Meet David Hoddinott (Full Time Tour Leader)

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David Hoddinott has extensive experience leading birding tours throughout Africa, Asia and Madagascar. He is well known in birding circles for his endless energy and legendary bird spotting skills. His zeal for bird guiding has earned him the position as the senior leader at Rockjumper and a reputation as one of the world’s most talented birders.

  1. Read more on David Hoddinott

    David Hoddinott is a member of his local branch of BirdLife and has sat on the KwaZulu-Natal and South African rarities panels. He has worked as the resident ornithologist at birding lodges in South Africa, Botswana and Ecuador, including an 18-month stint at the world-famous Sacha Lodge, and is now a full-time guide for Rockjumper Birding Tours. In January 2019 David surpassed 2,150 birds in Africa, which emphasizes his experience, passion and skill in this great continent! He continues to lead tours to all the major birding destinations in Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Ghana, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Morocco, Canary Islands, Tunisia and Egypt, and seldom visited areas such as Algeria, Angola, Sierra Leone, Djibouti & Socotra. Apart from these fabulous African destinations he has also lead tours to Madagascar, The Philippines, Indonesia – Sulawesi & Halmahera and Lesser Sundas, Borneo & Malaysia, Japan, China, Papua New Guinea, SW Pacific, Thailand, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, Antarctica, Ecaudor and Colombia. He aspires to travel to extraordinary places and invites all those intrepid travellers with a sense of adventure to join him on his exciting adventures!

    How did you get into birding?
    At the age of 7, a friend of my folks set up his hide and photographed some Southern Black Tits that were nesting in our garden at the time. I was totally fascinated by this and have been hooked ever since! Then I met my great friend Adam Riley in 1993, and we did our first trip together to Kalahari Gemsbok NP. I have been travelling the world since that time, having started leading tours for Rockjumper in 2001.

    What led you to choose a career in tourism?
    I love the outdoors and am a naturalist and conservationist at heart.

    What are your other hobbies and interests?
    Sport (Rugby, Cricket, Athletics, Tennis and loads more), Running, Cycling, Stamp collecting, Fishing.

    What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
    Sharing amazing experiences and the wonderful world of birds with enthusiastic people; the sheer adventure of visiting often remote places that I would never otherwise explore; being in the outdoors!

    What are your strengths as a tour leader?
    Keen eyesight and hearing for starters; my vast experience and knowledge of a great deal of countries and their respective birds and other wildlife; good leadership skills, including patience and persistence (essential for any successful tour leader!).

    Are you a keen bird photographer?
    Yes

    Are you a lister and if so, which lists are your main focus?
    Yes, Africa!

    Any interesting stories or anecdotes from recent tours?
    Adam told me way back in 2002 that we needed to do a “recce” (reconnaissance) trip to Ghana, as he had been requested by clients to set up a tour there in order for us to run it for them the following year. This group had toured several countries with Adam and Ghana was apparently their next and most sought-after destination. Adam and I therefore searched for information regarding birding trips to the country. As it was, no-one was offering any at the time and we could only find one very old trip report to Ghana from 1977. So, Adam then asked them again if they were sure that Ghana was where they really wanted to go, as we couldn’t find much information about birding there. They replied with a firm, YES and hence we did our research as best we could, planned an itinerary that included the major national parks, and did the reconnaissance trip, which turned out to be very successful. After returning home, we then set up the itinerary and ensured that all the necessary logistics were in place, after which Adam duly contacted them. They responded by saying: “You won’t believe it, but we actually meant to say The Gambia!” Well, we all just rolled with laughter at that! Fortunately, they then told us that since they knew we had been to a great deal of effort and expense on their behalf, they were quite happy to go to Ghana instead. This is what we subsequently did, and as it turned out it was a fabulous tour, and we have been running successful tours there ever since!

    What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?
    I am striving to see as many bird species in Africa as possible and to become the most experienced guide on the continent. I particularly enjoy birding in Africa and exploring new destinations; Rockjumper was the first birding tour operator to lead bird watching tours to Ghana, Angola and Sierra Leone, and I would like to continue this trend. I would also like to photograph as many of Africa’s birds as possible.

    What is your favourite place/country to guide?
    I think if you pushed me, I’d have to say Uganda. I have lead 17 tours to this fantastic birding nation and could easily do another 11! Yet having said that, it’s very difficult to choose only one destination as each country is so different in terms of birds, wildlife, habitats etc.

    What is your advice to people who want to go to any specific destination?
    Study your field guide before you go! This will give you a huge advantage in being able to find and see the birds much quicker than you would otherwise be able to do, therefore making the trip less frustrating and more enjoyable for you. If travelling with a birding tour operator, have a list of the species you’d really like to see and give this to your guide before the tour. And if travelling with us, then read our excellent pre-departure packs!

IR, Tanzania Mega

From your looking at my list two years ago and your comments on where best to get the birds, I was able to work out which trips would be most productive.... You were always drawing my attention to what were new, or possible splits, and checking what I still needed! And then not only did you make space in your busy programme to fit in our [Tanzania] Mega before my deadline, but putting in all the hours to find those tricky ones and patiently re-trying over and over again when I dipped or didn’t get good views! I am most grateful & know I could not have done it without you!

G, South Africa Mega

I would like to add my thanks to you, Crystal, and all the other people associated with Rockjumper for making this the best birding tour in which I have participated. David's leadership was superb as our trip bird count shows. I would be happy to go with Rockjumper on future trips. Thanks again for your assistance during the Mega South Africa trip.

MN, Uganda

David, I need to thank you again for the birding experience in Uganda. The mammals were spectacular, not to be missed, but it was really the birding that blew my mind. It is with a mixture of gratitude, wonder and definitely humbleness having been shown these birds by someone so 'awesome' that I say thank you again. It was so much fun for me. I was elated and still am when I think about Uganda. As they say, it was priceless.

HH, Madagascar

Our Madagascar experience surpassed our wildest dreams. We didn't even realise it was a 'birding trip' but David ensured that we saw much much more. The birds were great anyway, especially the pursuit of the magical Helmet Vanga! An unforgettable experience!

D, Madagascar Comprehensive

David Hoddinott is the best!! He is tenacious about getting all participants on all birds!

South Africa

Thank you for a wonderful tour. We enjoyed your good company and we appreciate your expertise, effort and enthusiasm. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in South Africa and we hope to travel with you again sometime. P.S It was a cracker

MN, Morocco

Morocco was a fun and thoroughly enjoyable tour. How could it not be with David Hoddinott and Mark Beevers as leaders!!! They just make me want to go on more Rockjumper tours to see as many birds as I can. You have no idea how appreciative I am of them. They are great and generous and fun and so focused. I love that. They have an intensity that makes birding fun.

Ian Sinclair, Ghana

Heard all about the trip from the guys and they all reckoned it to be their best ever to West Africa. All the pax only had praise for you... Thanks a million for the few days we had in the field together and overly impressed by your bird finding and leading skills. Way better than I ever was at your age and you have so much patience and never stop smiling ... what is your secret?

DD, Private Uganda

Hi David. Just to say that we couldn’t have had a better trip. The more I think about it, the more remarkable it was. We couldn’t have asked for better encounters with our target birds and the mammal experiences were memorable. Thanks!!! The entire entourage was impressed by your skills and leadership. I’m glad we could make this happen. Looking forward to future trips.

EB, South Africa 2014

My wife and I were part of a six person tour of South Africa that was led by David Hoddinott. Our trip was excellent and seamless. David was the perfect guide for our group and, as I’m sure you’re aware, is an extraordinary birder and bird finder.... Thank you to Rockjumper, and David especially, for taking the time to create such a wonderful trip for our group. As always, I’m sure that it’s a challenge to accommodate numerous personalities within a group and David was great at it. We all liked him from day one and he was always positive and up for anything. He was an absolute joy to be with. We’d previously been to Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Botswana and South Africa was a totally different experience. We really enjoyed the people that we got to meet and the sheer beauty of the country is breathtaking. David’s enthusiasm and pride of his homeland was inspiring and infectious. We can’t thank him enough for making it come alive for us. And thanks to all who had a part in setting it all up. We’d happily recommend Rockjumper to anyone thinking about a trip led by you.

JM, South West Pacific Islands 2015

David Hoddinott was an excellent leader. It was obvious he had devoted a lot of preparation time studying the birds and learning their vocalizations. I was very impressed with his knowledge. I’d love to go on another tour with him some day.

MW, South African Mega 2015

David was a fantastic guide whose love for his homeland, and passion for its wildlife, shone brightly. I couldn’t have wished for a better guide to show me the wonders of South Africa.

PM & SM, Uganda

This tour more than met all our expectations: in terms of sightings, accommodations, leadership, and magnificence of the country. Of course, we knew David Hoddinott, and knew he would be superb. We'd highly recommend Rockjumper's Uganda tour, we loved it and appreciate David's expertise and leadership.

Anon, Tanzania - Mega

David Hoddinott and indeed the drivers and Alison were all amazing - making this a life-changing experience. Everything went far better than expected throughout the tour in my opinion. I do not see how it could have been improved. Well done to all!

Anon, Kenya - Mega

David Hoddinott and indeed the drivers and Alison were all amazing - making this a life-changing experience. Everything went far better than expected throughout the tour in my opinion. I do not see how it could have been improved. Well done to all!

Anon, Rwanda - Mega

David Hoddinott and indeed the drivers and Alison were all amazing - making this a life-changing experience. Everything went far better than expected throughout the tour in my opinion. I do not see how it could have been improved. Well done to all!

DC, Namibia 2017

This private tour, organised by Rockjumper, allowed us to visit some fantastic areas in the country. Our main focus was on birds, with Pel's Fishing Owl and Shoebill high on our "would like to see" lists. We saw both of them really well, along with another 56 lifers. The Shoebill sighting will remain in our memories for many years, as we waded through the marsh to see both adults close to the nest, plus a well-grown youngster! The overall Bird List totalled some 320 species, along with 47 species of mammal. Highlights of the mammal sightings included an hour spent with a hunting Leopard, a couple of Lionesses with five cubs, a Cheetah with six cubs and sightings of four different Serval. The pace of the tour was excellent and staying for three nights in a small number of sites gave us the opportunity to really explore the different habitats. The accommodation throughout was fantastic. David Hoddinott was a fantastic leader and was aptly supported by the local guides.

DC, Botswana 2017

This private tour, organised by Rockjumper, allowed us to visit some fantastic areas in the country. Our main focus was on birds, with Pel's Fishing Owl and Shoebill high on our "would like to see" lists. We saw both of them really well, along with another 56 lifers. The Shoebill sighting will remain in our memories for many years, as we waded through the marsh to see both adults close to the nest, plus a well-grown youngster! The overall Bird List totalled some 320 species, along with 47 species of mammal. Highlights of the mammal sightings included an hour spent with a hunting Leopard, a couple of Lionesses with five cubs, a Cheetah with six cubs and sightings of four different Serval. The pace of the tour was excellent and staying for three nights in a small number of sites gave us the opportunity to really explore the different habitats. The accommodation throughout was fantastic. David Hoddinott was a fantastic leader and was aptly supported by the local guides.

DC, Zambia 2017

This private tour, organised by Rockjumper, allowed us to visit some fantastic areas in the country. Our main focus was on birds, with Pel's Fishing Owl and Shoebill high on our "would like to see" lists. We saw both of them really well, along with another 56 lifers. The Shoebill sighting will remain in our memories for many years, as we waded through the marsh to see both adults close to the nest, plus a well-grown youngster! The overall Bird List totalled some 320 species, along with 47 species of mammal. Highlights of the mammal sightings included an hour spent with a hunting Leopard, a couple of Lionesses with five cubs, a Cheetah with six cubs and sightings of four different Serval. The pace of the tour was excellent and staying for three nights in a small number of sites gave us the opportunity to really explore the different habitats. The accommodation throughout was fantastic. David Hoddinott was a fantastic leader and was aptly supported by the local guides.

MF, Morocco 2018

The guides were excellent and worked well together. Mark Beevers and David Hoddinott were excellent at spotting and identifying the birds. They were also great company while not birding.

GE, Morocco 2018

David Hoddinott is an excellent birding tour guide. He has an ease with him that makes him enjoyable at all times. On this tour he was indefatigable, knowledgeable, even-keeled, and receptive to ideas and suggestions. He faces the birding with enthusiasm--- No signs of burnout. Morocco itself exceeded my expectations in the quality and quantity of birds/birding. Overall, the tour exceeded expectations.

PS, China 2018

David Hoddinott is an outstanding leader. Always conscious of the need to ensure that everyone sees each bird, he does, rightly, expect concentration and a positive approach throughout. This is the second time that I have travelled with David and I hope that I have the opportunity again in the future. Thank you.

JG, China 2018

David Hoddinott was an excellent bird guide, finding and identifying birds at amazing speed and ease. He had researched the field well, and knew where to find the birds. He also had researched the literature and was versed in all the newest taxonomic changes. He was very patient in assuring that all the participants got on the bird.

CL & RL, Gabon 2018

David Hoddinott, with his extensive experience, dedication to the birding task at hand, enthusiasm, and robust sense of humour, was again an excellent lead guide.

IR, Bhutan 2018

David Hoddinott, your birding skills & management of the tour never cease to astound us all. You are a legend and I am so grateful that you could lead us yet again!

FG, India 2018

David Hoddinott was at his best even on new grounds full of lifers.

LD, Sri Lanka 2018

This was my last hard core birding tour, and I did it so that I could have David Hoddinott as my guide again. He is so very superb and I got quite teary giving him a hug goodbye! I also enjoyed Holly Faithfull a great deal. And our entire group was most delightful.

PJ, Andaman Islands 2018

The Andaman Islands were a first for RockJumper and a first for David Hoddinott. It was an incredible experience and also exciting to share the first of all new endemics  with David .

SS, India 2018

David Hoddinott is wonderful and a great leader.

CH, India 2018

David Hoddinott is simply outstanding: Calm, focused, truly excellent knowledge of the birds, their calls and habits. He has a wonderful sense of humour, too.

TM, India 2018

This was my first Rockjumper trip. I definitely will be a repeat customer. The booking process was easy and painless. The transport and hotel logistics during the trip were flawless. David Hoddinott and Ansar Khan were excellent guides and worked diligently to make sure we saw as many birds as possible.

LB - India 2019

To David Hoddinott with many thanks. In my book, you are still the best guide I’ve ever birded with. Please give my regards to the office team. I am very proud to be part of the Rockjumper Family.

OS - South Africa 2019

David Hoddinott was a superior guide with extensive knowledge (of course) about the avifauna, but also provided good knowledge about other nature matters as well as SA culture and geography apart from being an overall nice person. Would highly recommend.

HJ - Uganda 2019

The tour with David Hoddinott was excellent and made a deep impression on us!! My feeling is that David liked it all, too, and we had lots of fun plus lots of birds, including the targets!! Super! I got my most essential targets (19!), A-M got hers [about 100 new targets (!!)] and David also got a lifer and apparently also a second African- or Uganda-new. One great experience for us was to see his joy (and the driver´s joy) when David got his lifer (Ring-necked Francolin!). They together performed a fantastic performance to celebrate the event! Thanks for all you and Rockjumper have done for my wife and me during our Uganda trip for us with Rockjumper - tailor-made! All Great!

JV, Madagascar 2019

Another excellent Rockjumper trip. David did a good job meeting our needs through the whole trip.

WM & TB, Uganda 2019

We so very much enjoyed traveling with you throughout Uganda, and now we know why it is one of your favourite destinations in Africa. Thank you for everything - your guiding, birding and organisational skills, your patience and your good company.

BA, Sierre Leone 2019

Overall, a great trip. David was an excellent tour leader, birder, guide and travel companion.

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