striated caracara, king penguin, chinstrap penguin, gentoo penguin, magellanic oystercatcher
Photos by Keith Valentine: Striated Caracara, King Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, Magellanic Oystercatcher


What a year it has turned out to be! After the world’s troubling times with COVID during 2020 and 2021 it was wonderful to have a year filled with travel and to see so many avid Rockjumper supporters back on tour having the best time. We could never have dreamed of the turnaround that 2022 has brought and it is all possible thanks to our dedicated team, who dug deep during trying times, and the 1000’s of people who continue to choose Rockjumper for their global birding adventures. Thank you for your unwavering support.

This year we have been fortunate to operate an incredible 244 tours across the globe to such far flung places as Indonesia’s Remote West Papuan Islands (Kofaiu, Obi, Seram and more…), Bolivia, Turkey, Uganda, Morocco, Finland, Ghana, Madagascar, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Ethiopia, Argentina, Spain, Panama, Antarctica, and so many more.

For our tour leaders 2022 has been extremely well received. To say that the past 2 years have been difficult would be a severe understatement and they have all been revelling in the experiences that they have once again had the privilege to share with our valued guests.

This year over 2,000 people have participated on Rockjumper tours which once again exceeded any of our wildest dreams. It has been such a joy to share these adventures with all our travellers and to also see how happy the various local guides, hotel staff, restaurants, drivers etc. have been to see us return to their respective countries.


Finally, the Great White Continent of Antarctica beckoned! For most of us Antarctica is a once in a lifetime dream cruise but for many of this year’s guests the waiting for Antarctica must have seemed endless. From the much-publicized supplier failure issues in 2019 to Covid impacted travel in 2020 and 2021. For some the planning for the trip dated back to 2017!

While gathering at our pre-tour hotel the energy was electric and excitement levels sky high. This year was extremely unique given we had one charter and a massive block booking of 40 odd guests on another voyage. To sum it up both trips were extremely successful and incredibly Emperor Penguin, the holy grail of Antarctic birds, was seen extremely well on both departures! We all enjoyed fabulous birding with specials such as the endemic Cobb’s Wren, Striated Caracara (aka Johnny Rook), Blackish Cinclodes, White-bridled Finch, Falklands Steamer Duck, Kelp Goose, Rufous-chested Plover, and Southern Rockhopper Penguin colonies on the Falkland Islands. The smaller of our groups even managed to connect with a vagrant Northern Rockhopper Penguin! South Georgia was spectacular, and the colonies were an unforgettable experience.

king penguins and chicks
King Penguins by Keith Valentine
gentoo penguin
Gentoo Penguin by Keith Valentine

Thankfully the weather was on all our sides as both cruises managed to make all the key landings at St Andrew’s Bay, Gold Harbour and Salisbury Plain. South Georgia has also undergone a massive mouse eradication project and the fruits of its success are plain to see with multiple sightings of South Georgia Pipit and Yellow-billed (South Georgia) Pintail. The colonies of King Penguins were totally remarkable, and we also enjoyed Gentoo and Macaroni Penguins while close encounters with albatross such as Light-mantled and Black-browed were very special as well.

Finally the continent of Antarctica delivered experiences in spades, and we got to enjoy sites like Paulet Island where Adelie Penguin’s breed in magnificent numbers, Cuverville Island home to thousands of Gentoo Penguin, Neko Harbour, Antarctic Sound, George’s Point, Wilhelmina Bay, which produced 3 Emperor Penguin for our smaller group of guests, the Weddell Sea near Snow Island which yielded no less than 26 Emperor Penguin and Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands which is home to fantastic numbers of Chinstrap Penguin. We also enjoyed the tricky to find Antarctic Petrel, South Polar Skua and Antarctic Shag.

Pelagic birding was also thrilling and provided multiple views of the great albatrosses – Wandering, Southern Royal and Northern Royal. Other highlights on sea days included Grey-headed Albatross, close to 100 Atlantic Petrel (although exact numbers might be higher as its difficult to ascertain if some birds are returning behind the boat for multiple views), Kerguelen, Blue and Snow Petrels, brief White-headed, Soft-plumaged and Grey Petrels, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Antarctic, Slender-billed and Fairy Prions and a suite of Diving Petrels that included Common, South Georgia and Magellanic.

Kelp Goose (female) by Keith Valentine
southern elephant seal and king penguins
Southern Elephant Seal and King Penguins by Holly Faithfull
white-bridled finch
White-bridled Finch by Keith Valentine

Antarctica provides a highly rewarding, intimate wildlife experience with close penguin encounters at their breeding islands, fantastic pelagic birding, magnificent scenery, and rich history.

See below for more details on our next adventure to the Great White Continent in Nov 2023. We hope to see you on board.

rockjumper cruise 2023
king penguin colony
King Penguin colony by Keith Valentine


This year has seen many of our Tour Leaders back in the field full time, below are a selection first day highlights from a handful of our most sought after destinations

Papua New Guinea -
Birding In Paradise

An intrepid group of birders gathered at the Raintree Lodge in Port Moresby for the adventure of a lifetime. Papua New Guinea is rightfully at the top of the list for many birders – and for good reason!

You cannot escape visuals of birds-of-paradise as soon as you first fly into Port Moresby – they are on beer cans, t-shirts, dresses, advertisements and everything else you can think of – this is a country that loves their birds, and birds have been an integral part of the lives of those living on the island ever since it was colonized by humans, some 50’000+ years ago.

Many incredible species find a home in PNG, and seven families of birds are found nowhere else on Earth. On this 18-day adventure we were successful in finding a whopping 19 species of birds-of-paradise, members of all seven endemic bird families, three new species for Rockjumper and one new species for PNG!

Read the full trip report by Lev Frid here

Sclater's Crowned Pigeon by Lev Frid
Sclater's Crowned Pigeon by Lev Frid
Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise by Lev Frid
Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise by Lev Frid
Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise by Lev Frid
Raggiana Bird-of-Paradise by Lev Frid
Reticulated Giraffe by Julian Parsons
Kenya & Tanzania - Birds & Big Game

Accompanied by our experienced driver/guide Peter, calmly navigating the chaotic morning traffic around the city of Nairobi, we escaped the city and headed for two nights at the historic Castle Forest Lodge, nestled in the pristine montane forests that cover the slopes of the impressive Mt Kenya. En route we had two stops in the vicinity of the town of Thika to explore a tiny, but species-rich roadside wetland before combing the thickets for the range restricted and endemic Hinde’s Babbler, which we were lucky to eventually sneak glimpses of. We also had Cape Robin-chat; Red-faced Cisticola; Grey-capped Warbler; Fan-tailed Grassbird; Grey-headed Kingfisher; Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, White-headed Barbet and the majestic African Fish Eagle.

Read the full trip report by Julian Parsons here

Dominican Republic - Endemics of Hispaniola

Our Hispaniolan adventure began at the Hotel Conde de Peñalba in the heart of the historic colonial zone of Santo Domingo (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), our flower-laden balconies overlooking a bustling plaza filled with street musicians and outdoor diners. The following morning provided us with a productive introduction to local avifauna. On a visit to Santo Domingo’s lush botanical gardens, we got our first good looks at endemics like the ubiquitous Palmchat, Black-crowned Palm Tanager, Hispaniolan Parakeet and Woodpecker, as well as our only looks at Least Grebe and the endangered West Indian Whistling-Duck. After a long drive north, we arrived to our lodging for the night, the quirkily constructed Altos de Caño Hondo, in a torrential downpour, greeted by the raucous calls of a pair of White-necked Crows. Once the rain subsided, we ventured gingerly into the parking area to survey our surroundings and were delighted to find our main target for this location, the critically endangered Ridgway’s Hawk, sitting atop a nearby tree drying its feathers!

Read the full trip report by Bobby Wilcox here

bay-breasted cuckoo
Bay-breasted Cuckoo by Bobby Wilcox
Puerto Rico - Forgotten Greater Antilles

With some of us arriving late the first evening from Jamaica, our tour really got started as a full group at breakfast the following morning at our hotel in San Juan as introductions were made and plans were hatched for our first day in the Caribbean gem of Puerto Rico. Today had us driving in circles around the coastal towns of Manati and Barceloneta, hitting different forest patches and ag ponds and seemingly innumerable trips past the large outlet mall, which became a running joke for the remainder of the trip. At the mountain bike trails in the morning we got excellent looks at Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, a Puerto Rican Woodpecker entering its cavity with food and a female Antillean Mango sitting on her nest. At the Bosque Cambalache State Forest, we enjoyed great looks at Puerto Rican Tody and a random pond added the spectacular White-cheeked Pintail and many shorebirds and waders to our quickly growing list. After some excellent local cuisine for dinner, we returned to Bosque Cambalache after dark and were treated to satisfying looks at the endemic Puerto Rican Owl.

Read the full trip report by Bobby Wilcox here

puerto rican woodpecker
Puerto Rican Woodpecker by Bobby Wilcox
Jamaica - Island Endemics

Our whirlwind trip to the majestic, emerald isle of Jamaica began at the well-situated Green Castle Lodge. After a lovely introductory dinner featuring several Red Stripes and a liberal trade in tall tales from voyages past, we hit the sack in preparation for our first day in the field. On our first day we explored the vast grounds of Green Castle Lodge, where we strolled leisurely along well-maintained trails, racking up endemics left and right. Stunning looks at Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and Jamaican Tody were major highlights of the morning while three of four species of hummingbird were viewed from the pool in the nearby flowering bushes in the afternoon. A late afternoon walk was equally productive, with more endemics like Rufous-tailed Flycatcher and Jamaican Elaenia, as well as mind-blowing and memorable encounters with Northern Potoo and Jamaican Owl on day roosts. A fitting end to an endemic-filled first day!

Read the full trip report by Bobby Wilcox here

black-billed streamertail
Black-billed Streamertail by Dubi Shapiro
double-eyed fig parrot
Double-eyed Fig Parrot by Glen Valentine
Australia - East Coast

Starting in Cairns, we spent the day exploring several wonderful sites right around the city that produced close to a hundred species during the course of the day. First up was the grasslands and edge habitat at Smithfield where nesting Crimson Finch, flocks of Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, the brilliant Australasian Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater and Tawny Grassbird were highlights among many other species. Thereafter, we stopped in at the Cattana Wetlands for a very rewarding midmorning session around the ponds and secondary forest that now covers much of this prolific and recently rehabilitated area. Comb-crested Jacana, Australasian Darter and Green Pygmy Geese occupied the vegetated ponds, while Black-faced and Spectacled Monarchs, Yellow and Brown Honeyeaters, Little Bronze Cuckoo, Large-billed Gerygone, Green (Yellow) Oriole, the bold and quirky Australasian Brushturkey and Orange-footed Scrubfowl all showed well in the adjacent wooded areas. Our third site for the morning was the Cairns Botanical Gardens that yielded a vocal Common Cicadabird, several Bush Stone-curlews, White throated Honeyeater, the ever-present, crowd pleasing Laughing Kookaburra, Helmeted Friarbird and a stunning pair of Double-eyed Fig Parrots at very close range. 

Read the full trip report by Glen Valentine here

Australia - Southwest Extension

Our South-western Australia pre-tour extension kicked off in the region’s capital, Perth where our eager group met up for breakfast before departing south to the endemics-rich, coastal region of Cheyne Beach. Despite being mostly a travel day, we managed to fit in several birding stops along the route and ended up having a superb day with around 70 species recorded that included several of the region’s very special endemics. Our first stop was soon after leaving Perth and here, in suburban gardens we managed to obtain superb views of a flock of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo, as well as Western Rosella, the nomadic Western Wattlebird and our first of many New Holland Honeyeater. Thereafter, we added Gilbert’s Honeyeater and Western Spinebill at a nearby rest-stop, while the Beaufort River gave us Western Thornbill, Weebill, Western Gerygone and the aptly named Restless Flycatcher. Excellent spotting upfront produced a bonus species in the form of the rare and usually elusive Square-tailed Kite. Yellowrumped Thornbills and Red Wattlebirds entertained us at lunch and a stop-in at Rocky Gully yielded the soughtafter Western Corella. Large numbers of Australian Ringneck, Western Rosella, Red-capped Parrot, Crested Pigeon and Common Bronzewing were then flushed off the road-edge before a quick shopping stop at Albany. The numerous ponds just off the sides of the road supported good numbers of Maned Duck, Australian Shelduck and several Straw-necked Ibis, while Western Grey Kangaroos seemed quite at home around our cosy cabins at the tranquil Cheyne Beach, our fabulous base for the next 3 nights.

Read the full trip report by Glen Valentine here

western spinebill
Western Spinebill by Glen Valentine
Pink Robin by Glen Valentine
Australia - Tasmania Extension

Tasmania is rugged, remote, wild, beautiful, picturesque and teaming with wildlife and endemic birds! It’s simply spectacular! We arrived in Launceston after a short flight from Melbourne and met our lively, bubbly and superbly knowledgeable local guide and driver, Cat at the airport before embarking on the drive through to the awe-inspiring Mountain Valley area close to the magnificent Cradle Mountain in north-central Tasmania. It was mostly a travel afternoon, but we still managed to pick up several noteworthy birds along the way that included the endemic subspecies of Grey Currawong (a potential future split as Clinking Currawong) and Tassie endemics such as Black Currawong and Tasmanian Nativehen before arriving at our quaint and secluded cottages nestled within the Leven Valley. A lucky few managed to see a Tasmanian Devil in the early hours of the morning and we were all treated to the most sensational day’s birding and mammal viewing in the Leven Valley and within the Cradle Mountain National Park.

Read the full trip report by Glen Valentine here


Kenya - Mega

Our Kenya Mega birding tour takes in twenty-six days of non-stop birding as we thoroughly explore this famous bird and wildlife country. Not only is this safari specifically planned to obtain a huge list of mouth-watering birds and animals, but also Kenya’s most sought-after endemics and rarities. Our 2007 tour smashed all records with an amazing 817 birds, plus an incredible diversity of large mammals and other wildlife. In fact, on our five Mega tours thus far, we have recorded an unbelievable 912 species (over 80% of Kenya’s possible birds!) and 99 mammal species (an average of 77 per tour!). Our recently updated itinerary has been tweaked to cover new sites and recent taxonomical splits – putting our current record in jeopardy. 

elgon francolin
Elgon Francolin by David Hoddinott
sao tome scops owl
Sao Tome Scops Owl by David Hoddinott
São Tomé & Príncipe

These islands have been historically difficult to reach but new flight routes out of Ghana have made them very accessible. Tucked away in the Gulf of Guinea, 180 miles off the African coastline, São Tomé & Príncipe are dramatically scenic islands host to no less than 28 endemic birds! Showstoppers include the likes of São Tomé (Dwarf Olive) Ibis, Giant Sunbird, Giant Weaver, the enigmatic São Tomé Fiscal, once thought extinct São Tomé Grosbeak, Dohrn’s Thrush-Babbler, São Tomé Shorttail, Timneh Parrot (recently split from Grey Parrot), and 2 species of strange speirops. Like Kenya Mega above this is not a new tour for Rockjumper but we have made some changes to our itinerary to include some of the now accessible Principe endemics including the newly described Principe Scops Owl. These are but a few of the incredible highlights we look forward to sharing with you in this most exciting and forgotten corner of Africa!

Papua New Guinea - Adelbert Range & Huon Peninsula 

Our new tour to the Adelbert Range and Huon Peninsula takes in some of the remotest birding available, in an already distant part of the world. First, we’ll head to the Adelbert Range to search out one of Papua New Guinea’s most exquisite species, the Fire-maned Bowerbird; hopefully followed shortly afterwards by one of its most obscure, the Obscure Berrypecker! We’ll then drive down the coast to Madang to find the range restricted Edward’s Fig Parrot before winging our way from Lae to the resplendent, cool montane forests of the Huon Peninsula.

Host to several rarely seen, endemic Bird-of-paradise species including Huon Astrapia, Wahnes’s Parotia and the regal Emperor Bird-of-paradise. Throw in the attractive and localised Spangled Honeyeater, Huon Bowerbird, Mottled Berryhunter (new monotypic family), Tit and Fan-tailed Berrypecker (two different families endemic to New Guinea!), and this tour is sure to satisfy listers of rare and remote species. 

huon astrapia
Huon Astrapia by Lev Frid
crimson fruitcrow
Crimson Fruitcrow by Dubi Shapiro
Brazil - Madeira & Tapajós endemics of the Rio Aripuanã 

Nowhere inspires more awe and wonder at the raw beauty of remote nature like the Amazon Basin of South America. Pioneered by Major Candido Rondon de Silva, explorations in this region of Brazil became the stuff of legend, as Rondon enabled the first telegraph line and subsequently the first road, to cross the Brazilian Amazon. He discovered numerous indigenous groups, named several major rivers, and is hailed by many Brazilians as one of the true heroes of Brazil’s native people and lands. 

This area of Brazil became most famous with the publication of a biographical work on Theodore Roosevelt’s ill-fated expedition on the Rio de Duvida (River of Doubt). None other than Rondon himself escorted and outfitted the expedition in 1914, that nearly cost the ex-president his life. The mishaps of Roosevelt’s adventure only added to the mystique and draw of the area, which continues to be one of the least-accessible, most remote areas in the world.  

We’ll enjoy fine birding around Porto Velho and Humaita on the West Bank of the Madeira River, before spending a week on the shores of the Rio Aripuanã. There are far too many possible highlights to list here, but the near mythical Rondonia Bushbird is sure to be high on everyone’s target list.  

Relaxed Tours 

Our newly launched suite of ‘Relaxed’ tours have been designed to focus more on enjoying a bird orientated tour, rather than chasing after rare species hidden deep in forests. Where possible; we have reduced or removed long drives, single night stays and basic, or rustic accommodation. We have also sought to reduce or remove difficult hikes, narrow muddy trails and otherwise oppressive environmental conditions. Early starts and night birding are mostly optional, and we will not spend much time if nay searching for overly difficult or skulking species. We have opened up 6 tours to destinations that best encapsulate ‘kick back and relax birding’, with more options to follow; 

wine-throated hummingbird
Wine-throated Hummingbird by Dušan Brinkhuizen
dune lark
Dune Lark by Glen Valentine
resplendent quetzal
Resplendent Quetzal by Dušan Brinkhuizen
vulturine guineafowl
Vulturine Guineafowl by Forrest Rowland 
Costa Rica
Snowcap by Dušan Brinkhuizen
black crowned crane
Black Crowned Crane by Clayton Burne


Keith Valentine

As many of you know I spend far more time behind my laptop these days than out in the field but it’s always a privilege and a joy to be able to get out and explore our wonderful world, travel with like-minded people, and share the fun and excitement as we experience beautiful birds, interesting cultures, delicious food etc.

Next year I am very excited to be returning to Kenya for just shy of 2 weeks in February on a tailormade tour where Cheetah and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse are prime targets. Later in the year I venture out on two fabulous cruises through Indonesia. The first is the Banda Sea Cruise which I will be doing with my brother Glen. Its always special travelling with him and most of the group who have signed up for the tour are all very special friends of ours who we have shared many a birding adventure with over the years. This will be a super unique trip exploring a variety of remote islands for a host of little-known species and is the first edition that Rockjumper will be doing.

Finally, Adam Riley and I will be jumping aboard a different dive boat (liveaboard) as we explore the Remote West Papuan Islands of Kofiau, Obi, Seram, Boano, Buru and more. This will also be a tailormade tour and the group is one that Adam has been travelling with for over 20 years! Our primary focus will be on the many very special and endemic birds that call these islands home from Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise to Salmon-crested Cockatoo and Carunculated Fruit Dove!

David Hoddinott

David Hoddinott

I am very much looking forward to exploring the remote island of Socotra in January. The fauna and flora is fascinating with a good selection of endemic birds. We’re spending a full week on this seldom visited island, which promises to be another exciting adventure. If fortunate I might even see a few African lifers!! Other trips I am eagerly awaiting are the Kenya Mega tour and a little later in the year Egypt and Morocco.

Paul Varney

2023 I am really looking forward to touring in Papua New Guinea in August especially. Pristine forest, birds-of-paradise, jewel-babblers, fairywrens, honey-eaters and fruit doves as well as a whole host of other species await. Who would not be excited by the prospect of Ribbon-tailed Astrapia coming down to a feeding station…. it should be amazing AND there are still some spaces available so come join us! 😊 

birding tour operator

Glen Valentine

Every one of my 2023 tours are incredible in every respect and I’m greatly looking forward to every single one of them. However, I’m most looking forward to my March/April tour of the Philippines and August/September’s extremely exotic cruise of the Banda Sea in south-eastern Indonesia. // The Philippines supports one of the highest numbers of endemic species of any regions on Earth and sadly, many of them are critically endangered. However, that means a large selection of rare and highly sought-after species and I always get a huge kick out of finding and showing my guests these very special and elusive species that may not be around in years to come, a few of which could even be new for me! // The Banda Sea Islands of Tanahjampea, Kalaotoa, Pantar, Alor, Wetar, Leti, Damar, Babar, Tanimbar and Kai are some of the most exotic and least visited or birded on the planet but literally teem with endemics and this tour is guaranteed to be an endemics-feast like no other! I can’t wait to share these mega avian Indonesian treasures that these islands support, most of which have been seen by very few birders, with my guests! To boot, I’ll be co-leading this trip with one of my favourite people, my brother Keith! 

Mark Beevers

The inaugural Eastern Anatolia (Eastern Turkey) tour was thoroughly enjoyable with excellent food, fantastic alpine scenery, some really nice accommodation and some great birds not least Caucasian Grouse, Caspian Snowcock, Radde’s Accentor and Grey-necked Bunting. I’m down to guide that tour again next year and boy am I looking forward to that one again. As to the future well looks like we’ve finally got a Socotra trip off the ground as a Tailor-made tour! I should pick up a few lifers and a total of 15-20 Africa ticks, which if Adam doesn’t go, he’s muted he may, will put me ahead of him for Africa (as it stands at the moment on Surfbirds. (DON’T TELL HIM!!!), though it would be great if he did join us.  

birding tour operator

Dušan Brinkhuizen

The Brazil North Eastern Mega tour is one I’m really looking forward to. We will be visiting many unique habitat types and this tour is literally packed with exciting endemics. Possible gems include Araripe Manakin, Seven-colored Tanager, Banded Cotinga, Lear’s Macaw and even the recently rediscovered Blue-eyed Ground Dove! There are few tours that can offer over 100 endemics in a matter of 24 days, but this tour will do just that. 

Stephan Lorenz

I am already looking forward to an exciting and busy tour season in 2023 with perennial favorites like the Colorado Grouse Chase and wide-ranging Alaska tours on the schedule. I am especially looking forward to returning to the mega-diverse country of Brazil where the southeastern Mega Tour promises a slew of rare endemics in some of the finest tropical habitats in the world, the Atlantic rainforest. 

birding tour operator
birding tour operator

Nigel Redman

Looking ahead to 2023, I shall be returning to Kenya for our Kenya Relaxed tour in March, and in May/June I hope to be heading east to Indonesia where I shall be leading tours to both Western and Eastern Indonesia – and seeing a veritable feast of endemics in the process. In October, I switch continents to visit the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros, followed by a return to Madagascar. But the tour I am perhaps most looking forward to is Mongolia in August. This trip is not focused primarily on birds at all, but is in search of the iconic Snow Leopard, and our chances are good. There are also plenty of other good mammals too, and some very special birds. There are still a few places left, but not many!


New to The Nest

Brittany James

Brittany was born in Durban, her love for wildlife and travel were discovered at a young age having spent school holidays game viewing, fishing and camping in various wilderness areas. After matriculating she studied Hospitality Management in Port Alfred where she also completed Advanced Wine Studies. Brittany is now based in Kwa-Zulu Natal and has a passionate and organized approach towards her role of SA Operations Consultant. In her free time Brittany can be found outdoors appreciating nature, or in the kitchen cooking up a storm.

“We are nearing the end of 2022 now, and February 2023 will mark one year with Rockjumper for me. A year is not a long time at all, but it often feels like I have been with Rockjumper for an even shorter time as 2022 has just flown by! I have learnt plenty in this short space of time, and even become something of an amateur birder. I’ve helped out a little in a few different departments, which gave me a chance get to know more about Rockjumper’s operations and some of the people who make it all happen. The management team has been encouraging, and patient in answering my endless questions. With such an awesome team, I have no doubt that Rockjumper will take 2023 by storm!”

Karina Villalba

Karina Villabla

Based in Ecuador, Karina has been part of the Rockjumper family for almost 10 years. Her experience in various roles made her the perfect candidate for our new Latin American Operations Consultant role.

“I am so glad to be back!!! I have enjoyed working with everyone at the team, and have personally met some of you.”

Hayley Lombard

Hayley grew up along the north coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal and began her working career abroad, working in Belgium and Denmark. Her return to South Africa placed her at a private game reserve in northern Zululand where she worked, started a family, and lived for nine years. Hayley and her family immigrated to East Africa in early 2022, where they spent 6 months living in the Masai Mara and a remote corner of the Serengeti before settling for the next leg of their journey, in the small town of Usa River, Tanzania, between the slopes of Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro.

“With any new challenge one faces there are ups and downs, good days and bad, smiles and tears. I am proud to say the ups, good days and smiles have outweighed the latter during my first few”

Tia Mkhize

Innocentia (known as Tia) was bitten by the travel bug during family holidays in her youth, her curiosity for all things travel grew to the point that she now describes her passion for making guests dreams come true as an obsession. Tia has spent a solid number of years gaining experience in the travel industry, including her own trips to India, Mauritius, France and Amsterdam, and has lived abroad in the UK as well as in the USA. Now based in South Africa with her fiancé and young daughter, Tia is very excited to embark on this new journey with the Rockjumper Team.

“Thank you to the Core Team for all your help and support thus far and I am looking forward to continuing my growth and learning within the team for years to come.”

Lubeynah Azmatally

Lubeynah hails from Mauritius and is an ACCA Affiliate. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Financial Management and brings a passion for the tourism industry together with a full accounting skillset to our team. She is passionate about travelling and discovering countries and their gastronomies. She finds adventures in nature are a great way to rejuvenate herself.

“I am thrilled to have joined the Rockjumper team in March 2022. I am nearly nine months in my role and I am amazed by our team, the tours performed at Rockjumper are just incredible. I simply love this fun, friendly and quirky work culture which we all enjoy.”

Wasseemah Pheerunggee

Wasseemah was born and raised on the beautiful island of Mauritius where she graduated university with a BSc Honours Accounting and is currently pursuing her ACCA to become a qualified accountant. Wasseemah enjoys reading and baking during her free time.

“Thank you for the opportunity that Rockjumper gave me to strengthen my skills and grow my career. I’m proud to be part of such a wonderful team and I really appreciate working with you all.”

Reece Dodd

Reece grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, spending as much time as possible in nature. After leaving school he worked as a field guide in various game reserves, where he developed great passion for conservation, wildlife photography and filmmaking. Whilst spending time outdoors with experts in the industry he also discovered a great appreciation for birding, reptiles and insects. Reece is excited to be taking on a new adventure, where he will be putting his experience and expertise to good use, creating captivating content within our marketing department.

“I haven’t had the pleasure of working with the fantastic core team for as long as others but I can certainly say that these past 10 months have been a pleasure! The constant support from all departments, even while working remotely ensured that my onboarding went smoothly and there hasn’t been a dull day since!”


Toni Geddes

Born in South Africa, Toni has had the privilege of growing up in the ‘bush’, be that her extensive back garden or the Kruger National Park – her playground for snakes, frogs, spiders, plants, birds and mammals which formed an integral part of her day-to-day barefoot explorations. Having had the privilege of growing up in a family of birders, Toni’s passion for all things avian stems from an early age where her parents would often take her out into the field at every opportunity they got, teaching her the ropes when she wasn’t picking up Bullfrogs to take to school for ‘show and tell’ sessions. Before she knew it, Toni found herself ticking off the more common birds she was seeing, and once the listing bug bit, her passion and love for birding began to grow at an exponential rate.

Paul Josop

Paul was born in Cape Town and raised by his grandmother in the Northern Cape, more specifically the windswept Namaqualand region near to the town of Springbok. He fondly remembers overturning rocks in search of scorpions, snakes and spiders, and this is where his love and passion for the natural world began! 

Paul’s interest for fauna and then flora grew when he moved back to Cape Town and started exploring the Table Mountain National Park. Hikes on Lions Head, Table Mountain and through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens introduced Paul to the rich diversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, birdlife, and other animal life. At high school Paul spent time in the Cederberg mountains learning about the geology, the San people that inhabited the area hundreds of years ago, the animal and plant life that is unique to the area and encountered his first Cape Rockjumper! This experience solidified his destiny to pursue a career in nature.

Alexander Alvarado

Alexander Alvarado grew up in Copán Ruinas in western Honduras. He became interested in birds many years ago whilst working for a hotel located in this Mayan City, before taking a job at Macaw Mountain, a bird park and Nature Reserve located just outside of Copán. This in depth experience in treating birds opened window for his passion.


Mark Beevers’ Puppy

William is our Lab x Poodle, the latest addition to our family. My partner and I have acquired a lovely pup (hers really as she paid and I just had him foisted on me, but he loves me to bits and he’s cute).


2023 – Rockjumper’s 25th Birthday!

Next year Rockjumper Birding Tours will be turning 25 years old, and we will be launching an exciting new bird family’s promotion as part of our celebration. Look out for details in January as it promises to be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the world’s bird families, the best countries to find them and what’s more an opportunity to explore these fantastic regions with special discounts through the promotion. We look forward to celebrating 25 years of worldwide birding with all of you.

rockjumper 25 years of worldwide birding logo
2023 birding tour schedule
The 2023 Tour Schedule

Our 2023 Tour Schedule is here! If you have not yet downloaded a copy for yourself please visit our website here and get the full version.

There are an incredible 375 tours to choose from including an array of our signature Classic, Mega, Highlights, Budget, Birds & More, Cruises and Small Group Tours. We are now also offering a fabulous introductory range of Relaxed tours which have been specifically designed to bring back the ‘holiday’ in birding holiday. If you are after a more relaxing but thoroughly enjoyable tour without all the early starts and long drives, then these are well worth looking into.

We hope you find as much pleasure going through our tour selection as we did in creating them. If you find yourself itching to join one of the tours mentioned, or if you would simply like to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact us @

Kruger Birding & Wildlife Challenge

The Kruger Birding & Wildlife Challenge is back again! From 12 to 19 Feb 2023, we will be running the second version of this supremely successful and most enjoyable conservation event. The first event operated back in Feb 2019 and we are very excited about the 2023 edition.

This unique and fun birding and wildlife challenge provides the opportunity to explore the world-famous Kruger National Park. Participants will not only get to experience amazing birding and wildlife viewing, but will also be assisting in saving a special bird from imminent extinction. All proceeds raised will go directly to BirdLife South Africa for vital research and conservation work to protect one of Africa’s, and indeed the world’s, most endangered and little-known species – the White-winged Flufftail. Rockjumper Birding Tours has volunteered its resources and expertise to arrange and coordinate this event and will not be benefitting financially from it.

Bateleur by Marius Coetzee
cheetah cubs
Playing Cheetah cubs by Glen Valentine
Birding Direct

It has been thrilling to watch our new sister company Birding Direct thrive during 2022. Birding Direct opened its doors in early 2021 and saw its first tours start to operate in June of that year. 2022 has seen rapid growth as we operated over 50 custom designed birding tours to a variety of far-flung and exotic destinations including Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Kenya, Turkey, Madagascar, Indonesia, Greece, The Gambia, Guyana, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Uganda, Tanzania, Argentina, South Africa and many more. Bookings continue to flow in for 2023 and excitingly we now have over 200 of the world’s very best agents, local birding guides and lodges at your service. All of them are ready to hear from you and are excited to work with you on your next travel plans. Whether it be simply a day excursion to look for a few birds while you are on a work trip in Kuala Lumpur, a week long target focused birding trip for you and a few mates in Peru or a family holiday through Kenya with the very best local guides in the region, Birding Direct is the resource for you.

We are also delighted to welcome Jenna Phillips-Page to the Birding Direct team. Situated in the heart of the stunning KZN Midlands, Jenna and her family live in the picturesque farmland hills of Dargle. Jenna spends her days filling our excitingly dynamic Birding Direct Relationship Consultant role, interacting with guests to plan their dream tours, and assisting agents with their profiles and enquiries.

Jenna mentions the following – “Joining Birding direct has been an exciting new adventure for me – scooping me out of my “Mom” life back into the action of the hospitality industry! I have been blown away by the team I get to work with – they have all been so welcoming and engaging and have made my joining the team and getting to know my way around a really easy process.”

Birding Direct is proud to support local businesses. Visit

Jenna and her family
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram

Team Rockjumper’s social media is as bold as ever. We share daily photos, sightings, stories, and exciting news through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! Follow us to stay in touch and see what’s happening in the Rockjumper world in real time!

Go Club

Rockjumpers Go Club is an exclusive subscriber-based mail notification system that offers last minute tours which are guaranteed to depart, at discounted prices.

Up to 15% off is offered on our carefully selected tour destinations, have your bags packed and ready to go as we send you special updates, free of charge!

Join now


New SFL Binoculars from Zeiss

Our partners at Zeiss are constantly working on their optics portfolio and a few months ago launched a brand-new range of binoculars. Stephan Lorenz test drove the new binoculars recently and had the following to say about them.

Stephan – I received a new pair of Zeiss SFL 10×40 binoculars earlier this year and right out of the box I was impressed with the compact and lightweight design. I am used to heftier 10X42 binoculars, but it only took a day or two to get used to the smaller Zeiss and I now really appreciate the lighter format. Especially during long stretches of birding and guiding, these compact binoculars are easier on the neck and arms. The brightness and clarity are on par with larger high-end models and the image details are even crisper. I have now used them on several tours through Colorado, Texas, and Arizona and they have been excellent in any environment from scanning vast prairies to birding in denser forests to monitoring the sky for distant raptors. I have seen nearly 500 species with these new, excellent binoculars and I am looking forward to seeing many hundreds more.

A number of our newer guides have now also received the new SFL binoculars and are very impressed with them noting again how light they are and easy to use. Perfect field binoculars with fantastic clarity.

zeis binoculars
zeiss binoculars
BirdLife International

Our relationship with BirdLife International continues to go from strength to strength and this year saw the return of their special Rare Bird Club trips. These unique tours are offered to members of BirdLife’s Rare Bird Club as unique travel opportunities and this year featured 8 days through Extremadura (Spain) in June with Rockjumper leader Rob Williams and 10 days in Ecuador in October with Rockjumper’s Dušan Brinkhuizen. Both tours were extremely enjoyable and provided many highlights from Spanish Imperial Eagle, Little and Great Bustards and Dartford Warbler in Spain to magnificent Andean Condor (only a few meters above our heads), Black-necked Red Cotinga, Zigzag Heron, Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir in Ecuador.

In 2023 we are looking forward to a long-awaited adventure into Bhutan. This tour was scheduled a few years back but has suffered a long string of postponements due to Covid. Thankfully Bhutan is once again open to tourists, and we can’t wait to explore the Land of the Thunder Dragon with our friends at BirdLife and the Rare Bird Club once again!

BirdLife International do incredible conservation work across the globe, protecting species and habitat while providing immense educational value at the same time. Rockjumper is honoured to be affiliated with such a distinguished organisation and are proud to be BirdLife Species Champions for the critically endangered White-winged Flufftail. If you would like to become a BirdLife member, a member of the Rare Bird Club or a Species Champion please feel to get in touch with Sarah Proud – for more information.


With travel restrictions lifting across many parts of the world, our Tailor-made Tours Department has been reaching record heights. With some 200 tours in various stages of development, our new team are excited to be working on such a diverse array of tours covering almost all corners of the world. After nearly two years of closure, parts of Asia have now reopened, and we are running tours to exciting destinations including Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. Many parts of Africa have also reopened and countries like Madagascar, South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana are welcoming visitors without the hassle of COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated travellers. The Americas and Australasia have similarly reopened, and many countries are offering unrestricted travel. Here are some of our recent highlights:

A recently completed Tailor-made tour covering the northern circuit of Thailand led by Rockjumper Tour Leader Glen Valentine delivered the exquisite Mrs. Hume’s Pheasant, Crested Finchbill, Green Peafowl, localized Giant Nuthatch, inexplicably rare White-fronted Scops Owl (a lifer for even Glen!), and the unpredictable Malayan Night Heron. A highlight was also the opportunity to visit several temples including the Chiang Rai ‘White Temple’ and the Chiang Rai ‘Blue Temple.’ You can view the trip report here to read Glen’s full account of this successful tour here.

malayan night heron
Malayan Night Heron by Glen Valentine
Grandala by Glen Valentine

Another recent tour covered the highlights of Northern India covering such legendary sites as Kaziranga National Park, Eagle’s Nest, the Sela Pass, and the Mishmi Hills. This seldom-visited region plays host to several of Asia’s most highly sought-after birds and mammals and our guests were treated with incredible views of the aptly-named Beautiful Nuthatch, recently described Bugun Liocichla, Grandala, and the recently rediscovered Mishmi Wren-Babbler which was only recently re-found after an absence of more than 60 years! Mammalian highlights include the localized Hoodlock Gibbon and Capped Langur, Asian Elephant, and the Indian Rhinoceros.

If Asia is not be to your fancy, then perhaps the Americas may be of interest. Legendary guide David Hoddinott has recently returned from Mexico on an epic 16-day tour covering Huatulco, Teotitlan, and the Sierra Madre. Highlights on this tour included the Slaty Vireo, Blue-capped Hummingbird, Citreoline Trogon, Red-breasted Chat, Wagler’s Toucanet, Dwarf Jay, and the Boucard’s Wren. Coupled with incredible infrastructure and good food throughout, Mexico is a hard-to-beat destination! Upon their return to South Africa, our guests had the following to say about this their tour with David… “Our trip, a long time in the waiting, was nothing short of a triumph. David led us again with passion, interest and focus. Jorge, our local guide. and his wife Amy who joined us were a triumph leading us to, and putting us on many many lifers. The travel arrangements were well made, the hotels were comfortable and the meals copious. Our first trip to Mexico will most certainly not be our last.”

Several of our upcoming tours in early 2023 include a 24-day exploration of Indonesia’s Lesser Sundas and Bali where prolific numbers of endemics will be front and centre, Kenya for select bird and mammal targets, Colombia for a range of endemics and generally abundant birdlife and many others during the first 3 months of the year including Socotra, India, Ethiopia, South Africa, Guatemala, Ghana, Honduras, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda and Bhutan!

Contact our Tailor-made Department today using and let us help you plan your next adventure to a destination of your choosing!


white-collared manakin
White-collared Manakin by David Hoddinott
Tailor-made Team News

Daniel Danckwerts

Since joining Rockjumper Birding Tours as a permanent Tour Leader back in 2018, I have travelled to 19 countries and have seen far more of the world than I ever thought possible within a single lifetime. Highlights of my time with Rockjumper include a brief hour spent with Mountain Gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, watching Emperor Penguins in Antarctica, and paying witness to the incredible display of the Himalayan Monal near the summit of Chele La Pass in Bhutan. However, the very best part of my experience with Rockjumper has been what I like to call the ‘Rockjumper Family.’ Working in the tourism sector seemed less than ideal when COVID-19 first broke loose in early 2020 but the lengths we went to as a team to keep each other motivated and positive, when admittedly the outlook seemed rather dyer, could not have been more uplifting. Colleagues would regularly phone one another for a chat, every other weekly meetings with management to ‘check in’ became the norm and, under two years later, work could not be more prosperous and we all made it through. At the start of 2022, I then also assumed a new role as the Tailormade Tours Manager increasing my responsibility within the company, organizing tours and exposing myself to behind-the-scenes work in all corners of the world. This move has also given me greater exposure to and appreciation for my team of colleagues. No doubt, a highlight of working for Rockjumper is getting to travel as extensively as we do as Tour Leaders but my office-based role has bought about incredible admiration for my team of colleagues and the difficulty with which some of our tours are run. I look forward to many more years with the company!

Laverne Karim 

At the young age of eleven, Laverne was bitten by the travel bug on an international flight, when she decided with absolute certainty that she wanted to pursue a career as an air hostess. After finishing school in the small town of Ixopo where she grew up, Laverne went on to live in Dubai for 9 years, working for one of the world’s most prestigious air lines. Settling down to start a family has seen Laverne living back home in South Africa, where she gained a further 7 years of expert knowledge as a travel consultant before joining our Tailor-made tours department.

“I’ve been at RJ for 9 months now and I must say that I have learnt so much and the team has been amazing. The Rockjumper team have been very warm and welcoming. I love that everyone just wants the best for our guests and wants to show that Rockjumper is the best at what we do. The fact that everyone is very passionate about the different roles they play, proves this.”



Tour Leaders
Adam Riley - Spotthroat
Spothroat by Adam Riley

During August this year I was delighted to lead a short, target tour to the West Usambara Mountains in northern Tanzania. The specific target was the mysterious Spotthroat, a member of one of the last remaining bird families that Dave Semler and Marsha Steffen hadn’t yet seen. This family Modulatricidae consists of 3 obscure African forest species and the decision was made to target the Spotthroat. I was fairly confident that we would see the bird (especially with the help of our experienced local guide), but I hardly expected that we would be able to get any images of this shy and retiring forest floor skulker. However during our very first morning we heard one calling, and with patience and luck, we not only obtained superb and extended views, but also the best images I have seen of this sought-after species. A certain highlight to my birding year!

David Hoddinott - Wilson's Bird-of-Paradise
wilson's bird-of-paradise
Wilson's Bird-of-Paradise by David Hoddinott

Wow, wow, wow, can’t quite believe I’ve seen it. It’s an absolute stunner occurring on just a few remote islands off West Papua. We were treated to spectacular views of this most sought-after species. 

Carlos Sanchez - Lear’s Macaw
lear's macaw
Carlos Sanchez - Lear’s Macaw

Lear’s Macaw, which I saw at Canudos on our Northeast Brazil Mega tour. These indigo birds were absolutely stunning against the red rock canyon where they roost and nest. 

Glen Valentine - White-fronted Scops Owl
white-fronted scops owl
White-fronted Scops Owl by Glen Valentine

 2022 was an incredible year for rare and special birds and the decision of “top bird of the year” was indeed a very tough one with candidates including Sri Lankan Spurfowl, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Ferruginous Partridge, Flores Scops Owl, Mount Mutis Parrotfinch, Sombre Nightjar, nesting Grauer’s Broadbill, the magnificent Shoebill, Golden Bowerbird, Albert’s Lyrebird and Eastern Ground Parrot among many others. However, it was the roosting White-fronted Scops Owl in Kaeng Krachan National Park on my tailormade Thailand tour that ending up taking first prize. This is a species I thought I might never see in my life. It’s extremely localised and extremely rare and we were very fortunate to lay eyes on one in the mid-morning while returning to lunch after an already fabulous morning’s birding. Very special and extremely fortunate indeed!

Yoav Perlman - Black-browed Albatross
black-browed albatross
Black-browed Albatross by Yoav Perlman

My personal bird of the year was seen during a family trip to the UK. We visited friends in Yorkshire. Luckily our friends are birders too, so on our first afternoon together we headed over to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Sadly, the long-staying Black-browed Albatross didn’t show up. Dip. We headed back home disappointed. While making tea we received news that the albatross is back on the cliffs. We raced there and I got to see albatross sailing majestically along the mighty cliffs in the fading light. Next morning I was there again, this time I got the full experience and had amazing views of this fantastic bird. The backdrop scenery of RSPB Bempton Cliffs is breathtaking, tens of thousands of seabirds flying out to sea and back to their breeding ledges. 

Stephan Lorenz - Buff-fronted Owl
buff-fronted owl
Buff-fronted Owl by Stephan Lorenz

Fortunately, in 2022 I was able to return to a full schedule of tours and travel, making it all the more difficult to choose a top bird for the year, there were just too many. If I have to pick a unique and memorable sighting, my experience with a Buff-fronted Owl (who doesn’t like owls?) in Northern Peru comes to mind. The four extant species of Aegolius owls are relatively small, distinctive, and often strictly nocturnal. Each species is a treat to see, but the Buff-fronted Owl, although widespread in South America, can be a bit tricky to find. Claudia Cavazos and I traveled to a specific spot near Leimebamba in northern Peru in hopes to clamp eyes on this special species. Dusk came and went with nary a sound of our quarry and then the night stretched on towards midnight and while we found an impressive Stygian Owl (not a good omen for small owls) and a pair of Koepcke’s Screech-Owls, there was no sign of the hoped-for Buff-fronted. After a few fitful hours of sleep, it was back out at 4 am and this time it took less than a minute for the Buff-fronted Owl to call and make an appearance, the picture speaks for itself to illustrate just how incredible the sighting turned out to be… 

Paul Varney - Black-browed Albatross
black-browed albatross
Black-browed Albatross by Paul Varney

My best bird of 2022……it is always tricky to nail this down as there are always some great contenders. Wallcreeper in southern France early in the year, singing Bluethroats (white-spotted) singing in Netherlands and some outstanding birds on the Rockjumper tour in Tanzania in September including 3 Crowned Eagles displaying while we were having lunch. But my bird of the year is a bird I have seen before – the actual bird, as well as several others in various places, a Black-browed Albatross. We have had one summering on Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire for the past couple of years and it is amazing. It shouldn’t be in the UK of course, it should be in the southern hemisphere so watching this huge, graceful elegant seabird wheeling around the cliffs with the Gannets and Kittiwakes is something that takes your breath away. It is majestic, beautiful, elegant all at the same time and to have such good views is a real privilege. I really hope it comes back again next year and I will go up there again. The supporting cast of a huge seabird colony of Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemots and the only UK mainland Gannetry makes it a great place to visit anway. The Albatross is the icing on the cake. 

Erik Forsyth - Red-breasted Goose
red-breasted goose
Red-breasted Goose by Erik Forsyth

Red-breasted Goose, arguably the most stunning in this family. I was following 2 birds on twitter, hanging around with Barnacle Geese in the UK. I was booked to go to the UK in May 2022 to catch up with family and friends. I thought the Red-breasted Goose would have migrated back to Eastern Europe by then so did not pay it any more attention. When a birding friend of mine said that we were going to Norfolk for a few days birding, things fell into place. As I had no mobile coverage of what birds were around I was shocked when he said “let’s go get that Red-breasted Goose today!” To cut a long story short, we saw the goose well and a huge hole in my world list was filled. 

Peter Kaestner - Cundinimarca Antpitta
cundinimarca antpitta
Cundinimarca Antpitta by Peter Kaestner

My bird of the year is Cundinimarca Antpitta, photographed at Sendero Herrera in the Eastern Andes of Colombia. Seeing this rare bird some 32 years after I discovered it was an emotional moment. Now that we have identified an accessible population, we are working with the American Bird Conservancy and Fundación Camaná to preserve some of this endangered species’ threatened habitat. Rare antpittas, spectacular hummingbirds and gorgeous tanagers are just some of the wonderful birds encountered in the Andes of Colombia, which are featured in multiple Rockjumper tours.

Nigel Redman - Shoebill & Black Boubous
Shoebill by Nigel Redman

2022 was a busy year for me: 8 Rockjumper tours in a year is a good tally by any standards. Choosing a ‘top bird of the year’ is always tough, given the large number of candidate species, but I am going for Shoebill. This iconic species, placed in its own family, is most easily seen in Uganda where it remains a top tourist attraction, and not just amongst birders. Its most reliable site is not far from Entebbe, the main point of entry to Uganda, and there are many tour operators and skilled local boatmen who are more than willing to show it to you.

This year, I did two back-to-back tours to Uganda, and we had truly memorable encounters with Shoebills on both: posing at close range, fishing for lungfish, flying in slow motion over the papyrus, and feeding a two-week-old chick. It was a photographer’s dream, and Shoebill was voted bird of the trip on both tours.

Coming a close second was a much less imposing bird. In February, after our Kenya ABA tour, I went on a little scouting trip to Manda Island, off the northern Kenyan coast. Here I was thrilled to find several pairs of Black Boubous. As its name suggests, it’s all black in colour, although at close range it has a red eye. But it differs vocally from other all-black boubous and its range is tiny. It only inhabits areas of coastal scrub in extreme NE Kenya and SW Somalia, and was overlooked for more than a century after its discovery. Until only a few years ago, it was thought to be a black morph of the more widespread East Coast Boubou. Now reinstated as a full, highly localised species, Manda Island is effectively the only place in the world where you can see it.

Daniel Danckwerts - Emperor Penguin
emperor penguin
Emperor Penguin by Daniel Danckwerts

For longer than I can remember, I have had one primary destination in mind…Antarctica. The scale and beauty of Antarctica are difficult to put into words and its birds, penguins and petrels mainly, have to endure unbelievable hardships in order to survive. As a seabird biologist, I have always been fascinated by the diversity of seabirds and their incredible life history traits; and this is perhaps no better exemplified than in the Emperor Penguin, Antarctica’s most iconic seabird and my Bird of the Year for 2022.

Contrary to popular belief, seeing an Emperor Penguin is by no means a guarantee on any cruise to Antarctica. The species breeds in several remote corners of the white continent, outside of the reach of most Antarctica Expeditions. On occasion, however, a stray individual is sometimes seen off the Antarctic Peninsula at sites such as the Antarctic Sound and Wilhelmina. Bay. Needless to say, every daylit hour on Rockjumper’s Antarctica Expedition for 2022 was spent scanning ice floes as we sailed through these remote areas. Studying each ice fragment delivered Gentoo, Adelie, and Chinstrap Penguins, Crab-eater and Weddell Seals, and South Polar Skuas but no sign of our Emperor. That was at least until one of our lucky clients appeared with a photo of an immature Emperor Penguin resting on the ice. We doubled-back and spent the next 3 hours scrutinizing every piece of ice, checking every shadow, and to no avail. Ultimately, our hearts sank as we knew we had to press on.

An attempt to leave Wilhelmina Bay into the Gerlache Straight was quickly abandoned due to 60-knot winds and rough seas. Thus, we returned to the sanctuary of the bay and continued deeper than we had gone before. Again, we checked the ice knowing that this could be a second chance for the Emperor. We scoured the dense pack ice and, just as we could go no further, we spotted a dark shape resting on the ice. At this distance it was still much too far to see but we signalled towards the captain to bring us closer and distant record shots confirmed the bird as an Emperor Penguin; separate from the one seen earlier in the day.

Pressure off, the Captain manoeuvred us closer until we were resting the ship against the same ice as where the Emperor was resting. We enjoyed the bird for some 2 hours before pressing on except that, as we pulled the ship away, two more Emperors bulleted from the water to join the first. We watched the three birds for a further 2 hours, saturating every possible viewing angle and taking more photographs to revisit the sighting than we probably should have. To accurately illustrate the rarity of the Emperor Penguin, the resident ornithologists on our vessel had done in excess of 60 cruises to Antarctica and not seen Emperors and we, therefore, considered ourselves exceptionally lucky.

Adam Walleyn - Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo
rufous-vented ground cuckoo
Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo by Jonathan Slifkin

It was great to be back to a nearly full year of guiding so there are lots of highlights to pick from this year, but my bird of the year 2022 has to be the Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo we had on our Best of Panama tour. This was the first time I have seen a Neomorphus ground cuckoo on a Rockjumper tour and it was pretty exciting to find one on our own and (eventually) get the whole group on the bird.

On our final full day of the tour we were enjoying a mixed flock late morning with a pair of Brown-billed Scythebills putting on a show overhead. Suddenly there was some loud bill snapping and something raced across the trail. I actually thought it was a squirrel but a couple of the group members had also glimpsed it and were adamant it was a bird. Thinking ground cuckoo in the back of my head I wandered off the trail a bit and suddenly heard a Bicolored Antbird singing in the gulley below us. So there was an antswarm, this was getting more interesting! A Bicolored Antbird popped into view and I put my binoculars on it. To my shock there was a Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo standing motionless but completely in the open in my binocular view!!! Sadly the cuckoo disappeared by the time the group all assembled so we made a plan for those who wanted to skip lunch and the three of us were successful in getting wonderful views of this very special bird over the next couple hours. However, the antswarm had moved off by the time the rest of the group rejoined. But the story was not quite over as we had time for a quick visit the last morning of the tour and as our luck would have it the antswarm was right up on the trail where we could all watch this grail bird crossing the trail.

Paul Josop - Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon
eastern bronze-naped pigeon
Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon by Paull Josop

The Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon is ‘hand’s down’ my top bird for 2022!

I’ve spent many hours over the course of ten years, birding and exploring the Northeast coast of KwaZulu-Natal’s known forest patches where they occur but has proven to be a rather difficult pigeon to find!

The Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon isn’t the most colourful bird and only has a few markings to assist in identification. It’s habits of loving the upper canopy of evergreen forests where it spends most of its time feeding, makes it an even trickier species to connect with.

Fortune was on my side a few weeks ago whilst birding around St. Lucia town, just South of the Eastern Shores in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. A casual stroll along the fence line that separates the old IPhiva camp site and the beach, is where I stumbled upon the previously known ‘Delegorgues’ Pigeon!
The pigeon was perched in a leafless white stinkwood (Celtis africana) tree, surprisingly unperturbed by my presence! Snapping a couple of photographs as I got closer, I could see its rust coloured and dark green neck with its diagnostic white collar which made it a male. Interestingly, I also witnessed some feeding behaviour as it started pecking on the branches of the tree where spittlebug larvae had created pockets of foam!

Forrest Rowland - Cherry-throated Tanager
cherry-throated tanager
Cherry-throated Tanager by Forrest Rowland

It’s not every day that you get to see one of the World’s rarest birds. Often enough such birds are elusive, difficult to observe, and not very well known. Most of the World’s truly rarest birds (<100 total population) require herculean feats of determination and stamina to get near to, arriving to some remote, steep, mountain slope, or tiny island of habitat amidst a sea of agriculture, desert, or ocean. None of these stereotypes fit Brazil’s well-studied, brightly colored, and relatively noisy Cherry-throated Tanager. This cripplingly beautiful, flocking species is only known from two locations in mixed primary-secondary montane cloud forest of the small state of Espiritu Santo. The local name is incredible, if somewhat morbid. “Suira Apunhalada” translates to “Slit Throat Tanager”. The glowing, iridescent red throat is easily seen by birders lucky enough to get a glimpse. But getting that look is the hard part.

Cherry-throated Tanager is my bird of the year because it was completely unexpected, one of my most wanted birds on Earth, and we had easy walk-up and walk-away views of an individual attending a nest being supported by 5 of her closest family members. We saw 6 of the known extant 14 individuals left on the planet, and were able to do so at leisure in the middle of an absolutely stunning chunk of atlantic rainforest some 400kms miles from our intended route. How was all of this possible, you might ask? Simple: After having the most successful visit to Minas Gerais of any of us guides’ lives, including the ridiculous success of Brazilian Merganser being on the first stop of the tour, we decided to entertain the idea very early on. Word came down to us that a nest had been located some 4 days prior to our tour’s commencement date. Going over the logistics, we thought, “Well…longshot but if (a BIG IF) we get all the target endemics and hoped-for species on the regular route in record time, we could accelerate the tour and go for broke”. The absolutely unbelievable good fortune our group enjoyed the first week, fact that the bird was on a nest (guaranteed), plus the enthusiasm and high motivation of the group to go for the bird all had to conspire perfectly to even contemplate the change. For the above reasons, symbolism that Cherry-throated Tanager embodies for the conservation effort in Brazil, and many more I won’t elaborate on, this was far-and-away my Bird of the Year.

Mark Beevers - Common Nighthawk
common nighthawk
Common Nighthawk by Mark Beevers

Starting in the UK three birds stand out and difficult to say which is the best as all three stand out for different reasons. First up a cracking male Turkestan Shrike that graced an RSPB reserve on the coast in Yorkshire called Bempton Cliffs, which is a famous seabird colony. Crippling views of the bird, which is only the 8th for the UK after which I visited the seabird colony where I had great views of the breeding seabirds including a summering Black-browed Albatross, a case of central Asia meeting the South Atlantic in Yorkshire.  Next up the totally unexpected pitching up of a Cape Gull, yep just like the ones you get in SA. Totally out of the blue and great views to boot and a first for the UK but really the most incongruous bird of the year was the Common Nighthawk, sat on a garden fence in a small Oxfordshire town for eight hours with hardly a blink of an eyelid. So three great birding experiences in the UK all for different reason except they were all lifers. My beloved local patch continues to be covered daily but to no avail this year unlike last when we had 11 county rarities one of which was a national rarity and the first for the county (White-spotted Bluethroat). But that was last year. 

Dušan Brinkhuizen - Masked Antpitta
masked antpitta
Masked Antpitta by Dušan Brinkhuizen

Our quest for the endemic Masked Antpitta in Bolivia was highly memorable. Our flight to Riberalta got cancelled but we managed to get alternative transport, a grueling fourteen hour drive over land. On the first day of our target search, we located several territories by ear but none of these elusive forest-dwellers came in view. On our second day, we tried a different locality and bushwhacking tactics, connecting sweetly with this rare and highly range-restricted species – a true cracker! 

Office Staff
Brittany James - Bearded Vulture
bearded vulture
Bearded Vulture by Reece Dodd

My bird of the year would have to be the Bearded Vulture. After reading so much about it before a trip to the Drakensberg, I was really hoping to see it. On the very last day of the trip, we managed to see the Bearded Vulture but from very far away, after a while we decided it was time to go and as we were leaving this individual flew overhead multiple times really close!  

Reece Dodd - Drakensberg Rockjumper
drakensberg rockjumper
Drakensberg Rockjumper by Reece Dodd

My top Bird of 2022 would be the Drakensberg Rockjumper. Working for Rockjumper Birding Tours, I was eager to see the bird after which the company was named. This one presented itself on a trip up Sani Pass and it was not hard to see why it captured Adam Riley’s attention in 1998.  

Keith Valentine - Emperor Penguin
Emperor Penguin by Keith Valentine

For most people a cruise to Antarctica is the trip of a lifetime and for me it was no different. The opportunity to explore dramatic South Georgia and the icy continent of Antarctica itself was exhilarating in every way. The diverse penguin colonies entertained us royally while fur seals, elephant seals, sheathbills and skuas all vied for our attention. The pelagic birding was also fantastic, and I finally caught up with dream pelagic species like Antarctic, Atlantic and Kerguelen Petrels! These were birds I initially laid eyes on as a 7-year-old in my first field guide to the Birds of Southern Africa, and to finally see them in the seas where they occur was a dream come true as they are very rare vagrants to Southern African waters. There is however one species, the holy grail of Antarctica, that literally stands head and shoulders above all else. Most people know that seeing one is only a remote possibility, but our Antarctica itinerary was different to most trips that venture down to the area, and the incredible Emperor Penguin was a massive target. So much so that we ventured as far as we could go into the Weddell Sea with the hopes that the wind gods, sea gods, snow gods, ice gods etc. were all on our side. Joyously they were and at roughly 10:30pm, 20th November we stood at the top deck of the Ocean Diamond totally enthralled with what was unravelling before us. Not only were we adjacent to the famous island of Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea but most importantly we were revelling in a rare sighting. Not 1 or 2 but many Emperor Penguins! When most descended below it was around 11:30 pm and the count was up to 12 different individuals but others who stayed up a little later (past midnight) counted 26 in total! An incredible experience and one that every one of us will never forget. I feel extremely privileged to be able to do what I do and to share such moments with likeminded people is a true joy. Emperor Penguin without a shadow of a doubt is my number one bird for 2022!

Clayton Burne & Meg Taylor - Bearded Reedling
bearded reedling
Bearded Reedling by Clayton Burne

Having not travelled internationally since we left India behind in the first week of 2020, we were all looking forward to experiencing a different country and a pile of new birds. Personally, 2022 marked a decade since I had left the United Kingdom behind for South America, and a journey that would ultimately see me joining Rockjumper. So, with no hint of nostalgia whatsoever, our first family trip for nearly 32 months would be to Britain. A thoroughly enjoyable few weeks of temperate birding resulted in lots of lifers for Meg and Kaily, and even a smattering for myself. Easily the highlight of the trip was an extraordinary morning at Titchwell RSPB Reserve in the company of Norfolk local and Rockjumper tour leader, Paul Varney.

Unusually calm conditions greeted us, the path side pools and lakes a glassy reflection. This wasn’t the type of weather that delivers much in the way of ‘interesting’ rarities from Siberia, but it was perfect for Europe’s only real contribution to family twitching, the monotypic Bearded Reedling. It used to be a tit, then it was a parrotbill – but has finally been recognised as a unique songbird in its own right – most closely related to larks! A truly remarkable species whose digestive system adapts to two completely different seasonal diets.

The most typical sighting of Bearded Reedling is a gold ball sized orangish blur as one darts from one reed thicket to the other, often expedited by strong winds. Given the benign weather conditions, we were hopeful of somewhat better views, but even the most optimistic amongst us didn’t anticipate seeing multiple flocks, each containing a good 5 to 6 individuals prancing about on reed heads! Indeed, two different males were considerate enough to sit looking into the early morning sun on just the right reed to ensure I could snap away without needing to worry about any post-processing! “

Niki Stuart - Antarctica

“Antarctica is experiencing the incredible” is what was voiced to me prior to leaving for our Rockjumper Birding Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica 2022 tour.  However, the emotions one feels experiencing the euphony of sound, sight and smell overlooking the largest King Penguin rookery at Gold Harbour, South Georgia left me utterly speechless.  Time stopped still as I took in the vastness of the space and the awe-inspiring scenic views of the King Penguin breading pairs and their chicks.  I was deeply sad when this incredible once in a lifetime adventure to Antarctica, South Georgia and Falklands Islands came to an end. Memories and new friendships a plenty and abundance of gratitude for this beautiful world we live in.

Antarctica by Niki Stuart


Our guests provide our best information. And, given that well over half our business are repeat guests, you are also each other’s best source of info. Here’s what you’ve been saying.

“We are pleased to report on our recent Rockjumper birding adventure after spending four weeks (March 22 – April 17) exploring many of Mexico’s best birding sites during back-to-back trips to the states of Veracruz, Oaxaca and Chiapas.

We were guided by Rockjumper’s Adam Walleyn and his local contact, Eric. Adam guided us in previous trips to Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Cuba, Jamaica and Dominican Republic, and we have always been impressed by his worldwide birding expertise and his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, all wildlife. Eric (a Mexican, living in Oaxaca, and fluent in English) has intimate knowledge of literally every bird species that resides in or migrates through Mexico – over 900 species. We slept well and ate extravagantly. Our drivers did an outstanding job of driving safely and minimizing the discomforts of numerous speed bumps and potholes.

We birded in a diversity of landscapes that varied from sea level (during a morning coastal/pelagic cruise), to a mangrove forest, to desert scrub and to cloud forests where elevations were over 8000 feet. The highlight of our trip was, of course, the wildlife. We recorded a total of almost 500 bird species during the three trips – 20 of those were heard only. But with Eric’s guidance we had an exceptional opportunity to absorb Mexican culture. We visited ancient stone ruins, enjoyed delicious meals in small village homes (fincas) of farmers and coffee growers, and were pleased to view the products of skilled woodworkers and potters.

Adam and Eric did their best to ensure that everyone in our diverse group saw every bird that we encountered. Everyday we were amazed by their skill in spotting and hearing birds and getting their scopes on the birds so that all could see. Their warmth and passion were felt and appreciated by all.

We never felt threatened or insecure during our month-long trip. Mask wearing in Mexico is a law with near 100% compliance, including outdoors (our group complied when outside the van). We had no heath issues associated with food and drinks.”

– GB & DB

“The whole tour was perfectly organised: the transportation to the lodge, the accommodation itself, and of course the different trips incl the local guide. Our tour guide Carlos was extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Everything went perfect. As this was my first experience with Rockjumper, I was pleasantly surprised about how effortless the whole trip was. I will for sure travel with you again!”

– JK

“This trip was my very first with Rockjumper and I was not disappointed. Birding and logistics were very well organized and everything was done to optimize our time in order to see as many species as possible while naturally giving priority to endemics. Glen Valentine is not only a top guide and a top birder, he is also a nice person excellent in communication, very friendly with a good sense of humor. I really enjoyed doing this trip with him as well as the good state of mind of the group. As a Frenchman I sometimes had difficulties speaking or understanding English and everyone was patient and helpful with me. Great! I got a large number of lifers in this trip and the search for endemics was exciting. A big thank you to Glen, our group members and Rockjumper!”

– MB

“The tour was excellent overall. The main guide, Stephan Lorentz, was really top class. His knowledge of the birds and calls and the fine id details was exceptional and his field skills were awesome, outdoing the local guides at times. And he is extremely personable and friendly. The local guides were also excellent and provided an exceptionally high level of field skill and support, and great enthusiasm in getting pax onto the more challenging birds. And physical support also, including even helping some of the pax on slippery slopes and cutting stairs on river landings at times!! The landed arrangements were generally slick and the accommodation of good quality. Overall it was an exceptional and really memorable tour with superb birds and birding, much or most of which would not have been possible without the Rockjumper team, slick tour planning and arrangements, Stephan and the local guides.”

– JC

birding tour operator


Thank you for your time and support this year! As we have all seen during the pandemic, nothing is guaranteed and even something as fundamental as travel can suddenly be taken away. Time waits for nobody and while there is still some uncertainty, and indeed difficulties for people across many regions of the globe, by and large now is a fantastic time to travel and enjoy the wonderful birds, mammals, other wildlife, scenery and people that make our world so interesting.

In closing we want to wish you and your family all the very best for the upcoming holiday season and for the New Year. May your days be filled with love, laughter, and plenty of birds.

Yours in birding,
Team Rockjumper.