Forrest Rowland
Forrest Rowland took his first trip to the Neotropics at the tender age of 9 and this has blossomed into a lifelong love affair with the region’s birds and wildlife. Forrest has a technical education in Genetics but has since spent many years in the field, honing his birding skills throughout the Americas. He is now Rockjumper’s primary tour leader in this exciting region.


  • Forrest's first extended stint to South America involved several weeks at Tiputini Biological Research Station, in the Upper Amazonian region of Ecuador. This encouraged him to ship all his earthly belongings to Quito, where he became a resident after realising that he wanted to dedicate his career and life to bird guiding. Since this move in 2003, Forrest has guided over three dozen tours, and participated in numerous scientific excursions, in South America, including working with ProAves and other local conservation entities in Colombia. Forrest considers South America the world’s best birding destination, and looks forward to sharing his vast experience and enthusiasm with you!

    How did you get into birding?
    When I was 9 years old, my family and I took a tour to the island nation of Trinidad. We stayed at the Asa Wright Nature Center, from which most birding on the island occurs. Though not a birder at the time, being exposed to all those wonderful trogons, toucans, bellbirds and manakins got me hooked. Within a month of being home, bird feeders were up, field guides were strewn about the living room, and I was watching everything that flew with my new pair of binoculars!

    What led you to choose a career in tourism?
    Getting to share experiences with other people certainly enhances those experiences. What better way to get to enjoy seeing the birds of the world than with other birders? Plus, I find people fascinating, while Rockjumper's diverse and dynamic clientele certainly adds much to any experience.

    What are your other hobbies and interests?
    I like to read and write. Said as simplistically as that might belie my true enthusiasm for this, but I probably go through 2 books a week, on average, and try to write as many essays and articles as I can find the time for. I like to hike, run trails, and do anything and everything that involves water. I could swim before I could walk, and I love diving, snorkelling, or just swimming in a lake or river. My life has a soundtrack, too. It is dictated by what I come across on music blogs, record label press, and so forth. I play a few instruments as well, though my favourite (piano) isn’t quite as portable as I wish.

    What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
    The newness of it all! I can return somewhere 10 times, but it’s never the same as if I was returning there on my own. I get to show people what I've learned over the years, but, and perhaps more importantly, I get to see it as new through the clients' eyes. I learn much from them; in fact, I always want to be learning.

    What are your strengths as a tour leader?
    I have a great memory and I learn fast. Experience says a lot, but if you are constantly trying to learn new sites, then it is the ability to pick up on bird calls, shapes, habitat preferences and so on that really counts. In terms of guiding, people and logistics represent the lion’s share of the work. I enjoy people, and I work at recognising the interests of both the individual and the group. I put these together and am proficient at meeting these interests with thorough planning and by thinking on my feet.

    Are you a keen bird photographer?
    Yes, but I can always improve…. I look forward to continuing my interest in bird photography, as I am already very keen in other aspects of the hobby.

    Are you a lister and if so, which lists are your main focus?
    Of course! The only competition I feel in this regard is with myself. I keep the lists as a challenge to myself to get to more places, find more interesting birds in the places I visit and continue to learn more about migration and vagrancy patterns etc. Do I know the exact number of birds I've seen in the World? No. But I know how many I've seen in each country I've been to.

    Any interesting stories or anecdotes from recent tours?
    Recently, in the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) of the Sultanate of Oman, we were sitting at this oasis in the starkest desert I've ever known, waiting for both Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse to come in to drink. We had the car angled (as our blind) as close to the watering hole as we could dare. Upon glancing in the rearview mirror, I noted a group of camels approaching from in the distance. We all had our cameras out as they came closer and were talking about the best way to capture images in this harsh light. The discussion continued at different speeds, through to F-stops, past ISOs, when one of the participants blurts, "WHOA!" I looked back, and there was the snout of a camel protruding IN this participant’s window! I then turned forward just as a whole head was coming into mine!!! We had to roll the windows up as quickly as we could, as we made noise and shoved camel noses out of windows. A quick look about proved that we were surrounded by probably 50 camels, with young. After they sized us up, and decided we were neither a threat nor a food source, they began to wallow, bathe, take dust baths and do their very best to keep any approaching sandgrouse from even thinking about coming to the water. Luckily for us, however, about 20 minutes after the rowdy group departed, sandgrouse came cruising in from all directions of the vast expanse of sand around us. We just sat and watched, smiling. We talked mostly about the Camels...

    What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?
    To enjoy every single tour I lead! With our clientele, this isn't a tall order. Maybe, too, I'd like to see every bird family on the planet. Seeing every species would require such a monumental effort that I'm not sure the reward would be worth it. But seeing every family....that would be fascinating, rewarding, and get me to every end of the Earth in the process.

    What is your favourite place/country to guide?
    Colombia… I can't choose definitively, as different places hold different mysteries, but Colombia is unrivalled, in my mind, as having the most interesting, most beautiful, and simply MOST birds of any place I've guided or could possibly even fathom. Peru rivals in numbers, but to me, Colombia is simply more mysterious. Any major migration point in both hemispheres also gets my attention. Migration is the most wonderful natural phenomenon, and I can't keep my eyes off it.

    What is your advice to people who want to go to….?
    For people who want to go to Colombia, try to spend as much time there as possible. Preparatory tours to other Neotropic countries are highly recommendable as well. Being a first-timer in the New World, Colombia would simply blow your mind.  On the last tour I led there we logged 212 species on the first day alone! By the end of 24 days, we had netted 765 species seen, and another 30+ heard. Literally mind-blowing, unless you've had some experience in the general region. Costa Rica, Panama, and Ecuador are all wonderful places to start.

  • JM, UAE

    I was really pleasantly surprised about every aspect of the Oman & UAE tour. Forrest Rowland did an outstanding job in every way and he has a great sense of humour. This tour exceeded my expectations. The pace was just right, accommodations and meals were of high quality, and Forrest did a great job of organizing details and making sure everything ran smoothly. He found the species that were sought and had expert knowledge of where the birds were likely to be found and when was the best time to try for them.

    JM, Oman

    I was really pleasantly surprised about every aspect of the Oman & UAE tour. Forrest Rowland did an outstanding job in every way and he has a great sense of humour. This tour exceeded my expectations. The pace was just right, accommodations and meals were of high quality, and Forrest did a great job of organizing details and making sure everything ran smoothly. He found the species that were sought and had expert knowledge of where the birds were likely to be found and when was the best time to try for them.

    JM, Jordan

    I was really pleasantly surprised about every aspect of the Oman & UAE tour. Forrest Rowland did an outstanding job in every way and he has a great sense of humour. This tour exceeded my expectations. The pace was just right, accommodations and meals were of high quality, and Forrest did a great job of organizing details and making sure everything ran smoothly. He found the species that were sought and had expert knowledge of where the birds were likely to be found and when was the best time to try for them.

    SP, Cost Rica 2015

    I can say it was a great tour. Forrest and Richard were fantastic leaders. I would bird with them anywhere.

    DH & RD, Colombia Highlights

    Forrest was absolutely fantastic. The best birder/guide that we have ever had the pleasure of travelling with. His enthusiasm and passion for his work were exceptional and made for an awesome birding trip.

    LR, Panama

    Forrest is an outstanding guide. I often have trouble getting on a bird and he was very patient with me. He lived up to all the hype my friend told me. Looking forward to more trips with Rockjumper and especially with Forrest.

    RF, Cuba

    I highly recommend Forrest Rowland as a remarkably talented birding guide with exceptional birding skills, knowledge and helpfulness to get everyone on the bird.

    GH & CH, Cuba

    This was our first Rockjumper trip and it was great. Forrest was an excellent guide, so knowledgeable about the birds and enthusiastic about all living things we came across!

    MA, Cuba

    Forrest was an absolute joy to bird with. I’ve been to 25 countries birding and this was one of, if not the best, birding tour I have ever had the pleasure of being on.

    CR & SR, Cuba

    Forrest Rowland was the consummate birding tour guide. He was very personable and friendly and a top-notch birder with excellent skills for getting us on the birds. He kept us informed about all logistical details. We will seek him out for another Rockjumper tour.

    SPL, Cuba

    Forrest Rowland is an outstanding guide! We would definitely travel with him again. Great guy!

    EM & JM, Cuba

    Forrest Rowland is an all-around excellent birding guide. He handled our group of all abilities very well, and as first-time birders on a trip with Rockjumper, we were put at ease immediately by his easy going manner, friendliness and ability to assist us in seeing the birds of Cuba. It was an incredible experience all around to see both cities and rural areas, as well as take the time to learn about the culture as well as the natural history of this island in addition to the birds. Wow! Great adventure!

    AF, Panama

    Forrest is truly a pleasure. His bird-finding skills, both by sight and ear, are phenomenal, but even more striking is his singular personality and people skills. Always enthusiastic. Not only would I travel with Forrest again, I preferentially would select a tour if he was guiding.

    PR, Guyana

    Forrest Rowland is an outrageously skilled guide (I called him the Eagle-sighted Echolocator). Perfect organisation, perfect local guides, what more could one need? And the birding was better than first class. A perfect 10 on all counts!

    CT, Guyana

    Forrest Rowland, as we suspect you already know, is an outstanding guide. We have traveled with a number of other birding companies and he stands out as superior in all aspects. He is a terrific birding guide... excellent in finding birds on anyone's target list and he is very patient with less hard-core but interested birders in the group. He is well-organized, has infinite energy and enthusiasm and great people skills. You feel well taken care of when on his tour and he respects, helps and educates the local guides. I would highly recommend any tour Forrest is leading.

    MK, Colombia 2017

    We had a great time with Forrest Rowland in Colombia. A wonderful country. Forrest is a fantastic birder and a great guide.

    KT, Dominican Republic 2018

    This was my first tour with Forrest Rowland and he was wonderful. Forrest was most solicitous of my needs, and unlike many leaders, he waited until I had caught up before playing a tape to call birds in. He was an excellent communicator, always apprising us of upcoming plans, and kept the tour running on schedule. Last but not least, he is an awesome birder!

    BM, Brazil 2018

    A Fantastic experience!! Considerably better than I had expected. Guides were fantastic!! And the inclusion of local Brazilian guide - Leo - was a real plus. He worked great together with Forrest Rowland, and his knowledge of the country and the vegetation was a real plus. The mammals and other critters were a real plus to the tour. The facilities, driver, and van were also great! Overall, this tour ranks among the top of the 7-8 birding tours I have ever taken, and Rockjumper is certainly a company I would highly recommend to others!!!

    GR, Peru 2018

    The tour was fantastic. Forrest Rowland, did a terrific job spotting birds, giving us clear directions to actually sight the birds and displayed plenty of patience in the process.

    PB, Peru 2018

    Forrest Rowland is a terrific guide. He was incredibly knowledgeable of the birds we encountered on our trip. Further, he is very friendly, engaging and enthusiastic. I’d be quite pleased to join him again on any birding tour in the Neotropics.

    AF, Colombia 2018

    Forrest Rowland was superb as usual.  Both his birding skills and people skills are extraordinary.

    PI, Colombia 2018

    Thank you so much for a wonderful experience on my Remote Colombia Tour. Forrest remains among one of the best guides I have ever travelled with. His knowledge of the areas within Colombia is astounding, he clearly knows his birds and their respective calls, he knows the off-track spots to seek out the more difficult species and the local people he interacts with clearly respect and value their relationship with him. Witnessing the interaction of these relationships makes for such a more enjoyable overall experience. Forrest as a guide brings a strong combination of spotting birds, knowing the bird calls and getting people on the bird. Equally important, he interacts with each and everyone of his participants and just displays such a passion for birds, wildlife and the local culture.

    AH, Colombia 2018

    I have travelled with Forrest before, and still he manages to beat my expectations with his wonderful visual and auditory skills, hard work and preparation, and he is just fun to travel with. Special kudos on this trip for how he continued on despite being very unwell with fever and chills.

    LR, Colombia 2018

    Forrest Rowland is an incredible guide.

    JB & KB, Peru 2018

    This was an excellent tour! We saw so many great birds, and had many delicious meals from pizza to ceviche. The time spent birding and touring Kuelap was a highlight. To top everything off, Forrest Rowland is an awesome leader. In addition to hearing, seeing and getting everyone on the birds, he told wonderful stories and kept everyone laughing. All in all, we had a terrific time.

    CL & RL - Colombia 2019

    Forrest Rowland: We think you did a great job organising and leading this trip. It all seemed to go very smoothly so, if you had any problems, they weren't obvious to us. We thought your fieldcraft was also first class. Clearly, all your previous experience has meant that you know the birds, their calls and the sites exceptionally well. We think we did very well with the avifauna, in no small part thanks to you.

    JA - Colombia 2019

    I was thrilled when Forrest Rowland agreed to run another Colombia Mega, as I really wanted to join a tour led by him – he has such extensive experience of this country and its birds. Even with that expectation, the trip exceeded my wildest dreams. Forrest’s grasp of Colombia’s birds, herps, plants, geography and history sets the scene for a magnificent experience. His humour and personality ensure one enjoys every minute.

    SS - Colombia 2019

    First of all, Forrest Rowland's profound knowledge of the full range of bird identification traits, songs and calls, habitat preferences and behavioural detail was indispensable to our ability to view, hear, and understand what we were looking for/at. Even more so, his knowledge and ability to effectively convey such information in a timely and readily comprehensible manner was an essential component of our ability to get on birds effectively. Plus his expertise and experience did not stop with the bird life. Secondly, he was an amazing leader in keeping a diverse group of participants focused on tasks at hand and committed to an inclusive "team" dynamic, not an easy feat! His very personable and easy going style kept everyone engaged and appreciating contributions from the whole group... and no one ever appeared isolated. Lastly, and also crucial to an effective journey of this type, Forrest was always on top of tour logistics and management, which are extremely complex and sometimes change with little notice (e.g. flights being cancelled). ln part this was due to his own experience travelling within Colombia, building upon the wonderful network of supporting "staff/contributors", and he was always able to easily provide next step details, rationales, and alternatives to the group.

    DP - Colombia 2019

    No one beats Rockjumper and Forrest Rowland for running wonderful trips. The logistics are incredible and involving so many Colombians to get us places and up steep trails were amazing. Thanks to all involved at Rockjumper for making this trip possible.

    SK, Thailand 2019

    I had a wonderful trip to Thailand with Forrest as our leader. Every aspect of the Rockjumper trip surpassed expectations. From the pre trip support, wonderful fellow trip participants, amazingly delicious food, our helpful and kind Thai drivers, and of course Forrest, who has to be the best guide out there. His energy, enthusiasm and knowledge, along with a patient and friendly demeanor makes him a joy to be with. Kudos to the Rockjumper organization and I look forward to taking part in a future tour.

    AM, Thailand 2019

    "This was my first Rockjumper trip and I have never before done an extended birding bird out of Australia. I have nothing but praise for the whole operation. Our local guide & Forrest were fantastic and are both to be commended for their knowledge, expertise, patience & energy. Was wonderful having 2 experts with us."

    JH - Dominican Republic 2020

    The birds cooperated, but Forrest and everyone on the tour worked hard and remarkably all participants on the tour were able to record every endemic species, mostly seen very well. The large bus provided plenty of room and the Wifi on the bus was another surprise!

    JH, Dominican Republic 2020

    "The birds cooperated, but Forrest and everyone on the tour worked hard and remarkably all participants on the tour were able to record every endemic species, mostly seen very well. The large bus provided plenty of room and the Wifi on the bus was another surprise!"

    PM, Cuba 2020

    Forrest is an incredibly great guide both from the birding and people perspective, just like the other 4 Rockjumper guides I have been with. And Cuba is an amazingly interesting country to visit.

    JL & DL, Cuba 2020

    Forrest did a fantastic job of making this tour run smoothly. Forrest was always in good spirits and clearly loves the region. We had great views of all the birds we could have hoped for, and Forrest's knowledge is exceptional.

    KB & JB, Dominican Republic 2020

    We were very excited to be traveling with Forrest again on our 9th tour with Rockjumper! Forrest is an excellent guide and totally lived up to our expectations (again), Forrest's experience in the Dominican Republic was certainly a plus, and with the help of the terrific local guides (and maybe some luck), we were able to get unexpectedly very good looks of some of the more difficult and usually less cooperative species. Thanks for a great trip!

    MW, Puerto Rico

    The trip and the Guides were excellent.

    EM, Puerto Rico

    Forrest is an excellent guide all around. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and also fun to be with.

    MO, Puerto Rico

    Forrest was great as usual and our local guide was fantastic. The food and accommodations were excellent

    JP - Montana 2021

    Forrest Rowland is a great guide with thorough knowledge of the area and avifauna. He got all members of the group to see all the species encountered, and we found many great birds. He is very professional, dedicated and with good humour. The area is beautiful and the fauna fantastic.

    PJ, Montana

    By selecting the northern part of the NP, we avoided most of the huge traffic jams and could focus on the wildlife; also well-planned were the days outside of the NP. Forrest Rowland is extraordinary: total mastery of the area from the daily routes to the trails and what is where when, to substantive knowledge about the ecology, public policies governing land and water use, all of which is seamlessly integrated throughout the course of the day and week. He's able to handle difficult situations, such as the approach of a bear, to tour members who could be distracting. Days were planned, integrating sufficient down time, and flexible to utilize unique opportunities that arose with the appearance of target species. Each day proved enjoyable, filled with cumulative knowledge gained through good views of species and time to absorb the environmental context.

    AH, Montana

    Our guide was superb. The experience was really beyond my expectations. This was “awesome” in the traditional sense of awesome not the common vernacular.

    MS - Montana 2021

    I have nothing but praise for our guide, Forrest Rowland. His knowledge of birding was excellent, and he was very friendly and personable. He went out of his way to provide us with a memorable experience despite the bitter-cold temps and the fact that a good part of Yellowstone was closed or unreachable during our trip. He chose some great area restaurants and the food was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

    AH - Hawaii 2021

    OMGosh, it felt so good to be traveling again. I am so grateful for RJ’s flexibility in seeing this trip through after it was postponed in 2020. The group was special—all but Teri Martine were members of the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society of Athens, GA., and needless to say, we got along famously. Teri, Forrest and Mandy got used to us quickly and blended in to our quirky, non-stop jokes and laughter. Forrest Rowland was an excellent guide, full of positive energy and very enthusiastic about seeing the birds. (He even ID'ed a bird recording I’d saved on my phone and thus I added another Yellowstone Life bird to my trip!!) And I throughly enjoyed getting to know Mandy Talpas on this tour. She is a very capable, engaging, organized and skilled co-leader. The food and hotels vastly exceeded my expectations. Mandy’s van on Oahu, aka “Big Red” was one of the best vehicles I have toured in. Mandy’s “meals in the fields” were delicious, fresh and extravagant. It was a special delight to have the option of a cold brew to watch the late afternoon sea bird show at the famous Kilauea Point NWR. Also, she shared with us her passionate and amazing conservation work on the islands, and we met several other local birder friends of hers who also graciously contributed to our knowledge and bird sightings. It was clear that she had personal connections with many of the hotel and restaurant owners, with whom she had conveyed her high expectations of service and response.

    SR - Montana 2021

    This tour exceeded our expectations. Forrest Rowland is an exceptional guide. His intimate knowledge of Yellowstone Park and the general area and the species of animals and birds that inhabit the area are invaluable to the experience, but more than that his unbridled enthusiasm, superior patience, and ability to adjust to circumstances ensured the success of this trip. The area was hit with a very unusual early snowstorm that closed large parts of the park and many roads, but Forrest was able to pivot and ensure that we got to see animals, birds, and geothermal sites despite the difficult conditions. He organized excellent field lunches and great dinners in town and always had several backup plans in mind in case the weather turned either worse or better. The accommodation was located perfectly for easy and quick access to the park, and we found the hotel very comfortable with friendly staff. Forrest also organized a talk for our group with a wolf and bird expert from the Yellowstone Park staff, and this was certainly a highlight of the trip as it provided even more context and background for what we saw every day. I would travel with Forrest again regardless of the destination because he is a guide who will make sure that no matter where we travel the experience will be superior.

    EL, Montana, USA 2022

    Forrest Rowland led the tour, he was very good spotting birds and getting participants on the birds. Very friendly and professional, I would sign on to another tour with him.

    CS & CS - Brazil Tailor-made 2022

    We had an unbelievably great tour. ALL the guides were extraordinary and fun to be around. They went out of their way to provide us non-birders with very interesting, novel activities. We all enjoyed seeing all the wildlife - it was beyond expectations. The 50th anniversary surprise was an unexpected, delightful treat. We don't know how the tour could have been any better.