John Hare OBE FRGS

Explorer, Conservationist and Author

John Hare, mounted on a Bactrian camel, 2011 expedition Desert of Lop, China
John Hare, mounted on a Bactrian camel, 2011 expedition Desert of Lop, China

John Hare OBE FRGS (1934 – 2022), explorer, conservationist and author was, in 1957, the very last recruit into the Colonial Administration in Northern Nigeria where he learnt to speak Hausa and Fulani and served in some of the wildest and remotest areas in West Africa prior to and after Nigeria’s independence. This included a section of the northern Mandara mountain range, which form the boundary between Nigeria and the Cameroon Republic and which is currently under the partial control of the Islamic terrorist organisation, Boko Haram.


Later John Hare worked in Kenya for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). During this time he undertook a number of expeditions into remote parts of northern Kenya, travelling with camels and frequently alone. This re-kindled a life-long interest in camels first acquired in Northern Nigeria.

The Wild Camel

In 1993, he took advantage of a chance offer from a Russian scientific team to research the status of the wild camel in Mongolia - the 8th most endangered large mammal in the world. The wild camel is a critically endangered species numbering no more than 1000, and only survives in the Gobi desert in China and Mongolia. Presenting his research findings in 1994 at an international conference in Ulaan Baator, John Hare received, in 1995, permission to enter the former nuclear test site of China. where the wild camel survives. No foreigner had been allowed to enter this vast salt water desert for 45 years. It is here that the wild camel, having survived 43 atmospheric nuclear tests, is also able to tolerate salt water with a higher salt content than sea water.

The Gobi Desert - China's Former Nuclear Test Site

In 1995 John Hare became the first foreigner in recorded history to cross the Gashun Gobi (bitter desert) from north to south and in 1996 to reach the ancient city of Lou Lan from the east. John Hare and a Chinese scientific team discovered a hitherto undiscovered outpost of Lou Lan called Tu-ying on the Middle Silk Road. In 1999, on another expedition mounted on camels, John Hare's team discovered two unmapped valleys deep in the Gobi sand dunes, which contained a naïve population of wild camels, Argali wild sheep, and Kiang wild ass, that had never seen or experienced man. Further expeditions were undertaken into Lop Nor in 1997, 2006 and 2011 – all on domestic Bactrian camels and at times into hitherto unexplored and unmapped areas.

Crossing the Sahara 

In 2001/2002 Hare crossed the Sahara Desert along a former ancient camel route with 22 camels, three companions and six Tuaregs from Lake Chad to Tripoli; a journey of 1,462 miles that lasted three-and-a-half months and which was sponsored by National Geographic.

A foreigner had not followed this camel route in its entirety since Sir Hanns Vischer negotiated it in the opposite direction 100 years earlier. The journey was undertaken to raise funding and awareness of the plight of the wild Bactrian camel – a mission it achieved.  

Around Lake Turkana (Rudolph) with Camels 

In 2006 John Hare made the first recorded complete circumambulation by camel of Lake Turkana (Rudolph), in Kenya. This involved swimming 22 camels across the fast-flowing, crocodile infested, River Omo in Ethiopia, dealing with warring AK47 toting Turkana and Gabbra tribesmen, enduring temperatures of up to 60 degrees Celsius and crossing brittle and brutal lava flows. This journey was undertaken to raise awareness for the plight of the critically endangered wild camel.