While scrolling around the GoBirding map planning your next trip, you will notice around 50 rusted-orange pins in the northeast of the country adjacent to some of the most exciting birding areas. These are BirdLife South Africa’s Community Bird Guides, and you should consider using them whenever in their areas!
BirdLife South Africa’s Community Bird Guide Project has been going for around 20 years, and has trained over 200 people from rural and underprivileged backgrounds in that time. Many of those graduates have gone on to become safari guides, conservationists, educators, hospitality staff, lodge managers, and other things, but nearly 50 of them remain active specialist bird guides. They are the local experts in their patches and will add significantly to your visit. Not only are they the best at what they do (some are even able to summon birds using calls from their mouths), they also provide security in rural and unknown areas, have access to private sites that are otherwise inaccessible, and are excellent companions that will enrich your experience.
Unless otherwise discussed, the guides will most likely meet you at a pick up point and join you in your vehicle. Note that you will have to negotiate your costs with the guide directly – they are professional freelancers and not employed by BirdLife South Africa. The costs will vary depending on the length of your trip (half- or full-day, or multi-day), the number of people in your party, and the guide’s costs (fuel, meals, accommodation, etc.).
BirdLife South Africa empowers our guides to be entrepreneurs and independent business owners, however, we maintain a very strong relationship with the guides. Over the years we have provided loan pairs of Swarovski Optik binoculars, Canon cameras, branded uniforms, business cards, and other equipment. We have also arranged extra training such as entrepreneurship courses and we are planning a women empowerment workshop as well. Our guides have also had some amazing opportunities provided to them, such as joining trips to the British Birdfair, multiple Flock at Seas including the Flock to Marion voyage in 2022, and other local events such as the Tourism Indaba, South Africa’s biggest tourism expo.
We are very proud of our guides, and they are likewise proud to be BirdLife South Africa representatives. Many run their own community conservation and education programmes to give back.
When you’re next out in their areas, please consider supporting them and keeping tourism local!
You can also donate to the Community Bird Guide Project by visiting https://www.birdlife.org.za/support-us/donate-form/ and selecting “BirdLife South Africa Community Bird Guides”.