Founder & CEO of ROAR Africa, Conservationist & Women’s Activist
Deborah Calmeyer spent her formative years in Zimbabwe, torn by the Rhodesian Bush War, an experience that deeply affects her to this day. In 2005, Deborah’s love for Africa and her desire to share its beauty with the world led her to found ROAR Africa, a luxury travel company that offers ultra-lux, fully guided safaris across East and Southern Africa. Deborah remains dedicated to wildlife conservation, improving Africa’s economy through tourism and uplifting women through education and job creation.
How many generations of your family have lived in South Africa?
Eleven generations. My mother’s ancestor, Daniel Hugo, came to Cape Town in 1685 from Champagne in France.
Where were you born, and how long did you live there?
I was born in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, although it was Rhodesia at the time. I attended Bishopslea, an all-girls school run by Anglican nuns. It was just sort of normal, going to chapel every day and singing hymns . . . a very English school system. I left Zimbabwe at 15, but I finished school in South Africa.
As the eldest of four, tell me about your other three siblings.
Next in line is my sister; we are very close. We went to the same school, grew up in the same sort of world. My brother and other sister are from my dad’s second marriage. I am very close to my brother. He lives in Johannesburg and has three young children. Neither the sister that I am closest with nor I had any children.
How old were you when your parents separated?
I was two, so I don’t remember my parents ever being together. I spent the years from two to five with my dad’s mom, which is the reason she was such a prominent part of my life. I do not remember too much of my mom in those years. I do remember my dad being on the farm, the Zimbabwe Bush War and that kind of thing.