Meet Keith Valentine (Full Time Tour Leader)

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Keith Valentine developed his interest in the outdoors and birding at an extremely young age. After completing a Degree in Financial Management, Keith decided to follow his dream and become a bird tour leader. Keith guides for Rockjumper throughout the world and has an in-depth knowledge of our planet's birds and wildlife. He has a particular passion for birding the rainforests of Africa and Asia.

  1. Read more on Keith Valentine

    Keith Valentine hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, where his interest in the outdoors, wildlife and especially African birds developed while he was still very young. Keith has always had a passion for adventure and while he was growing up spent more time away from the metropolis than within. Keith has through time in the field acquired extensive and specialist knowledge of the birds, mammals and overall ecology of many diverse regions throughout Africa, Asia and Madagascar. At 21 years of age, Keith became the youngest person to have ever seen 850 birds in the Southern African sub-region. His expertise has been gained through numerous field trips, where he has observed and studied birds and other wildlife and their behavior in depth. As well as researching the birds and wildlife of Africa, he holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Financial Management from the University of South Africa. Keith spends most of his time guiding tours throughout Africa, Asia and Madagascar for Rockjumper Birding Tours. Keith has a wholehearted excitement for wildlife and birds and gains immense enjoyment from sharing these experiences whilst on tour.

    How did you get into birding?
    My parents were and still are extremely interested in the natural world and both Glen and I got exposed to so many parts of South Africa at a very young age. They always enjoyed visiting game reserves and hiking in wild areas where you just cannot help but see birds. I really got into listing at a very young age and have been actively keeping lists of everything seen since the age of 6. For me it was fun to go to these areas and see new birds but my initial attraction to birding was, in essence, the listing and the possibility of going out with the family and breaking last weekends day record set for Nylsvlei or the record set on our previous family holiday to Kruger National Park.

    What led you to choose a career in tourism?
    Two chaps named David Hoddinott and Adam Riley. At university, I studied Financial Management and always new that I wanted to travel the globe birding. I always pictured myself in the corporate world and birding internationally in my vacation time. Then I met David and Adam and heard about what they were doing with Rockjumper and that really started the wheel in my mind turning.

    What are your other hobbies and interests?
    Family has always been a big thing for me so I enjoy spending time with them and doing things together. I love going on holiday with them both locally and internationally and it doesn’t always need to be for birding! Photography is another passion of mine and time spent getting a really great shot is something I find extremely rewarding. I also really enjoy playing the guitar and writing my own music while I have a passion for sport (cricket, soccer and rugby) as well. Cooking is another one of my great passions and I find chopping away in the kitchen surrounded by developing flavors incredibly relaxing and enjoyable. I like cooking a wide variety of foods but I would say that 75% of my cooking tends to draw from a blend of South-east Asian and Indian. I have a weakness for spices!

    What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
    The exotic places you get to see and often even live in for a while. My mind jumps to places like Korup National Park, home of the amazing Grey-necked Rockfowl. I have been fortunate to spend many nights camping in the middle of this forest all because this bird lives here. That for me is incredible!

    What are your strengths as a tour leader?
    I am very calm and relaxed, confident and assured which all help when dealing with the odd interesting situation or just general logistics. I also know the birds intimately that we search for on tour and I am strong on calls and general identification as well. I also love the idea of breaking records and I find if you aim big you generally succeed! There is good, healthy, strong competition at Rockjumper and we all feed off each other in many ways.

    Are you a keen bird photographer?
    I love bird photography and keep lists of all the birds I have photographed and where I have photographed them as well.

    Are you a lister and if so which lists are your main focus?
    I have to admit I am a listing nut and actively keep lists for reserves, provinces, every country I have visited, year lists, continent lists and of course a world list. I couldn’t really say that one particular list is more important than another. For me, it is just finding sheer volumes of birds and then filling them in under all the applicable lists. Great fun!

    Any interesting stories or anecdotes from recent tours?
    I have a number actually but they all are pretty embarrassing for clients, so not quite sure if they are ok for this medium. Some are really funny!

    What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?
    To keep promoting the countries we guide and operate in. The places we get to visit as tour leaders are incredible and we are exposed to so much that I feel it is really important to make as many people aware as possible about the remarkable places they could potentially visit. I feel strongly about protecting what little wild areas we have left and believe that through birding tourism we can play an important role in helping preserve these areas that we all love so much.

    What is your favourite place/country to guide?
    I am from Africa, I grew up birding in Africa and love Africa but for me, there is something very exotic about birding out of Africa and I would say that my favourite countries to guide in would be the Indian subcontinent, Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. I love forests and all four of these regions have excellent lowland and montane forests to bird. The food is also very good and is a real attraction for me.

    What is your advice to people who want to go on a birding tour?
    Relax and enjoy the surroundings, take it all in, as much as you can, birding is meant to be fun.

     

     



    "There are just not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the superb birding/holiday experience that we just completed with Keith Valentine. His birding skills are legendary and well known in Southern Africa, and he is well on his way to joining the elite group of birding guides known throughout the International birding community. Our recent month long custom tour with Keith provided us our best holiday experience in over 35 years of world travels to over 80 countries. I’ve had the pleasure to bird on 6 continents with many of each country’s top birding guides. Keith would match skills with any of them. His knowledge of the birds, their vocalizations and seasonal habitat preferences are astoundingly keen. He assured fantastic views of all, but the most difficult skulkers, providing outstanding photographic opportunities in addition to the enjoyment and study of the birds seen. He was also competent in identifying all the mammals, trees and flowers, and then providing interesting tidbits of information, making the experience even more memorable. And, if this wasn’t enough, he’s a great travel leader and companion. All of our personal needs were attended to caringly, promptly and efficiently. His keen sense of humor was always a delight. Add to this his glowing enthusiasm for each bird seen and you can understand our great pleasure with this trip."

    Tom & Edie Schall
    North Padre Island, Texas
    USA

    "I had the pleasure of meeting Keith as our guide for Rockjumper's Eastern South Africa tour in November 2005. Keith has extensive knowledge of South Africa's birds and was very helpful in pointing out the finer points of difficult identifications, both visual and vocal. Most importantly, he always did this with his usual cheerful attitude. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and the birding experience and would love to go birding with him again."

    Dave Klauber
    Hicksville, New York
    USA

    During Oct 19 to Nov. 6 2010, I participated in the Eastern South Africa and Western Cape Extension tour.  It is the ultimate tour if you are birding for the first time in the African continent.  The diversity of birds is over-whelming and unlike birding in the tropical Americas, the birds are easy to see!  I personally added 419 lifers!  The pace of the tour was ideal.  Accommodations were top-notch and the meals wonderful.  Keith Valentine is an unsurpassed tour leader.  Extremely knowledgeable yet very laid back, approachable and quick to laugh.  I have been on many organized bird tours but none come close to the standards set by Rockjumper on this tour.  The bar has been raised!

    Todd Boland
    St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

TB, Eastern South Africa 2010

During Oct 19 to Nov. 6, 2010, I participated in the Eastern South Africa and Western Cape Extension tour. It is the ultimate tour if you are birding for the first time in the African continent. The diversity of birds is overwhelming and unlike birding in the tropical Americas, the birds are easy to see! I personally added 419 lifers! The pace of the tour was ideal. Accommodations were top-notch and the meals wonderful. Keith Valentine is an unsurpassed tour leader. Extremely knowledgeable yet very laid back, approachable and quick to laugh. I have been on many organized bird tours but none come close to the standards set by Rockjumper on this tour. The bar has been raised!

MH, Malawi

Keith was excellent on everything and a wonderful source of information. Keith and Markus are my favorite tour guides ever (over 20 tours with different companies). Keith arranged daily events extremely well and was good at taking the temperature of the group in terms of energy levels and enthusiasm. He is also enormously patient. I would not have considered going to Malawi as a priority until I’d seen about 7,000 life birds (or about 10 years from now) and was very pleasantly surprised by the number of special species, good accommodations, a well thought out itinerary and good arrangements. All in all a memorable and special experience even for somebody who regularly does bird tours.

JA, Ghana 2015

Excellent isn’t really adequate to describe the skills and personality of Keith. Phenomenal would be closer to the truth.

PN & PN, Thailand

In the field, Keith and the local “Zen Birding Master’’ Uthai were an unbeatable combination. Their knowledge, persistence and patience were greatly appreciated. They tried to make sure everyone got the birds and were willing to go to great lengths to do so. Both had a great sense of humour and were a pleasure to travel with.

MM, Remote Indonesian Islands Cruise 2017

My thanks to Keith and Glen Valentine for taking so much time in getting me on the birds. They are so patient and really nice.

SL, Remote Indonesian Islands Cruise 2017

The ultimate birding trip: stunning destinations, endemics galore, cruising through the Raja Ampats and Maluku on a lovely wooden boat with wonderful crew and great food, gorgeous sunsets, awesome snorkelling and two of the best Rockjumper guides - Keith and Glen Valentine. And to top it off, Wilson's Bird-of-Paradise!!!!!!!!!

RB, Remote West Papuan Islands 2017

Glen and Keith Valentine worked seamlessly together to make this one of the best Rockjumper trips! The logistics went well, local guides were great, and the boat was quite comfortable and offered good food and variety. Best of all, the birds were plentiful and everyone got lifers galore. The bros Valentine did everything possible to be sure that everyone got onto the birds and they worked tirelessly doing so. I would travel with either or both of them anywhere, thanks guys!

JA, Remote West Papua 2017

Expert guiding by Keith and Glen Valentine, aided by fabulous local talent, ensured we saw the maximum number of endemics and other birds and mammals. Perhaps more importantly, these two brothers enjoyed their time together and provided a warm, friendly and caring environment in which we all had a good time with lots of laughs, and looked out for each other to ensure everyone got on the birds and did not falter on a tough hike or challenging car ride.

CM, Remote West Papuan Islands Cruise & Buru Extension 2017

This was a fabulous tour! Living on the Seahorse and going ashore each day to explore, in many cases, remote and under-birded locations was a truly exciting and wonderful experience. In addition, it was a fabulous and memorable experience to have Glen and Keith Valentine as leaders. They teamed seamlessly and ensured that everyone had a wonderful and got on to the birds. Oh, and of course, the sight of at least 4 male Wilson's Birds-of-Paradise displaying to multiple females was the stuff of dreams! Truly spectacular! And the local guides and drivers were all great, not forgetting the Skipper and crew of the Seahorse! The Buru extension for the Madanga and some of the owls was also so memorable, as were the few days in West Papua. All things considered, a truly wonderful and memorable tour!

PN & PN, South Africa - Birds & Wine 2018

This was a wonderful tour...with something for everyone. The fun just never stopped! Keith Valentine's passion for wine, food, creatures; be they avian, mammal, or reptile, combined for his deep knowledge of all, and his love of the outdoors shows in everything he does!

PS, South Africa - Birds & Wine 2018

I'd read and heard positive feedback about Rockjumper before I booked the tour, so I was quite pleased when Keith Valentine, our guide, and Rockjumper were able to exceed my expectations. I knew Keith's role within the firm, so my expectations were particularly high. Keith was terrific. He knows the birds in great detail, including their field marks, calls, and where they can be found. He also deeply understands what it means to provide his customers a great experience, which he did his best to provide. A true leader and nice person that others in the firm can hopefully learn from and follow. All in all, this was a trip of a lifetime for me and my wife.

TD, South Africa 2018

Keith Valentine is a great guide and his knowledge of the birds and their calls was just amazing.

MP & JP, South Africa 2018

Keith is a wonderful guide as well as a great person, and we are grateful to have made his acquaintance.

SD, South Africa 2018

I deeply appreciate that Keith Valentine worked hard to find the endemics and warblers that I had expressed an interest in.

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