South Africa: Key Bird Guides
Glen Valentine, Athol Marchant, Greg de Klerk, Heinz Ortmann, Wayne Jones and Gareth Robbins
Glen Valentine has an unquestionable passion for birds that, like his brother Keith, developed at an extremely tender age. Glen has traveled extensively in Africa and is also fast becoming Rockjumper’s lead Asia/New Guinea bird guide. He possesses exceptional birding skills and a personable nature, coupled with hearty levels of enthusiasm.
Glen Valentine grew up in Gauteng where his unquestionable passion for birds and wildlife began at an extremely early age. His interest mounted as he explored every corner of Southern Africa with his family and at the age of 19, broke his brother, Keith’s record of becoming the youngest person to have seen 850 species of birds in the Southern African sub-region (Keith is also a full-time Rockjumper guide). His solid knowledge of the birds of Southern Africa is complimented by experience further afield in remote corners of Africa, Asia and Madagascar. Glen also holds to his name a bachelor of commerce degree in accounting sciences from the University of South Africa. His exceptional birding skills and personable nature coupled with his extreme levels of enthusiasm will ensure a fantastic and memorable tour with Glen.
Greg de Klerk
As a young boy who was raised in Durban, Greg found his passion and interest in all aspects of the natural world. To escape the metropolitan and suburban blur of everyday life, his family would frequently take trips to various national parks in South Africa. Birding only featured after his ninth birthday, starting as a family hobby, and
developing into a passion and eventually a career.
On completion of his high school education Greg followed his passion, studying Game Ranging and Lodge Management. This gave him direct access to the natural environment which had captivated him from a young age. He thrust himself
headlong into the tourist industry as a guide, for more than a decade, at a few well-recognised lodges on the western border of the greater Kruger National Park.
It was here in the Savanna Biome that his passion for birding, fauna, flora and photography flourished. As a member of the Field Guides Association
of South Africa (FGASA), Greg challenged himself with their courses, achieving a Level 3 guiding
qualification and he is currently completing his
Savanna Specialist Qualification. He also had the privilege of working closely with his habitat
manager to re introduce and study the
endangered Cheetah and to help in the
protection of the currently under threat
Rhinoceros. The culmination of his passion for
both guiding and birding resulted in Greg
becoming a Tour Leader for Rockjumper Birding Tours.
Wayne Jones worked as a research assistant at South Africa’s University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit and is a passionate birder with a thorough knowledge of the region’s birds. His amiable and enthusiastic nature make him a superb birding tour leader.
Wayne grew up in the small town of Stanger on the east coast of South Africa, surrounded by sugarcane fields and subtropical forests. A keen artist and naturalist from a young age, one of his earliest memories is of drawing a map of his suburb and plotting the best spots to find different birds (with accompanying illustrations!) in his neighbourhood. After dabbling in Zoology studies he pursued a career in graphic design and illustration. However, his first love for nature never faltered and he finally switched to a career in guiding. Wayne has guided in South Africa, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Madagascar and India.
Athol Marchant is one of Southern Africa’s most experienced birders and bird tour leaders, and expertly leads many of our South African birding tours.
Athol Marchant is one of Southern Africa’s most experienced birders and bird tour leaders. He has a strong scientific background with a degree in Zoology, Entomology and Botany, Honours in Wildlife Management and a Masters in Zoology. He has served with the Natal Parks Board, now Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, for 36 years as a terrestrial ecologist. He also worked as a game ranger in Botswana and has lectured on birds and bird identification on numerous occasions.
Furthermore, Athol has contributed to many bird-related publications including some very prestigious books. He is a long-standing member of the South African Rarities Committee and with over 880 species seen in Southern Africa, he is one of the region’s most experienced birders. His adventures have taken him birding around the world and, in particular, he spent months camping in Antarctica and is an acknowledged sea-bird expert. His other interests include indigenous plants and he has developed his own indigenous garden for birds, which has featured in two books on indigenous gardening.
Heinz is a South African born birder whose interests in birds and wildlife in general commenced at a very young age. He holds an Honours in Conservation Ecology and an MSc in Conservation Biology and has many years’ experience in the field.
Heinz hails from Howick in South Africa’s Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands. His interest in birds and wildlife began on regular visits to some of the well-known Zululand reserves and the Kruger National Park. His passion for conservation led him to completing an Honours in Conservation Ecology focusing on the management of African Wild Dogs on a private game reserve in Zululand.
This was followed by studying at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology in Cape Town where Heinz completed his MSc in Conservation Biology, which included a 3-month stay on Nightingale Island in the South Atlantic Ocean studying one of the world’s rarest birds, Wilkin’s Bunting.
Heinz has since also worked as an observer on fishing vessels off the coast of Cape Town for BirdLife South Africa, recording information on albatross and other seabird species found in South African waters, as well as working as an environmental consultant specializing on the impacts of mining and other developments on bird species occurring in wetland areas of South Africa. Some of his other interests include butterflies and reptiles.
Gareth hails from Kimberly in South Africa and holds a qualification in Game Ranging and Lodge Management. He has worked in various game lodges as a guide as well as running his own tour company with a specific focus on bird tours.
Gareth was born in Kimberly but moved to Cape Town when he was 5 years old. After school he studied Game Ranging and Lodge Management, following which he worked in various game lodges as a guide. Deciding he needed a greater challenge, he then started his own tour company along South Africa’s Garden Route where he focused primarily on guided bird tours. During this time he continued his studies and qualified as a tour guide and specialist bird guide for the forest and Fynbos biomes.
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