries, spent at least 100 nights camping, and made memories for a lifetime. Some of the highlights included the camping trips to the Serengeti as well as Etosha National Park in Namibia.

It was after this trip that Kelly realized her heart was with the wildlife and the desire to learn as much about it as possible, so she took the big step of getting her safari guiding qualification. Despite the travel restrictions and complications of Covid she managed to complete the course in 2020 in person in South Africa at 2 different conservancies adjacent Kruger National Park.

Today she is putting her experience to work at The Wild Source where she collaborates with the rest of this incredibly talented team to ensure every client can experience firsthand, all the magic of an African safari.

When she is not at The Wild Source, Kelly is daydreaming of her next safari, running, renovating her home, and enjoying every moment she can with her family and friends.

Brooke Mitchell-Norman

Director of Conservation
Colorado, USA

Raised in the Appalachian hills of southern Ohio, Brooke has had a passion for nature all of her life. Growing up, she’d spend hours watching wildlife documentaries and exploring her forested home. When the time came to choose a career, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to furthering big cat conservation.

In undergrad, Brooke studied Zoology at The Ohio State University and later received her Masters in Conservation Biology from Miami University (Ohio). If you’ve participated in The Wild Source’s Big Cat Research Project, then you’ve seen Brooke’s Masters work in action! During grad school, Brooke found the power of sustainable travel for wildlife conservation and shifted her career from zookeeping to the travel industry.

Brooke has been all over the world studying and experiencing wildlife phenomena. A few of her travel highlights include snorkeling with whale sharks in Baja California, island hopping across the Galapagos, searching for polar bears off of Hudson Bay, tiger tracking in Nepal and India, guesting on a Women in Conservation documentary in Tanzania, and enjoying multiple safaris throughout southern and eastern Africa.

In January 2021, Brooke felt inspired to launch the Rewildology Podcast, a show that explores conservation, travel, and rewilding the planet. She hosts guests from around the world and dives deep into their stories, why they dedicated their lives to conservation, and the discoveries they’ve made throughout their careers.

Brooke is excited to use her conservation and sustainability expertise toward accomplishing The Wild Source mission of creating lasting wildlife conservation.

 

Africa Ground Operations

Mariam Mrutu

Ground Operations
Arusha, Tanzania
Mariam Mbaraka Mrutu was born in 1976 in Kilimanjaro, Moshi town – right on the edge of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park in East Africa. She went to Muungano primary school in Moshi. In 1991 she and her family moved to Arusha where she joined Meru primary school and went on to Arusha secondary school. Mariam studied Hospitality and Tourism at Tropical Institute of Hotel and Tourism in Arusha. She worked for New Arusha Hotel, now Four Points by Sheraton Arusha, from 2003 to 2008 as a receptionist and in reservations. From 2008 to 2013 she worked for Kiliwarrior Expedition as Operations Manager. She began working for The Wild Source in 2013 until 2015. She then studied Business Management, Accounting, and Finance at Jomo Kenyatta University from 2015 to 2017, before returning to Tanzania to rejoin The Wild Source team in 2017.
When asked why she chose to work in the tourism industry, Mariam said: “I had to walk almost 2km to school. From my home to school I had to pass by the clock tower every day, and I met lots of tourists on the way to school asking directions and other questions. I would sometimes take them to school and they would ask permission to visit our school and talk to us and give school supplies. This is when I got interested in tourism. I now have 16 years in the tourism industry. I love this job. I love traveling and I have been to every national park in northern Tanzania, and to the USA and Kenya.”

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