Daniel Danckwerts

Daniel Danckwerts grew up in southern Zambia where, from a very young age, he gained a strong appreciation for all things wild. His weekends were spent wandering through dambos and in miombo woodland, always in hot pursuit of the next lifer, or otherwise trying to persuade his family to join him on more distant trips further afield. From the age of about 9, Daniel was already an enthusiastic birdwatcher but, at the age of 10, he moved to South Africa to attend a boarding school. This move presented him with a smorgasbord of new potential lifers and opportunities for travel.

  • Daniel’s childhood passion for birds ignited a spark that led him to pursue an academic career, studying the feathered creatures he had so fallen in love with. After finishing his BSc, Honours, and Masters Degrees in Zoology at Rhodes University, Daniel completed his PhD – his greatest achievement to date – which centred around the population structure of tropical seabirds in the Indian Ocean. This research has critically influenced the conservation of several threatened species and has spring-boarded many future research projects.

    As one of his greatest pleasures in life is sharing his passion and knowledge of birds with anyone who is willing to listen, it seemed almost natural that Daniel has progressed into bird guiding.

    What got you into birding?

    Family excursions during my school holidays were always centred around fishing on Lake Kariba or along the Zambezi River. When it became apparent that I lacked any interest whatsoever in the sport, I was given my first field guide as a form of distraction to allow for more peaceful fishing trips. At the time, my parents were completely oblivious to the monster that they had just created. It was in that moment that “Dan the Bird Man” was born and, much to my parents’ dismay, family holidays soon became centred around birding with some time spent fishing if and when time allowed.

    What attracted you to a career in tourism?

    The area in which I grew up is famed for Zambia’s only true endemic bird – the Chaplin’s Barbet. Thus, while at home in-between school terms, I regularly led visiting groups in search of this localised treat! Then, sometime during my university career, I founded Eastern Cape Pelagic Seabirding Tours, where I personally organised and led small group excursions out to sea in search of the ‘ocean giants’. I have found these experiences incredibly rewarding, and I’m truly excited at the prospect of building a career around that which I love the most.

    Do you have any other hobbies?

    Before I joined the team, I was fortunate enough to travel extensively for both pleasure and study. These opportunities fed a passion for wildlife and landscape photography. I believe this is yet another way in which I can share my experiences with others.

    Are you a lister?

    To me, listing and birding are synonymous with one another. For almost as long as I can remember, I have kept lists for the family farm in Zambia, for each province in South Africa, and for the various countries I have been fortunate enough to visit.  

    What are your strengths as a tour leader?

    Being the youngest member of the Rockjumper team, I am incredibly enthusiastic and energetic. I take great pleasure in sharing my knowledge of birds with others and also prize myself in my ability to relate to people of all ages. I am also extremely persistent when it comes to birding and will not easily give up on a target or until every person in the group has attained satisfactory views. I believe these, and other, traits are invaluable when it comes to guiding.

  • MW, Sao Tome 2023

    The islands are so unique and very, very beautiful. They can also be very, very wet AND muddy. I make the following comments for future participants. For the night camping, I was very glad that I had brought flannel pajamas and a polar fleece sleeping sack that were protected in a waterproof bag, and I was quite comfortable for the night. However, my waterproofed boots were thoroughly soaked inside from the rain coming in from my waterlogged trousers and socks. I think rain trousers and ankle-tight rubber boots would have worked. Otherwise, we had a great time. The birds were fantastic, as were the guides. Dan is super. He is great with the birds and the participants. He even gave away his one pair of dry trousers to a participant that had shredded his trousers on the hike up Monte Carmo. I highly recommend this tour to the more hardy birders given that the hikes are quite slippery and muddy. Also, I appreciate the Rockjumper guides keeping eBird lists to share with the group. I know that task can take some real extra effort.

    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.

    RB, Zambia 2018

    Daniel Danckwerts is a fine young guide, excellent and devoted birder, and can get people onto the specials - he is very personable, always optimistic and constantly professional, working to get the most possible out of the trip.

    DE & NE, Zambia 2018

    Daniel Danckwerts was a delight; we very much enjoyed being with him. His bird skills are excellent and he does a good job getting people "on the bird." He was consistently pleasant, polite and upbeat. A highlight of the trip was the visit to his family's farm and meeting his family.

    AC & MJ, South Africa 2019

    Thanks to Rynart Bezuidenhout and Daniel Danckwerts for an unforgettable tour. Their effort to give us the very best experience was sublime. Not only was our ambition to see the wanted birds, animals and nature much more than fulfilled – our competent, friendly and openminded guides also managed to give a perspective into the life and culture in South Africa of today. This we appreciate a lot.

    TT - South Africa Rallid Quest 2019

    There are not enough superlatives to describe Daniel Danckwerts! He is a superstar of a guide and I am glad I had the opportunity to tour with him, because he will be in great demand when the word gets out how amazing this tour was! Although he is one of your junior guides, he conducts himself with poise and confidence in excess of his years. His passion for birding, culture and history is unsurpassed and his laugh is absolutely infectious.  He knew all the hotspots for the notoriously difficult species on this tour and even when the birds weren't cooperating, he devised innovative means to ensure the group would have the best opportunity to see these very, very elusive birds. We learned a few lessons on this inaugural tour about patience and stamina.... it is certainly not for the faint-hearted because it requires a lot of hard work but the rewards certainly exceeded the effort.  Where else do you have the opportunity to see mythic flufftails and crakes all in one place? I will absolutely travel with Daniel again!

    CS - South Africa 2019

    I had an excellent birding adventure. Daniel Danckwerts was superb at finding and identifying the myriad of species. He interfaces with the group exceptionally well, from the beginner birder to the pros on the tour. I would love to go on another birding tour with Dan, as he was exceptionally skilled at his craft. Other environmental/birding issues would pop up for conversation and he was skilled in his answers and knowledge. His passion for birding was very apparent, as well as his thoughtfulness in making sure everyone was on the bird and helping with our travel experience.

    JH - Uganda 2019

    Daniel Danckwerts' fantastic field skills and knowledge, combined with his sense of humour and enthusiasm for showing as many birds as possible to all participants make him an ideal birding guide.

    CH - Uganda 2019

    Our Rockjumper guide, Daniel Danckwerts, was super. He was focused on getting us onto the birds especially but was personable and handled logistics and details to make our experience the best it could be. He was enthusiastic, kind, and engaging.

    HR & LR - Uganda 2019

    Daniel Danckwerts was an excellent guide, incredibly keen and always friendly, positive and helpful. His knowledge of birds and their lifestyles was fantastic.

    AF - Uganda 2019

    Daniel Danckwerts is an excellent guide, very skilled at finding and identifying birds, very energetic, and clearly dedicated to helping all the clients see the birds. He is a good conversationalist, knowledgeable on many subjects and very enjoyable to bird with. I would happily go on future tours with him.

    AM - Uganda 2019

    Firstly, I want to express my amazement at the skills and knowledge of your guides, including Daniel Danckwerts. I cannot imagine how they become so proficient in the birds of several different countries! Daniel also seemed to have good organisational skills. Daniel was also respectful and professional with the group, and we all liked him.

    SM - NBZ 2019

    Daniel is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, always with a cheerful smile. The vehicle was as comfortable as possible for group travel and his thoughtfulness about bringing a little stepstool made it all the more better for us short people! He handled glitches efficiently and still cheerfully

    SR, South Africa 2019

    This tour was fantastic-it exceeded all expectations in every aspect. The country is beautiful and it was shown to us in a way I will never forget - the plants, birds, mammals landscapes, insects and people. One of the most rounded lifetime experiences I have had. And now for the guide. Daniel was one of the best (if not the best) guide I’ve ever had. He has incredible birding skills-we missed nothing! His natural science knowledge is vast, especially for his age-it shows his love of nature and willingness to share it. He was very good with us as a group-able to joke around with everyone and meet individual needs. He adapted to all situations smoothly and with great confidence. His driving skills were superb-in the 13 000 km we traveled, not once did I think he made a dangerous or even slightly aggressive move. His choice of lodges and restaurants was great-we didn't lose any weight on the trip! I would travel with him anytime and will seek out destinations where I know he is the guide. Thanks Rockjumper for a wonderful trip.

    LW, South Africa 2019

    "Daniel was a fantastic guide. Great at handling everything and anything. Superb with all and great at talking to everyone - just a young man beyond his years. And his spotting and guiding skills were amazing. Will book another trio when he is guiding as soon as possible. "

    BW, Sri Lanka 2019

    Another amazing trip with Rockjumper. The quality of not only the Rockjumper guides but the local guides as well was first class. Travelling with Rockjumper means you basically don’t have to worry about anything other than getting the birds in the binoculars, the guides take care of the rest which results in a really relaxing and enjoyable bird watching trip.

    AK, Sri Lanka 2019

    My trip to Sri Lanka was a wonderful experience, and exceeded my expectations. The in-country logistics were smoothly handled and the accommodation and transport were very comfortable. David & Daniel handled the guiding expertly and with great passion and enthusiasm. They were very knowledgeable on the birds and other wildlife of Sri Lanka, and were always willing to share their knowledge with the group.

    JH, Sri Lanka 2019

    This was a really successful tour, IMO. We got all the targets with time to spare and weren't totally spent by the end of it. Well done. All of the guides - David & Daniel were top notch. I'd bird with any of them again in a heartbeat.

    DS & JS, Bhutan 2020

    "Thank you, Rockjumper, for the great birding adventure in Bhutan. And, thank you for providing such an extremely competent guide in Daniel. He was amazing! It was rather incredible, his knowledge of the birds, hearing, seeing and identifying them with lightning speed. We felt lucky to have him as our leader. And, add to that his really delightful and positive spirit over all 14 days. He was awesome! The ""on-the-ground"" Bhutanese guides were fantastic as well. They were so helpful, and joyful to spend our days with. While we waited for birds, they enlightened us culturally, every day. We left Bhutan knowing so much more about where we had visited. Wonderful. We will remember them with much fondness. The driver was also terrific; some of the roads were rather frightening, and he was cautious and skilled and did an excellent job for all of us. A really fabulous adventure for us! Please give our best to Daniel; we hope to travel with him again one of these days."

    MW, South Africa 2021

    "We all immensely enjoyed this Tailor-made tour. Dan is an excellent guide: great ears, great eyes, persistent, patient, cheerful, and knowledgeable about all nature. He really went all out for us, and he succeeded in finding very elusive and range-restricted species. We hope to travel with him in the future. Other aspects of the trip: lodging, transportation, etc. were excellent too. We appreciate the behind-the-scenes efforts by Heinz and the rest of the Rockjumper team."

    MW, South Africa 2021

    This was our first tailor-made tour. It won't be our last. We had a great time. Dan was an excellent guide, working all the angles to get us our target birds while still covering the area specialties, affording us great looks at birds for which we had only fleeting views on our previous South Africa tour with Rockjumper (which was also great!). Dan was very persistent, which paid off in seeing a good number of very difficult specialty birds that many avid South African birders have not seen. We even had two lifer flufftails in a single day, thanks in part to Doug McCulloch, who took the morning off from his new job to help out with the Red-breasted Flufftail. Thanks, Doug! We could have used one more day in the Joburg area, as there were a few birds that were not accessible within the time frame of the tour. This always happens, though, and I am glad we went from a 6-day to a 10-day tour. This is the reason for the overall rating of 9 rather than 10. Overall, the three of us had a great time on the tour. Thanks for putting it together for us!

    EL, South Africa 2022

    Daniel Danckwerts was excellent—great hearing and eyesight and was excellent at pointing out exactly where the skulky bird was lurking. He was able to find the group many birds that various members of the group had missed on previous trips to South Africa. And more importantly, he was a store of information about the birds, animals and Kruger. Teamed up with Daniel was our most excellent Kruger driver-guide Dirk who knew where everything was and could find it. We navigated this very complicated trip (flight to Skukuza, travel in south Kruger, flight to Cape Town, testing for covid, boarding the MSC Orchestra and off on our cruise around the Cape of Good Hope only with Daniel’s help and guidance. I am hoping to return to Kruger (for the third time) to bird with Daniel and Dirk on the Kruger Challenge. More than the birds, the trip was fun.

    AM - South Africa 2022

    Dan was excellent and really knowledgeable.

    NG, Antarctica 2022

    This trip with the guides, Adam and Daniel goes to my top three best trips I have ever taken. The leaders were oh so wonderful, the ship and staff were excellent, and the travel down and back while grueling , occurred without a hitch. As for all the detailed pretrip arrangements, hats off to Sarah who was beyond the pale excellent” in her support and help in “ getting it all done” . Can’t thank everyone enough for all the help, kindness and over riding expertise in making this a once in a life time trip for me!

    RC, Antarctica 2022

    Adam and Daniel made this trip extra enjoyable. The quality and diligence of their attention to all of the Rockjumper clients was simply phenomenal. I cannot use enough superlatives to describe the entire Rockjumper Team. The Ocean Victory seemed to be a perfect fit, with excellent staff and a sometimes-wearying dedication to safety.

    MR, Antarctica 2022

    we're back and full of great memories and bird (creature) sightings. Dan and Adam were a great team and did a marvelous job. Ann, John and I are so grateful for all of your help preparing us for the trip, getting us straight on all things Antarctica. We were so pleased with our suite, it turned out so well and comfortable. It could not have been better. I think we got the best deal on board. So many thanks.

    RC, Antarctica 2022

    We had the most incredible trip, with perfect attention to every possible detail, and to have the added trip to the Penguin Colony on the Falklands was a cherry on the top. The guides were both attentive, and engaging at all levels with every member of the group, as well as helpful to non Rockjumper guests, which made a great impression on them too. Thank you for an overwhelmingly awesome tour.

    SS, Antarctica 2022

    A very successful and amazing trip! Many thanks to Daniel and Adam for all of the hours they spent on deck identifying birds (many of them requiring a photo to be sure)! The Ocean Victory is a stable and extremely comfortable vessel - great staff and good food. I truly appreciate that Rockjumper arranged the special trip for the N. Rockhopper Penguin. It was truly a trip of a lifetime!

    JW, Antarctica 2022

    This tour was extraordinary, very well organized despite vagaries of the weather at times. The ship crew were very well trained and experienced helping people get on and off the zodiacs. Very smooth operation. The guides Adam and Dan were phenomenal and very helpful in locating fast moving seabirds from a heaving deck! Niki was quietly working behind the scenes making sure everyone was enjoying the cruise.

    JB, Seychelles, Mauritius & Reunion 2022

    I feel so fortunate to have done these islands with Dan Danckwerts who has spent so much time doing research in this part of the world. I love his positive attitude, attention he gives to all clients, and efficiency with all aspects of the trip. We are so pleased to have gotten all of our targets and those special island sub-species. I look forward to traveling with Dan again!

    JB, Comoros 2022

    I feel so fortunate to have done these islands with Dan Danckwerts who has spent so much time doing research in this part of the world. I love his positive attitude, attention he gives to all clients, and efficiency with all aspects of the trip. We are so pleased to have gotten all of our targets and those special island sub-species. I look forward to traveling with Dan again!

    EA, Seychelles, Mauritius & Reunion 2022

    It was a great trip, especially in the islands, with the very best guides possible.