12 August 2014

The best job in the world?

Its generally a cold day in hell that I happen to find myself socially interacting with people other than clients. Odd job choice for a misanthropist you might say. However, on the rare occasion that I do find myself conversing with the plebs, I am invariably told that I have such a GREAT job - something to be grateful for even! Who wouldn't want to travel the world for a living? Perception and reality, an estranged couple these days. Once said individual's hamster has been motivated to make a few revolutions they realise that this is pure romanticism. And grateful for what exactly? Are you grateful for your office job? Why is my job so different that I need to be grateful anyway?

There is clearly a disconnect between the volume of countries I visit and the patently self evident travel that this involves. Sure, I see many, many countries and places, but think about how I get there. I'm not sure what image people get into their heads regarding just what it is that I do. I'm most certainly not jetting off to the Caribbean to lie on a beach for 6 weeks. I facilitate, I teach - ultimately I make things happen so that my clients have a seamless and enjoyable holiday. Unlike most tour reps, guides, operators - whatever term you wish to use, I don't specialise in a country or region, but a subject. I never get to sit back and relax once I know one country - for we travel to over 100 countries and offer 200 different tours covering over 10 000 species of birds and a few thousand mammals.

Most people like more than a little routine, call it societal conformity - the only thing routine about my life is change (and waking up 04:00 almost every morning - birds get up early). I have no base, no home, no country, too many nationalities and even more identities. For years I have spent my life living out of a suitcase. The most consecutive days I have spent in one location this year is 13 days. I spend almost all my life in the 'summer' of the world's tropics. Its hot, humid, full of biting/stinging organisms and rains a lot. Things you take for granted are a complete waste of my life - I don't own a TV, furniture, cannot have any pets and probably shouldn't involve myself in any form of relationship. Aside from the incredible wildlife I bear witness to, the highlight of my day/week/month is getting a half decent internet connection and a hot shower. Grateful, yes - for the things you take for granted.

Diatribe, sure - but this is far from being a general whinge about my life.  This is in fact a lifestyle that suits me perfectly - and I love it. So, do you really want to do my job?

Flights : 2014
Basic flight paths for the year - single lines like Johannesburg (JNB) to Brazil (GRU) are 4 flights, not 1!


By the time this year is over, I'll will have effectively flown around the world 4 times.

57 flights, of which :

18  Inter-continental (i.e. Africa to South America - long flights!)
17  Intra-continental (i.e. within Africa - medium length flights)
22  Domestic            (i.e. within South Africa)

Total flying time     : 215 hours (9 days)
Distance Travelled : 152 192 kilometres (94 568 miles)

Average Flight       : 2 670km (3.5 hours)

Countries : 2014

Total visited : 21

I spent 9 days/nights inside a plane. Otherwise I spent the following nights per country.
(X) signifies number of transits.

126  South Africa
 (2)  Netherlands
 (6)  Panama
 21  Guatemala
 17  Dominican Republic
 16  Jamaica
 21  Cuba
 (2) USA
   1  Lesotho
 08  Kenya
 14  Tanzania
 02  Singapore
 25  Papua New Guinea
 13  Indonesia
 (2)  UAE
 06  Switzerland
 05  UK
 (4)  Brazil
 17  Paraguay
 49  Colombia
 16  Ecuador

Boarding Passes for July and August 2014


Highlights : 2014

Guatemala (Jan)

Lago Atitlan, Coffee fincas, Volcanic highlands, hiking up Volcan San Pedro 3 times and getting to grips with one of the world's most impressive birds, Horned Guan. Mayan architecture at Tikal.

Jamaica (Feb)

Home of Bob Marley, Rastafarians and a pile of endemics birds. Managed one decent shot of a
Red-billed Streamertail - smashing Hummingbird.


Dominican Republic (Feb)


Another Caribbean island, more great birds and equally friendly people. Tragically getting destroyed by the people of Haiti. Collected the full set of endemics over the course of two visits.

Cuba (March)

Third of the four Greater Antillean islands and had been one of my favourite countries. Nailed all the usual endemics, including this Cuban Emerald.


Tanzania & Kenya (May)

Highest mountains in Africa, largest mammal concentrations in the world. Too many plaudits - must visit destination. 

Papua New Guinea (July)

Remote, multiple Bird-of-paradise species, 90% virgin forest. Difficult logistics, expensive and mostly inept. Nothing much else to be said.


Sulawesi, Indonesia (August)

With almost 100 endemic birds, Sulawesi is a mega bird destination. Throw in some Critically endangered mammals and particularly good spicy food. Great-billed Kingfisher



Still to come

Switzerland (August)

Bird Fair, United Kingdom (August)

South Africa (August)

Paraguay (September)

ABA Conference, South Africa (October)
Colombia (November & December)

Ecuador (December)