Meet Keith Valentine (Part Time Tour Leader)PREVIOUS PAGE
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.
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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
"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."
Hicksville, New York
USADuring 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!
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
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!
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.
Excellent isn’t really adequate to describe the skills and personality of Keith. Phenomenal would be closer to the truth.
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!!!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Keith Valentine is a great guide and his knowledge of the birds and their calls was just amazing.
Keith is a wonderful guide as well as a great person, and we are grateful to have made his acquaintance.
I deeply appreciate that Keith Valentine worked hard to find the endemics and warblers that I had expressed an interest in.
We are writing to say thank you for all you did for us on our recent Birds and Wine tour with you and Alvaro. We really enjoyed meeting you and spending two weeks touring with you around South Africa. The itinerary that you put together with Alvaro was great and all the arrangements worked out to give us a wonderful tour. Your knowledge of the birds and patience spent helping us find and see all the birds really helped us to enjoy our experience and increase our knowledge. We spent much of our time in the Manyoni Reserve in the vehicle with you and it was always exciting finding the wildlife and hearing your analysis of the situation. We also truly appreciated your selection of wineries to visit, the wines we tasted, and the wines you selected to take with us to Zebra Hills Lodge. Your knowledge of the wine and wineries greatly added to our pleasure on the tour. We live in the Northern California wine region and the opportunity to compare South Africa’s wine with the product we know was very enlightening for us. Both the wineries we visited and the wines we tasted convinced us that we were in an excellent wine producing region of the world.
An expedition of a lifetime well worth every penny! As a member of the Survivors of 2019 Club it was a very special tour. From the outstanding service by the expedition staff and crew on the extremely comfortable Quark Ocean Diamond to the always fabulous Rockjumper guides including Glen and Keith Valentine and Mark Beevers, it was the trip of a lifetime. The totally unexpected closeup sightings of Emperor Penguins and the tens of thousands of the six other penguin species was so much fun. Fur Seals and Elephant Seals sunbathed on the beaches as the many species of seabirds flew overhead. The trip to the Black-browed Albatross nesting sight was like something you only expect to see on tv. I felt the Quark crew and the Rockjumper guides went out of their way to make sure everyone had the perfect and safe trip.
I have been on other Rockjumper tours so I knew to expect excellent guides and was not disappointed. I was also very impressed with Quark Expeditions they were great. I would also like to add that Sarah Dell made the process prior to the cruise a comfortable experience. She responded to my questions quickly and was very patient in going over things that she had already covered months before
I want to thank Rockjumper for doing a charter trip to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia! To me sharing the trip with a ship full of birders was the best; 150 birders what could be better... The guides were accessible and helpful, ship was comfortable, food was good, the Quark expedition folks were excellent, the weather cooperated. All around it was a wonderful trip. Worth the wait! Thank you!
This long-awaited culmination of the cruise-that-first-failed satisfied everything I had hoped to experience. The Quark staff did a fantastic job (after that first sit-down meal), and the Rockjumper guides were always around and available to point out birds and things of interest. I am so happy to have this one "under-the-belt" so I now feel more free to make other plans. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know all the Rockjumper guides in a more personal and relaxed mode than we seem to have on regular tours. They all continue to amaze me with their knowledge, wide interests, and willingness to share this lore with others.
Your team was exceptional! So friendly and accommodating! So open to answer questions and share their knowledge. ALWAYS so happy! It was joy being around your team.