Tropical Birding is an international bird tour company, with offices in South America, the US, Africa and Asia, and guides living on five continents. TB has over ten years experience of organizing tours for a wide variety of birders, both in North America and throughout the world. Every year TROPICAL BIRDING runs well over a hundred set departure and custom tours in North America, South and Central America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Antarctica.
What is TROPICAL BIRDING about?
Tropical Birding is about bringing birds and birders together, at events like the BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING, and through their worldwide tours.
Tropical Birding has a different approach to bird tours from many other companies. Although they can and do cater to serious world birders who want to go all out to see every possible bird, their main aim is to grow a ‘birding culture’. There are many different types of birders, from avid world listers, to ABA listers, to people who enjoy watching bird feeders in their back yard. The guides at TROPICAL BIRDING understand this and relish the interaction with the full spectrum of birders to expand our community and broaden interest in birds and subsequently conservation too. For this reason TB has been involved with a wide range of projects to bring non-birders into contact with birds, and different types of birders in contact with each other. This has proved popular at places like High Island, Texas, over the past 4 spring seasons, and up here at Magee Marsh in the past two spring seasons.
The guides at Tropical Birding know what the world of birds has to offer to everyone. There is little that can beat being on tour, showing someone a new bird, and seeing the uncontained thrill of this amazing experience unfold on their faces. TB guides know this feeling well, and are fortunate to relive this feeling on a regular basis through their tour participants all over the world.
Nick Leseberg remembers watching flocks of gaudy Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets coming in to be fed on his Grandma's porch in Australia. Mesmerized, he would spend hours watching them and asking his Dad what they were. When he couldn't make up any more names, his Dad bit the bullet and bought Nick his first field guide, creating a monster that has lead him to a job at Tropical Birding.
Sam Woods remembers well the pair of Blue Tits feeding in a London park that made him an instant birder. This led him to an unlikely childhood fantasy of stumbling into a flame-doused male Blackburnian Warbler while on his rarity chasing trips around the UK. Where he finally caught up with one though it was not where he had imagined back then at all: while sifting through a fast-moving, dizzy mixed flock in the Andes of Ecuador, he glanced past the hulking blue-and-gold form of a Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager to see his boyhood fantasy gleaning in a tree behind. Fantasy had become blissful reality.
Many of the TB guides have traveled the world over and are well acquainted with the adrenalin-fueled feeling of seeing a new bird, or an old favorite, and frankly the thrill never, ever fades away.
Tropical Birding guides know birders will experience the same electric excitement when they travel to Costa Rica, for example, to see a radiant Resplendent Quetzal, or Southeast Asia to see glistening pittas, or Papua New Guinea to see their first flamboyant birds-of-paradise. TB guides love to incite, witness and facilitate these “lifer” harvesting moments; they are compulsive birders and nature lovers who thrill in the chase of finding such treasured memories for others. In short, they love to take people out birding.
TROPICAL BIRDING guides come from a wide variety of backgrounds: Iain Campbell is a former geochemist from Australia; hailing from Connecticut, Nick Athanas dropped a lucrative career in geophysics to immerse himself in the wonders of South American birding; South African Keith Barnes has a doctorate in ornithology; Sam Woods studied Andean hummingbirds for his Environmental Science degree in the UK; Colorado birder Andrew Spencer’s obsession with bird sounds led him to South America too and finally to Ecuador; Spaniard Christian Boix gave up an academic career in ornithology to guide for TB; Australian Nick Leseberg gave up a successful long-term career in the Australian Air Force to chase his childhood guiding dream; Canadian Scott Watson has fled his native North America for Capetown to pursue his long-time dream of wandering the world in pursuit of birds; Michael Retter hailed from the Midwest, where he picked up a degree in Music from the University of Illinois; and Pennsylvanian birder Ken Behrens has spent the last few years getting intimately connected with African birds, that led him to publish a site guide to Ethiopia among other things, and will soon emigrate once more to be based in Tropical Birding’s Far East office in Taiwan. These are just the guys you might bump into on the Magee boardwalk this spring at The Biggest Week in American Birding. Other TB guides include Joe Illanes, an Euadorian who hails from a tiny village in the Amazon, who migrated into the Andes of Quito to fuel his passion for South American birds that has led him to guide in Peru, Venezuela and Brazil; and then there’s Englishman Charley Hesse, who has spent stints living all over the world, including Japan where he worked in International Relations and learnt to speak fluent Japanese in the process, although is now living in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa.
The one thing they ALL have in common is an obsessive, almost fanatical devotion to birds, and hanging out with other birdwatchers. People often ask them what they do on their days off. Well, they go birding of course! We all know the difference between genuine enthusiasm and people who are just doing it to make a living. The former is fun to be with on tour, the other is not. Unlike many other companies, their offices and guides are located within many of the countries the tours are set in, making TB more affordable than most other bird tour companies, and also allowing them to have a more intimate knowledge of how to run a smooth tour within such destinations.
When Scott Watson was 6 years old he saw a scene from Disney's "The Rescuer's Down Under" where Wilbur the Albatross makes a landing at the bird airport. The mouse ranger then checks out a chart filled with the fantastically crazy names and silhouettes of Australian birds like Galah and Kookaburra, instantly sparking Scott’s imagination. So when 17 years later he travelled "Down Under" to Australia with Tropical Birding he finally saw those same crazy birds that sparked his interest in birds as a young kid.
They offer amazing birding trips, not a dour, soulless checklist-filling exercise like we often see when we come across other tour groups. Their main aim centers upon ensuring that you enjoy the birds and the place you are visiting. Bird tours can often be combined with cultural activities. How could you go birding in India without visiting the Taj Majal, or chase birds in Egypt without seeing the unqiue Sphinx, or go to Peru without climbing up to Machu Picchu? Birders regularly bring non-birding spouses and TB will make a big effort to make their tours as stimulating as possible too for their non-birding interests. In Ecuador for example you cannot help but enjoy the huge variety of beautiful orchids, or be blown away by the incredible large mammals while in Africa, or be amused by the antics of the strange Proboscis Monkey while in Borneo.
On a recent tour to Namibia clients were lucky enough to watch the amazing spectacles of a lion hunting and catching an oryx right before their eyes, elephants bathing and using their trunks to splash water over themselves and Black Rhinos coming in to drink at a waterhole whilst watching one of the most amazing sunsets of their lives, ‘sun-downer’ drinks in hand. No birds were missed, no joke or laugh was spared either. Tropical Birding live up to their motto “Your Ultimate Birding Experience Is Our Foremost Concern” and their repeat customer record pays testament to that.