Today we’d like to introduce you to Alice Paghera.
Hi Alice, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Oh, oh, where should I start?!? Maybe with my titles: I am a conservationist nature field guide and lodge manager; so far I have been living and working in some of the most remote and off the beaten path destinations in Africa: I have started my journey in South Africa where I attended an academy to study and to become field guide.
Then after graduating, I moved back to Italy for a very short while (I am 100% Italian, but my soul is nomadic), and being resilient and passionate about this, I kept on sending CVs to get back to Africa as soon as possible. It took me 9 months to succeed: It was December, 17th 2017 when I got a call from Congo.
I left Italy some weeks after to join the Congo Conservation Company, an ecotourism company, to get in the heart of Africa, to become a conservationist guide in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, one of the oldest National Parks on the whole continent, for almost 3 years I followed chimpanzees, gorillas, forest elephants, buffaloes, bongos, monkeys in one of the most outstanding and breathtaking landscapes in Africa.
The company during my last period there opened a new exciting route to get to CAR, specifically to Dzanga-Sangha, an absolutely stunning place where forest creatures congregate in huge numbers every day. The magic suddenly stopped when COVID-19 hit the world: We all were more or less convinced by the Embassies to get back home and out of that phenomenal place. I flew home in April 2020, the worst time of the pandemic in Italy.
I felt very depressed and oppressed by this sudden change in my life, so to keep the memories vivid and going I started to write a diary of adventures and misadventures that happened to me during these 3 years in the jungle. This diary has now become a book, Mbote Congo.
This time it took me 8 months to get back to Africa: I unexpectedly received a call from a good friend of mine, Karl, who knew about my desire to get back to his continent; he proposed I join him on a new adventure in Ivory Coast, to try to develop ecotourism there is a private reserve and in Taï National Park. I packed my stuff in a blink of a second and off I go, for another exciting and very challenging year in one of the most amazing yet difficult environments in West Africa.
In December 2021, I received another unexpected call. This time from African Parks. The biggest NGO in Africa regarding conservation, law enforcement, and good park management. My dream after two years of trying was becoming reality. After having passed through covid myself and having been stuck for a good 10 days in Abidjan, I joined the African Parks Zakouma team to become camp manager of one of the most amazing and sought after camps in Africa: Camp Nomade.
For the past four months, I have been managing this high end seasonal tented camp, every morning waking up with thousands of red-billed queleas flying over my tent, hundreds of reedbuck and buffaloes on the plains in front of the restaurant, giraffes walking calmly through the tents and lions roaring to announce the end of another exciting day.
I feel quite privileged and blessed to be able to say that this is my life in a nutshell.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Definitely not the easiest path to follow but probably one of the most exciting ones.
To get a job as a nature field guide in Africa without being African is the first big challenge that I have to overcome: the Company in Congo chose me thanks to my university background: Before moving to South Africa I’ve had my university degree in Literature and Languages: I’m fluent in English, French, Spanish and of course “my” Italian.
They were looking for someone able to deal with an international clientele and having someone like me was what they were looking for. But again, before being able to get that job, it took me 9 months of sending CVs EVERY DAY to companies, lodges, and organizations to try to convince them of my willingness to help and get back to Africa. To follow dreams as enormous as the one I was and still am following you need at least three qualities: Passion, resilience, and determination.
There have been times when I just wanted to give up and follow the flow of my “normal” life in Italy, but every time I convinced myself that I should have to keep on trying. And luckily I kept on listening to that voice inside my head and heart that was saying: “You know you can do it. You just need time”.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I have started as a conservationist nature field guide and I’m now more manager-oriented. During my time in Congo and CAR, I have been guiding tourists and explorers in the heart of the African equatorial rainforest, the green pumping heart of Africa. We did not use vehicles: safaris in the Congo were done by canoes, kayaks, and a lot of walking.
We reached areas that probably very few human beings have experienced before, we sat for hours soaked in the pouring rain to admire elephants and buffaloes moving in Lango Baï, a big forest clearing created and maintained open by the constant presence of animals, we followed western lowland gorillas in thick, almost impenetrable forests and we stayed hidden in hides for yourself waiting for green pigeons and grey parrots to land just in front of us.
After this amazing experience, arriving on Ivory Coast, I took a managerial position, managing camps and helping set up tourism operations in countries where tourism is not very well developed. I am passionate, I love every single moment of my days, even though they are long and sometimes challenging, I feel privileged for what I am doing and people around me can see and experience this.
I’m resilient and hardheaded which helped a lot, especially at the very beginning of my career.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
As said to succeed in this environment you need to be passionate, resilient, and unstoppable.
You need to strongly believe in what you want and what you are doing because there will be days or even weeks that the ground under your feet will be unstable and downs are quite common.
But I’m these moments that your mind and soul have to be anchored to that first passion, to that first idea, to that unconditional love.
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @alice_antares