Interview with Birding Adventurer – James Currie

By Linda Ballou
NABBW’s Adventure Travel Expert

James Currie is the driving force behind Nikon Birding Adventures TV which focuses on destination and adventure bird-watching. He explores the best exotic birding destinations on the planet; the most unusual, rare and highly sought after bird species; amazing cultures and wildlife. He is the informative, passionate – and sometimes crazy! – host for BATV that portrays a unique blend of information and adventure, making bird-watching refreshing, contemporary, interesting and exciting. The program has a strong conservation emphasis and highlights the importance and urgency of preserving the planet\’s incredible birdlife.

LB: What got you started in this career? Was there a pivotal event in your life that brought you to being a birding adventurer?

JC: I started as a birder really young. My folks owned a restaurant on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa and it was there that I first found my love for birds, wildlife and the outdoors. But the moment that really got me hooked was pretty awe-inspiring. I was sitting on a granite boulder on the mountain watching some Rock Hyraxes (Rabbit-like creatures) when a massive Black Eagle swooped in and picked one off right in front of me. I remember being transfixed by the bird\’s power, beauty and mastery of flight. From that day on I started trying to see as many birds as possible.

LB: What is your background? Education? Special training?

JC: I have a Masters Degree in Environmental Management but it is really my practical experience that has helped develop my passion for birding. I have been a wildlife and birding guide in Africa and Madagascar for much of my adult life. Now my TV show, Nikon\’s Birding Adventures, takes me to places I can only dream of. It is fantastic!

LB: Do you have any medical training?

JC: Yes, I am a qualified Level 4 First Aider but think I need a refresher course!

LB: How big is your company?

JC: There are 4 of us. Myself, my wife Rebecca, Laura, who handles our destinations, and Jeff who handles our production.

LB: How many shows do you do a year?

JC: We film 13 shows a year so that makes for a lot of time away from home.

LB: What is your funniest experience as a birding adventurer?

JC: The funniest! Well there have been WAY too many for me to remember all of them. We have a lot of fun on our trips. But one of the best was when we were in a remote jungle in Guyana, South America. We were due to be picked up by a charter plane and my cameraman Jeff decided to dress down in nothing but a leopard-print thong and a bow-and-arrow and as the plane came in to land he ran out on the airstrip and pointed the bow at the plane. Jeff is 6ft 8 and bald so you can only imagine the look on the pilot\’s face as he faced this freak in the middle of nowhere. It was one of the funniest experiences of my life.

LB: What is your scariest?

JC: The scariest was being bitten and stung by a Bullet (Conga) Ant in Ecuador. I always respect nature but I also like to experience ALL aspects of nature, not just the pleasant ones. So I “encouraged” a bullet ant to bite me whilst filming in Ecuador. The guide had told me that this would be the most painful experience of my life and that the severe pain would last a minimum of 24 hours, hence the ant\’s local name “Ventequatro”. I believed him but, having been bitten or stung by spiders, scorpions, wasps and snakes in the past I thought how bad could it really be. Well I\’ve NEVER experienced anything quite like it and nearly passed out from the pain, my finger swelled to 3 times its size and the glands under my arms swelled up and hurt for days. But the experience was a valuable one because now I can warn people from my own personal experience/stupidity! You can view this show here.

LB: If you weren\’t doing your birding shows what would you be doing?

JC: A professional surfer although my surfing skills would exclude me from that lifestyle.

LB: What is the local cultural experience on your trips like?

JC: Everywhere we go people are amazing. Let\’s use Jamaica as an example. The people are laid-back, funny and super-friendly.

LB: What is the weather like generally? What is the best time of year to enjoy Jamaica?

JC: I went to Jamaica in April. It did not rain once in 10 days. I guess you don\’t want to be there August to October because of the hurricanes.

LB: Is there a “special moment” on this trip that can\’t be experienced elsewhere?

JC: You can see birds found nowhere else on earth in Jamaica. The food was the highlight. I\’ve never eaten so well anywhere. And the coffee! Well Blue Mountain coffee was fantastic. I just ran out of my stash and I\’m getting withdrawal symptoms. But I\’m going back soon to restock. Here is a link to 1 of the 3 shows we filmed in Jamaica.

LB: What wildlife or interesting fauna might one see?

JC: American Crocodiles on the Black River, various dolphins in the ocean.

LB: Do you hire local guides?

JC: Always.

LB: In what ways do you take steps to protect the environment?

JC: On our TV show, we always like to promote the importance of preserving the planet\’s bird habitat and wildlife.

If you would like to view more of James Currie\’s birding adventures go to www.birdingadventures.com or you may see them on YouTube.com. Be warned you may be inspired to buy some binoculars and start packing.

Linda Ballou says her mission is to experience as many beautiful places on our planet as she can, before they are no more. “Travel tales relating my experiences while kayaking, horseback riding, sailing, birding and hiking about the globe have appeared in numerous national magazines. I had a great deal of fun collecting travel stories, and profiles of people I have met in “naturally high places” for my newest book, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales. For a complete bio as well as published on-line clips with photos go to my website www.LindaBallouAuthor.com. Your reward, aside from learning about me and my work, will be to discover the secret to youth! Follow my blog to keep up with my latest adventures.”
Go to www.examiner.com and search for “Linda Ballou” to view my Great Outdoor Days in L.A.

Photo of James Currie by Laura Kammermeier