Doug was born in Zimbabwe, and spent a typical southern African childhood outdoors there and in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands of South Africa. He has been a keen birder since the age of 13, an interest which expanded into a passion for all aspects of natural history and ecology. He has spent the last fifteen years as a professional consulting ecologist, providing specialist ecological advice on natural resource and biodiversity management to private, government and large corporate clients throughout Africa. A qualified rangeland scientist, he also holds an MSc degree in Conservation Biology from the University of the Witwatersrand. A desire for new experiences led to the opportunity to join Rockjumper as a full-time guide. Doug also spent two extremely enjoyable years as a ranger at the world-renowned Mala Mala Game Reserve prior to commencing his consulting career.
What got you into birding?
I was fishing with my dad at St Lucia in Zululand when a Goliath Heron flew past the boat at eye-level. I was absolutely blown away. I then teamed up with an equally enthusiastic school friend, and from then on our long-suffering parents spent weekends between rugby and cricket matches ferrying us to good birding spots throughout the Midlands. Having a good friend to share birding experiences with contributed hugely to my enjoyment of the pastime.
What attracted you to a career in tourism?
Several reasons. Selfishly, I am keen to see new bird species and new ecosystems. These are life experiences I would like to have. I would also like to share these new experiences with like-minded people. I enjoy helping other people enjoy the natural world. On a more professional level, I would like to gain insight into the ecotourism industry in developing countries, and the contribution this can make to protecting remaining tracts of intact primary vegetation.
Do you have any other hobbies?
I am a keen reader, and follow current affairs. I keep Nothobranchius killifish, and am interested in indigenous trees. I also follow cricket and rugby, and am looking forward to resurrecting neglected pastimes such as hiking, squash and kayaking in my spare time between tours.
Are you a lister?
I am, but a relaxed one at the moment. I keep track of what I have seen and where, and I love seeing new birds, but getting good views and watching birds tends to be the priority in my personal birding. I will happily travel several hours for a possible twitch. I have found that listing can ignite a competitive streak, which I do enjoy, but it depends on the people I am birding with.
What are your strengths as a tour leader?
My knowledge and prior experience enable me to put birds in a wider ecological context, adding depth to the birding experience. I am generally a patient, calm person, which I think is an asset when guiding people through environments that are alien to them. I tend to be tolerant, and am usually able to find common ground with most people. Also, my first priority is making sure clients are having an enjoyable tour, and I will do anything to help them get good views of the birds we see. My enjoyment and enthusiasm are enhanced by sharing in my clients’ excitement at seeing something new. I have been fortunate to gain a wealth of field experience over the years, during my studies, my career and in my free time, which is also a fundamental strength as a tour leader.