About Birding Ecotours
What, if anything, makes us different from other birding tour companies?
The two paramount things to us are: TOUR QUALITY and CONSERVATION
Quality of Service Offered
All the guides we use are absolutely top class, with brilliant birding and people skills. And our office team is efficient and incredibly enthusiastic, leaving those who approach us in no doubt that we truly enjoy helping you (with either a set date or a custom tour). We do not make it our aim to offer the lowest prices, since quality is paramount to us. However, in general, most of our tours are competitively priced even though we also have some of the smallest minimum and maximum group sizes in the market. Our answer to the Frequently asked Question on our home page, “What is one of our typical birding tours like?” explains our focus pretty well, and how we differ from other birding tour companies.
We are spectacularly passionate about doing our utmost to help conserve birds – and of course the natural environment as a whole. Our business plan states that we have to donate a minimum of 10 % of net profit before owner’s salary, to bird conservation and local communities. We exceed this minimum amount every year (sometimes it can even be doubled). It’s largely about people, though; without helping people, especially all those in the eco-tourism industry, bird conservation can’t happen, as explained in our article here. Here is a summary of where some of our donations have gone in the last few years (updated 15 August 2023), please note that the first item shown is over and above our 10 % profits to conservation policy:
- On 8 September 2023, we donated $3,200 to a conservation project on the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Cherry-throated Tanager in Brazil, this also helps offset some of our carbon emissions as it involves habitat (forest) restoration.
- On 5 September 2023, we donated $2,700 to BirdLife South Africa for conservation of Botha’s Lark after learning that this species is in more dire need of conservation help than previously thought.
- Birding Ecotours raised over $12,500 (all $ amounts shown on this page are US$) for local communities and local guides to help them through tough times and loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, through our Covid relief fund. This money was raised by appealing to our generous client base and we have also matched many of the donations through our 5 % tour discount, 5 % to a community birding guide, scheme. We would like to thank everybody who donated to this relief fund which proved crucial for many local guides during these desperate times.
- African Bird Club Gold Sponsorship – $1,000 per year (at the current exchange rate) – the money goes directly to bird conservation projects all over Africa.
- African Bird Club conservation tour to Zimbabwe and Mozambique – 10 % of the tour price was donated directly to the club for conservation projects.
- Neotropical Bird Club sponsorship – $550 per year – the money goes directly to bird conservation projects all over South America and the rest of the neotropics.
- Neotropical Bird Club conservation tour to Costa Rica – 10 % of the tour price was donated directly to the club for conservation projects.
- Oriental Bird Club sponsorship – $1250 per year – the money goes directly to bird conservation projects in Asia.
- Oriental Bird Club conservation tour to Bhutan – 10 % of the profits donated directly to the club for conservation projects.
- Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME) sponsorship of around $420 per year.
- $1,200 x 2 = US$2,400 donated to Yilma Abebe, one of Ethiopia’s foremost ornithologists and conservationists, for courses in which he trains/educates 10-12 youngsters about conservation and birds (the latest one is about to be run in 2018).
- $1,475 donated to our local guide in Ethiopia so that his mother could get a life-changing hearing aid. Apparently, it is helping her a lot.
- $2,000 donated to our guide in Indonesia who lost his home to the big Palu earthquake in 2018, for help provide schooling and shelter for orphans, and for land purchases.
- About $700 per year (pound equivalent) donated to “Birding for All” (previously “Disabled Birders’ Association).
- $1,230 once-off donation to the “Amazon Yards” project – we try to donate to projects in which we can have a large impact for a relatively small amount of money and where money is desperately needed.
- $800 – 5,000 per year until the Covid pandemic, we may resume this soon though, to cover costs and direct Birding Ecotours donations at the Champions of the Flyway Bird Race for conservation (in which proceeds go directly to bird conservation projects that help protect birds trying to migrate between Africa and Eurasia) – our friends/clients then donate much more than this (these amounts basically just get our team there to Israel for the race and include some donations to conservation directly from us). Donations from clients/friends in fact actually allowed us to win the “Guardians of the Flyway” prize in 2017 for raising more conservation money than any other team that year (in 2018 we won the actual Champions of the Flyway prize for seeing more birds than any other team, and each year our team is almost at the top of the fundraising, if not right at the top (as was the case for 2017).
- About $6,000 to cover flights, accommodation, etc., for the World Series of Birding in 2018. Our fundraising efforts resulted in the raising of $1,300 through generous donations from friends/clients, which all went directly to Birdlife Zimbabwe for Blue Swallow conservation
- $860 for a new canoe for Junior Gabela in Zululand, South Africa (in 2015). Junior has been able to use this canoe as an asset to allow him to earn more money than he was able to in the past. He takes birders out on the canoe to see rare/sought-after species that are tough to see from land. African Finfoot and White-backed Night Heron are examples.
- A further, larger, boat was purchased for Junior in 2022, so he now has this as well as the canoe.
- We donate $300-500 (depending on the exchange rate) per year to Birdlife South Africa, and in 2017 we donated about $2,000 extra to sponsor their big event “Birding Big Day”.
- We donate $350 per year to a children’s home (Ubuntu House) for orphans in South Africa (uMephi).
- We donated $1,500 to someone in Malawi who lost his home in a fire – this, along with contributions from a couple of other sponsors, allowed him to rebuild his home. This was in 2015.
- We used to donate about $200 (depending on the exchange rate) per year to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa branch and plan to resume similar soon.
- About $1,000 was donated to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2).
- We paid Adri Barkhuysen around $1,000 for his research project on the extremely rare Cape form of African Barred Owlet, which might be a Critically Endangered split from the usual form of this owl.
- We sponsored Michael Blose to attend the Pan African Ornithological Conference in Cape Town (about $800).
- We contributed a small amount to the Black-footed Cat conservation project in the Kalahari of South Africa.
- We paid for David Letsoalo to join one of our Cape tours to learn a new area so he can guide in more areas than previously.
- We paid money towards the Avian Demography Unit each month in earlier years.
- We paid a local Uganda birding guide about $600 for his flight to England so he could drum up more business at the British Birdfair to continue supporting his family – he was going through a tough time as he had just lost his wife in a freak accident.
- We sometimes donate around $700 to Mouse Free Marion which aims to eradicate mice from South African owned Marion Island in the Southern Ocean. The last time we donated to them was on 14 August 2023 and plan to keep supporting them from time to time.
- We make an annual donation to Wader Quest, which aids in the conservation of many wader species worldwide.
- We donated approximately $1,750 to David Letsoalo to purchase a laptop and smart phone to help him organize and grow his guiding business.
- We donated $370 to Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory to help buy two telescopes.
- Approximately $3,100 to help aid research on Pallas’s Fish Eagle in Bhutan.
- $500 to women bird guides in Uganda – additional to previous donations, this one was in 2023.
- $750 to help local people feed seabirds and sea lions off Pucusana, Peru. The coastal marine life is battling due to the impacts of El Nino in 2023 and there is the risk of colonies collapsing.
By joining our tours, you not only make the above possible, but the bulk of what you pay for each tour gets paid directly to lodges, B&B’s, and small hotels in rural areas where the birds tend to be, and to park guides, local guides, etc. So, by joining tours, you’re contributing to local communities and ecotourism and to people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, as explained in more detail here
We also aim to offset our carbon footprint by donating to NGOs that plant native trees in areas that need reforestation (where destruction of bird habitats is a problem). Previously we have paid for tree planting in South Africa and are looking to do similar with a contact in Ecuador. We now also donate to the World Land Trust and we encourage you to do the same to help offset your carbon footprint. We are now looking to donate to Critically Endangered Cherry-throated Tanager conservation in Brazil; habitat restoration for this species also offsets carbon.
Various members of the team also give a great deal of their time as volunteers – for example, Chris heads up the South African official BirdLife South Africa bird checklist, which takes many hours each year. Dylan and Dom both serve on the South African Rarities Committee adjudicating rarity submissions. Dom donates time and expertise to seabird conservation projects with BirdLife South Africa’s Seabird Division, aiming to reduce seabird mortality from longline fisheries. Many of our guides also take part in citizen science projects such as the South African Bird Atlas Project and Coordinated Waterbird Counts, which aim to increase our understanding and distribution of southern African bird species.