Meet Douglas McCulloch (Full Time Tour Leader)

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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.

  1. Read more on Douglas McCulloch

    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.

SC, Botswana 2018

The tour was very enjoyable and interesting. Doug McCulloch's knowledge of his subject was encyclopaedic, and was as keen as mustard to share it and find us lots of birds.

SC, Nambia 2018

The tour was very enjoyable and interesting. Doug McCulloch's knowledge of his subject was encyclopaedic, and was as keen as mustard to share it and find us lots of birds.

SC, Zambia 2018

The tour was very enjoyable and interesting. Doug McCulloch's knowledge of his subject was encyclopaedic, and was as keen as mustard to share it and find us lots of birds.

PW & JW, South Africa 2018

Doug McCulloch did a good job picking up the tour after Greg had to depart. He is very good at communicating with the group and answering all questions.

TS, South Africa 2018

Doug McCulloch will be an excellent guide. His skill in locating the birds was very good, and his diligence served us well in identifying over four hundred species. His attention to the individual needs of the group was greatly appreciated, as well as his patience with this novice traveler.

VS & BS, South Africa 2018

Doug McCulloch was great and he worked extremely hard at finding lots of birds and wildlife for our group to enjoy. Doug is very knowledgeable regarding the flora of each type of habitat and has excellent birding skills.

MH & JH, South Africa 2018

Our guide, Doug McCulloch, was outstanding. Both professional and personable. He made sure we all got on the bird if possible. Great eyes and ears, went out of his way at times. Ie: The scope was set up too high, the only way to see the bird, so for Joanie, Doug got down on all fours and had her step up on his back to see an African Finfoot through the scope. (We have a photo of this).

JH, South Africa 2018

I thought Doug McCulloch was a wonderful guide. He was extremely dedicated and persistent in getting the key targets. It was clear he was personally frustrated by some of the misses, even though that was well out of his control (much of it was due to weather). And he even did a little extra homework to help me get a couple of targets that I went after by myself after the tour ended. He didn't have to do that, and I just want to thank him again for that.

MW, South Africa 2018

We really enjoyed and appreciated Doug McCulloch, our guide. Every bird was important to him, and he was determined to get everyone at least a look at the bird. Thanks to his thoroughness, enthusiasm, dedication, and contacts, we saw some really special birds that we have been trying to get for several years.

MW, South Africa 2018

Doug McCulloch did an excellent job. I have never seen a guide work so hard to get everyone on the birds. He gets high marks for his knowledge of the birds and his people-management skills.

TM, South Africa 2019

Doug McCulloch was a wonderful leader – skilled and informative, with patience and good humour in spades. This was the kind of tour that I enjoy most, where I learned about many aspects of natural history, and the culture and history of a country, in addition to seeing many bird species. An excellent experience!

MA & JA - South Africa 2019

Doug McCulloch was a great leader. He is very sensitive to his clients' individual needs and is very adroit at finding birds and making sure everyone in the group has seen them to their satisfaction. His insight into environmental issues facing South Africa specifically and Africa in general added a lot to the tour.

MC - South Africa 2019

Doug (Douglas McCulloch) is a gentleman and a scholar, and my husband and I very much appreciated his guiding. His knowledge of the birds, other animals, and plants encountered on the trip is tremendous. His ability to get us “onto the bird” was much appreciated – I can still hear him say, “just above the dot.” His communication skills are excellent, and his patience with each of us was un-ending. In addition, his knowledge of the natural history of the area was extensive and very helpful. He was also able to provide some information about the social, political and economic climate of Southern Africa without opinion or agenda. He made an effort to get to know each member of the tour and to be responsive to their particular interests with regard to the tour. His energy was unending – even including an evening walk to look for honey badgers when we had already had a long day and an excellent evening meal. Obviously, I cannot say enough good about him. We would definitely welcome an opportunity to tour with him in the future, should our economic situation provide for another Rockjumper adventure in Africa.

DW - South Africa 2019

WHAT A TRIP,… WHAT AN ADVENTURE,… WHAT A TON OF MEMORIES! From our first contact with Rockjumper, to the conclusion at Nelspruit with the participants and the patient and skillful guidance of our capable leader DOUG,… we could not have put together a better international experience. Doug was the face of Rockjumper for us. The energetic, calm, focused, knowledgable, “proper Englishman” figurehead. Thank You Doug for your knowledge and skill about more than birds as we learned about South Africa and what makes it such a special place.

CC, South Africa 2019

Doug gave 150% of himself to this tour. Need I say more? Even when having to change two different flat tires, he was jovial! Amazing!

DJ, South Africa 2019

"I know that RBT has run this tour multiple times for many years, and it shows - the itinerary is flawlessly geared to include a wide range of ecosystems to maximize the number of bird and animal species possible, the accommodations are lovely to luxurious, and the office communications are unfailingly courteous, friendly, and responsive. I have traveled with Rockjumper before, but not with Doug McCulloch. I was very impressed with his birding skills, his determination and persistence in making sure everyone saw all of the important endemics and all of the most-hoped-for species, and his knowledge of the history, the politics, and the ecology of South Africa. He managed the usual trip hiccups (tire puncture, adverse weather, unexpected road closures) with an unflappable grace and good humor, and keep us all on track throughout the trip. In short, it was great fun, we saw an enormous number of amazingly beautiful and scarce birds and animals, and I am truly glad my first trip to South Africa was with Doug as trip leader.

KK, South Africa 2019

Doug is a wonderful guide with a lot of passion of rbirding, nature and the environment. He worked very hard in finding the birds and trying to make the trip enjoable for all, which was truly appreciated!! Thank you!!

PM, South Africa 2019

"It was a fantastic tour, far exceeding my expectations. The vehicle was great and the small group size was a bonus. Doug was a fantastic tour guide and went above and beyond to get as many bird species as possible. His knowledge of the birds and animals was exceptional. Thank you for a fantastic tour and please pass on to the powers that be on just how good Doug was as a guide. Would definitely use Rockjumper again!"

OS & LS, South Africa 2019

Our guide Doug McCulloch was excellent; superb at finding birds, hard working and good with people. His knowledge about, not only the birds, but also ecology and South African society, contributed to making the trip a wonderful experience.

AS & GS, South Africa 2020

Our trip leader Doug was fantastic. He is clearly an expert birder with an admirable academic background. Doug also took an interest in the enjoyment and comfort of each guest. He frequently went above and beyond and always cheerfully went about loading and unloading all our luggage at our many locations, assisting all of us in many ways. The group was, on average, senior citizen age and he was very patient and helpful. He got us up first thing in the morning and spent the entire day diligently searching out the birds for us. We ended up with over 400 species in the two weeks, plus many furry creatures as well (including all the big 5 several times).

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