Meet Glen Valentine (Full Time Tour Leader)

Glen Valentine

Glen Valentine has an unquestionable passion for birds that, like his brother Keith, developed at an extremely tender age. Glen has traveled and guided tours throughout Africa, Asia, Papua New Guinea and Australia and has an exceptional understanding of our natural world. He possesses exceptional birding skills and a personable nature, coupled with hearty levels of enthusiasm.

  1. Read more on Glen Valentine

    Glen Valentine grew up in South Africa’s Gauteng province where his unquestionable passion for birds and wildlife began at an extremely early age. His interest mounted as he explored every corner of Southern Africa with his family and at the age of 19, broke his brother, Keith’s record of becoming the youngest person to have seen 850 species of birds in the Southern African sub-region (Keith is also a full-time Rockjumper guide). Glen has been guiding full-time for Rockjumper in remote corners of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Madagascar and Brazil for more than a decade and has thus built an extensive knowledge of the birds and natural history of those regions. Glen also holds to his name a bachelor of commerce degree in accounting sciences from the University of South Africa. His exceptional birding skills and personable nature coupled with his extreme levels of enthusiasm will ensure a fantastic and memorable tour with Glen.

    How did you get into birding?

    I began birding at an extremely young age when my parents took up the hobby in 1989. I was four at the time. At first, we undertook “normal” family holidays that included some casual birding while enjoying the usual beach, hiking, general wildlife and site-seeing holidays. As my brother and I grew older we became increasingly interested in birds and by the time I was twelve (when we did our first family trip out of South Africa to Zimbabwe) I would say that “the bug had bit” and my growing interest soon became obsessive. Since then my passion for birding and my enjoyment of this wonderful and extremely rewarding hobby has increased even further and has resulted in me being able to guide for Rockjumper and explore the world for more than a decade, while enjoying the wealth of magical birds that the continents of Africa, Asia and Australasia have to offer.

    What led you to choose a career in tourism? 

    After finishing my undergraduate degree in Accounting Sciences, I fell into guiding and the tourism industry quite unexpectedly when I was offered a guiding job with Rockjumper Birding Tours. I never expected to work in the tourism industry but I’ve never looked back since getting into it eleven years ago.

    What are your other hobbies and interests?

    I enjoy playing the guitar, playing tennis and cricket, writing and composing songs, gardening and photography. I also love hiking/trekking/bushwalking and camping in the outdoors.

    What do you enjoy most about being on tour? 

    I really enjoy meeting new people and travelling again with friends that I’ve made on previous tours. I love experiencing nature and the many amazing wildernesses that the world has to offer and which we are very fortunate to experience on our tours. Obviously I also really enjoy seeing new places, birds and mammals, but it is also wonderful to go back to destinations that I’ve visited previously and to re-experience the great variety and diversity of wildlife that I’ve already seen and am familiar with. One of my biggest loves on tour is trying to see as many species of birds and mammals as I can and trying to break previous Rockjumper records when the opportunity arises!

    What are your strengths as a tour leader? 

    I think my immense patience is one of my best traits. There are very few people out there that can rile me or irritate me. I have a huge tolerance and acceptance for all types of people and every kind of birder and their birding capabilities. Another of my best strengths is to easily adapt a tour according to the make-up and intensity of a particular group, being able to bird intensely and break records with hardcore birding groups, and to relax and show people an all-round good time with a less intense group of birders. I also love socializing with guests, am personable, kind, understanding, caring and passionate.

    Are you a keen bird photographer? 

    I am quite a keen photographer and enjoy squeezing off a few shots when the opportunity arises. It’s always nice getting a good shot of a really great bird or animal, but it’s often difficult to incorporate photography with leading a birding tour.

    Are you a lister; and if so, which lists are your main focus?

    I am a lister! Lists keep it all exciting and a challenge. I keep the following lists of birds that I’ve seen and the following lists are my main focus: My world, Africa, Southern Africa, Madagascar, Asia, Australasia, New Guinea, Australia, bird family and Photographic bird lists, as well as a world mammal list. I don’t take any of them too seriously though and find it all just good fun, but I do enjoy seeing new birds and watching the tallies rise.

    Any interesting stories or anecdotes from recent tours?

    On a tour to Malawi one December, we were birding in the Liwonde National Park in the Lower Shire River Valley. December is summer in Malawi and this part of the world becomes extremely hot and humid during this time of year. However, with the heat, humidity and rain, comes one of the world’s most beautiful, elusive and enigmatic birds, the African Pitta. For several reasons, Pittas are one of those families that birders really want to see as every species of Pitta is extremely vibrantly-coloured and is generally rare and difficult to see. The African Pitta fits this category perfectly and remains one of the toughest of all the world’s Pittas to see. So there we were in Liwonde, with no real thought of seeing an African Pitta as, despite Malawi falling flat bang in the centre of the species’ breeding range, there are very few records of the species for the country. The birding was excellent that morning and we were picking up all the specialties of the reserve such as Brown-breasted Barbet, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Lillian’s Lovebird, Racket-tailed Roller, Speckle-throated Woodpecker, Collared Palm Thrush and Boehm’s Bee-eater to mention just a few, and really just enjoying the birding and being in this fabulous reserve, when suddenly the obvious and familiar call of an African Pitta resonated from an area of thick riparian vegetation to the left of the road. There was, however, one major problem! The area where the Pitta was calling from was within the confines of a Black Rhinoceros Sanctuary that was cordoned off with massive, three-meter high elephant-fencing! As Those of you who are aware…most African national parks/reserves strictly prohibit one exiting one’s vehicle unless at a specially proclaimed camp, lookout or picnic facility due to the presence of wild, dangerous animals such as Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo and Lion. We, nonetheless, were desperate to see this near-mythical species and so we hopped out of the vehicle (there appeared to be no-one around) and began strolling up and down the section of the road adjacent to where the bird was calling from, hoping to perhaps obtain a view of it through the high fence. We were so engrossed in trying to see the Pitta that we had lost all care about being out of our vehicle and were startled when suddenly an armed ranger appeared from nowhere on his bicycle and wanted to know what we were doing outside of our car. We were extremely apologetic and embarrassed, and I duly explained that we were just looking to see if we could find a very special bird called an African Pitta. I explained to the ranger that the bird was calling on the other side of the huge fence (I pointed out the call to him) and showed him an illustration of the bird in the field guide. He seemed very curious and the whole scenario interested him greatly. He was then blown away by the colours of the bird as illustrated in the field guide and animatedly proclaimed, “That is the most beautiful bird I’ve ever seen! I want to see this bird!” I was shocked at his response and almost fell over when he suggested that we all crawl underneath a hole that he knew of in the huge Elephant-fence separating us from the Rhino Sanctuary from where the Pitta was calling. Still blown away by his offer, we followed the ranger as he led the way and within minutes we were witnessing one of nature’s most spectacular sightings – the calling display of the African Pitta! We were absolutely thrilled, to say the least, as was the ranger, and we happily gave the gentleman a nice tip to show our appreciation for his understanding and eagerness to show us the bird. What an amazing and unforgettable experience indeed!

    What are your future goals as a birding tour leader?

    I’d really like to see 7000 species of birds and 500 species of mammals during my career of guiding, with specific African and Asian goals of 2000 species for each continent. I’d also like to photograph 4000 species of birds and visit all seven continents!

    What is your favourite place/country to guide?

    In Africa, anywhere in East Africa, particularly Ethiopia but also Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; and in Asia, Bhutan with Thailand and Malaysia/Borneo a close second and third.

    What is your advice to people who want to go to Ethiopia? 

    For anyone who loves wildlife, the Ethiopian outdoors and wilderness is the perfect destination! I’ve never birded anywhere that has more birds (in sheer quantity) than this amazing country! The numbers of birds throughout the nation is truly staggering and Ethiopia hosts a wealth of great mammals too, including the endangered Ethiopian Wolf and truly impressive Gelada Baboon. The country also has the second highest number of endemic birds in all of Africa (second only to South Africa), making it an essential birding destination. However, having said all this, one does need to approach the country with an open mind as some of the accommodations are fairly basic and are certainly not what one may be accustomed to in the “western world”. Ethiopia is a “developing” country and therefore the infrastructure is not yet up to the standard that one may be used to back home. One is also exposed to several interesting and rather diverse cultures, and witnessing an eight-year-old Afar tribe’s boy strolling around the desert plains of the Awash area of north-eastern Ethiopia in a white robe, AK47 assault rifle slung over his shoulder, and a cleaver hanging from his waist that is nearly the size of his arm, is indeed a sight to behold! There is no need to be alarmed though as all these weapons are just for show and “part of their culture”. The Ethiopian people (especially in the highlands) are extremely friendly and the country remains one of the safest on earth. An open mind and a sense of adventure and humour will go a long way to enjoying the country and its amazing natural history, and I have no doubt that anyone with this attitude will rank Ethiopia as one of the world’s most enjoyable and best birding destinations! I cannot recommend and praise our Ethiopian Endemics tour enough!

  2. Testimonials Glen Valentine
    S & J, Bhutan

    We wanted to drop you a line to let you know how absolutely thrilled we are with our very recent experience in Bhutan! We were blown away by the scenery and the birds. All the iconic species showed well, plus Glen's expertise enabled us to discover many other lesser known (to us) but no less interesting species. His knowledge, enthusiasm, and sense of humour were spot on for us!  Though Bhutan is not a mammal destination, many unexpectedly fascinating species came to life for us as well, especially on an impromptu night drive at Zhemgang.

    MM, Madagascar

    I'd like to thank you all for a fantastic Madagascar Comprehensive trip. Crystal and Alison were so helpful with all the pre-trip stuff; Glen and Fano made the trip so smooth and successful in every way and the local guides were fantastically skilled.

    Pvt Castleman India

    We loved Glen Valentine! Very skilled, and not defensive if we questioned an ID. Liked that he continued to call out even the common birds throughout the tour, which meant we got a chance to really study each species. Good sense of humor, and fun to bird with!

    PB, Bhutan

    Thank you both for a magnificent trip to Assam and Bhutan. We still comment to each other daily on the many exciting experiences that we had. Thank you, Glen, for the very detailed report that we received, it will allow me to check our records of the trip, and bring back memories. So much were we enthused that we've booked to go with Rainer on his Namibia trip.

    LM, Bhutan

    Glen & Rainer worked well together. Both were most attentive to client needs, no matter how trivial. Their sense of humour was keen and attention to birding very much appreciated. This was probably one of THE BEST tours I have been on. Wonderful combination of scenery, cultures and over-the-top birds.

    RD, Ehtiopia

    Glen Valentine is an asset to any birding group with his excellent knowledge of birds and his friendly outgoing personality. He is helpful to both experienced and inexperienced birders alike. I would not hesitate to join another birding tour where he was leader or co-leader as I know from experience that it would be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.

    AC, South Africa Mega

    Glen's pacing of the tour was particularly good - relaxed whenever possible and upping the pace when necessary. His responsiveness and attention to client requests was admirable, as was his general demeanor throughout. Nice to spend such a long trip with someone so enthusiastic and sociable.

    BG, Pvt Castleman India

    This was a great trip. A terrific itinerary and we saw lots of birds and we saw tigers at Ranthambhore and Corbett. Glen and [the local leader] were excellent guides—great spotting skills, and they made sure everyone saw the bird. The logistics worked very well because Glen and [the local leader] were a great team.

    SL, PNG II 2015

    Glen is always a pleasure to travel with and his professional yet friendly manner was appreciated by the whole group. He knows his birds extremely well and works hard to get everyone in the group onto the birds. He has a great memory for names and always remembers and greets by name, local guides, drivers, hotel staff, etc that he has met on previous trips. The trip went very smoothly, due to his excellent handling of logistics.

    JS, Namibia 2015

    Glen was very organised and knowledgeable. He gave clear directions as to what we would be doing the following day. He has a very calm and friendly manner. He has extremely good hearing and the ability to both hear the birds and point them out. He was very helpful to assist me when I did not see where the bird was. I would certainly like to travel with him again.

    JS, Botswana 2015

    Glen was very organised and knowledgeable. He gave clear directions as to what we would be doing the following day. He has a very calm and friendly manner. He has extremely good hearing and the ability to both hear the birds and point them out. He was very helpful to assist me when I did not see where the bird was. I would certainly like to travel with him again.

    JS, Zambia 2015

    Glen was very organised and knowledgeable. He gave clear directions as to what we would be doing the following day. He has a very calm and friendly manner. He has extremely good hearing and the ability to both hear the birds and point them out. He was very helpful to assist me when I did not see where the bird was. I would certainly like to travel with him again.

    NH, Indonesia - West Papua Cruise 2016

    I have been on birding trips for many years, but this is the first time with Rockjumper. The trip was easily the best birding trip I have ever been on. In particular, both David and Glen made life so easy and their birding knowledge was remarkable. Other members of the group were very easy to get on with. The birding was quite remarkable and it is difficult to pick out a highlight from the Birds of Paradise, the Chinese Crested Tern or the Madanga. There is no doubt that I will travel with Rockjumper again.

    DB & PB, Japan

    Glen, as usual, was the best. This is our third trip with him and would not hesitate to do many more.

    CM, Malaysia & Borneo

    Our tour was really exceptional, and our guide, Glen Valentine, was fabulous!!! Being in the jungle meant our views were narrowed, but Glen went out of his way to make sure everyone had a chance to see these exceptional birds.

    SP, Malaysia & Borneo

    Glen did a fantastic job on this tour. Birding in the lowland rainforest looking for Pittas was certainly a challenge! Glen was informative, patient and persistent, and did his best in making sure that the entire group saw these fascinating birds. The itinerary was comprehensive, the accommodations were great and the food was excellent. Overall, a wonderful trip.

    RB, Gabon

    Glen was great! His steady, unflappable leadership was the best and he got us on some terrific birds, never stopped trying, always looking. At the same time, he handled logistics very well and always with good humour. His enthusiasm for all things in nature and thoughtful attentiveness to the group made this a special trip.

    JW & MW, Malaysia & Borneo

    We felt that the trip was very well organised and efficient so we could spend as much time in the field as possible. Glen was a terrific guide - excellent birder as well as his concern that everyone was seeing the birds. Glen was very even in his manner at all times and with everyone.

    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!

    LG, Morocco 2018

    Another wonderful Rockjumper tour. My sister and I were happy to reconnect with Glen Valentine, with whom we'd been on 2 tours before, and enjoyed meeting Mark Beevers who certainly knows the ins and outs of Morocco birding as well as anyone could. Both guides are excellent birders, of course, and very hard working, making sure we all had the best chance possible of seeing every bird. For the first time ever, though I always try to keep my expectations realistic, I came away with 30 of my 25 targets! This was a great trip, I would gladly travel with either Glen or Mark again. I should mention the food and accommodations were terrific too!

    TD, Morocco 2018

    The guides, Glen Valentine and Mark Beevers, were excellent and got us on nearly all the target birds for the trip. Their knowledge of North African birds added to the enjoyment. Both the touring van and hotel accommodations were very comfortable, making the tour of Morocco delightful. A tour not to be missed.

    TD, Morocco 2018

    The guides, Glen Valentine and Mark Beevers, were excellent and got us on nearly all the target birds for the trip. Their knowledge of North African birds added to the enjoyment. A tour not to be missed.

    SD, Morocco 2018

    I had an amazing trip. The guides, Glen Valentine and Mark Beevers, were knowledgeable and caring. Everything ran smoothly and efficiently. Thanks for an excellent trip!

    SH, Morocco 2018

    It was a great trip and I thought that Mark Beevers and Glen Valentine did a wonderful job of finding the birds and helping me get on them.

    PK, China 2018

    As usual, Glen Valentine was fantastic. I have travelled with him before and it never ceases to amaze me how he can hear and spot birds so effectively. And his enthusiasm is contagious. You know that he has seen any given bird on previous trips but it's as though he is seeing it for the first time with you! Daniel Danckwerts was also on the tour "learning the ropes". Very knowledgeable and a good asset to have on the tour. A superb spotter! All in all, this was a fantastic trip. I would recommend it to anyone.

    MN, China 2018

    Glen Valentine is an incredible guide and has real talent. We very much appreciate him and always find his tours fun and so rewarding with great birds, great views even in freezing conditions. Any tour with Glen is a guaranteed success and a good time. Daniel Danckwerts will be a great asset to RBT and contributed to the success of the tour. He is also personable and has a great sense of humour. He wasn't all that slow with his scope either and we all saw some fine birds through his scope. We are never surprised at the excellence of RBT guides.

    MK, Papua New Guinea 2018

    The credit for the trip’s success goes to our guides, Glen Valentine and David Erterius. Both have seemingly limitless knowledge of the birds, extrasensory capacities to find them, apparently endless patience and generosity with their clients, and (critically) wonderful senses of humor. They consistently squeezed more out of the birds, the environment, and the experience than I thought possible.

    AH, Papua New Guinea 2018

    Glen Valentine was excellent, seeing and hearing most of the target birds, despite a very chatty, enthusiastic group that must have been very challenging at times.

    JA & DR, Remote West Papuan Islands 2018

    Glen Valentine and Adam Walleyn were superb guides — honestly, they saw birds before they appeared! The local guides were outstanding and the logistics and accommodations were exceptional given our locations.

    SL - Indonesia: Sumatra & Java 2019

    This [was] my second tour with Glen Valentine and he is the most professional guide I have ever traveled with. It goes without saying (but shouldn't) that he knew every single species on the tour including all their calls. He found birds when I saw nothing and then managed to get all guests onto the birds. This was impressive in itself, however there were many secretive birds that made guiding much harder. We had few problems on the tour, but I don't doubt that he would have handled it without problem. He is to be highly commended for his guiding on this very tiring trip, especially considering he was not well. Paul was also a really great training guide and I thoroughly enjoyed his company.

    LH & MN - Indonesia: Western Highlights 2019

    We really enjoyed this tour, it felt like a holiday as well as a bird watching experience. Glen Valentine was an excellent guide, both in terms of bird spotting/knowledge, and also his affability and management of the group, and we will try to travel with him again.

    JK - Indonesia: Western Highlights 2019

    Glen Valentine our leader really delivered. He was ultra-patient making sure everyone was comfortable and that everyone got on the bird.

    SP - Indonesia 2019

    Glen and Paul did a fantastic job on this tour. Glen is an excellent birder, guide and a wonderful personality. This is the second trip I have done with Glen and hope to join many more in the future.

    TJ & AJ - Indonesia 2019

    Glen was again a wonderful guide who has excellent field skills and is always willing to help clients who are struggling to find the birds or who have other ‘issues’..

    JT, Vietnam

    Overall a very good tour. Excellent group and of course, Glen Valentine was brillant and our in country local guide was both a valuable addition and an entertaining and delightful companion.

    CA - South Africa 2021

    I am still absorbing the wonderful trip that I took to South Africa. It was amazing. the guides, Glen Valentine and Riaan Botha were absolutely wonderful. They not only knew their birds and mammals, but they both had wonderful people skills. from the moment they showed up until they departed, I felt safe. They took good care of us, seeing to our basic needs, preparing us for the day's birds and itinerary.

    BC, South Africa 2021

    Hi. Glen and Julian were great guides. I really enjoyed spending time with them. The trip was great, lodging was great. The wineries were amazing, as were the bird and animal sightings. I would travel with Glen or Julian again any time!

    RH & SH, South Africa 2021

    First, compliments to whoever came up with the concept of this tour. It seems unusual, even unique. This was a second choice for us because COVID restrictions postponed our tour to Cape, Kruger, and the Victoria Falls extension. The inclusion of the wine tastings seemed whimsical but it was genius. It’s as if we had 2 different vacations, back-to-back, and both memorable. We suspect that logistics for this tour were especially challenging. Glen was more than up to the task, every booking was right on time and of excellent quality. Rockjumper is a class act! We had some really memorable sightings and wildlife experiences due to Glen’s knowledge and diligence. We also appreciate that besides the birds and big mammals he gave us lots of information on habitat, environmental challenges, and especially for Suna and me, knowledge of plants. We walk around our California neighbourhood and notice all the imported African plants growing in our yards! We felt the timing was good too. It was late spring in the fynbos with many flowers still showing, and we were able to see many migrant birds down from the north.

    JH, Kenya 2021

    This was a first-rate trip. Itinerary, accommodation, people and , of course, Glen's great leading and bird-finding were all excellent.

    ID, Kenya 2021

    Great trip – close encounters with a lot of target birds and mammals, exciting habitats, comfortable accommodations and an outstanding guide. Glen must be one of the foremost authorities on African birds and I learned a great deal from him regarding ecology, behaviour, systematics and conservation.

    MW, Sri Lanka

    I am so glad that this tour was able to run amidst another Covid wave. The tour exceeded my expectations. Glen is an outstanding guide with a superb ability to find birds and show them to the participants. He is enthusiastic and personable, and we look forward to traveling with him again. The local guide was determined to find all the elusive owls possible. His perseverance is greatly appreciated. I also want to acknowledge the first-rate tour bus and crew that drove us safely over the winding roads of Sri Lanka. Finally, we very much enjoyed the food and the nice beer (thanks to Glen!).

    MW, Sri Lanka

    I had been looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka for a long time, since it was still Ceylon. This tour was all I had hoped for. We did quite well on the birds, seeing or hearing just about everything possible in the country, including all the endemics and specialty birds. The tour was well run and the guides excellent. The local guide was determined to get us everything possible and was quite willing to go the extra mile for every bird. Glen was superb, always cheerful, extremely knowledgeable, even going so far as to find us a steady supply of stout for dinner. When we got stuck in Columbo because of a blizzard back home, Glen did what he could to ensure we made it back. We really look forward to traveling with him again.