The man who speaks to birds

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Themba Mtembu

Birding and Cultural Tour Guide

Zulu Birding Camp

We follow Themba on his birding and cultural tour in the north-eastern corner of Kwazulu-Natal. 

“Don’t worry,” he says as he guides us through a fisherman’s ancient Kosi bay fish traps, “I’m sure he won’t mind if I ask him nicely.” Of course he won’t mind – Themba is the nicest you can find. 

Themba Mtembu knows everyone. And everyone likes Themba. But when you meet him the reason is obvious – it’s because Themba has a true and genuine compassion. He cares about the communities in need, he cares about the populations of wildlife, he cares about the relationship between tourism and conservation, but above all, Themba genuinely loves birds. 

Taking a birding tour with him is a three-way conversation. Between you and Themba, and Themba and the birds. He makes their noises squawks and whistles, knows if they are agitated, and jokes with them, riling them up with a call he says they find annoying. “So tense always, these sugarbirds,” he smiles.

Themba has dedicated much of his time and energy into starting various projects in the area. In his mind utilising the natural resources is one of the more wonderful opportunities locals can have, and for this reason he spends lots of time on a youth training programme specialising in tourism, conservation and development. 


Instagram: @thembabirding







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