Who We Are
Jim Holden, President
Jim Holden here, aka Safari Jim. I started Holden Safaris to help you plan your perfect safari. If you’ve searched for a safari online, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the options. I’m here to help you figure out where and when to go, especially if this is your first time on Safari. So why me? Several reasons: Now I’m based in Newport Beach, California, so I’m local and my knowledge of Africa enables me to answer all your questions right on the spot. I listen to my clients and help them with their decision-making process based on when they plan to travel, what’s important to them, and of course, their budget. I can honestly say that passion for Africa is what motivates me to design the best Safari for you and take away all the difficult decisions, when you might not have the knowledge. I hope to hear from you when you’re thinking of a safari. You might be in for a lengthy call or visit, as I get enthusiastic about matching your expectations when planning your perfect safari.
Jim Holden was born in Lusaka, Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia. Jim attended High School in Zimbabwe and studied economics at Natal University in South Africa. After graduation, Jim traveled the world, leading overland expeditions from London to Sydney via Kathmandu, London to Cape Town across the Sahara Desert, and a year in South America traveling between Rio de Janiero and Bogota. Bitten by the travel bug, Jim returned to Africa as Regional Managing Director for Abercrombie & Kent, an early pioneer of photographic safaris, based in Nairobi, Kenya. With children at University in America, Jim relocated to the USA to manage several leading tour companies, including Travcoa and African Travel. Jim now devotes his energy and passion for Africa to his own safari company, Holden Safaris, collaborating with his many safari contacts established over 30 years in the safari business.
Sonia Marsh, Safari Tour Leader
I’m Sonia Marsh, a tour leader with Holden Safaris. I lead small groups on Safaris with a Purpose. We are never more than 12 guests; the perfect size for learning, having time to interact with our professional guides, and making lasting connections. Our "Safaris with a Purpose" are all about Africa’s wildlife, culture, people, cuisines, and connecting with like-minded guests.
If you love elephants, we have a special Safari in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, where you’ll meet Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer's family of elephants. We encourage you to read his book prior to joining us on this one-of-a-kind Safari. You’ll also meet Francoise Malby-Anthony, and the two young rhinos she rescued. Check out this Safari which we offer every year.
How often do you get to experience elephants walking through reception? Meet Wonky Tusk and her family of elephants at Mfuwe lodge in Zambia. We repeat this small group Safari yearly in Zambia, where Jim Holden was born.
From the moment you arrive at the airport, to the moment you return to the U.S., everything is taken care of, and you are "hand-held" by our local staff. I'll also be there to take care of you.
Sonia Marsh was born in Denmark and is fluent in French and Danish. She lived in Nigeria as a child, and recently served in the Peace Corps in Lesotho, Southern Africa, where she taught English to orphans and vulnerable children. She believes she was born with the wanderlust gene and looks forward to meeting you and having you join her Safaris.
Angela Miller, Marketing Consultant
Hello there! I’m Angela and I work closely with Jim, Sonia, and Vivienne to help spread the good news about safaris in Africa. My connection with the travel trade extends back into the last century, initially working as a travel agent and then for many years with an international tour operator. My first experience on safari was almost 20 years ago with my husband and two young daughters. It was undeniably life-changing for the girls and unforgettable for all of us. I helped found Holden Safaris with Jim, who I had worked with previously. Years later, Jim’s approach to creating personalized safaris has proven that travelers’ expectations are not only met but exceeded. This makes their travel advisors happy too! In addition to my faith in Jim’s knowledge, I have personally traveled to Southern and East Africa and met our partners there. I feel confident letting travelers and travel advisors know that, with Holden Safaris, they can’t go wrong! Seeing the end of journey responses from travelers and speaking with their travel advisors makes my job easy as I continue to promote these extraordinary experiences.
Angela was born in the UK and travel has been in her blood from an early age. Throughout her 35 + years in travel, she has held various positions in agencies and tour operators and has had her own travel marketing company for 15 years. She has traveled to over 40 countries worldwide, and some of her most favorite places are in Africa where she has been on safari in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. “No matter how many times you venture into the wild on game drives, the experience is always different and never disappoints,” says Angela. She is extremely pleased to be able to contribute to Holden Safaris.
Vivienne Holden, Holden Safaris South African Office Director
Hello from Africa – Vivienne here. Working very closely with Safari Jim and our southern and east African partners, I prepare our client safari itineraries, researching the destinations, providing day to day schedules and making sure to include all the latest travel information our clients need before their travels. At times I accompany small client groups on safari as Tour Leader, and from arrival until departure, take care of our clients’ needs to ensure unforgettable experiences. Based in Durban South Africa, I am available 24/7 should our clients need assistance or to provide answers to any questions during their travels. I’ve lived my life in South Africa and Botswana, and have travelled throughout southern and east Africa. I understand and respect the local people and their cultures and have a passion for our precious wildlife and its preservation. A contributor to many conservation groups, I support the work of conservationists, wildlife veterinarians, rangers, and guides in their fight to preserve our wildlife for generations to come. I am so fortunate to live only a 3 hour drive away from wildlife national parks, and no matter how many times I visit these areas, there is nothing quite like the experience of being in the African bushveld - something I love to share with our American clients.
Vivienne Holden was born in Johannesburg South Africa and currently resides in Durban South Africa. Vivienne completed high school in Durban and studied at the Vega advertising school in Johannesburg. After completion of her qualification, Vivienne worked in major advertising agencies as Client Service Manager – running the advertising campaigns for major international blue-chip clients. Reporting to the City Manager, Vivienne was the Event Manager for the City of Durban and was responsible for managing major international business, sporting and entertainment events which included preparing travel packages for participants/delegates and management. Vivienne has promoted the City of Durban and various southern African travel opportunities to many international cities, special committees such as the United Nations Climate Change Committee, and sporting federations including the Olympic Committee in Lausanne. For the past 5 years, Vivienne has worked with Jim Holden and our professional local operators in southern and east Africa as the Holden Safaris African Office Director, and is passionate about sharing the magic of Africa.