Meet the Team

 Jim O’Brien

Jim O’Brien

Jim is an avid traveller with personal experience of some of the world’s most challenging – and interesting – countries under his belt. With almost two decades of experience in the travel industry, Jim started his career as a tour leader in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent before settling down to a slightly more settled life on the Essex / Suffolk border.

With a deep connection with Africa, Jim’s recent travels include pioneering trips to meet the Toposa people of South Sudan, travelling through Nigeria, a good contender for Africa’s most difficult country, and being one of only a handful of travellers to have visited Somaliland, the breakaway country that no-one recognises.

His experience also includes leading the first ever English speaking group tour to Chad’s Ennedi Mountains, perhaps one of the most exciting destinations we offer, and destinations further afield include such diverse countries as Suriname, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Bangladesh.

 Photo of Chelsea Duce

Chelsea Duce

Chelsea’s passions include trekking, wildlife, traditional cultures and the great outdoors. From hiking in the Peruvian Andes and the northern uplands of Turkey, to meeting hill tribes in Vietnam and exploring the rain forest of the Ecuadorian Amazon, her travel experience includes South America, South East Asia, the Indian Ocean, Europe and the Middle East.

From home stays, to jungle lodges, from caves to camping and from sleeper trains to boats, she has stayed in the most remote, authentic and odd locations in each and every country she has travelled to and is always interested in getting to know the locals.

As well as travel, wildlife conservation and animal welfare is also at the forefront of her interests and she spends much time petitioning, raising awareness, fundraising and volunteering. Chelsea’s role at Native Eye extends from designing itineraries and answering your questions, to accompanying our newest tours.

 Native Eye team member - Michaela

Michaela Tart

Michaela’s interest in travel led her to study Travel and Tourism at college, followed by a degree in International Tourism Management. She then went on to spend a year travelling throughout South East Asia, visiting ethnic minority groups in Northern Thailand and exploring Vietnam’s Central Highlands, before continuing on to Australia where she helped with regeneration projects deep within the rainforest. Back in the UK, she lived in the Lake District for a while before relocating to the Essex countryside where she is now settled with her young family.

Michaela’s recent travels include meeting the Taneka people in Benin’s Atakora Mountains and discovering the voodoo rituals of West Africa. Slightly closer to home, she has enjoyed trips to some of Europe’s more hidden corners, from Poland to the Balkans.

With a love of food and cooking, she is always keen to sample new cuisine and seek out the most authentic dining experiences wherever she goes. She’s most content being out in nature, whether it’s a bike ride, a wild swim or something a bit more adventurous like coasteering on the Jurassic Coast.

 Portrait of Matt Bowden

Matt Bowden

Matt has a keen interest in the outdoors, regularly ‘Munro-bagging’ in Scotland and doing long distance walks closer to home.

Matt’s recent travels include exploring the island of Socotra, hiking through the Caucasus mountains in Georgia and tracking gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he’s most at home on a windy hillside with map in hand, en route to a village pub with a fire.

 Portrait of Joan Riera -

Joan Riera

Joan grew up between Catalonia and Cameroon, and was initiated into Africa cultures at the early age of 10. Later he studied Anthropology and Sociology at Richmond University and continued his studies in traditional African societies.

Joan has written several travel guides and since 2005 has focused on West and Central Africa. He now collaborates with Native Eye in the design and organisation of unique trips in little visited African destinations – the more challenging the better!