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- Why should I choose Rockjumper Birding Tours?
Rockjumper Birding is one of the longest established and most highly regarded companies in the birding tour industry.
Based in Mauritius and South Africa, with satellite offices in the USA and New Zealand, our team of professional tour leaders and dedicated office support staff arrange and guide more than 300 annual birding and wildlife tours to over 100 countries throughout the globe. During our many years in the industry, we have gained tremendous experience and in some destinations, we arrange and guide more tours annually than all our competitors combined.
At the same time, we also have a relatively young team and our tour leaders and office staff are renowned for their energy, passion and commitment to providing the ultimate birding tour for you. We believe that the recipe for a successful birding tour is simple: a well-planned itinerary with smooth running ground operations, comfortable accommodations and good food, a small group with low participant to leader ratio, and, most importantly, personable, friendly tour leaders with the necessary experience and expertise to make each tour a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding adventure – and we strive to achieve this with every single tour that we offer.
Besides set departure tours, we have a dedicated private tour department specialised in setting up customised tours. Due to the fact that we are based in Mauritius and South Africa, where operating costs are lower than in more developed countries, we are able to offer excellent value on our tour rates and we also offer a generous loyalty program that is unmatched in the bird tour industry. Another great reason to consider us is our long-standing commitment to conserving the birds that we all love so much. In order to co-ordinate and effectively implement our conservation efforts, we launched the Rockjumper Bird Conservation Fund (RBCF) in 2008. A minimum of US$50 from each Rockjumper tour sign-up goes directly into the RBCF.
For an in-depth read, please view our about us page on the website.
- When does a tour become confirmed?
Booking forms and deposits received from 5 to 8 participants
The tour becomes confirmed once we have booking forms and deposits from the minimum number of participants required. This is usually 6 people; however, it can vary from between 5 and 8, depending on the specific tour.
- What is the main focus of our tours?
To locate and enjoy good views of the birds that occur in the region that we visit
The primary focus of our tours is to locate and enjoy good views of the birds that occur in the region that we visit. Some tours are focussed on finding as many species as possible, eg. the Mega tours, whereas others are more focussed on the endemic and range-restricted birds of the region. We also seek out the mammals and other wildlife of the area, delve into general natural history, visit sites of significant historical or cultural importance and interact with local people.
Ensuring our clients enjoy great photographic opportunities is also important. Some tours have a set objective that is wider than birds, such as our South Africa – Cape Wildflowers, South Africa – Birds, Wine & Big Game, Kenya & Tanzania – Birds & Big Game or our Egypt – Birds & History tours, but for the majority of our tours, birds and birding are the main focus and other aspects are of a secondary nature, yet not ignored. Our detailed itineraries also provide clear information on the particular targets of each day of the tour.
- If I am a keen photographer would a Rockjumper Birding Tour be appropriate?
Photography is welcomed and encouraged on our tours, but please bear in mind that these are foremost birding tours and are not designed as photographic expeditions.
Photography is welcomed and encouraged on our tours, but please bear in mind that these are foremost birding tours and are not designed as photographic expeditions. Our focus is to obtain maximum bird and wildlife sightings, not to spend significant time photographing. Therefore, we respectfully ask photographers to abide by the instructions of the tour leader when he feels that it’s in the group’s interests to leave a sighting and move on, even if the “ultimate” shot has not yet been obtained.
More ardent photographers are welcome to discuss a private tour with us that can be designed specifically around photography, or else to join a tour operated by our sister company: ORYX Photo Tours www.oryxphoto.com
- Would my non birding spouse/partner enjoy a Rockjumper tour?
There are many trips that we offer that a non-birding spouse/partner would enjoy due to the significant non-birding attractions that are included in these tours
Our tours are first and foremost birding tours and although many of our tours are dedicated towards the keen birder, there are many trips that we offer, such as our various Antarctica and Arctic cruises, Overland Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls, Egypt & Petra, Kenya & Tanzania – Birds & Big Game, Northern India – Birds & Tigers, Ethiopia – Omo Valley and Lalibela Extensions, Cuba and some of our South African tours, that a non-birding spouse/partner would enjoy due to the significant non-birding attractions that are included in these tours.
In the past, we have also had numerous non-birding couples and spouses who have thoroughly enjoyed tours through Madagascar, Bhutan and Uganda, as these all offer up a great variety of other wildlife and cultural highlights.
- Does Rockjumper include non-birding attractions and activities on your tours?
The short answer is yes
The short answer is yes; in general, we have found that there are very few birders that do not enjoy watching mammals and other wildlife. Encountering a tiger in India or a group of Gorillas in Uganda can often be one of the most memorable moments on a tour. Although all our tours are focussed primarily on birds, we always take an interest in observing mammals that are a ‘must see’ in the area.
On the cultural front, a number of our tours will include some form of interesting contact with the essence of the country itself; whether it be engaging with local people in a village or standing in awe of the magnificent Taj Mahal or the ruins of Machu Picchu, there is often at least a few cultural attractions on most of our tours. The frequency and length of the cultural experiences do vary considerably between tours with a few, such as our Egypt Birds & History tour, being almost a 50/50 split between birding and marvelling at the antiquities. The detailed tour itineraries will provide ample information on the day’s activities and what birding, wildlife and cultural viewing is on the agenda.
- What does an average day entail on a Rockjumper Tour?
We commit to spending as much time out in the field as is appropriate
Typical Rockjumper days are full days and, essentially, we commit to spending as much time out in the field as is appropriate. This can vary quite considerably depending on the country visited but in essence, there is no absolute daily schedule or routine for our tours. Most of our tours will begin with either pre-dawn breakfast or we will depart our accommodations armed with a packed breakfast in order to be at our required birding site at dawn. Depending on success and the on ground conditions such as heat, rain etc., we may return to our accommodations or to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
Many tropical regions can go extremely quiet during the heat of the day and on some trips, we may have a little downtime after lunch in the early afternoon. This is, however, not a given and many tours will continue birding over midday with a packed lunch. Evenings will regularly include some night activities where possible, although will often be optional.
- How hard-core are your tours?
Our tours generally range from relaxed and easy through to moderate and challenging
Depending on the country, nature of the birds targeted and the terrain, our tours generally range from relaxed and easy through to moderate and challenging. The majority of our tours would fall in the range of easy to moderate, as we generally put in a fair amount of effort to try and find the region’s special birds without going to extremes. Most of these tours would typically include a lot of easy birding with the occasional difficult hike for a few specials, which can always be opted out of.
Your tour leader will always give ample warning regarding the type of birding that will be done on any particular tour day. The nature of some tours, such as The Philippines, parts of Peru, Sulawesi & Halmahera and Cameroon, lend themselves to being more hardcore with some long hours in the field, occasional rustic accommodations and a number of difficult hikes. On the other side of the coin, destinations such as South Africa, Morocco, Kenya & Tanzania, Oman and Spain, to name just a few, offer easy birding and tour logistics with comfortable accommodations and sumptuous food.
Our mega tours, for example, are very fast-paced birding adventures designed for the dedicated lister and serious birder. The focus of the tour is to see as many of the endemics and area specials as possible in our given time. In order to cover the necessary route to maximise the species list, we often only spend a single night at most sites. Rockjumper also offers some very innovative tours that are quite different from our typical offerings. These tours can often involve some very basic accommodation, poor quality roads, difficult terrain and some uncertainty with regards to the best areas to find the target birds for a significant portion of the tour. Please have a look at the pre-departure information, the notes section on our detailed itineraries and our website for more information on a specific tour.
- What is a typical Rockjumper group size?
Most of our tours are between 6 and 10 participants
Most of our tours are between 6 and 10 participants. This varies depending on the habitat, terrain, difficulty of birding, price and logistics involved. Occasionally we go up to 12 people for some destinations, where this works well together. Some of our smaller cruise offerings have a maximum of 14 participants; while others that are done through third parties are according to the ship capacity but are typically between 40 and 100 people.
We will always have at least 1 tour leader for every 8 participants on any of the scheduled tours we put together, except for some budget tours, where this is specifically stated. Should we have 9 or more people on our regular scheduled tours, then a second leader will always be provided. To sum it up, careful thought and consideration have been put into every offering, taking into account the factors mentioned above.
- Does Rockjumper have guidelines for Birding etiquette whilst on tour?
Yes, we do, they are listed in detail under the pre-departure documents for each country
At Rockjumper, we are constantly striving to provide birding tours of the highest quality and would hope that every birder would familiarise themselves with these general guidelines in order to ensure a more enjoyable tour for everyone on board. The tours that we put together require an immense amount of preparation and are carefully designed to provide all participants with an unbeatable birding tour of the country visited.
Many of our travellers are avid birders and often have similar goals to many of the other group participants; however, people are different and although the common denominator on our trips is seeing birds, we do find that general group interests, personalities, behaviour etc. can differ markedly from person to person and from group to group. In a nutshell, you, along with your fellow travellers, have often spent fairly large sums of money on a particular birding holiday and the last thing you really want is someone having a negative impact on your tour experience.
The very nature of a tour does mean that people from all walks of life end up spending up to three weeks at a time essentially ‘living’ and ‘co-associating’ with people they may never usually associate with at home. We at Rockjumper take group dynamics very seriously and understand that healthy group dynamics lead to successful, homogenous tours that can be enjoyed to their full potential. Many of our travellers are familiar with general birding etiquette while on our tours; however, we have decided, for clarity, to provide a guideline to birding etiquette that should be considered while on tour.
Trail Rotation – Rotating on a narrow trail every three or so minutes allows everyone an opportunity to be at the front of the trail for a period of time. The front person will step aside after three minutes and, allowing the rest of the group to pass, join up again with the group at the rear of the line. On tours with 8 participants, the guide will always be at the front of the line; however, where there are two guides and a group of 10 or 12 participants, there will also be a leader constantly stationed at the end of the line.
We would also like to point out that it is inappropriate to walk in front of the leader whilst birding. It is important for the leader to have as unobstructed a view as possible, so they can find and identify birds and be able to call them back in if necessary. Once the bird is viewable, the leader will move out of the way as much as possible to ensure all our participants can see the bird.
Vehicle Seat Rotation – Every tour has different forms of transport, so there is no hard and fast rule that will always apply. Your tour leader will explain the vehicle rotation system to you on day 1 of the tour and will also go through it again if needed during the tour. It is important to note that sometimes different forms of transport will be used during a particular tour, all with their own set of rotation rules. Rotating every day on the vehicle again allows for different viewing opportunities while driving and also opportunities to have a conversation with different people on the tour, including the leader/s and local guide/s.
Viewing Birds Through the Telescope – This can be a contentious subject.
The golden rule is that when it’s the first view of a particular species through the scope, everyone has a brief view so that as many of the participants as possible can see the bird before it flies away. Five seconds or less is a good standard. At the same time, if you do want to see the bird through the scope, we also request that you position yourself close to the scope in a loose line in order of arrival in the scope vicinity. Once all the participants have had a first look through the scope, then it’s entirely appropriate to have a longer 2nd view to soak up the details. We also understand that everyone wants to see the bird that is in the scope; however, it is important to have a certain amount of patience in this regard. Pushing people out of the way to get to the scope first is completely inappropriate behaviour.
Furthermore, once you have had a view in the scope, please move well out of the way of the scope in order to not block scope access to those who have not yet had a look. At every scope sighting, someone obviously has to be the first to look through the scope. What we would like to avoid are the extremes in this scenario, ie. one individual who is constantly first, but we also don’t want participants close to the scope not viewing the bird and instead waiting for people who are situated far away from the scope to have their turn first (to summarise this point, we are asking participants not to always be the first to look through the scope, but also to position themselves close to the scope if they want to have a look.)Therefore, there is no hard and fast rule here, but we all just have to bear fairness in mind.
If it is drizzling or raining, please shield the eye-piece of the scope with either the scope cover or your hand between the time you have stopped looking and before the next participant has started looking. Please also understand that the guide/s cannot keep monitoring scope manners as they will also be trying to get some people onto the bird through binoculars and also explaining various features on the bird etc. If you feel that someone is hogging the scope for too long or not moving out of the way quickly enough, then please let the leader/s know in a private manner and they will discuss this appropriately with the individual.
Talking on Trails – Please keep noise levels to a minimum while we are birding, this includes roads and trails. High noise levels make it difficult for the leader to pick out those critical calls and are also likely to have a negative impact on the number of birds and general wildlife you are likely to encounter, as generally, these animals prefer a quiet, natural environment. Constant chatter on trails can also be rather annoying to those who are also trying to appreciate the tranquillity of the surroundings. However, at the same time, we do want our participants to enjoy themselves and we understand that tours are a social event; therefore, use your discretion in deciding when it’s appropriate to engage in a conversation with your leader/s or fellow participants.
General Etiquette when using Call Recording or Playback – It is very important that there is complete silence when the leader is recording or playing back a bird call, especially a shy, skulking and sought-after species. Any noise during this time can have a detrimental impact on the group’s ability to see the bird. Another important point to consider under this topic is leaning against trees while birds are being taped in. This is a very important point which people often don’t realise. What usually ends up happening is that, when the bird arrives, they let go of the tree to get a view, which results in a lot of movement from vines etc. This will usually cause the bird to disappear. Another point to consider is shuffling of feet while trying to tape in a bird. Often when we are inside the forest, there can be quite a lot of leaf litter around and it is important to find a good spot and then stand as still as possible.
The odd bit of movement or shuffling when you are by yourself birding is often okay and does not have such a huge impact on your chances of obtaining a sighting; however, when you are in a group and you multiply everyone’s movement and shuffles by eight or ten people, it quickly adds up to a rather disturbing volume, which is not conducive to seeing the special species that the group are hoping to find.
Wide-brimmed Hats – Please make sure that when on forest interior trails, wide-brimmed hats are not worn. This also goes when the group gather close before taping in a bird, as a wide-brimmed hat can significantly reduce the visibility of participants standing or crouching behind you. Wide-brimmed hats are certainly welcome when birding more open country such as deserts, grasslands, open woodlands, savannas and while walking on roads.
Appropriate Clothing – This is another topic that can cause a fair bit of debate and there are a number of theories on the topic. As a general rule, though: dark, neutral colours such as browns, greys, blacks, dark blue, dark green and khaki are preferable. Bright colours such as yellows, white, pale blues, pale greens, pinks, red and oranges are not recommended, especially while birding in forested zones. We find that the combination of wearing the appropriate clothing while taking careful measures to not talk and not move too abruptly helps significantly when searching for forest skulkers. Other items of clothing such as rain pants that crinkle while walking through a forest are also detrimental to the group’s success of finding birds close to the trail, especially some of the more shy forest species.
The same goes for rain boots such neos and rain jackets, which can make loud noises while walking through a quiet rainforest. Please be very careful about the items of clothing you pack for your tour and be aware of the noise levels your clothing can have. There is a huge range of gear out there to choose from with most of the options being quiet and thus, birding friendly.
Laser Pointers – Please be very careful if using your own laser pointer on tour. Birds can easily be frightened off if the laser pointer is shone too close to the bird particularly in dark forest conditions, where the laser beam is often very bright. Furthermore, it must never be pointed at the bird itself due to possible damage to the bird’s eyes. If the tour leader is using a laser pointer, please don’t also use yours as this will generally just confuse the situation. As a general rule, we would prefer it if you did not use your laser pointer when in a group situation, unless you are seeing the bird and the leader does not have visual, in which case you are welcome to use your pointer to assist the leader and other participants to locate the bird.
- What accommodations do you use?
Our tours utilise a range of accommodations, from simple to stylish and luxurious
Our tours utilise a range of accommodations, from simple to stylish and luxurious, all of which are specially chosen for their charm, exemplary guest services and accessibility to top birding spots. We generally use the best available accommodations that are convenient to accessing the birding sites we visit. We normally don’t include 5-star lodges, due to the fact that our tours usually start out early in the morning and end late, so we would not be able to take advantage of the facilities that a luxurious lodge or hotel would offer.
Due to the nature of some of our tours, especially in remote destinations, quality lodges may not be available and we are forced to use more basic accommodation or even camp. If you are after specific accommodation information, then please feel free to contact us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com (if already signed up for a tour) to request pre-departure information and a list of the expected accommodations to be used on the tour. This list will also include contact numbers and which accommodations will have Wi-Fi availability.
- What type of transport do you use for your tours? Are they safe?
Every care is taken to ensure that vehicles comply with widely accepted safety standard
The safety of all of our guests and our guides is of the utmost importance and every care is taken to ensure that vehicles comply with widely accepted safety standards. Some tours do, however, visit third-world countries and transport might not always meet the typical standards of first-world countries. In some countries like Papua New Guinea, Gabon and Cameroon, for example, the vehicles used can sometimes be below typical first-world standards.
Vehicles used vary considerably from country to country, depending on road conditions, group size and what is typically available. In some African countries, we like to use stretch landcruisers which are great for these locations. Elsewhere, we often use mini buses or larger coaster buses; while 4×4 vehicles are utilised when the conditions call for them. Many of our tours often involve some sort of river/lake boat trip or pelagic. We always ensure that these vessels are safe and, where required, they have protection from the sun and possible rain. For pelagic trips in places like South Africa, Japan, Australia, Chile and New Zealand, the vessels we use are always seaworthy and meet the strictest safety standards.
- What happens if your tour does not fill?
We first offer to still operate the tour, but to levy a small group supplement
If the participants in your group do not wish to pay the small group supplement, then we may be forced to cancel the tour. If this were to happen, your deposit would be refunded in full. It is essential to only book your flights once the tour is confirmed.
- What would happen if a tour did not meet my expectations?
Please get hold of us
If your tour did not meet your expectations, then please get hold of us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to discuss the issues with you. Sometimes a problem can be easily rectified on tour without the need for it to become a big concern. Please do feel free to discuss problems or issues with your leader so that they can attempt to solve a particular issue before it gets out of hand.
- Can you arrange a pre or post extension for me?
Yes, we can
We have scheduled tours on our website that have extensions already set up or, alternatively, should you see the tour does not fit your schedule, we can customise an extension especially for you. A private extension of this nature is certainly not limited to birding and could easily include a cultural wonder such as Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Cape Winelands in South Africa or Angkor Watt in Cambodia, for example.
Please contact email@example.com and one of our friendly & efficient travel consultants will be able to help you plan the perfect pre or post tour extension.
- Does Rockjumper arrange private/customised tours?
Our capacity has now matured to deliver unbeatable tours for individuals, families, special interest groups
Yes, we do, since our humble beginnings in 1998, we have specialised in custom guided birding and wildlife adventures. Our capacity has now matured to deliver unbeatable tours for individuals, families, special interest groups, Audubon Societies, birding and wildlife clubs, and tour operators alike. Our extensive knowledge and experience have enabled us to assist thousands of delighted guests in realising their dream birding and wildlife adventures to exotic destinations around the world. Whether you are a single traveller with a specific target list, a group of birding friends, or a family seeking a relaxing and educational wildlife vacation, we have the passion and experience to create a customised private tour that will perfectly suit your particular requirements. In fact, we pride ourselves on being one of the world leaders in creating and guiding such tours!
Our customised private adventures offer a range of accommodations ranging from simple to stylish and luxurious, all of which are specially chosen for their charm, exemplary guest services and locality to top birding spots. Furthermore, our office team is highly proficient when it comes to the complex organisation of such tours, and will answer all of your queries in a friendly and efficient manner.
We invite you to explore the wealth of potential birding opportunities available on our website. Most of our scheduled departures can easily be adapted to suit your specific private tour requirements. Please feel free to contact us for a free and non-obligatory quote. We would be delighted to assist you in creating memories that will last you a lifetime!
- Can Rockjumper arrange a tour to a destination not currently listed in your schedule?
Please contact our tailor-made department
Should your desired destination not be on our list of scheduled tours, you can contact our private tours department on the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address. They will either be able to arrange the trip, provide a reason why travel to that particular destination is unwise or else try and provide you with a contact that may be able to assist you with your desired tour.
- Do you offer unguided tours?
Yes, it is possible for us to put together an unguided tour
Yes, it is possible for us to put together an unguided tour; however, we generally set up very few trips of this nature. All of our scheduled tours are guided by either one or two Rockjumper leaders and will also usually include the services of local guides as well. The majority of our private tours are guided either by Rockjumper guides or local guides, depending on specific requirements as outlined by those setting up the tour.
We are happy to provide some guidance on flights where necessary
Due to the vast choice and flexibility of the ever increasing on-line flight deals that can be found, we do not book flights for our guests. Please ensure that you arrange and organise a suitable flight that will allow you sufficient time to arrive at the designated meeting point at the destination airport.