A selection of our 2015 scheduled tours | Client comments | New blog posts | Upcoming events | Staff news
Dear Friends of Rockjumper,
Welcome to our May 2015 newsletter! This has certainly been a long time coming and we do apologise for the long break since our last missive. We’ve been focused on setting up and running hundreds of quality birding tours over the past months! In fact, Rockjumper has grown exponentially since our previous newsletter, and we are very grateful and thankful for all our loyal clients – both new and long-standing alike – who have helped us to achieve this and take Rockjumper to its current level. Indeed, we are now the largest birding tour company with more tour offerings than any other operator – we annually offer over 250 tours to 100 destinations spanning all 7 of the world’s continents. Again, this would not have been possible without your support – so thank you on behalf of the entire Rockjumper Team!
If you have not yet ordered your complimentary copy of our latest catalogue in either print or digital format (the latter can also be viewed or downloaded from our website) please email us on email@example.com and we’d be very glad to send one to you.
Of course, Rockjumper exists only as a result of our dedicated team. Our tour leaders in particular each add a unique dimension to each of our tours, infusing their individual suite of skills, fields of expertise and personalities, in addition to ensuring that our tours are fun, educational and professionally operated. After 17 years of arranging birding tours, you can be assured that our dedicated team of support staff have the necessary experience and know-how to ensure that your journey with us is a pleasure, right from your very first contact until you eventually return home after a memorable Rockjumper birding adventure.
NEW TOURS FOR 2015 & 2016
Emperor Penguin adults &
chick by Dave Semler
We are thrilled to finally be offering some of the most exciting Antarctica expeditions currently available: our brand new suite of Emperor Penguin Fly-in Safaris!
The Emperor Penguin Safari kicks off towards the tip of South America, from where we will fly across the Drake Passage to Union Glacier in western Antarctica. We will then fly to our ultimate camp a mile from an Emperor Penguin rookery, where we will spend a fabulous 4 nights and 3 full days interacting with these, the most inaccessible, largest and most magnificent of all the world’s penguins!
Our Emperors & Explorers Safari combines spending several enthralling days among the regal Emperor Penguins at their rookery on Berkner Island, and then flying on from there to our planet’s southernmost point – the South Pole itself! We undertake a comfortable 4-5 hour flight over some of the most spectacular and pristine landscapes to be found anywhere on Earth!
Southern Ground Hornbill by Adam Riley
Best of South Africa – Cape & Kruger III
Tour Date: 04 – 14 Dec 2015, Tour Price: ZAR37, 800 (+-US$3,190) per person sharing
For our popular Cape & Kruger birding and wildlife tours we have specifically selected the two most productive and diverse regions of South Africa: the fabulous Cape Peninsula and internationally famous Kruger National Park. This tour promises a whole host of endemic and unique African bird and wildlife species! Targets include Cape Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Black Harrier, Southern Ground Hornbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Martial Eagle, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Elephant, White Rhinoceros and African Wild Dog!
Takahe by Adam Riley
New Zealand Highlights
Tour Date: 06 – 16 Dec 2015, Tour Price: NZD 5,575 per person sharing
New Zealand supports a host of unusual endemic land birds and a rich assemblage of marine birds. Our new Highlights birding tour is designed to seek out most of these endemics in a shorter package than our standard tours. Beginning in Auckland we target North Island Brown Kiwi, amongst a multitude of other species that will no doubt be lifers. The first of our several pelagic excursions then takes place in the Hauraki Gulf in search of the recently rediscovered New Zealand Storm Petrel and a myriad of other species. Other key targets include Takahe and the strange North Island Kokako, Rough-faced (King) Shag, South Island Saddleback, Weka, Southern Brown Kiwi, New Zealand Kaka and Rifleman to name a few. With excellent lodging and meals, awe-inspiring scenery and fantastically friendly “Kiwis”, this is a tour for both birders and non-birding spouses alike, and comes highly recommended!
Lovely Cotinga by Adam Riley
Best of Honduras
Tour Date: 11 – 19 Dec 2015, Tour Price: US$3,150 per person sharing
Our Best of Honduras tours target a rich assemblage of Neotropical, Yucatan and overwintering North American specialities, including many near-endemic species; and, using the services of local bird specialists at each site, we guarantee an impressive success rate in observing regional specialities such as Honduran Emerald, Orange-breasted Falcon, Keel-billed Motmot and Lovely Cotinga. The awesome birdlife is further augmented by ease of travel, luxury lodges, super-friendly people and fine cuisine, making these thoroughly enjoyable adventures for both ardent and casual birders alike.
Puerto Rican Tody by Clayton Burne
Puerto Rico – Island Endemics
Tour Date: 02 – 08 Feb 2016, Price to be announced
Our 7-day Puerto Rican tour targets all 17 endemics and numerous Greater Antillean and Caribbean restricted species. While the many endemics and near endemics are the priority, the island also plays host to a number of wintering North American passerines. Some of the spectacular bird highlights are sure to include Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, Puerto Rican Screech Owl, Puerto Rican Emerald, Green Mango, the overly cute Puerto Rican Tody, Elfin Woods and Adelaide’s Warblers, Puerto Rican Tanager, Puerto Rican Spindalis, Puerto Rican Oriole and the increasingly rare Yellow-shouldered Blackbird.
Palawan Peacock-Pheasant by David Shackelford
Tour Date:: 25 May – 03 Jun 2016, Price to be announced
Our 10-day Philippines Highlights birding tour is a far shorter version of our endangered endemics trip, and covers only the very best birding sites for those with less time to spend in the field, but still wishing for a fantastic overview of the region’s special species. Sites visited include St Paul’s National Park on Palawan, Mt. Makiling, Mt. Polis and Subic Bay and targets include the resplendent Palawan Peacock-Pheasant, Philippine Megapode, Philippine Serpent Eagle, Palawan Frogmouth, Philippine Hawk-Owl, Philippine Hawk-Cuckoo, Scale-feathered and Red-crested Malkoha, Spotted Wood Kingfisher, Blue-headed Racket-tail, Coleto, Balicassiao, Red-keeled Flowerpecker and Guaiabero.
Swinhoe’s Pheasant by Cliff Dorse
Best of Taiwan
Tour Date: 26 May – 05 Jun 2016, Price to be announced
Taiwan not only has great avifauna, but a host of other highlights that make it a wonderful destination for a comfortable and relaxing tour. With 25 endemics and many endemic subspecies, not to mention the incredible East-Asian Flyway, Taiwan has much to offer for both serious and casual birders alike. Targets include Malayan Night Heron, Mikado and Swinhoe’s Pheasant, Black-faced Spoonbill, Ryukyu Scops Owl, Fairy Pitta, Steere’s Liocichla, White-whiskered Laughingthrush, Taiwan Wren Babbler, Flamecrest, the stunning Collared Bush Robin and the beautiful Taiwan Blue Magpie. Mammal targets include Taiwanese Macaque, Formosan Striped Squirrel, Red and Red-and-white Giant Flying Squirrels and Taiwan Serow.
Kagu courting by Jonathan Rossouw
Southwest Pacific Islands (New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa)
Tour Date: 09 – 29 Jul 2016, Price to be announced
Quite simply, this is a tour unlike any other! Each island that we will be exploring on this epic adventure exhibits its own distinctive ensemble of characteristic and rarely-seen endemics, including some of our planet’s least known species; and, although these oceanic islands and their bird lists aren’t large, they are nevertheless very special indeed. On this trip we will be treated to a wonderful assortment of imperial pigeons, fruit doves (one of the most beautiful of all bird groups), parrots and lorikeets, kingfishers, hosts of flycatchers, monarchs, fantails, whistlers, honeyeaters and white-eyes, all of which are endemic and consequently found nowhere else on earth. Our tour takes in the beautiful islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa where a fabulous list of localized endemics will be sought. New Caledonia famously hosts the monotypic flightless Kagu while additional highlights such as Cloven-feathered Dove, Horned Parakeet and the giant Crow Honeyeater will also be searched for. Our next port of call will be Vanuatu where we hope to find the attractive Buff-bellied Monarch, Tanna Fruit Dove, Vanuatu Megapode and Vanuatu Kingfisher. In Fiji we will wander balmy, sun bleached beaches and explore luxuriant forests only a short distance from our delightful hotel. Among mist-draped montane forests we will be treated to such spectacular surprises as Orange Fruit Dove (an almost unbelievable colour!), the enigmatic Silktail and a plethora of other attractive endemics including Many-coloured and Golden Fruit Doves, Collared Lory, Red-Shining Parrot, Fiji Shrikebill, Azure-crested (Blue-crested) Flycatcher (a real humdinger!) and the handsome Red-headed Parrotfinch. Our final destination will be the islands of Samoa where we should be able to find a large proportion of the Samoan specialties including Crimson-crowned Fruit Dove, Blue-crowned Lorikeet, Flat-billed Kingfisher, Samoan Flycatcher and Samoan Whistler.
Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise by Dubi Shapiro
Indonesia – Remote West Papuan Islands Cruise
Tour Date: 12 – 24 Nov 2016, Price to be announced
Our new and exciting Remote West Papuan Island cruise to the Raja Ampat Islands (Four Kings: Waigeu, Batanta, Salawati and Misool), plus the very rarely explored island of Kofiau, will seek out some of our planet’s rarest and least-known species. These include such extraordinary gems as Wilson’s Bird-of-paradise (regarded by many as the most spectacular bird on earth!), Red Bird-of-paradise, Kofiau Paradise Kingfisher and Kofiau Monarch. Thereafter we cross Weber’s Line and head into the south Moluccas. Here we explore little-birded waters in addition to visiting several endemic-rich islands including Obi, Seram and Boano, ending in Ambon for many incredibly exciting endemics such as Carunculated Fruit Dove, Obi Woodcock, Lazuli Kingfisher, Seram Cockatoo, Boano Monarch and Long-crested Myna, to mention but a handful!
Silver-breasted Broadbill by Dave Semler
Tour Date: 02 – 14 Dec 2016, Price to be announced
Our new Thailand Highlights tour is designed around the very best birding sites in Northern Thailand, offering a superb selection of spectacular and sought-after South East Asian specialties, along with a huge array of migrants from the north which spend the frigid winters in these warmer climes. Targets include the stunning Green Peafowl, Siamese Fireback, Silver Pheasant, Chinese Egret, the huge Great Hornbill, beautiful Silver-breasted Broadbill, Coral-billed Ground Cuckoo, Blue and Eared Pitta, White-rumped Falcon, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Green Cochoa – and many, many more! In addition, culturally Thailand has few equals, and you will have opportunities to visit some of the many spectacular pagodas and shrines that adorn this friendly, varied and spectacular land.
This is a short yet comprehensive alternative to our longer Thailand birding tours and is suitable for both hard-core birders and non-birding spouses alike.
Red-and-yellow Barbet by Markus Lilje
Kenya & Tanzania: Birds & Big Game I
12 – 28 April 2014, guided by Wayne Jones
The problem with East Africa – well, for me as a trip report author at least – is that there are simply too many highlights! Should I mention the sight and sound of a million Red-billed Quelea sweeping across the savannah, our first view over the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater, a bedazzlement of Vulturine Guineafowl in the late afternoon sun, or watching an Oriole Finch from a bedroom balcony while keeping a lookout for Syke’s Monkeys? There was also tea-time on Observation Hill in Amboseli, where we gazed across to Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance, or finding our very own private Leopard sighting in the Serengeti…. And speaking of the Serengeti, let’s not forget the millions of Blue Wildebeest engaging on their famous migration across the plains!!!!
Choosing just a few highlights to include in a trip report is not unlike trying to squeeze all number of safari souvenirs into ever-shrinking luggage space – a task that most of this tour’s guests can identify with…!
It’s no wonder that our Kenya & Tanzania Birding & Big Game safaris are one of our most popular sellers with so many highlights: covering East Africa’s most famous game reserves, spectacular scenery, staggering volumes and diversity of big game and colourful birds, fascinating tribes, wonderful lodges and a small group of just 6 participants. This is also the ideal tour for non-birding spouses.
To read the full trip report, click here.
Our next Kenya & Tanzania: Birds & Big Game tours (with available spaces) are scheduled for the following dates:
Kenya & Tanzania – Birds & Big Game I: 2 – 19 Apr 2016, Price to be announced
Kenya & Tanzania – Birds & Big Game II: 7 – 24 April 2016, Price to be announced
Kenya & Tanzania Bird & Big Game III: 27 Apr – 14 May 2016, Price to be announced
To view our other tours to Kenya & Tanzania click here
Henderson’s Ground Jay by David Erterius
Mongolia: Birding the Gobi and Beyond
24 May – 11 June 2014, guided by David Erterius
Imagine a territory half as large as Europe but with only three million inhabitants, characterized by vast and mesmerizing natural beauty, and nomadic people herding their livestock across seemingly infinite wind-swept plains…. Cornered between Russia and China, Mongolia, also known as “the land of the eternal blue sky”, sits on a high plateau at an average altitude of 1,500 metres, far from any ocean or sea. It’s the second largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan, and since the end of the communist era in 1990, visitors have experienced a secure and stable environment with well-established democratic institutions, making Mongolia a paradise for travelers. Although Mongolia isn’t known for an abundance of species, the great diversity of habitats provides an exciting array of specialized birds, encompassing a mixture from Siberia and Central Asia, some of which are unique to Mongolia and its immediate surroundings.
During our fabulous adventure through this remarkable country, we encountered such delectable species as Relict and Pallas’s Gull, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Oriental Plover, Asian Dowitcher, Henderson’s Ground Jay, White-throated Bush Chat, Kozlov’s Accentor, Eversmann’s and Güldenstädt’s Redstarts, Saxaul Sparrow, Père David’s Snowfinch, and Godlewski’s and Yellow-breasted Buntings. Other top sightings included Swan Goose, White-winged Scoter, Altai Snowcock, Daurian Partridge, White-naped and Demoiselle Cranes, Black Woodpecker, Saker Falcon, Steppe Grey Shrike, Azure Tit, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Mongolian Lark, Asian Desert Warbler, Wallcreeper, White’s, Eyebrowed and Red-throated Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Altai and Brown Accentors, Mongolian Finch, Asian Rosy Finch, Chinese Beautiful and Long-tailed Rosefinch, and Pine, Grey-necked and Pallas’s Reed Buntings. Certainly a fantastic selection of birds in anyone’s language – and as for the country itself, it’s quite simply one of the most remarkable and spectacular destinations anywhere!
To read the full trip report, click here.
Our next Mongolia: Birding the Gobi and Beyond tour (with available spaces) is scheduled for the following dates:
Mongolia: Birding the Gobi and Beyond, 22 May – 10 Jun 2016, Price to be announced.
Flame Bowerbird by Markus Lilje
Papua New Guinea – Birds in Paradise
20 July – 06 August 2014, guided by Markus Lilje
Many of Earth’s most amazing birds inhabit the world’s second largest island of New Guinea and we were fortunate to be treated to sensational views and intimate encounters with so many of these mouth-watering species during our 18-day trip around the island’s eastern half – Papua New Guinea.
Of the many fabulous and unforgettable birds seen on this brilliant birding voyage, some of the most noteworthy highlights included an incredible 20 species of birds-of-paradise (including such marvels as King-of-Saxony, Raggiana and Twelve-wired), Loria’s Satinbird (formally in the Bird-of-paradise family), the near-mythical Dwarf Cassowary, Crested and Tit Berrypeckers, Spotted Berrypecker, New Guinea Woodcock, amazing Shovel-billed Kookaburra, scarce Bronze Ground Dove, Dwarf and Coroneted Fruit Doves, Papuan Treecreeper, the spectacular Southern Crowned Pigeon, strange Pesquet’s (Vulturine) Parrot, the enormous Palm Cockatoo, Brehm’s and Modest Tiger Parrots, Marbled and Papuan Frogmouths, Barred and Mountain Owlet-nightjars, Australian Hobby, Dwarf Koel, Wallace’s Fairywren, Golden Monarch, Torrent-lark, White-faced Robin, Brown-headed, Little, Common and Buff-bellied Paradise Kingfishers, spectacular Red-bellied and Hooded Pittas, a remarkable 5 species of bowerbird including the sensational Flame Bowerbird, gorgeous Golden Cuckooshrike, Black and Papuan Sittellas, bizarre Wattled Ploughbill, Lesser Melampitta, nuthatch-like Blue-capped Ifrita, Garnet Robin and rare New Guinea Flightless Rail – a really incredible list of New Guinea specialties!
To read the full trip report, click here.
Our next Papua New Guinea – Birds in Paradise tour (with available spaces) is scheduled for the following dates:
Papua New Guinea: Birds in Paradise II, 18 Jul – 4 Aug 2016, Price to be announced.
To view our 2016 Papua New Guinea – Birds in Paradise tours, click here.
Satanic Nightjar by Rich Lindie
Indonesia – Sulawesi and Halmahera
09 – 26 August 2014, guided by Rich Lindie
Sulawesi and Halmahera had long been near the top of my list of places to go; it was the same for most of the participants who joined me there in August. The reason is really simple: few locations can boast as high a number of endemic and simply spectacular bird species including a monotypic bird family, the Hylocitrea. Never mind the great food that Sulawesi serves up!
We thoroughly explored and enjoyed all these offerings on our tour and came away with memory cards full of photos to prove it. Vibrant endemic kingfishers – from the minute Sulawesi Dwarf to the chunky Great-billed, at the time undescribed flycatchers (now Sulawesi Streaked Flycatcher, 2014), strange starlings, nightjars with sinister names, the incomparable Maleo, rollers, pittas, bee-eaters and, of course, the star of the show, Standardwing (or Wallace’s Standardwing) – it doesn’t get much better than that! Or maybe it does…. We also had fantastic encounters with some of the region’s rarer owls, and mammals that included the ever-endearing Spectral Tarsier and the now media-popular Sulawesi Crested Macacque, all against the backdrop of some stunning forests and volcano-filled scenery! Wallacea certainly is a birding hotspot and we witnessed and experienced the very best of it first-hand.
To read the full trip report, click here
Our 2015 Sulawesi & Halmahera tour is sold out; our next Sulawesi & Halmahera – Wallacean Endemics tour is scheduled for 06 – 23 Aug 2016, Price to be announced.
To view our other tours to Indonesia please click here
American Birding Association’s South African Safari in the Kruger National Park
American Birding Association (ABA) South Africa
07 – 17 Oct 2014, guided by several Rockjumper Tour Leaders
Working closely in conjunction with the American Birding Association, Rockjumper was thrilled to host the ABA for a very special South African birding safari experience last October. We welcomed 103 ABA members and staff to our beautiful country and our team of 12 guides showed them the very best that South Africa has to offer. With 5 nights based at a stunning lodge on the beach in Cape Town (with superb views of Table Mountain) and another 5 nights in Kruger National Park, our group was treated to a wealth of birding and wildlife experiences. No less than 462 bird, 62 mammal and 29 reptile and amphibian species were encountered during the safari! In the Cape, participants selected from a mouth-watering choice of 10 different full day excursions, such as pelagic trips to the Cape trawling grounds, birding the succulent Karoo and the dramatic Cape Peninsula, to more mixed trips which included wine-tasting and visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. In Kruger we took to open safari vehicles and explored different sections of the park as well as an excursion to the mist-belt Afro-montane forests in the mountains above Kruger.
Highlights were too numerous to mention and included a record-breaking 7 albatross species on one of the pelagics, watching a pride of Lions hunt and kill a Warthog, numerous sightings of the fabled Big 5 as well as Cheetah and African Wild Dog, experiencing the first of the summer rains in Kruger which brought in no less than 11 cuckoo species, watching Greater Galagos feasting on figs over our heads as we enjoyed a boma braai (barbeque) in Kruger, making so many wonderful friendships, and each evening observing everyone ecstatically sharing stories of their day’s adventures. In fact the event was such a success that we are now offering an ABA Safari to India from 08 – 18 February 2016.
Lesser Flamingo by Wayne Jones
Dune Lark by Wayne Jones
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland V
08 – 25 Oct 2014, guided by Wayne Jones
The beauty of our Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland safari (along with our East Africa and South Africa trips) is that it combines fantastic numbers of birds with a wide variety of mouth-watering mammals, exciting “herps”, and diverse and breathtaking scenery. It’s one of those tours that satisfies on every level, and our November 2014 tour was no exception. We began in Zambia at the impressive Victoria Falls, the world’s largest curtain of falling water, bolstered by rain in the Angolan highlands just two days before. After passing through the papyrus-lined waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Panhandle, where we sighted Pel’s Fishing Owl, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Slaty Egret, the huge Coppery-tailed Coucal and much besides, we made our way west through progressively drier habitat, picking up Dickinson’s Kestrel, day-roosting Bat Hawk, Racket-tailed Roller and White-breasted Cuckooshrike en route. Etosha National Park, one of the world’s great wildlife sanctuaries, yielded spectacular big game sightings including Lion, Elephant and the highly endangered Black Rhino, while on the birding front we enjoyed views of Blue Crane, Temminck’s, Burchell’s and Double-banded Coursers, Burchell’s and Namaqua Sandgrouse, Black-faced Babbler, the stunning Violet-eared Waxbill and an unbelievably huge flock of around 100 Quailfinches, many of which perched right in the open!
Next up we found some of Namibia’s (and, indeed, southern Africa’s) most sought-after species in the form of Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, White-tailed Shrike, Rosy-faced Lovebird and the beautiful Rockrunner amidst the granite domes of the Erongo Mountains. Moving south, the landscape opened up to the dramatic Namib Desert – the world’s oldest – where we tracked down Gray’s and Dune Larks, the latter Namibia’s only true endemic, as well as a rich assemblage of waterbirds along the Atlantic coastline, including the dainty Damara Tern. Our odyssey ended in the city of Windhoek: a variety of Acacia woodland birds such as Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Pririt Batis, Chestnut-vented Warbler and Black-faced Waxbill, and dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse (a must for any visitor to the Namibian capital!) brought to a close a truly memorable trip.
To read the full trip report click here
Our next Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland safaris (with available spaces) are scheduled for the following dates:
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland I 2016: 5 – 22 Mar 2016, Price to be announced;
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland II 2016: 23 Mar – 9 Apr 2016, Price to be announced;
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland III 2016: 23 Jul – 9 Aug 2016, Price to be announced;
Namibia, Okavango & Victoria Falls Overland IV 2016: 10 – 27 Aug 2016, Price to be announced.
Schlegel’s Asity by Rich Lindie
Madagascar Comprehensive IV
06 – 27 November 2014 co-guided by Heinz Ortmann
The world’s fourth-largest island, Madagascar hosts a remarkable 140 endemic and near endemic bird species, including 5 endemic families found nowhere else on Earth. This tour chalked up almost all of the possible endemic bird species, including every possible vanga, the entire suite of five spectacular ground rollers and every possible species of coua. Other undoubted highlights included the usually difficult-to-find Madagascan Sparrowhawk and Banded Kestrel on nests, and great views of the beautiful male Velvet and Schlegel’s Asities. Several owl species including Madagascan Owl were seen on their day roosts and both Madagascan and Collared Nightjars were found with the help of our excellent local guides. The non-avian highlights included the incredible Sikora Leaf-tailed Gecko, the world’s largest chameleon species – Oustalet’s Chameleon, and over 20 lemur species including dancing Verreaux’s Sifaka, singing Indri and the incredibly confiding Ring-tailed Lemurs of the Berenty Reserve. This really is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable tours on offer, with exceptional island endemics complimented by an array of no-less-exciting near endemics and other African species, not to mention otherworldly habitats and scenery and some of our planet’s most bizarre and unusual mammals, “herp’s” and insects! I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure and cannot wait to return!
To read the full trip report click here.
Our next Madagascar Comprehensive tours with available spaces are scheduled for the following dates:
Madagascar Comprehensive III 13 Nov – 04 Dec 2015, US$7,750 per person sharing (only 1 space remaining);
To view the full spectrum of our Madagascar tours please click here
Blakiston’s Fish Owl by David Hoddinott
Our 2014 Dancing Cranes and Winter Birding tour was a remarkable success! This is a tour of real quality rather than quantity; while the species numbers may be relatively low, the species themselves are superb and include some of the world’s rarest and most spectacular birds!
Our tour started with an extremely successful extension to the Southern Islands of Amami and Okinawa. Highlights included superb views of several Okinawa Rail, Japanese Cormorant, Grey-faced Buzzard, Japanese Wood Pigeon, two pairs of Okinawa Woodpecker (considered the rarest woodpecker in the world with only some 600 individuals!), beautiful Lidth’s Jay, awesome views of Amami Woodcock, Whistling Green Pigeon, several cracking Ryukyu Scops Owls, lovely White-backed Woodpecker, Ryukyu Minivet, Japanese Bush Warbler, Amami and Brown-headed Thrush, and stunning Ryukyu Robin.
Flying back to Tokyo for the main tour, we headed to the lovely woodlands of Karuizawa Forest. Our time here was most rewarding and we found the tricky Japanese Green Woodpecker, Japanese Accentor, rare Pallas’s Rosefinch and our main quarry for the area; Copper Pheasant, a female of which we flushed from our feet! We also paid a visit to Lake Toden where numerous waterfowl including Mandarin Duck and Smew were seen.
Leaving Karuizawa, we headed to Nakano and arrived at a perfect time to observe the famous “Snow Monkeys”, the colloquial name for Japanese Macaque. These endearing animals have a habit of using the hot springs at Jigokudani to bath and are particularly confiding, giving outstanding views and photographic opportunities. We were treated to quite a spectacle, as a large troop of about 100 animals was seen in and around the hot springs, providing great entertainment!
From Nakano we paid a visit to Kahokugata Lagoon where we found our first Baikal Teal and Falcated Duck, while nearby we notched up an Eastern Marsh Harrier and had great views of the very smart Grey-headed Lapwing and a large flock of Tundra Swan.
From Komatsu we flew to Fukuoka on the Island of Kyushu and then drove to the Yatsushiro mudflats, where we found Black-faced Spoonbill. This was followed by undoubtedly the most exciting day of the entire tour – a visit to the Ijumi Crane Sanctuary in the heart of “Crane Country”. We were delighted to find that this year they had recorded their largest number of cranes, in excess of 14,000! The cacophony of calling birds was really special, as were the large flocks flying in to feed in the surrounding fields. This was a marvellous spectacle and we enjoyed this on a number of occasions over the next two days. Four crane species were in attendance – Sandhill, White-naped, Common and Hooded. Other species seen included Mandarin Duck, Chinese Penduline Tit, Japanese Bush Warbler, vagrant Red-billed Starling and Chestnut-eared Bunting.
From Arasaki we travelled to the Sendai River, where we scored with fabulous views of the endemic Green Pheasant, a female Scaly-sided Merganser, several Long-billed Plover, superb Japanese Wagtail and flocks of Japanese Grosbeak. Continuing to the Island of Hokkaido, we visited the Ito Crane Sanctuary where we were entertained with wonderful views of Red-crowned Cranes displaying in the snow – a spectacular sight to behold! We also managed magnificent views of a day-roosting Ural Owl before heading for the Notsuke Peninsula. Here we found the delightful Harlequin Duck, White-winged and Black Scoters, and our first Stellar’s and White-tailed Eagles. In the evening we visited a local birder’s guest house where we were treated to phenomenal views of Blakiston’s Fish Owl – the world’s largest owl. What a cracker!
Our next Japan: Dancing Cranes & Winter Birding tour is scheduled for the following dates: 08 – 25 February 2016, Price to be announced.
Grey Hypocolius by Forrest Rowland
UAE & Oman: Arabian Birding Adventure
04 – 17 December 2014, guided by Forrest Rowland
There is nothing that quite compares to landing in Dubai. I’ve thought it must be something akin to what an astronaut might first perceive if s/he were to land on Mars, and find civilization there! The ships moving in the Gulf; the sparkling lights that line the shore; the sun flashing against the world’s tallest building; so many sights standing out stark, and bizarre, against the barren setting of an otherwise desert landscape. The United Arab Emirates, along with the Sultanate of Oman, exemplify and tout man’s ability to master the harshest of terrain. In the case of these two countries, this has been accomplished with a certain amount of grace that has gained the attention of the world. With constant change being the norm, new environmental standards in place, and one of the planet’s most ancient cultures, it was our privilege to enjoy these nations as our backdrop to one of the unique birding adventures on Earth.
Our route began in Dubai. We birded the metropolitan hotspots thoroughly, as well as a farming operation in the far north, before heading southeast and inland to “The Garden City” of Al Ayn. Highlights on this leg included White-tailed Plover, Arabian Babbler, Pharaoh Eagle-Owl, Chukar, Arabian and Sand Partridge, Hume’s, Red-tailed and Hooded Wheatears, Plain Leaf, Eastern Orphean and Menetries’s Warblers, and a very surprising vagrant in the form of a Griffon Vulture (Eurasian Griffon)!
Crossing into Oman, we birded the Sohar Coast of the Indian Ocean, picking up Slender-billed, Sooty and Pallas’s Gulls, Sykes’s and Asian Desert Warbler. Next we headed high into the Hajars Mountains, the only place where snow is known to fall on the Arabian Peninsula. Our main targets in the area were Streaked Scrub Warbler (belonging to a monotypic family) and Pallid Scops Owl. We managed spectacular views of two family groups of the former, while the latter also put on a show. Here we also had our next big surprise for the tour – Ring Ouzels!
Continuing on, we then visited Masirah Island on the central coast of Oman, where millions of shorebirds spend their winters – a spectacle not to be missed!! Highlights included hundreds of Crab Plovers, dozens of Terek Sandpipers and more than a few Broad-billed Sandpipers, amongst the 25 species of shorebirds catalogued here. We also saw our first rafts of the near-endemic Socotra Cormorant, a lone Masked Booby, and had fine looks at two Asian Koels (now thought to winter here regularly).
Thereafter we journeyed through the vast expanse of the Rub Al Khali (the Empty Quarter). Our first stop was at Ghaftayn to see if any vagrants were around, and we were rewarded with a Yellow-browed Warbler! Continuing to the Muntasar Oasis, we found Crowned and Spotted Sandgrouse, Black-crowned Sparrow-Larks, the lovely Cream-colored Courser and a beautiful Ruppell’s Sand Fox. We also spent a full morning visiting two of the more productive farms en route to Thumrayt and, ultimately, Salalah in the Dhofar. Highlights at the farms included Steppe Grey Shrikes, Greater Hoopoe-Lark, both Greater and Lesser Short-toed Larks, and the uber-rare Dunn’s Lark, among many other species!
Having missed our main tour target thus far, we decided to make a detour to the historic oasis of Mudday. This palm-choked oasis has recently hosted the largest groups of wintering Grey Hypocolius (another monotypic bird family) in the entire region; and, sure enough, we were rewarded with numerous incredible views of this highly sought-after species! Other highlights here included our first Palestine Sunbird and several breeding-plumaged male Nile Valley Sunbirds.
Our tour finally ended at the Dhofar region of southern Oman among African Baobabs and Coconut Palms. This small, unique area in southern Oman receives far more annual precipitation than any other comparable site in northern Arabia. This extra water and relatively lush vegetation attracts a completely distinct avifauna and is the most species-rich region of the tour. Highlights in the area and surrounding coastline included Black Stork (the 31st record of this species for the country), Persian Shearwater, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Sociable Lapwing, vagrant Spur-winged Plover, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Black-crowned (Percival’s) Tchagra, Arabian Warbler, Arabian Wheatear, Singing Bush Lark, the extremely range-restricted Yemen Serin, and a singing Arabian Golden-winged Grosbeak at Wadi Hanna.
This is an amazingly diverse area from start to stop, with estuaries and mangroves, majestic mountains and wadis, endless desert and oases. It was the perfect Arabian Overland Odyssey among wonderful, friendly people, easy roads, good food and fine accommodations – a great experience for everyone!
To read the full trip report, click here.
Our next UAE & Oman: Arabian Birding Adventure tour is scheduled for the following dates: 10 – 23 November 2016, Price to be announced.
South Georgia Pipit by Markus Lilje
King Penguins by Markus Lilje
Classic Antarctica –Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia
28 Dec 2014 – 15 Jan 2015, co-guided by Markus Lilje
Due to the low number (as opposed to quantity and quality) of species that we typically encounter on this cruise, the real focus is on enjoying the overall experience as we sail through the south Atlantic and explore some of the world’s most remote wildernesses, including the Falklands (Malvinas), South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. The highlights are assuredly the immense colonies of penguins that we spend quality time marveling at – on this tour we enjoyed extended encounters with Southern Rockhopper, Magellanic, Gentoo, King, Adelie and Chinstrap Penguins, while Macaroni Penguins were also seen very well, though mainly in the water. Finally, the various albatrosses always deserve a mention, with the huge and graceful Wandering Albatross and its effortless gliding providing endless entertainment, while Light-mantled and all the other 4 regular species (Southern and Northern Royal, Black-browed and Grey-headed) were seen very well and on many occasions. In fact, for seabird enthusiasts this is an exceptionally rewarding and exciting adventure, with huge numbers of these ocean-faring species including large flocks of Antarctic Petrel and the beautiful Snow Petrel. We also enjoyed great sightings of the southern-most songbird in the world, the extremely range-restricted South Georgia Pipit. Previously confined to just a few breeding sites due to invading rats that had drastically reduced its population, but a very ambitious project has had much success in removing the rats from the island and there is now real hope that these little birds will soon be able to roam the island freely again. The most memorable aspect of this particular cruise though, is the incredible backdrop for everything we see, with spectacular icebergs of an amazing variety of shapes and hues a constant feature around South Georgia and Antarctica!. To read the full trip report of this particular cruise, click here.
Our next Classic Antarctica tours are scheduled for the following dates:
Classic Antarctica II – The Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica 30 Dec 2015 – 18 Jan 2016, from US$15,895 to US$21,795 per person sharing.
We also offer the following additional Antarctica and Subantarctic cruises:
Antarctica – Peninsula Adventure II 10 – 20 Dec 2015, US$7,495 to US$13,195 per person sharing.
Antarctic Peninsula Explorer & the Falkland Islands 19 – 29 Dec 2015, from US$9,795 to US$15,295 per person sharing.
Galápagos of the Southern Ocean 03 – 15 Dec 2015, from US$6,600 to US$9,900 per person sharing.
Orange-breasted Sunbird by Adam Riley
Eastern South Africa I & Cape Extension I
10 – 23 Jan 2015 & 23 – 28 Jan 2015, guided by Glen Valentine
With its rich array of endemic birds and iconic African mammals, it is no wonder that our home country of South Africa continues to be our most popular destination. Our January 2015 Eastern South Africa and Cape Extension trip reaffirmed this position, and we were thoroughly entertained during our tour of the country by a sizable 485 bird species and an incredible 54 mammals, which were enjoyed while simultaneously soaking in some of the most beautiful places on the continent! Birding highlights were abundant and included many of South Africa’s most-desired endemics such as Southern Bald Ibis, Black Harrier, Southern Black and Blue Korhaans, Grey-winged Francolin, elegant Blue Crane, endangered Cape Parrot, both members of the endemic rockjumper and sugarbird families, Ground Woodpecker, dainty Fairy Flycatcher, a multitude of larks including Rudd’s and Botha’s, Karoo Eremomela, striking and unique Bush Blackcap, Victorin’s Warbler, dazzling Orange-breasted Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Protea Canary and Drakensberg Siskin – amongst many others! Mammals are also a major feature of any trip to Africa and the density and diversity of these animals in South Africa is rivalled by few other countries. This trip, however, proved to be particularly lucky in this regard as we encountered Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Wild Dog and even Aardvark (!!) during our time in the fabulous and world-renowned Kruger National Park. We also indulged in rarities in the form of Spot-necked Otter at the endemic-rich locality of Wakkerstroom, and Caracal in the South-western Cape’s West Coast National Park.
Full trip report here.
Our Eastern South Africa tours, coupled with our Cape Extensions, are very popular and well recommended amongst birders and general wildlife enthusiasts alike, and with a maximum group size of only 6 participants, they tend to be sold out rather quickly; the following 2015 tour however still has spaces available: Eastern South Africa IX: 28 Nov – 11 Dec 2015, ZAR41,750 (+-US$3,540) per person sharing;
For all our other South Africa tour dates, please click here.
Purplish-mantled Tanager by Adam Riley
Colombia 1,000 Birds Mega Tour
18 Jan – 15 Feb 2015, guided by Forrest Rowland
Our Colombia 1,000 Birds Mega Tours have been a spectacular success! After a 23-day tour in the Andes of Colombia netted nearly 800 species in 2011, the idea of creating a tour during which it would be possible to record over 1,000 species in less than one month began to simmer. Once the Amazonian destination of Mitu was made accessible this idea became a reality, and the first Colombia 1,000 Bird Mega Tour ran in late 2013. The bar was set high, with a whopping 1022 species recorded on the first tour! The second attempt, early in 2014, came in at just under 10% of all the bird species on the entire planet – 1044!!! Our latest tour recorded 1009 species, despite some serious weather infringements, and included great looks at over 60 endemic species, and another 40-plus near endemics. Chestnut-crested Antbird, Blue-billed Curassow, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, Gold-ringed Tanager, undescribed Santa Marta Screech Owl – the list of stunning, rare species is unparalleled in the New World. Add to that some of the rarest mammals on Earth (Mottle-cheeked and White-footed Tamarin, Gray-handed Night Monkey, Brown Spider Monkey, etc.) and beautiful, exotic, endlessly varied landscapes, and this tour encompasses all that Neotropical and Latin American birding is about. It’s about variety, beauty and fun!
Our next Colombia Mega tours are scheduled for the following dates:
Colombia – 1000 Birds Mega Tour II 2015: 08 Nov – 07 Dec, US$9,450 per person sharing (only 3 spaces available);
Colombia – 1000 Birds Mega Tour I 2016: 17 Jan – 15 Feb 2016, Price to be announced;
Colombia – 1000 Birds Mega Tour II 2016: 01 – 30 Nov 2016, Price to be announced.
TOP 10 RECENT SIGHTINGS
Our tours invariably turn up something interesting and unexpected, and here are the top 10 recent sightings, in no particular order, from some of our tours that have run over the past few months. This is obviously just a small selection, but should nevertheless give a good indication of some of the unusual species and experiences that make every Rockjumper tour special for our participants.
1. Aardvark in South Africa by Markus Lilje
During a night drive on a recent South Africa Mega Tour we had already had a great time with Aardwolf, South African Hedgehog, Cape Porcupine and Bat-eared Fox amongst others, when we came upon this fantastic Aardvark! Considered one of the top mammal targets on the planet, this is an animal we never expect to see on any of our tours, and therefore considered ourselves incredibly lucky for enjoying extended views of this strange and endearing animal at very close range.
2. Sub-adult Dwarf Cassowary in Papua New Guinea by Markus Lilje
Papua New Guinea is a land of many marvels. Not only is it home to resplendent birds-of-paradise, it also harbors many rare and little-known birds in its largely unexplored forests. This means that on any tour to the island one is bound to discover something rare and/or totally unexpected, and our PNG II tour last year certainly delivered just that!
Having some extra time on our hands, we decided to revisit the Varirata National Park the one afternoon. This fantastic reserve cannot be visited often enough as the number of scarce species here means that you never know what you might find. We were richly rewarded on this occasion, as soon after we entered the forest on one of the trails, we found a sub-adult Dwarf Cassowary standing right on the edge of the track! Once all the participants had managed to get good views of this extremely scarce and usually very shy species, it turned and slowly walked away into the forest – a truly incredible experience and the first time this species has been seen on our 30+ tours to the island!
3. Hispaniolan Solenedon in the Dominican Republic by Adam Riley
Very few people have ever seen a Solenodon. Only two species exist, both which were considered extinct, the Cuban species being only rediscovered in 2003. The Hispaniolan species seems to be more numerous but is still listed as Endangered. They are large shrew-like mammals and the were the dominant predators on these Caribbean Islands, hence were not able to compete with introduced mongoose, cats and dogs which led to their decimation. Solenodons are extremely primitive mammals and they closely resemble those that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs. They are extremely shy and nocturnal and are one of the world’s few venomous mammals. I was very lucky to photograph this female whilst on tour in the Dominican Republic, but it did take the help of a Solenodon researcher as well as a very late night!
4. Chaco Owl in Paraguay by Clayton Burne
Paraguay is without doubt among the best birding and mammal watching destinations in South America. While it possesses no endemic species, Paraguay is perhaps the only country where one can expect to see all the Chaco specialties. A strictly nocturnal species, the Chaco Owl was hands-down one of the tour highlights, sitting on an exposed perch near our accommodation.
5. Golden-headed Quetzal in Colombia by Forrest Rowland (Photo courtesy of Clayton Burne)
The most memorable sightings on a tour are not necessarily the rarest or most endangered birds we encounter, but sometimes some amazing behavior. On our recent Colombia 1,000 Birds mega tour we had just this with two of the New World’s loveliest birds: Golden-headed and White-tipped Quetzals. While they are both regularly seen on our tours to Colombia, during this past tour we had a remarkable encounter with a male Golden-headed Quetzal. This brash bird came shooting in straight towards us in a bizarre, looping display flight, flashing his neon-red belly at us as he made various passes of our party. It was incredible what a little bit of whistling provoked in this territorial male, which was determined to prove his dominance over me! The views were, needless to say, jaw-dropping. Similar views, though not quite so dramatic, of male White-tipped Quetzals in Santa Marta occurred under comparable auspices. We wandered into a lek area, with a few males “giggling” and flying around. Again, with a bit of whistling, we had a stunning male come right in for stellar looks!
Two other sightings are also worth mentioning. The first is of a member of my favorite genus on Earth: Rhegmatorhina. Don’t recognize it? Then you must not be in the masochistic club of Antbird-lovers. While in Mitu, we were birding a fabulous mixed flock in this small clearing, when out of the forest nearby, right on the trail we just walked up, two Chestnut-crested Antbirds began to counter-call. Leaving the scope, snacks, packs, umbrellas and everything else behind at the clearing, I yelled “Follow me right now, move it!” As we hustled up the trail, a few seconds later I saw a female right off the track. We got into formation and I hit a short male call. Out popped FOUR Chestnut-crested Antbirds! One male immediately flew straight out of the brush to perch in front of us, scolding, while a pair circled around behind us and began scolding as well. We were surrounded! Our whole group managed good looks at this charismatic, range-restricted species before the family group moved off. This was the bird of the trip for me, but antbirds always are.
6. White Lion Cub in South Africa by Wayne Jones
Those who took part in our Kruger Extension (an exciting add-on to our SA Mega tour) were treated to numerous Lion sightings, including this lioness that was suckling four cubs, one of which was a “white lion”. White lions are extremely rare in the wild and their gene pool is restricted to the Timbavati region of Kruger National Park, near where this sighting took place. They are not albinos but simply a colour aberration that is the result of a recessive gene.
7. Sapayoa in Southern Panama by Adam Riley
The monotypic Sapayoa is one of the most sought after species by bird family listers. Previously know as Broad-billed Sapayoa or Manakin, this species sports an apt scientific name Sapayoa aenigma. Its taxonomy has been nothing but an enigma. It was originally assigned to the New World Manakins and it does look somewhat like a female manakin. However recent genetic evidence shows that its actually most closely related to the Old World broadbills and pittas. Accordingly, the Sapayoa would be the last surviving New World species of a lineage that evolved in Australia-New Guinea when Gondwana was in the process of splitting apart. The Sapayoa’s ancestors are hypothesized to have reached South America via the Western Antarctica Peninsula. It occurs in northern South America and southern Panama where I encountered no less than 6 individuals together on a recent tour.
8. Helmet Vanga in Madagascar by Rich Lindie
Having a Helmet Vanga lingering near a hopefully-still-active nest, whilst trying to keep it a surprise for my participants, was not easy for me. In fact, I failed…. Nobody remembers that though. All they reminisce about is the amazing time we spent sharing in the life of this truly incredible bird and the other forest denizens that happened to cruise by or were brought in as snacks to the fast-fattening chick. A lifer for me and one of many highlights of my recent private tour to Madagascar.
9. Australian Pratincole near Megitimbi on Sumba Island by David Hoddinott
We were birding along the road from Megitimbi to Waingapu on the island of Sumba when we noticed a pair of Australian Pratincoles in a recently burnt field. After alighting from the vehicle and watching them with a telescope I noticed that one bird kept returning to the same spot and on further investigation I discovered the nest.
10. Plumbeous Euphonia in Peru by Rob Williams
The First confirmation of Plumbeous Euphonia in Peru! During last September’s Northern Peru Tour, the Rockjumper group was fortunate enough to see a pair of Plumbeous Euphonia! This species is only known from one site in Peru and was until now considered only hypothetical as its presence was based solely on sight records.
Late one afternoon, the group was birding on the Cordillera de Escalera ridge near Tarapoto. We had had a great afternoon, seeing the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit and had just been enjoying a group of 4 Curl-crested Aracaris, and then as we were walking back to the bus, I heard an unusual euphonia flight call. Looking up, I saw two small birds silhouetted against the sky and called attention to them, but they dived into a tree canopy high against the sky on the cliff above us. Raising my bins, I searched the tree and found the male tucked under some leaves but still in full view. I could not believe it: the yellow belly and grey head and breast meant it was Plumbeous Euphonia, a near mythical bird in Peru known only from this locality and from sight records alone, and a Peru tick for me! The light was fading fast but we got it in the scope and all the group could see enough to identify the bird. Anne Heyerly then managed to get some digiscoped pictures that document the identification, despite the distance and light conditions.
I had birded the Cordillera Escalera several times and even wrote a wildlife guide to the area, yet had never even had a sniff of this rare bird before. It was very satisfying to get the first documentation of the species for Peru.
LAST MINUTE TOURS
If you are able to travel at short notice, Rockjumper regularly offers last minute specials on our final spaces on guaranteed departures with a 5% discount. We suggest that you regularly view our latest Last Minute Tours on the content slider of our website homepage at www.rockjumperbirding.com
A SELECTION OF OUR 2015 SCHEDULED TOURS
Toco Toucan by Adam Riley
Brazil – Birds & Wildlife of the Pantanal & Cerrado III
Tour Dates: 10 – 19 Jul 2015, Tour Price: BRL 9,750 (+-US$ 3,100) per person sharing.
Our Birds & Wildlife of the Pantanal & Cerrado tour kicks off in the world’s largest wetland system, encompassing 80,000 square miles of emerald forests, savannas, rivers and lagoons and boasting over 650 bird and a staggering 200 mammal species! The nearby dry Cerrado habitat is also home to an amazing diversity of birds, several of them highly localized species. This combination provides us with the fantastic opportunity to seek out such specials as Bare-faced Curassow, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Greater Rhea, Red-legged Seriema, Southern Screamer, the majestic Hyacinth Macaw, Sunbittern, Sungrebe and Helmeted Manakin, amongst an incredibly diverse array of other avian delights. In addition, the abundance of mammals in the Pantanal includes Giant River Otter, Brazilian Tapir, Giant Anteater and, of course, the mighty Jaguar, which we stand an excellent chance of observing! Our pre-tour extension to impressive Iguaçu Falls, the most voluminous and arguably most scenic waterfall in the world, offers fantastic Atlantic Rainforest birding and targets include Surucua Trogon, Helmeted Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Motmot, Rufous Gnateater and many more. At nearby higher-elevations sites we seek other regional specialties such as Saffron Toucanet, Spotted Bamboowren and Tufted Antshrike. Finally, our Amazon Rainforest Birding Extension explores trails and waterways as well as scanning from a productive canopy tower in search of Razor-billed Curassow, Zigzag Heron, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Curl-crested Aracari, Rufous-faced and Bare-eyed Antbirds, and Fiery-capped, Flame-crested and Band-tailed Manakins, to name just some of the southern Amazonian species we hope to see.
Elegant Pitta by David Hoddinott
Indonesia – Lesser Sundas Endemics
Tour Dates: 01 – 18 Sep 2015, Tour Price: US$ 4,975 per person sharing.
Our Lesser Sundas tour takes us to this remarkably diverse chain of volcanic islands situated between Bali and New Guinea and supporting over 80 Indonesian endemic bird species! Our tour visits four of these islands (Sumba, Timor, Flores and Komodo) and targets over 60 of these localized birds. The Lesser Sundas fall within a region known as Wallacea and its avifauna is a startling mix of Asiatic and Australasian families. Starting and ending in Bali, we explore montane rainforests, lowland monsoon forests, wetlands, mangroves, coastal mudflats, grasslands and dry scrub.
We begin this epic adventure in East Sumba, where targets include Red-naped Fruit Dove, Sumba Green Pigeon, Sumba Hornbill, Great-billed Parrot, Mees’s Nightjar, Pale-shouldered Cicadabird and the little-known Sumba Buttonquail.
Our next leg takes us to West Timor where special birds abound, including such delectable species as Banded Fruit Dove, Pink-headed Imperial Pigeon, Flame-breasted Sunbird, Orange-sided and Chestnut-backed Thrush, Cinnamon-banded Kingfisher, Buff-banded Thicketbird and Timor Sparrow.
We end off on Flores Island, where the magnificent Flores Hawk-Eagle, Glittering Kingfisher, sensational Elegant Pitta, Wallace’s (Flores) Hanging Parrot, Leaf (Flores) Lorikeet and the bizarre Bare-throated Whistler are among our many targets. One of the undoubted trip highlights will be our visit to the nearby Komodo Island, where 10ft (3m) Komodo Dragons roam along with Green Junglefowl and Orange-footed Scrubfowl. Here we will also seek the critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo.
The Lesser Sundas has something very special to offer the keen birder and nature enthusiast and this eighteen day tour promises to be a classic among international birding adventures!
Pemba Scops Owl by Adam Riley
Tanzania Mega Birding Tour
Tour Dates: 02 – 27 Sep 2015, Tour Price: US$ 13,975 per person sharing.
Our Tanzania Mega Birding Tour is one of the ultimate African birding adventures, and has been specifically designed to take in the entire range of Tanzania’s endemic birds!
The tour kicks off with an exploration of the nearby Pemba Island, home to four species of endemics: Pemba Scops Owl, Pemba White-eye, Pemba Sunbird and Pemba Green Pigeon. We next venture to the lush forests of the impressive Eastern Arc Mountains, home to an amazing array of highly localized specials. Gems such as Winifred’s (Mrs Moreau’s) Warbler, Loveridge’s Sunbird, Usambara Akalat, Usambara Weaver, Spot-throat and Fischer’s Turaco are just a few of the wonderful species we will be searching for. We will also take time to track down the elusive and recently discovered Udzungwa Forest Partridge, a species that shares close affinities with partridges from Asia, and another rare bird, the splendid Rufous-winged Sunbird.
The mind-blowing reserves of the north are mostly famous for their scores of big game; however, they also hold a number of key endemics including the beautiful Fischer’s and Yellow-collared Lovebird, Ashy Starling, Grey-breasted Spurfowl and Rufous-tailed Weaver. With Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop we will search for the highly localized Beesley’s Lark, one the world’s rarest lark species with no more than 250 remaining birds! Other fabulous endemics and regional specialties include Amani Sunbird, Kretschmer’s Longbill, Uluguru Bushshrike, Iringa Akalat and Olive-flanked Ground Robin, together with a bunch of recently described species including Kilombero and White-tailed Cisticola and Kilombero Weaver.
Regent Bowerbird by Jonathan Rossouw
Can be seen on our
Australia – East Coast tour
Splendid Fairywren by Dave Semler
Can be seen on our
Australia – Southwest Extension tour
Australia – East Coast and Extensions
Australia – East Coast
Tour Date: 25 Sep – 15 Oct 2015, Tour Price: AUD 9,975 (+-US$ 7,860) per person sharing;
Australia – Southwest Extension
Tour Date: 19 – 25 Sep 2015, Tour Price: AUD 2,850 (+-US$2,245) per person sharing; Australia – Tasmania Extension
Tour Date: 15 – 19 Oct 2015, Tour Price: AUD 2,350 (+-US$ 6,190) per person sharing.
Australia is a vast continent packed with endemic birds and bizarre wildlife found nowhere else. Our comprehensive Australia – East Coast birding and wildlife tour covers the prime sites of Australia’s eastern seaboard, from the wet tropical rainforests and mangrove backwaters of the Daintree and endemic-rich Atherton Tablelands near Cairns, through to the cool temperate forests of Lamington and Royal National Parks, an exciting pelagic seabird trip off Wollongong, the scenic Capertee Valley and surrounds, the remote Outback area around Deniliquin, and finally ends with coastal birding around Melbourne. Our targets are numerous and include Victoria’s Riflebird, Australian Logrunner, Noisy Pitta, the strange Chowchilla, Tooth-billed, Regent and the exquisite Golden Bowerbird, the outrageous Southern Cassowary, Emu, Superb Lyrebird, the strange Plains-wanderer (sole member of its family), Malleefowl, endangered Regent Honeyeater, and a plethora of colorful parrots including the incomparable Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo! Non-avian highlights also abound, including the bizarre Short-beaked Echidna, various kangaroos and the Koala.
Our Southwest Extension takes us to the Darling and Stirling Ranges, Dryandra Woodland and the heathlands of Albany, to seek out the dozen endemic and numerous other avian and wildlife targets of this isolated ecozone. Prime amongst these is the Noisy Scrubbird, believed to be extinct until its dramatic rediscovery in 1961. Further targets include Short-billed Black Cockatoo, Western Bristlebird, Western Whipbird and Numbat.
For our Tasmania Extension, we fly into Hobart to search for the thirteen endemics of this rugged, temperate island. Spending two nights on Bruny Island and another near Mount Field National Park we will seek the rare Forty-spotted Pardalote, Beautiful Firetail, Little Penguin, Tasmanian Nativehen and many others. Tasmania is also the stronghold for many rare mammals and we stand good chances of finding the aberrant Platypus, massive Common Wombat, Eastern Barred Bandicoot and even the catlike Eastern Quoll.
Long-tailed Ground Roller by Markus Lilje
Budget Madagascar Birding Tour
Tour Dates: 26 Oct – 06 Nov 2015, Tour Price: US$ 3,450 per person sharing.
This Budget Madagascar Birding Tour provides the budget-conscious birder with a fantastic opportunity for observing the highlights of this magical island’s incredible birds and wildlife. We stand excellent chances of finding all five of the island’s endemic bird families, as well as up to 10 different lemur species, including the awesome Indri. Some of the expected highlights of this tour include Subdesert and White-breasted Mesites, Long-tailed and Pitta-like Ground Rollers, stunning Schlegel’s and Velvet Asities, Blue Coua, Sickle-billed and Van Dam’s Vangas, and the ubiquitous Cuckoo Roller.
White-necked Rockfowl by Adam Riley
Ghana Mega Birding Tour II
Tour Dates: 27 Nov – 19 Dec 2015, Tour Price: £3,975 (+-US$5,935) per person sharing.
Our Ghana Mega Birding itinerary affords even more time in Ghana’s spectacular, ancient forests. We spend a full day in the gallery forest of Kalakpa which offers such star species as Puvel’s Illadopsis, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Capuchin Babbler and many more. In addition we spend time exploring the wonders of Kakum National Park, as well as remote forests in the Brong-Ahafo region where the much desired White-necked Rockfowl has recently been rediscovered. We have obtained special permission to visit these colonies located in community-managed forests and our stay will aid in the conservation of these endangered birds.
Other forests near Kumasi and Atewa will be explored as well. We also visit the remote forests of Ankasa in search of some very seldom-seen birds including Akun Eagle-Owl, White-breasted Guineafowl, White-bellied Kingfisher and Brown Nightjar. On previous tours we have even found the near mythical Nkulengu Rail! Other forests will be visited in search of Rufous Fishing Owl and White-crested Tiger Heron. Our next base is within the extensive tract of pristine, broad-leaved Guinea woodland in the vast Mole National Park. The beautiful Oriole Warbler, Violet Turaco, several species of kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers (including Blue-bellied), barbets (including the huge Bearded), sunbirds, starlings and seedeaters will certainly create a riot of colour! Travelling into the seldom visited far north of Ghana, these woodlands give way to dry Sahelian savanna, home to some very special birds including the incredible Standard-winged Nightjar, one of the world’s most uniquely adorned birds! Here also we will search for the splendid Egyptian Plover. We will spend time exploring this remote region with its fascinating cultures, as well as other sites ranging from coastal lagoons, extensive coastal grasslands, moist savannas and higher-altitude forests. This Ghana Mega Birding tour is designed for the ardent birder intent on trying to see some of the rarest birds in Africa!
Rockjumper believes that the recipe for a successful birding tour is simple: a well-planned itinerary with smooth-running ground operations, comfortable accommodations and good food, a small group with low participant-to-leader ratio, and, most importantly, personable, friendly tour leaders with the necessary experience and expertise to make each tour a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding adventure! Below is a small selection of some of the many positive client comments we regularly receive about their tour experiences with us around the globe.“Well, we have just returned from 2 wonderful weeks in Ecuador led by the best guide of any other trip we have taken for bird watching. Forrest is a true asset to the Rockjumper organization. On behalf of Kim and I, and I’m sure I can also speak for the rest of our group, please pass along our comments to [him]. Forrest has taken bird watching to a much higher level with his energy and knowledge, both of the area and his wealth of knowledge of the natural world. It is people like him that help make Rockjumper a Cadillac in the Birdwatching field.” RB“Our Madagascar experience surpassed our wildest dreams. We didn’t even realise it was a ‘birding trip’ as David ensured that we saw much much more. The birds were great anyway, especially the pursuit of the magical Helmet Vanga! An unforgettable experience!” HH“Suffice it to say we will remember this trip for the rest of our lives. It could not have been better from start to finish. Thank you to everyone there at Rockjumper, including yourself – you are quite a wonderful team!” JR & BR“Morocco was a fun and thoroughly enjoyable tour. How could it not be with David Hoddinott and Mark Beevers as leaders!!! They just make me want to go on more Rockjumper tours to see as many birds as I can. You have no idea how appreciative I am of them. They are great and generous and fun and so focused. I love that. They have an intensity that makes birding fun.” MN
“Markus gets A+++ marks from me. Not only is he an excellent birder, but he is also a wonderful traveling companion. Our conversations were varied and interesting. He not only knows a lot about nature; he also participated in talks about a wide variety of subjects. We learned a lot about South Africa. His sense of humor is wonderful. His enthusiasm kept us all on an anticipatory high. His leading a tour will be a big plus for me when I am deciding on another trip.” SC
Rockjumper tour leaders Markus Lilje and Clayton Burne on an India tour
Wayne Jones on a Rockjumper Birding Tour up Sani Pass
“Glen Valentine is an asset to any birding group with his excellent knowledge of birds and his friendly outgoing personality. He is helpful to both experienced and inexperienced birders alike. I would not hesitate to join another birding tour where he was leader or co-leader as I know from experience that it would be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.” RD
“RBT has landed a rising young star in the bird guide business; David Erterius’s temperament is a hidden asset…. Yes, he knows the birds well, but the manner in which he carries out his day-to-day duties and responsibilities as leader in a foreign land instills confidence, calm and discipline, without losing focus or patience. We enjoyed traveling with him and will look to his future trips for our travel.” CH
“The trip sounded good in the write-up but far exceeded our expectations. The pelagic trips were outstanding. The number of participants was perfect. Erik knew the birds and their calls/sounds and was very effective in getting everyone to see the birds. He called many pelagic IDs well before other people had even spotted the birds. Erik’s skills in managing the participants showed and his sense of humour added to his effectiveness. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip.” D & SM
“I participated in the Jan-Feb tour to the Philippines guided by Rich Lindie…. I have to say that Rich’s … birding skills are definitely well above the norm in birding companies I am familiar with (including some very elite companies.) Rich is also enthusiastic, energetic, fun loving, patient and always in full control of his clients. In short, he is in the elite echelons of the guiding profession and should be considered a valuable asset to your organization. It is my intent to single out trips guided by him for my travel considerations.” JL
“The Kenya & Tanzania – Birds & Big Game Tour was the trip of a lifetime for me. Rockjumper did everything just right. The birds and animals, the accommodations, and especially Wayne Jones were all top notch. Although Wayne is relatively new to Rockjumper, he is definitely a keeper – personable, a keen observer, and a natural leader. He really made the tour more than “just another birding trip”. This is certainly a tour that I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone, although I am seriously considering South Africa next.” CJ
Group on tour in the
Falkland Islands by Markus Lilje
Lilac-cheeked Kingfisher by Rich Lindie
Satyr Tragopan by Markus Lilje
Komodo Dragon by Adam Riley
Male Gelada by Adam Riley
Our blog posts are intended to add another dimension to our tours and to birds and birding in general, by focusing on certain specific aspects, species, bird families, interesting and unusual sightings etc. Their purpose is to be both informative and entertaining at the same time, and they are replete with some great images taken by our very photographically talented tour leaders. Below is a selection of some of our most recent blogs.
How to Choose a Birding Tour by Markus Lilje
What with so many tours on offer and so many variables to consider when choosing any particular tour, one of our most experienced guides, Markus Lilje, has written a very informative and enlightening blog to help simplify and clarify the process, and make it easier for you to ultimately choose the perfect tour for you and your particular field of interest.
Bird of the Year 2014
Every year our tour leaders are fortunate to see and enjoy thousands of birds in 100 countries across the globe, and we thought we’d take the opportunity to share their top bird highlights for 2014 with you as recorded in their own words.
Bhutan Birding By Markus Lilje
The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan has long been considered by many world birders as one of the top Asian destinations to experience the wealth of birds that this special part of our planet has to offer. In particular, this country provides a wonderful introduction to Asia and the Indian Subcontinent and manages to combine this with a great cultural and general wilderness experience that can’t be matched by many other destinations. Despite some challenges that it is now facing with rapid development, it will continue to have the most extensive remaining forests in the Himalayas and be the best place to look for many of the region’s most wanted birds. So then, you are considering heading to Bhutan but are unsure when to go and which one of our Birding the Buddhist Kingdom tours to join? This blog will hopefully help to clarify which tour is best for you in terms of the species that can thereby be expected.
Komodo and its Dragons by Adam Riley
‘Komodo’ is a familiar word to most people and almost everyone has heard of the infamous Komodo Dragons, yet few people seem to know much about Komodo Island itself and the stories behind its most famous inhabitants. This arid 390km² island is one of the smaller islands making up an Indonesian chain known as the Lesser Sundas. This archipelago lies to the east of the Greater Sundas (also known as Sundaland), the latter comprising of the Malay Peninsula and the massive islands as Sumatra, Java and Borneo and the smaller Bali. Just to the east of Bali is a deepwater channel that separates Bali from the next small island, Lombok. Despite the width of this Lombok Strait measuring a mere 35km, it is actually a rather significant feature as it separates the Greater and Lesser Sundas and forms part of a major zoogeographical division known as Wallace’s Line. Please bear with me as I explain the relevance of this fact.
The Geladas of Ethiopia by Adam Riley
Geladas are the sole survivors of a once abundant branch of primates that historically foraged across the grasslands of Africa, the Mediterranean and India. These relics of times gone by now cling to a precarious existence on the sheer cliffs of Ethiopia’s mountains, from which each morning they materialize, to forage on nearby moorlands, before disappearing down the precipices in the evening.
Our representative Ric Zarwell will be attending the Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival from 12-16 August 2015. We invite you to explore and enjoy the beautiful and fascinating Sonoran Desert and Sky Islands, and we hope you will join the fun at the Fifth Annual Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival. Here you can get to know our friendly local birding and conservation community and the dazzling array of watchable wildlife experiences accessible from Tucson! You are welcome to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue from the Rockjumper stand and chat to Ric!
During the weekend of August 21 – 23, 2015, thousands of birders will congregate at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Engleton for the auspicious UK Birdfair. The annual UK Birdfair is a myriad of fun and knowledge for birders and naturalists alike and is an event not to be missed! You are welcome to join Managing Director Adam Riley and key members of the Rockjumper Birding Tours team – Keith Valentine, Forrest Rowland and Crystal Brook – at this year’s Birdfair. Come pick up a complimentary tour catalogue from the Rockjumper stand and chat to Adam and the team!
Falsterbo Bird Show is an annual nature and environmental fair focusing on birds. The aim is to increase public interest in nature in general and birds in particular and generate funding for bird protection and conservation. In this year’s edition of the fair children and family activities will take a prominent place along with a variety of outdoor experiences for everyone. Feel free to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue and chat to our Swedish representative.
The annual Sasol Bird Fair provides a superb opportunity to create awareness about birds, bird research and conservation, and the bird conservation organisations, like BirdLife South Africa, who work tirelessly to conserve our country’s birds. The Sasol Bird Fair receives around 2 500 visitors yearly with guided bird walks, a variety of talks, a great selection of birding products available at the exhibition area and beginner and advanced photographic workshops. Feel free to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue and chat to Rockjumper Tour Leaders Wayne Jones and Greg de Klerk.
The American Birding Expo (often referred to as the Birding Expo, or simply the Expo, or by the acronym ABE) is a retail-sales-oriented showcase of products for birders and nature enthusiasts. Vendors representing all aspects of the birding and nature market will display their products, goods and services at the Expo. The American Birding Expo is the largest and most diverse shopping experience available to North American bird watchers and is free and open to the public. You are welcome to join Managing Director Adam Riley and key members of the Rockjumper Birding Tours team – Forrest Rowland and Eric Pozzo at the American Birding Expo. Please come along to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue and chat to the team.
The Rio Grande Valley in Texas is one of the top birding destinations in the United States, due in large part to its subtropical climate. This in turn provides suitable habitat for species such as the beautiful Green Jay, Altamira and Audubon’s Oriole, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Olive Sparrow, Clay-colored Thrush, Great Kiskadee and Common Pauraque, among several others. The birding alone is sufficient reason to venture to southern Texas, but the top birding talent on offer is certainly another. Participants get to bird with some of the most knowledgeable birders in the country (and, indeed, the world!). These are the authors and editors of your favourite books and publications, as well as the movers and shakers in science, conservation, and education. Ric will be attending this event – please feel free to pick up a complimentary tour catalogue and chat to him.
Brad and Cheri Roberts
David and Mandy Hoddinott
Keagan Matthew Dell
Alexander Stewart Riley
We would like to congratulate Adam Riley and his lovely wife Felicity on the arrival of their second child, Alexander Stewart Riley, who was born on 15 April 2015. William, Adam and Felicity’s first child, is now almost 2 years old and charms the office with his regular visits.
We are delighted to introduce young Keagan Matthew Dell, the latest addition to our ever-expanding Rockjumper family. Keagan was born on 11 May 2015 and is the firstborn child of Sarah and Tim Dell. Sarah is one of our super-efficient office support staff, and on behalf of the entire Rockjumper team we would like to congratulate her and her husband on their beautiful little boy!
Another long-awaited event was the marriage of our senior tour leader, David Hoddinott to his wife Mandy Rawlins. This very special occasion took place in the magical Drakensberg Mountains on the 25th of April and we were all very excited to see this brilliant birder finally tying the knot with his special life partner!
On the subject of weddings, we’d also like to congratulate Brad Roberts from our marketing department on his marriage to his wife Cheri on the 31st of January, and wish both of them a long and happy life together!
We have welcomed several new members to the team and would like to take this opportunity to introduce our new staff members to our Rockjumper supporters.
Candice was born in our home town of Pietermaritzburg. After University she went on to work in the UK where the travel bug bit her! She has been working in the travel field for 9 years and has been fortunate to have toured the world during this time. She is now based at our Rockjumper Headquarters where she runs our busy travel department.
Megan joined the Rockjumper team after working for an accounting firm. She is now part of our busy financial team assisting with payroll and bookkeeping functions. Megan has a passion for people and enjoys a good challenge, which is why she is well-suited for her position within Rockjumper!
Brad spent most of his career as a graphic designer for advertising agencies and corporates. During this time, he accumulated a wealth of computer knowledge, and in addition to being involved with the visual aspects of our marketing material, he assists with general IT issues and maintenance. Brad is conscientious and has an understated sense of humour, and is always happy to help out in any way he can!
Praniel also hails from Pietermaritzburg and is a qualified Professional Accountant (SA). Joining the Rockjumper team has seen him make the bold move after spending 17 years in a professional accounting practice to rolling up his sleeves and getting more involved in the day-to-day financial and administrative affairs in a challenging corporate environment.
Heinz hails from Howick, a small village near to Pietermaritzburg. His passion for conservation led him to completing an Honours in Conservation Ecology, followed by studying at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology in Cape Town where he completed his MSc in Conservation Biology. Heinz has 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.
David Bishop has spent much of his life intimately exploring the entire Oriental Region, New Guinea and the South-west Pacific. As a result David is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and experienced bird-tour leaders within these areas – quite simply there is none better! In addition, David has published more than 35 scientific papers documenting his observations obtained both during the tours he leads and when undertaking research, as well as writing THE book on the birds of Wallacea, Indonesia. He has also undertaken numerous exciting expeditions to previously unexplored parts of New Guinea and Indonesia and has regularly led tours to a variety of African destinations.
Greg de Klerk
On completion of his high school education Greg followed his passion, studying Game Ranging and Lodge Management. He then spent more than a decade at a few well-recognised lodges on the western border of the greater Kruger National Park, where his passion for birding, fauna, flora and photography flourished. As a member of the Field Guides Association of South Africa (FGASA), Greg has achieved a Level 3 guiding qualification and is currently completing his Savanna Specialist Qualification. The culmination of his passion for both guiding and birding resulted in Greg becoming a Tour Leader for Rockjumper Birding Tours.
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.