Erik Forsyth

Erik Forsyth is a long-standing Rockjumper leader now living in New Zealand. He is a superb birder who currently leads for Rockjumper in Asia and Australasia. Erik is also blessed with a contagious sense of humor and a wonderful gift for sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge in the field. Erik has been an avid birder his entire life.

  • Erik Forsyth originally hails from Scotland but lived in South Africa for thirty years, during which he became one of Africa’s most experienced birders. He now lives in New Zealand with his family, where, soon after arriving, he discovered a new bird for the country and is again fast becoming one of the nation’s top bird watchers. His expertise is backed up by a three-year Nature Conservation Qualification, as well as several years of hands-on conservation experience at various National and Regional game reserves in South Africa. Erik mainly guides in Asia and Australasia.

    How did you get into birding?
    When I was a youngster living in Scotland, I would often watch birds in the garden or nearby woods. We then immigrated to South Africa and, when I was about 18, I went on my first bird outing with the Witwatersrand Bird Club, seeing about 70 species on the day. The defining moment, though, was when we were standing under some acacia trees near the camp when a pair of stunningly beautiful Crimson-breasted Shrikes appeared and started duetting right in front of me. Needless to say, I was totally hooked for life!

    What led you to choose a career in tourism?
    Having a passion for the outdoors and all wildlife, it was a natural progression for me to become a Nature Conservation Officer with the KZN Wildlife Organization, where I was a guide, and then an eco-tourism manager in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. Here my time was devoted to showing people the diverse wildlife and amazing reserve that I worked in. Joining Rockjumper Birding Tours thereafter, I am now able to meet many fellow birders and show them beautiful birds in far-off and exotic locations.

    What are your other hobbies and interests?
    I am very keen on sports and watch cricket, rugby and football. My other interests are helping with census and survey work (birdwatching of course!) for bird organisations.

    What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
    The excitement that follows from having the whole group see the birds well is very satisfying and rewarding; catching up with clients from previous tours; seeing new birds.

    What are your strengths as a tour leader?
    Knowledge of the areas we visit and of the identity and calls of their respective birds; being very flexible, patient and compassionate; remaining unflappable when difficult situations arise; and, of course, having a good laugh with the clients whenever the opportunity arises!

    Are you a keen bird photographer?
    I am, but don’t have the right camera!

    Are you a lister and if so, which lists are your main focus?
    My Papua New Guinea and Asian lists are definite focuses of mine. I have a healthy African list which was last at 1780.

    Any interesting stories or anecdotes from recent tours?
    While birding in Papua New Guinea in 2011, I was telling the group that we would be very lucky to even catch a mere glimpse of the mythical Shovel-billed Kookaburra, only for a bird to then land on a stump 3m from us right in the open! That became a bit of a poor excuse for shy birds thereafter! On another occasion, while looking for South Island Brown Kiwi with two clients, I was tapped on the shoulder and heard the words, “Look behind us.” Turning around, we were surprised (and very pleased) to see that a kiwi was in fact following us, and then even forced us off the trail so that it could get past!

    What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?
    To gain more experience in Asian birds and to lead tours to China and Japan.

    What is your favourite place/country to guide?
    Ethiopia is my favourite African destination; I love birding with groups there. Papua New Guinea is fast becoming a home from home, with a range of some of the most beautiful birds in the world. One can quite simply never get used to the stunning beauty that the Birds-of-paradise have to offer!

    India, however, is still my all-time favourite, with its superlative mixture of big game, diverse range of birds, cultural beauty in terms of temples and palaces, very hospitable people and, of course, the magnificent Bengal Tiger!

    What is your advice to people who want to go to….?
    Papua New Guinea: be prepared for an amazing adventure to a remote part of the world, where exotic looking birds display in the largest natural untouched forests!
    Philippines: visit soon as these wonderful birds are disappearing fast due to an expanding population and shrinking forests. It’s getting harder and harder to find some of the more widespread species!

  • PN, New Zealand 2023

    Erik made long days on the road a entertaining with a very friendly a manner and frequent comfort stops! A wonderful sense of humor is always appreciated. His knowledge was excellent and he always worked very hard to get everyone on the birds. We really enjoyed traveling with him and hope to do so again!

    NM, Northern India

    I just have to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the N. India trip and how superb the leaders are… Erik and Rich worked so well together and both are so funny, such a great combination…. With much gratitude to RBT for bringing birds and mammals into my life.

    DM & SM, New Zealand

    The trip sounded good in the write-up but far exceeded our expectations. The pelagic trips were outstanding. The number of participants was perfect. Erik knew the birds and their calls/sounds and was very effective in getting everyone to see the birds. He called many pelagic IDs well before other people had even spotted the birds. Erik’s skills in managing the participants showed and his sense of humour added to his effectiveness. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip.

    BS, Japan 2023

    Wonderful experience with Erik Forsyth and Bryan despite challenging weather conditions. The lodging was very comfortable. The birds were fantastic.

    DE & NE, New Zealand

    Erik was a delight to be with, as his sense of humour was a constant. Having him at the helm added an unexpected and pleasurable dimension to the whole trip. The entire trip was terrific: beautiful scenery, nice people, good beer and food, and comfy accommodations.

    KB, New Zealand 2017

    Erik Forsyth is not only extremely knowledgeable but also accommodating and fun.

    JM & MW, New Zealand 2017

    Erik Forsyth is one of the best guides. Extraordinary knowledge of birds as well as New Zealand itself. Personable and cheerful with a wonderful sense of humour. He is attentive birders' needs and made every effort to meet and exceed any special needs. He knew where to try and find the endemics, and the only one we didn't see or hear was because of inclement weather. We would definitely travel with Erik again should that opportunity present itself.

    RN, New Zealand 2017

    The tour was well-planned and Erik Forsyth was an excellent leader. The accommodation, food and transportation were also excellent.

    LP, New Zealand 2017

    Erik Forsyth's depth of knowledge of the birds of New Zealand was astounding. He delivered on all the species possible, and some even became good friends with multiple good sightings before the trip was through. He was good-natured and managed our group well throughout the long hours of driving on several days. The accommodations were good, as were the night walks for kiwis, the pelagic tours, and the visits to islands and refuges to see rare, endemic and endangered species. I loved the trip from the beginning to the end. We had good weather, too! Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for the wonderful experience exploring New Zealand. I fell in love with the birds and the country. Thanks, Erik, for making it happen. Four stars, two thumbs up, all possible positive accolades.

    SC, New Zealand 2018

    Erik Forsyth was excellent, a great guide; professional, knowledgeable, friendly and pleasant to be around. He was also a careful driver who spent many hours driving us around New Zealand. All in all, I was left very satisfied and happy with the tour; and this being my first Rockjumper tour, I was left with a very positive impression of the company and its staff. I would certainly like to use Rockjumper and Erik again!

    JM, New Zealand 2018

    Overall, a very good tour. Erik Forsyth got us onto all the most wanted birds and was attentive to everyone's needs. He was professional and kept the atmosphere fun and light.

    PS, Japan 2018

    The birding and bird vocalisation skills of Erik Forsyth and local guide Bryan Shirley are simply outstanding. So far, I've probably met only 2 guides who were only just about as good as these two!

    MW, Japan 2018

    This trip was quite an experience: Earthquakes, an erupting volcano, a major blizzard, raw fish and squid for breakfast, some incredible dining experiences, great scenery, and a wicked lot of fantastic birds! Erik Forsyth did a very good job with the tour. He was a bit more laid back than I am used to, but we really had good luck with the birds. A lot of that also had to do with Bryan Shirley, who is also an excellent guide. Erik and Bryan made a great team and appeared to really enjoy the trip, which was infectious for the rest of the group.

    RW & SW, The Philippines 2018

    We saw some good birds and are happy about that. Erik Forsyth is an excellent guide and companion. We would certainly travel with him again. He was most helpful for those of us whose eyes are not as sharp as they once were. Erik managed the group well and group dynamics were excellent. Local guides, such as at PICOP, were very friendly and most helpful. The Philippine ground agent/bird guide, Mark Villa, was certainly knowledgeable about the local birds and a good source of information. We have enjoyed Rockjumper tours in the past and hope to again.

    JT, The Philippines 2018

    The guides were knowledgeable, energetic, and very personable. I would go with Erik Forsyth anytime, anywhere. He made sure we were comfortable, well fed, and saw the birds, not an easy feat with the constant rainy conditions. I also appreciated his sense of humour. Yes, I would go with Rockjumper again, and I am planning on a 2019 trip already. They have become my favourite bird tour company for many reasons.

    JV, The Philippines 2018

    Although we had plenty of rain the trip turned out to be very rewarding. Erik Forsyth did an excellent job in trying to accommodate my strange request for knowledge on the vegetation of the Philippines. Although both Mark and he had no idea on how to respond to this request, they were able to get a tree book for my use. After losing the use of my cell phone which was used to take photos of the vegetation for future identification, Mark followed up by taking photos for me.

    MY, The Philippines 2018

    It was amazing that the guides could make the tour so enjoyable despite having rain 8 days out of 10! Guides were excellent. Erik Forsyth was very knowledgeable and personable.

    SH, Australia 2018

    Erik Forsyth went above and beyond to give personal attention to each participant. How does he do it? Lack of sleep and a packed itinerary would challenge the best guide, but he seems to always be positive and light-hearted. Cracking dry jokes and comments – loved it!

    KH, Australia 2018

    Erik Forsyth did a great job, and both his remarkable knowledge and his unflagging good humor were indispensable; I look forward to traveling with him again in the future.

    MR & MB, Australia 2018

    Erik Forsyth is a wonderful guy, so enjoyable to travel with. He is knowledgeable, down to earth and quite humorous! We did New Zealand with Erik a few years ago and would definitely go with him on other Rockjumper Trips in the future. Also, we would recommend Erik to others considering him as their leader.

    AW & DW, New Zealand 2018

    We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, which covered a wonderfully varied range of environments, scenery, birds, etc., and was a great introduction to New Zealand. Erik Forsyth did a good job of rearranging times and/or dates for two of the pelagics, which were ultimately successful--even given substantial rain and wind.

    JP, New Zealand 2018

    Beautiful country, good birding sites, good group of travelers. Eric Forsyth was an excellent guide, handling all situations very well, including weather-related activity cancellations that were beyond his control.

    PP, New Zealand 2018

    Erik Forsyth is not just totally knowledgeable about the birds, he makes the whole journey effortless and fun.

    SS, New Zealand 2018

    Erik Forsyth is a brilliant  tour leader and birder;  I would definitely like to travel with him again in the future!

    DS & JS, New Zealand 2018

    Erik Forsyth did a fine job of managing the group. He is a constitutionally positive person and conveyed a healthy sense of humour that was appreciated by the entire group. He clearly endeavoured to spend time with all of the members of the group which brought about good group cohesion. He met each person, regardless of their birding ability, and facilitated their birding experience.

    MP & JP, New Zealand 2020


    KS, New Zealand 2020

    We thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Erik Forsyth is an excellent guide. He managed a one-man show as bird guide, van driver and ground agent all the while maintaining a wonderful sense of humor.

    PJ, New Zealand 2022

    Even though the weather did not always cooperate Erik was able to get us to sites to see the endemic birds of NZ. The pelagic trips were excellent as was Erik's quick response to having to use an alternate boat for our last trip. He was very helpful in allowing me to spend time with a relative I had not seen in a long time and she and I were able to visit while waiting for the Interisland ferry.

    DF - New Zealand 2024

    Erik is a fantastic leader and guide, with a great sense of humour and empathy. His knowledge and experience was first class, and he was entirely on top of the logistics throughout. All of which made this trip of a lifetime a total joy. Thank you!