JEN JOHNSON is the founder of 11.7Africa. She has handled travel programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Harvard Alumni Association, the Nature Conservancy, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Elderhostel, Road Scholar as well as prominent organizations, government agencies, individuals and numerous Explorers Club members. Her strength in forging and maintaining relationships with lodge owners, operators, and guides, as well as experts in the development and educational fields continues to be paramount to her clients' experience.
Before starting 11.7, Jen was the Director of Custom Travel at EXPLORE, Inc. Prior to her foray into the travel industry, Jen worked for the National Endowment for Democracy coordinating efforts to improve indigenous African organizations by promoting democracy and human rights. She has lived in central Africa to build her knowledge of culture and development as well as humanitarian intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From Africa, she migrated to Switzerland and Europe to work as a researcher for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the Mountain Forum, an organization that promotes sustainable mountain ecotourism. Jen holds a Bachelors degree in international political economy from the University of Puget Sound. She has extensive training in skiing, listening to the BBC, people watching and meandering through art galleries.
CHRIS SMAL has been actively involved in adventure travel since the late '90s. His work has taken him all over southern and east Africa from leading educational programs for well-known institutions including Elderhostel and Road Scholar to managing the prestigious Abu Camp. He has operated 30-day trips from Johannesburg to Nairobi, and guided multi-month overland tours of Botswana and his home country of South Africa.
Chris holds a Bachelors degree in urban planning from the University of Pretoria; he also holds numerous guide certifications and licenses throughout the continent. Chris has been known to move clients to tears with his tangible passion for nature and wildlife. He is well versed in a variety of disciplines such as photography, guys’ weekends, and everything and anything related to Pearl Jam.
AMANDA EPSTEIN brings eight years of development experience in sub-Saharan Africa with significant expertise in the sectors of public health, education and social enterprise. Amanda has worked for start-up non-profits in Washington, D.C. as well as lived on the south coast of Kenya where she managed a primary school and community development project on behalf of a private philanthropist.
Amanda has planned, managed and staffed a number of trips to Africa for high-profile celebrity clients and delegations. Her consulting clients have included ONE, the Endeavor Group, (RED), Malaria No More and the World Bank. Amanda has a Masters degree in international education policy from Harvard and a bachelors from Colby College. Amanda's understanding of international development and educational travel, as well as her experience living and working across the continent are huge assets to clients who seek an experience with added layers of authenticity and knowledge. Besides being an active global citizen, Amanda is known for her baking skills, get-it-done mentality and absolute dedication to her family and friends.
SARA BLASK. A journalist and requisite traveler by training, Sara is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and social media consultant. Most recently, she has worked for the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press as well for the hotel review site Oyster.com. Previous homes have included two years in a wind-battered apartment in Reykjavik, a clay hut in Cochabamba, a shrapnel-scarred apartment in Pristina, and a greenhouse in Santa Fe. Before paring down her belongings for worldwide travel, Sara worked as a volunteer wilderness EMT in the White Mountains, a dog sledding guide in northern Maine, and a logistics coordinator for Hurricane Island Outward Bound School.
She is a graduate of Colby College and holds a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia. Her wide array of travel expertise and cutting edge media acumen is invaluable for translating the most recent developments in the travel landscape and touring opportunities for clients. Blask, as she is commonly known, has a profound affection for Icelandic dairy products, Chuck Taylors and Twitter. Follow her @sarablask.
JOSE DEVERCELLI hails from Peru and has spent 15 years working in international development and business. His work for Nike, Cayenne Communications, Real Club de Polo de Barcelona, Maisha Pwani and Harvard University has taken him all over the world, Africa included. Jose is a graduate of the University of Arizona and holds a Masters degree in international development from the University of Amsterdam.
Jose's expertise in youth development as well as sports marketing and management is an asset to travelers pursuing sport in Africa or those who are seeking experiential education. Jose is fluent in Spanish and English and can easily translate travel forms, itineraries, and the like for clients residing in Spanish-speaking parts of the world. Pepe, as he is commonly known, is an avid tennis player and can catch a wave with the best of them.