Birding tours in China
In my webinar, I received criticism for my statement, which may have been justified. However, I am not implying that I am the only one doing things correctly while others are wrong. My point is that there is a vast group of bird enthusiasts who are not being reached by bird tour operators. The question is, how do we attract them and convert them into clients and passionate conservationists?
You can find the webinar where I presented these concepts on YouTube. Keep reading for a brief overview.
In my recent webinar, I shared some ideas on how we can attract a new pool of bird enthusiasts to our tours. I discussed the importance of designing new tours that cater to the interests and schedules of both experienced birders and those new to the hobby.
At 7 Wonders Birding, we’ve been successful in developing tours that appeal to both types of birders. Our tours not only showcase a wide range of bird species, but they also offer opportunities to explore the local culture and cuisine of the destinations we visit.
By expanding our tour offerings and making them more accessible to a wider audience, we hope to inspire a new generation of passionate bird lovers who will become strong advocates for conservation efforts. If you missed the webinar, be sure to check it out on YouTube for a summary of the ideas I presented.
Birding tours for the 99%.
The paradox lies in the fact that out of the 45 million people who identify themselves as birdwatchers in the US, less than 1% are considered traditional birders. These are individuals who are members of a birdwatching club, take part in organized field trips, and are willing to pay for guided birdwatching excursions and tours.
The world of birdwatching is full of paradoxes. Despite 45 million people identifying themselves as birdwatchers in the US, less than 1% would qualify as traditional birders who participate in organized field trips and pay for guided birdwatching tours. This leaves a huge untapped market of potential birding enthusiasts.
But why is this the case? Why are there so few birding tours for the 99% of birdwatchers who are not traditional birders? What is wrong with most birdwatching tours that make them unattractive to the majority of birdwatchers?
One of the biggest issues is the perception that birding tours are only for experienced birders who can identify hundreds of bird species by sight and sound. This makes many birdwatchers feel intimidated and excluded from the world of birding tours. Another issue is the cost of traditional birding tours, which can be prohibitively expensive for many birdwatchers.
So how can the potential market of 44.5 million US birdwatchers be tapped? One solution is to create birding tours that are more accessible and affordable to the average birdwatcher. Tours that focus on the experience of birdwatching rather than the number of species seen can be more appealing to a wider audience. Additionally, tours that combine birdwatching with other activities, such as hiking or cultural experiences, can attract a more diverse group of participants.
Innovative approaches to birding tours, such as those offered by 7 Wonders Birding, can help to break down the barriers that have traditionally kept birdwatching tours out of reach for many birdwatchers. By creating tours that are designed for both beginners and experienced birders, and that are affordable and accessible to a wider audience, the potential market for birding tours can be greatly expanded.
What are the main problems with many birding tours today?
Birding tour companies encounter certain fixed problems, particularly in the US market.
Americans don’t like to travel as much as i.e Europeans. Or rather, they first travel domestically. There is a sense, or belief, that the rest of the world is a dangerous place.
If someone has no interest in traveling abroad, they may not have any motivation to obtain a passport, which is one of the challenges faced by birding tour companies, particularly in the US market.
The cost can be a significant factor. Birding tours can be pricier than conventional tourism due to the personalized attention and smaller group sizes, which is a real consideration.
Birding is a popular hobby for many people around the world. It’s a chance to connect with nature, observe and appreciate the beauty of birds in their natural habitats. However, not everyone is able to join traditional birdwatching tours, whether it’s because of the cost or the inflexible schedules. That’s where DIY birding comes in.
Many birders have discovered that they can bypass tour operators and connect directly with local guides and operators through the internet. This allows them to customize their trips to their own schedules and preferences, and often at a lower cost than traditional tours. They can also support local communities and conservation efforts by booking with local operators.
DIY birding does require some research and planning, but with the abundance of resources available online, it’s becoming easier to connect with local guides and operators in destinations around the world. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are also great resources for finding and connecting with local birding communities.
Of course, going the DIY route does come with some risks. Without the expertise and guidance of an experienced tour operator, there’s always the possibility of missing out on key birding opportunities. Safety can also be a concern in some destinations, so it’s important to do your due diligence and research the safety and security situation in the area you plan to visit.
Ultimately, whether you choose to go on a traditional birding tour or opt for the DIY route, birding is a rewarding and enriching experience that allows us to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of birds.
Two main reasons prevent the 99% from taking traditional birding tours, aside from the general points mentioned earlier.
1. Traditional birding tours are too long.
Individuals in the US, except for retired people, have limited vacation time available.
Rephrased: In today’s fast-paced world, people often have limited time and find it difficult to focus for extended periods. They may be constantly connected to work and personal obligations, making it challenging to disconnect for extended vacations. Even with several weeks of holiday per year, individuals may struggle to take time off for more than a week at a time. This is because they may have to deal with a backlog of work upon their return, or someone else may take over their duties. Furthermore, during their travels, they will likely need internet connectivity frequently.
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Rephrased: A possible solution is to create shorter birding trips that can be scheduled between two weekends, enabling birders to take only five days off from work.
In an upcoming webinar, I will discuss how tiered pricing can be used to make longer birding trips more affordable.
The core programs of 7 Wonders Birding Tours, the Kolibri Expeditions’ offshoot, have been designed while considering all the aforementioned factors. These tours are planned to take only five days off from work and offer the best birding experience worldwide. They start either on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning and conclude on Friday evening or Saturday midday. This way, travelers can reach the destination in one weekend and return home in the next. It’s like having a mini-holiday, packed with adventure, in just one week.
2. Traditional birding tours are too hardcore
Another reason why the majority of birdwatchers don’t opt for birding tours is that they are often too physically demanding or challenging.
While some bird tour companies have tried to address the issue of longer and tougher tours by offering activities for non-birding spouses, it may not be the ideal solution for everyone. While it may work for some couples, it could also result in a less fulfilling vacation, as the couple may not spend much time together except during transportation and meals.
Birding tours are usually known for being rigorous and intense, which is why many birders are hesitant to participate in them. Here are some of the main factors that make these tours too demanding for most birders:
Early mornings: Birding tours usually start early in the morning, often before dawn. This can be difficult for some people who are not used to waking up so early, especially if they are on vacation.
Long days: Birding tours can last up to 10-12 hours a day, with little time for breaks or relaxation. This can be physically and mentally exhausting, especially if you’re not used to spending so much time outdoors.
Fast pace: Birding tours often cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which means that the pace is fast and there’s little time for rest. This can be overwhelming for some birders who prefer a more leisurely pace.
Challenging terrain: Many birding tours take place in remote areas that require a lot of walking or hiking on uneven terrain. This can be physically demanding and challenging for some birders, especially those who are not used to such conditions.
Competitive atmosphere: Some birding tours can be very competitive, with birders vying to see the most species or the rarest birds. This can create a tense atmosphere that is not enjoyable for everyone.
Overall, these factors can make birding tours too intense and demanding for many birders. However, there are ways to make these tours more accessible and enjoyable for a wider range of people.
Every single endemic needs to be seen.
Birding tours that are too long tend to focus on seeing every single bird species on the itinerary, including local endemics that may look almost exactly the same as another species. As a result, spectacular birds may not get enough time, focus, and attention.
Focus is on seeing, rather than getting a photo.
The birding tours are focused solely on birding and often run for 24 hours a day. The emphasis is on finding and identifying every bird on the itinerary, even if it means making detours to see similar local species. This leaves little time for socializing, visiting world heritage sites, or enjoying a good meal as the bird list must be completed and followed by owling.
Hardcore birders can be intimidating.
As a new birder, it can be intimidating to join a birding tour group that aims to see every single species on the itinerary. While these birders may be experienced and knowledgeable, it can be overwhelming to be in their company if you are just starting out. Additionally, these tours can last for two to three weeks, which can be a long time to spend with a group that may make you feel ignorant or out of place.
However, there are alternatives to these intense birding tours that cater to birders of all levels. For example, Kolibri Expeditions offers shorter tours that focus on the most important birding areas and the most spectacular species. These tours are designed to be more relaxed, giving birders time to socialize and enjoy other aspects of the destination besides just birding.
Moreover, birding can be a great way to meet new people and make friends with similar interests. It is important to find a tour group that you feel comfortable with and that suits your level of experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and engage with your fellow birders. They may have useful tips and insights to share, and you may even discover a new birding partner or friend.
In conclusion, while intense birding tours may not be suitable for everyone, there are alternative options available that cater to birders of all levels. It is important to find a tour group that makes you feel comfortable and that allows you to enjoy the destination beyond just birding. So don’t be afraid to explore different options and find the right tour for you. Happy birding!
Solution – Bucket list birding.
Are you a bird enthusiast looking for a tour that is not too intense but still packed with birding experiences? If you are, you might be interested in short birding tours that offer a perfect balance of birding and other non-birding highlights. The 7 Wonders Birding tours have come up with a solution that offers a five-day trip packed with experiences that define the destination without the need to see every single bird on the itinerary.
Long birding tours can be very intense, and some birders may find it overwhelming to endure two to three weeks of non-stop birding. This can be especially intimidating for beginners who feel ignorant in the company of experienced birders who aim to see every single species on the tour. That’s where short tours come in. With 7 Wonders Birding tours, you can experience birding together during a short burst, making it easier for most people, even non-birding spouses, to handle intensive birding.
7 Wonders Birding tours offer jam-packed five-day tours with experiences that define the destination. These tours are designed to showcase the best and most spectacular birds, as well as other non-birding highlights of the area you visit. The tours start on a Sunday afternoon or Monday morning and end on Friday evening or Saturday midday, allowing you to reach the destination traveling one weekend and then travel back the next weekend, if you wish. It’s a perfect mini jam-packed holiday in a week.
During these five-day trips, you can maximize your time in the field or take it easier. The tours are intense if you want to make the most of your time, but you can skip pre-breakfast birding, have a midday siesta or skip the owling at night if you want to take it easy. This flexibility is perfect for those who want to enjoy birding without feeling overwhelmed.
In conclusion, short birding tours are an excellent way to experience birding without feeling overwhelmed. The 7 Wonders Birding tours offer a perfect balance of birding and other non-birding highlights in a five-day trip that is not too intense. So why not book your tour today and experience birding like never before?
One strategy to make the most of short birding tours is to prioritize the most spectacular and photogenic bird species, rather than trying to see every endemic species. It’s impossible to see all the birds in a region during a short trip, so it’s better to compile a bucket list of the top 5-10 birds and build the trip around them. Even expert birders like Trevor Hardaker have a similar approach to birding abroad, focusing on their priorities and considering everything else as “bycatch.” The goal is to prioritize quality over quantity and focus on the birds that will leave a lasting impression. For instance, the 7 Wonders Birding Tours offers a 5-day tour to Japan in the winter that focuses on seeing and photographing the majestic Steller’s Eagle, Red-crowned Crane, Blakiston’s Fish-Owl, and Snow Monkeys. Similarly, their 5-day tour to Guatemala features Horned Guan and Pink-headed Warbler.
Visiting World Heritage sites can add a whole new dimension to a birding tour. It’s important to remember that there is more to traveling than just birds. When planning a tour, make sure to include visits to some of the most significant cultural and natural landmarks in the area. These sites can serve as an excellent complement to the birding experience and provide an opportunity to learn about the local history and culture.
The 7 Wonders Birding Tours website features a list of all the New 7 Wonders, which can be included in your tour itinerary. Additionally, some of their tours, like the Guatemala trip, include a visit to Tikal, while the Southern Spain tour includes a visit to Alhambra. Integrating these World Heritage sites into your birding tour can help you create a more fulfilling travel experience.
Offer ample chances for photography. Add the finest sites for bird photography, even if the tour is geared towards traditional birding with the intention of spotting many species. This allows participants to take a more leisurely pace while the more dedicated birders look for additional endemics for their list. The 5-day tours to Manu road and North Peru by Kolibri Expeditions are examples of such tours.
The traditional nightly checklist meetings are outdated, and socializing should be prioritized. Instead of keeping a daily log, the tour leader can share the daily eBird lists and everyone’s photos after the trip. Many new birders don’t keep track of the birds they see anyway. This allows for more relaxation and socializing in the evenings, aside from owling activities.
When planning a birding trip, it’s important to remember that there is more to wildlife than just birds. Including iconic mammals in the itinerary can add an extra layer of excitement to your adventure. Not only does this allow you to experience a wider range of wildlife, but it also provides opportunities for amazing photography and unforgettable memories.
Some of the most popular mammals to include in a birding trip are tigers in India, platypus, koala, kangaroo, and Tasmanian devil in Australia, orangutan, and proboscis monkey in Borneo, Iberian lynx in Spain, jaguar in the Pantanal in Brazil, and chimps and gorillas in Uganda.
Incorporating iconic mammals into your itinerary can also be a great way to cater to the interests of non-birding companions who may be joining you on your trip. While they may not be as enthusiastic about birding as you are, the chance to see these incredible animals may be a draw for them.
Remember, it’s important to approach wildlife watching with respect and awareness of conservation efforts. Always follow ethical guidelines and prioritize the well-being of the animals and their habitats. With careful planning and consideration, incorporating iconic mammals into your birding trip can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience.
To accommodate the demand of traditional birders who want to spend more time in a particular area for rare species, offering extensions is a good solution. These extensions can feature more challenging birding, expeditions, and even Critically Endangered and Endangered bird species or endemics that couldn’t be included in the core itinerary. For example, the Japan trip has an extension to Okinawa that focuses on finding Okinawa Rail and other birds. Similarly, short extensions can also be offered to find endemic birds, such as hiking up Mt Aural Mountain in the Cardamom mountains to search for remaining Cambodian Endemics.
Applying the same strategy in Peru
In a previous post on this blog, I discussed the Birding Peru Anytime tours which consist of three destinations – Manu Road, North Peru, and Machu Picchu – that utilize the same strategies mentioned above. These tours are not only ideal for bird photography, especially of hummingbirds, but also rich in birdlife with long species lists, making them suitable for experienced birders, bird photographers, and those new to birding. One unique aspect of these tours is that they can be scheduled for any time. As they become more popular and the pandemic subsides, they will be offered with weekly departures, making it easy to plan a trip that fits your schedule.
Be sure to watch the third webinar of the Birding Revolution series, which covers the concepts and backstory behind these tours.
The live-streamed video transmission of the third webinar did not have good quality. Therefore, I am thinking of pre-recording the webinars to have better images and voice in the future. Nonetheless, if you are planning to visit Peru, the webinar is still worth watching as it provides useful information about the three 5-day tours that offer the best of Peru’s birdlife in a short amount of time.
What do you think about these ideas? Would you be interested in a 5-day core birding tour with the option to add extensions? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below or send me an email. I’m also curious to know which tour is next on your Bucket List and which destination is your favorite. If you had to choose only one of the three Peru itineraries, which one would be most attractive to you?
Gunnar Engblom is a Swedish birder who has been living in Peru since 1998. He operates birdwatching and nature tours for Kolibri Expeditions and is passionate about birding, having recorded 1006 species in a Big Month trip in Peru in October 2018. In addition, he is a dedicated 3:04 marathon runner who still hopes to run a sub 3h marathon despite turning 60 in 2020, possibly in Berlin in September 2021.
Gunnar Engblom, a well-known birder and nature tour operator, is not just passionate about birds and nature, but also about music. In 2016, he decided to re-launch his rock’n’roll singer career with his band Guran Guran. Since then, they have been creating music and performing live shows, proving that music is an integral part of Gunnar’s life.
In 2019, Guran Guran released a new video for their song “Feels Like Some Summer”. The catchy tune and upbeat rhythm are sure to make anyone feel like dancing and enjoying the sunshine. The video is available on various platforms, including Spotify and other digital outlets, allowing people from all over the world to enjoy their music.
Gunnar’s passion for both music and nature has allowed him to connect with people on different levels. Through his birdwatching and nature tours, he shares his knowledge and love for the environment, while through music, he creates a fun and lively atmosphere that brings people together.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Guran Guran’s music, and if you get the chance, catch one of their live shows. You won’t be disappointed!