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Cape Town is renowned as a birding center worldwide, both as a hotspot for endemism and for the easy access to some of the best pelagic birding anywhere. For many years, there have been a number of guides operating out of Cape Town covering either land based or pelagic birding.

In 2000, Trevor Hardaker and John Graham joined forces to form ZEST for BIRDS with the intention of providing a top quality pelagic birding service while also offering quality land based birding for those wanting to experience more than just the pelagic trip.

Both Trevor and John have a long history of independent guiding. For many years, they were the lead guides for the only other Cape Town based pelagic trip operator. They have attained a wealth of experience on pelagic trips, both related to the birds that are encountered and to the "behind the scenes" organization of running a successful pelagic trip. ZEST for BIRDS prides itself on the personal attention given to all its clients, and will go out of their way to ensure the enjoyment of each and every one of its clients, both at sea and on the land.
Zest ll copyright: Brendan Ryan
In the last six or so years, Trevor and John have guided pelagic trips out of Cape Town at an average of 2 trips every month throughout the year. Over and above these trips, they have also been guides on pelagic trips out of Durban and Port Elizabeth in South Africa and Vilanculous in Mozambique recently. Between them, they have probably spent in excess of 300 days at sea in the last 6 years and have guided at least 1100 passengers on board their pelagic trips. Their birding experience also extends to land based guiding. They have guided many trips throughout the Western Cape and have also guided further afield into Bushmanland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. 
Trevor Hardaker

They have both seen in excess of 850 species within the Southern African subregion, with Trevor being the youngest person to ever achieve this milestone. While John is an Electrical Engineer and Trevor is trained in architecture, they both maintain a deep passion for birds and birding. Both serve as members of the Western Cape Regional Rarities Committee (John is the chairman) and the South African National Rarities Committee (Trevor is the chairman). Trevor has also been chairman of the Cape Bird Club, Africa's largest bird club as well as serving on the council and board of management of BirdLife South Africa.

  John Graham

Both John and Trevor are among a group of only 7 people who have seen over 200 species around Cape Town on Birding Big Day in several successive attempts. John is also a member of the team that currently holds the record (a mean 216 species!) based on the restrictions imposed by the competition.

John was also privileged to be part of a team that went on an expedition recently to Northern Mozambique in search of the Namuli Apalis, only ever seen once before at the time that it was originally described in the early 1930's. He is now one of only about 7 birders in the world who have ever seen this bird.

Trawler melee Copyright: Brendan Ryan

In pursuit of their passion for birding, both John and Trevor have traveled on extensive birding trips throughout South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Europe and the U.K., North America and Alaska, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, Seychelles and Marion Island in the "roaring fourties". These trips have served to hone their own skills and also introduce them to birds that are potential vagrants to South Africa.

Both have published many popular articles in the local birding press and Trevor is also co-author of the recently published SASOL Birding Map of Southern Africa.
.....email Trevor
.....email John
Due to the difficulties of bird guiding at sea and to give the passengers a high quality service, ZEST for BIRDS maintain a maximum passenger to guide ratio of 5:1 on their pelagic trips. For this reason, they are normally joined on board their pelagic trips by at least one and normally two other guides. Some of these guides are also used for the land based trips when John or Trevor are unable to personally take these trips. The additional guides used by ZEST for BIRDS are all exceptional birders with an enormous wealth of knowledge of the local avifauna as well as all other local wildlife. The guides also all have good interpersonal skills as it is always important that guides and clients part as friends after a trip.
So, who are the other ZEST for BIRDS guides?
Peter Ryan

Dr. Peter Ryan is a lecturer at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, and has taught ornithology at the University of California. He is a keen birder with exceptional field skills and has birded on all seven continents.

His research interests include the evolutionary ecology of birds, notably the endemic buntings at Tristan da Cunha and African larks and warblers. He also works on reducing seabird mortality on longlines, and has extensive experience of Southern Ocean seabirds, having made numerous visits to Gough Island, Tristan da Cunha, the Prince Edward Islands and Antarctica.

He has led numerous birding tours in Southern Africa since 1982, and with Ian Sinclair has co-led birding tours to Ethiopia and Cameroon. He is a long-standing member of the SA Rarities Committee, and is co-editor of the current revision of Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. He is also working on a field guide to the birds of the Afrotropics.

.....email Peter


Dr. Rob Leslie was born in Greytown, Natal and has been interested in birds since a very early age. Rob is a researcher at the Sea Fisheries Research Institute and because of this, has had the opportunity to spend in excess of 1000 days at sea off southern Africa on commercial trawlers and research vessels. These trips have covered the entire coastline of the subregion, from the Cunene River on the west coast to Beira (and beyond to Angoche) on the east coast. Rob has also led many pelagic birding trips, mainly off the Cape Peninsula.

His other seabird experience worldwide is quite impressive and he has visited Tristan da Cuhna, South Shetland, South Orkney and South Sandwich Islands, Marion Island, Antarctic Peninsula and the southern tip of South America. He has also spent time on the Madagascar Ridge in the western Indian Ocean working as far east as 54░E latitude. In addition, he has been to sea in various places including: off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the USA, English Channel, Tanzania, Thailand and Australia.

Rob's land based birding experience covers all 7 continents. He has incredible experience of Southern Africa's birds having seen well in excess of 820 species within the subregion and has also guided many trips locally.

.....email Rob

Alvin Cope

Alvin Cope was born in Cape Town, South Africa and has been interested in birds since a very early age. Alvin only religiously started keeping a list of all the birds he had seen about 16 years ago and the first bird to go on to his lifelist was a Baird's Sandpiper! (at that stage, only the second record ever for Southern Africa after almost a 100 year gapů).
Alvin has travelled extensively throughout Southern Africa and has seen in excess of 770 species within the subregion. He is also one of the most experienced sailors in the country having spent a major portion of his life at sea which allowed him the opportunity to gain lots of experience with the Southern Ocean pelagic species that visit our waters.
Alvin also has lots of experience as a bird guide with many South Western and Northern Cape trips under his belt as well as been a regular guide on pelagic trips out of Cape Town.

.....email Alvin
Together with Trevor and John, the rest of the ZEST for BIRDS guides make up an unparalleled team which can offer our clients unique birding skills, great friendships and the COMPLETE Cape birding experience. There is no better team available.

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