Birder Friendly tour operators

BFE logo
Being a Birder Friendly tour operator

Tour operators are required to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for 'Birder Friendly' status:

  • The Operator and its Guides must be fully accredited tour operators/guides.
  • The Operator should be able to provide BirdLife Travel with itineraries for promotional purposes at local and international Trade Shows.
  • The Operator must commit to the use and support of BirdLife South Africa's "Birder-friendly" accommodation suppliers where ever possible.
  • The Operator must commit to the support of Community Bird Guides where possible.
  • The Operator must commit to practicing responsible tourism ethics.
The benefits

For an annual subscription of R1 135 (South African members) or R1 605 (non-South African members), BirdLife South Africa is committed to offering Tour Operators of the Birder Friendly scheme the following benefits:

  • Bot tuineA listing on the BirdLife South Africa website
  • Use of the 'Birder Friendly' logo and branding on marketing materials
  • Marketing at selected local and international trade shows
  • The opportunity to market products through the monthly e-newsletter
  • Listing of special offers on the BirdLife South Africa website and in the monthly e-newsletter
  • Marketing of selected itineraries through the BirdLife South Africa website
  • BirdLife South Africa membership, which includes:
  • Six issues of African BirdLife magazine
  • BirdLife South Africa supporters' card
  • BirdLife South Africa supporters' sticker
  • Invitations to BirdLife South Africa talks and events
Birder Friendly Application Process

Download the application form here
Please complete and return via email: or fax: 086 511 5171.

Other valuable documents:

For more information on how to register as a 'Birder Friendly Tour Operator", please contact Natasja Retief on +27 (0)84 815 5765 (mobile) or

Birder Friendly registered tour operators (listed alphabetically)

African Nature Trails

logo African Nature Trails

Africa Nature Trails operates in Southern Africa - specifically in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Free State and the Northern Cape provinces. All tours are planned according to our customer's requirements, from a day outing to a month or more. For small family groups, we have two 4x4's for bushveld trips, which are fully kitted out for safaris. If you have your own vehicles, we also cater for tag-a-long guests. When using our vehicles only, we cater to a maximum of 6 guests, so as to be able to give the personal attention required with a qualified guide in each vehicle.

Apart from customised birding tours Malcolm and Sue are experienced in other nature related subjects such as the identification of different grasses, trees, insects, mammals, astronomy, geology and reptile species as they are both CATHSSETA accredited Nature Guides. Malcolm being a FGASA accredited Lead Trails Guide is qualified to guide walking tours in areas with dangerous game and is experienced in tracks and tracking of animals.

NatureTrails can accommodate a couple or family of guests as we have a small self-catering suite attached to our home and do meals on request. We are situated 6 km from OR Tambo airport and can do pickups and drop-offs for those who want to do birding between connecting flights.

Other things that NatureTrails does and is involved in is running bird identification courses for Bird Clubs and organisations involved in guide training as well as corporate organisations. Malcolm has been involved in Guide training for several years and was Principal Trainer (Birds) for one of the Flagship Nature Training providers, whose bird notes are also accredited by BirdLife SA.

Being SASSETA accredited as firearm instructors and range officers, Sue and Malcolm offer firearms training, specializing in Advanced Rifle Handling for guides who need to carry a large calibre rifle whilst on a trail with guests and who need to qualify for this specialist role. We also run basic courses for those who just wish to be more proficient in the use of their firearm (handgun and rifle).

Contact Details

Malcolm Henderson

Address: 16 De Villiers Avenue, Van Riebeeck Park, Kempton Park, Gauteng.
Tel: +27 (0)11 393 3493
Fax: 086 589 8727
Cell: +27 (0)82 410 4037

Avian Leisure

logo avianAvian Leisure's location in Simon's Town makes it an excellent base for birders visiting Cape Town: it is less than 5 minutes by car from the Simon's Town harbour, departure point for the renowned Cape pelagic tours, a highlight in every birder's visit to Cape Town! On the edge of the Table Mountain National Park, it is 10 minutes from the Cape Point Reserve, 45 minutes from the city centre and the Airport, with easy access to the winelands and southern Cape coastline. The Boulders Beach Reserve's Penguin colony starts at the bottom of the road – in fact penguins are nesting in Dorries Drive!

Besides the good location, excellent views and spacious accommodation, which appeal to birders and non-birders alike, Avian Leisure is a fully fledged tour operator with owner Patrick Cardwell one of the most respected bird guides in South Africa. As past guests will testify, Patrick is always willing to help guests with planning their birding time in Cape Town, whether self-drive or guided excursions, booking pelagic trips or onward travel bookings, itinerary planning, and fully guided tours in Cape Town and further afield in the rest of South Africa.

It is this combination of a well-appointed establishment in a natural setting run by owners with first-hand birding knowledge that makes Avian Leisure an ideal base for birders visiting Cape Town. For birders wanting to combine a pelagic trip with land-based birding in Cape Town, there is no better choice than Avian Leisure.

We would be delighted to assist you in planning your trip to the Western Cape and South Africa, whether it be guided or self-drive. In particular Avian Leisure specialises in compiling complete birding and wildlife tour itineraries tailored to your specific requirements, through our network of personally selected safari operators.

Contact Details

Patrick & Marie-Louise Cardwell

Physical address: 88 Dorries Drive, Froggy Farm, Simon's Town
Tel: +27(0)21 786 1414
Fax: +27(0)21 786 1414
Mobile: +27(0)83 272 2455

Batis Birding Safaris

logo-batisBatis Birding Safaris is based in Windhoek, Namibia and originated because of a passion for birds and the joy of sharing it with other birders around the world.

Steve & Louise Braine has recently taken the Batis Birding reigns from John Lötter and has been involved with ornithology and natural history within Namibia from a very young age, contributing invaluable data to Namibian Ornithology.

Come birding with the Braine's and explore Namibia and Angola with them. Their bird watching expertise stretches from the arid Namib Desert to the broadleaved woodlands of the Caprivi and the forests of Central Angola. We offer set departures to Angola and Namibia as well as custom tours, tailor made to meet your exact requirements.

We have handpicked specialized local guides from some of the world's most exotic destinations. The reason for using these local guides is to support the interest and stimulate these people in bird watching and the spinoffs from tourism, and the subsequent generation of capital from this. Our aim is to promote tourism through bird watching and to have, in the future, more impoverished rural communities benefiting from this.

The areas in which Batis Birding undertake their safaris are always well researched and visited so as to provide the best opportunities of locating all the birds and wildlife within each region. We schedule our safaris around the best seasons of the year for the most productive bird watching.

We support the protection of endangered bird species and are involved in several training projects within Namibia, and are presently looking at means to become more involved in Angolan conservation projects.

Contact Details

Steve & Louise Braine

Address: P O Box 2703, Swakopmund, Namibia
Tel: 064 (0)64 404908
Fax: 086 628 2977
Mobile: 064 (0)81 639 1775 (Louise)
Mobile: 064 (0)81 733 1422 (Steve)

Birding Africa

logo birding-africaBirding Africa is a bird tour operator specialising in leading professionally guided bird tours for groups and private individuals to countries throughout Africa and Madagascar. We customise tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds.

In addition we offer guided tours and self-drive birding holidays in Southern Africa, and guided birding day trips from most of the main city centres. We are based in Cape Town and therefore focus on guided day trips on the Cape Peninusla, Hottentots Holland and West Coast National Park and 2-day loops to the Tanqua Karoo and Overberg.

Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

Choose Birding Africa: 2500 bird species, 20 endemic bird families, the world record for bird species seen in a day and the most exhilarating primate and mammal watching on earth. We are bird guide authors and conservationists living in Africa, drawn together by a common passion: sharing our enthusiasm for Africa's birds with the world.

Contact DetailsGHANA PicathartesCCohen

Marje Hemp
Operations Manager: Southern Africa

Callan Cohen
Managing Director

Address: 4 Crassula Way, Pinelands 7405
Tel: +27 (0)21 531 9148 or +27 (0)21 531 6405.
Fax: +27 (0)86 734 5761
Mobile: +27 (0)83 256 0491
Read our Blog at:

Birding Ecotours

birding ecotours logo fin

Birding Ecotours specializes in Small Group birding adventures world-wide. Typically, our maximum group size is 6 people in countries with primarily forest birding, or 8 people in more open countries where the birds are easier to see.

We like to do things differently. Our team is constantly innovating. For example, we offer some unique tours, including Bird Sound Recording tours, Owls of the World® Tours, tough mammal tours and more. We lead the way in the birding tour industry.

What is one of our typical birding tours like? Our main focus is of course on finding the important birds (especially the endemics and specials). Our trip lists are top-notch (we do encourage you to look at our trip lists and compare them with those of other companies). However, we understand that birding tours can be tiring, so we prefer to add a day or two, rather than to knock ourselves completely out by rushing all the way through. This gives us back-up-time in case some birds don't cooperate as expected, and also gives time to stop for mammals and other interesting things along the way.

We also run a lot of Birding Photo Tours, which need a different approach to a typical birding tour – more space in the vehicles for camera gear, the correct pace to get photos (not just visuals), angling the vehicle correctly (when not on foot) and loads of other considerations are important here.

We have three offices, one in the USA (headed up by Mike Nelson), another in Peru (led by Eduardo Ormaeche), and the final one in South Africa (with Chris Lotz and several others based there). Our Peru office is a real asset, with Eduardo and team being able to offer very high quality birding tours at competitive prices throughout the neo-tropical region, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Central America and the Caribbean. Our US office is weakened by the fact that Mike spends a lot of his time in Africa and Asia! Overall, we have an extremely strong presence in Australia, Africa, South America, North America, Europe and Asia, and we sometimes arrange cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic.

We're always happy to arrange a custom trip, in addition to our wide array of Small Group set-departure trips. We can run any of our advertised tours any time by request. And, if you send us a wish-list, we'll revert to you with a custom itinerary fast – our team loves the challenge of finding difficult birds including flufftails, owls and other elusive species.

If you contact us, you'll find that we're spectacularly enthusiastic, and highly efficient at e-mailing detailed information to you. It's our contagious enthusiasm for birding, and the natural world as a whole, that spurs us on to give the outstanding service that might be surprising to you. Ask us a question and we'll answer you with gusto.

Please e-mail if you want to be added to our mailing list or if you have any questions about birding or of course about specific tours. And peruse our website,

Contact Details

Nadia Brooks

Mobile: +27 (0)72 211 9863
Fax: +27 (0)21 592 7438

Birds & Beyond

to logo-birds and beyond

Join Stuart McLean on a birding trip up the majestic Sani Pass, the only road to Lesotho from KwaZulu-Natal or visit the mistbelt grasslands and forests. Stuart is a Nature Conservator and spent time working in the Zululand game reserves. During this time he completed a bird ringing course ans was involved with the Caspian Tern and Grey Headed Gull studies at Lake St. Lucia. After farming for 12 years, Stuart qualified as a tour guide and has been guiding for the last 10 years. During this time he completed a rock art course, adding a new dimension to his tours.

Stuart is a passionate naturalist and offers natural history tours in the Southern Drakensberg area.

  • Birding up Sani Pass: All day trip up the Sani Pass in a 4x4 looking for Drakensberg Rockjumper, Sentinel Rockthrush, Drakensberg Siskin, Bush Blackcap and Mountain Pipit.
  • Mistbelt Tour: A half day to Bulwer - Hella Hella to spot Cape Parrots and the Blue Swallows.
  • Bushman Painting Hikes: A 5-6 hour hike into the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park to view the bushman paintings.
  • Game Drives: 1-2 hour drive on a private game farm to enjoy eland, zebra, red hartebeest and reedbuck in a beautiful setting.

Contact Details

Stuart Mclean

Address: PO Box 38, HIMEVILLE, Drakensberg, 3256
Tel: +27 (0)33 702 1761
Mobile: +27 (0)82 742 6981

Button Birding

logo button

The Button Birding area hosts some of finest species of birds available in Southern Africa, due in large part to the extensive array of habitats found here. Specials such as Cape Parrot and Blue Swallow are amongst our list of rare and endangered species, whilst our logo bird, the mysterious Black-rumped Buttonquail, is resident on the farm. This small quail is classified as endangered in South Africa, and inhabits well drained open grassland with bare ground between the tufts. You may see the black rump as the bird explodes up from your feet but a quick eye is needed as it will fly fast for a very short distance and then drop and disappear.

Malcolm Gemmell is an accredited tourist guide who has 29 years of birding experience in the area and has developed an intimate knowledge of the local bird population, as well as roosts, feeding areas and activities. (And sometimes nest sites.) He has located a Blue Swallow breeding site in the district, and provides tours to this and other localities for specials such as Cape Parrot and Black-rumped Buttonquail.

Bird tours to suit your requirement for example:

  • Kwa Zulu Natal
  • Kruger National Park
  • Kalahari Gemsbok
  • Etosha/Namibia
  • Wild Coast
  • Eastern Cape

Contact Details

Malcolm and Gail Gemmell

Address: P. O Box 60, Creighton, 3263
Tel: +27 (0)39 833 1029
Fax: +27 (0)39 833 1129
Mobile: +27 (0)82 789 5000 (Malcom)
Mobile: +27 (0)72 442 4100 (Gail)

Cape Eco-Tours


Cape Eco-Tours is a small, but dynamic tour operator based in Cape Town. We offer private and personalized tours designed specifically to suit the needs and interests of each individual client. We guarantee value for money tours with personal attention on all trips.

Trips to any destination in South Africa will be customized to include any one or more of the following:

  • Bird watching (whether you are a relaxed birder or a 'twitcher')
  • Botanical rambles (Fynbos, spring flowers etc)
  • Ecological walks and drives
  • Scenic country drives
  • Wine tours and tasting
  • Whale watching
  • Tours customised for keen to serious photographers

For Birding and Botanising in the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Free State, KZN & Gauteng

Contact Details

Mariana Delport

Tel: +27 (0)21 919 2282
Fax: +27 (0)86 698 8390
Mobile: +27 (0)82 460 4847

Cape Town Pelagics


See up to 10000 seabirds of 25 species on Cape Town Pelagics' seabird trips from Cape Town and Durban. Cape Town Pelagics is run on a non-profit basis and over the last 8 years, we've donated over R 60,000.00 to Albatross research and conservation. One of the projects we've supported recently has been Birdlife International's Save the Albatross Campaign, of which the Albatross Task force is a part.

We're glad that through our pelagic trips we've been able to play our small role in helping to save Albatrosses, not only by direct donations, but also by raising awareness (for example for the Leap School Bird Club) and providing an opportunity for people to see Albatrosses and becoming inspired for conservation. We also take out Albatross researchers for free on research trips. See trip schedules and reports on our website and blog.

Through our sister company, Birding Africa, we can also organise any of your land-based birding needs, such as accommodation, transport and expert guides.

Contact DetailsCTP Trawler12Feb2012 JonH

Callan Cohen
Managing Director

Address: 4 Crassula Way, Pinelands 7405
Tel: +27 (0)21 531 9148 or +27 (0)21 531 6405.
Fax: +27 (0)86 734 5761
Mobile: +27 (0)83 256 0491

Read our Blog at:

Lawson's Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris

Lawsons Logo - final res

Lawson's Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris started out in 1990 with some of the first dedicated birding safaris to South Africa, in the process pioneering some of the now popular routes and stakeouts. Since then we've grown into a specialised birding and wildlife safari company, offering first-class birding and wildlife trips to a range of countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. Our range of set-departures caters to both the casual birder and the more enthusiastic 'lister', as well as the general natural history enthusiast. For those who prefer not to join groups, or who have specific travel requirements, we are also the custom-safari specialists. Either way, we'll use our extensive knowledge and experience to create a fun, rewarding and memorable African experience for you.

Lawson's safaris comprise:

  • small groups of up to 12 participants (safaris for larger groups or private tours are available on request)
  • knowledgeable and experienced professional leaders
  • excellent accommodation with birds and wildlife on the doorstep
  • incredible wildlife destinations
  • comprehensive itineraries and species checklists

Take a look at our set-departure safaris or contact us to put together a custom-made itinerary to suit your needs, interests and budget.

We look forward to setting up the trip of a lifetime for you and to meeting you here on African soil!

"You'll want to return to Africa with us time and time again!"

Contact Details

Mavourneen Pearce

Address: PO Box 16849, West Acres, Nelspruit, 1211, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)13 741 2458
Fax: +27 (0)13 741 3689

Nelson's Safaris



Rock Pratincole

Our focus is on safaris for small groups and families offering a personalised experience at affordable prices. Part of this experience is some involvement in setting up camp and some assistance around the campfire.

Up to three guests are accommodated in each of our two vehicles. These vehicles are fully equipped with all the gear required for catered trips to the destinations on offer.

Accommodation is provided in dome tents on comfortable air mattresses. All you need to bring is a sleeping bag, a pillow and your personal effects. All other equipment required for a camping safari will be provided. Other accommodation alternatives can be used where available.

All our tours/safaris are guided by company owners and registered guides Craig and Karin Nelson.

Although all of the standard tours and itineraries listed on come highly recommended we SPECIALISE IN PUTTING TOGETHER OVERLAND TRIPS TO SUIT YOUR NEEDS AND BUDGET.


 Some of the countries we regularly visit are:Kubu

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Zambia
  • Mozambique
  • Zimbabwe

If any of these trips interest you contact us to discuss an itinerary and rates. If you have another trip in mind then let us know and see what we can work out.


Contact Details:

Mobile: +27 (0) 82 900 0107

Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures


Rockjumper's passion for nature, strong commitment to conservation and belief in service excellence, continue to keep them blossoming. They genuinely look forward to welcoming you on one of their upcoming birding and wildlife adventures and assure you a professionally guided yet fun and educational experience, expertly planned itineraries and exceptional value for money. Their growing list of regular and repeat guests is testimony to our dedication to delivering the ultimate birding experience.

Our portfolio of over 100 different tours encompasses more than 60 destinations, including some of the most breathtaking and biologically diverse places on our planet. Over the past decade and a half we have introduced thousands of birders, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers to the world's most productive wildlife destinations. In the process, we have shared countless thrilling sightings, including many a life-changing experience and fantastic memories that will remain with our participants for the rest of their lives.

rockjumperOur tour leaders are all passionate birders and accomplished tour coordinators who derive great pleasure from sharing their birding experiences with others. Most of our tours are guided by full time Rockjumper leaders, often with the backup of the most experienced local birders across the globe. Whilst we guarantee that our leaders have superb birding skills, we also appreciate that they need to be personable, professional, friendly, attentive and dedicated to delivering a rewarding, educational, safe and enjoyable birding experience!

Our office team is based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and is highly skilled at orchestrating the complex arrangements that efficient and organized traveling requires. Questions are gladly answered in a friendly and comprehensive manner, and you will find that booking with us is nothing but a pleasure. We do our utmost to ensure that all your requests and requirements are met; whether before, during or after your tour with us.

Our leader to guest ratio is one of the best in the birding tour industry and most of our tours have a maximum of eight participants, giving our guests a very personalized tour experience. For some destinations we provide two leaders with an absolute maximum of 12 participants. The only exception to this is cruises where larger groups are unavoidable.

Our tour costs and booking conditions represent excellent value for money and are very reasonable. Although we are not always the least expensive in the market, it is important to compare exactly what you are getting when dealing with low cost or local operators. In particular, the services of a professional tour leader can make.

Contact Details

Address: PO Box 13972, Cascades, 3202, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)33 394 0225 or +27 (0)33 394 0251
Fax: +27 (0)+27 88 (0)33 394 0225
Alternative email: