Junior Gabela is the passionate birder behind Zululand Birding Safaris. He has been featured on CNN’s African Voices for his dedication to the art of birdwatching and has been nominated for the Enterprise Ilembe Entrepreneur of the year. His enthusiasm and passion for his craft rubs off on his clients and he is regularly regarded as one of the top birding guides in the Zululand region.
For Junior, it is all about the birds. As a teenager he learnt a love for nature while fishing with his father, and spent his young years swimming in the estuaries and listening to the birds. He later started learning the birds in his garden in the small coastal village of Amatikulu, and then the local forests. He decided this was his passion and managed to join the BirdLife South Africa bird guide training in Wakkerstroom.
When not conducting bird tours, or birdwatching for himself, Junior is involved in scientific research with BirdLife South Africa, in particular involving the critically endangered Southern Banded Snake-Eagle which lives in the Zululand region with the renowned Dr Melissa Whitecross.
Not content with all of the above, Junior has also been involved in the writing and publishing of bird books and their relation to the Zulu language and culture. He advised the author, Adrian Koopman, as the expert birder and local Zulu in the publishing of Zulu Bird Names and Bird Lore as well as Birds of KwaZulu-Natal and their Zulu Names.
As a guide, Junior is second to none. His craft has been honed his entire life, and his knowledge of the area is that of a local. He has no problems distinguishing every single bird song, and has specialised in learning the cryptic contact calls of the Zululand birds. He also knows all the best spots to see the array of special and endemic birds in the region, which he regularly visits to keep track of and give the best chance to see for his clients.