Q: Do you provide trip insurance?
A: No, because we find that it is better for trip participants to purchase their own medical, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance through their own insurance provider in the country they reside in. We expect all tour participants to have comprehensive insurance, and we encourage everyone to send us a copy of their insurance documents.
Q: What do your tours include?
A: Please refer to specific tour details. Typically, but not always, the tour price includes accommodation, meals, vehicle transport and fuel, entrance fees, and guide fees. Tour prices exclude visa fees, beverages, laundry fees, any additional/optional activities (not specified as such in the itinerary), gratuities, and items of a personal nature, such as gifts and souvenirs. The tour price does not include your international flight and usually does not include local flights either – but please refer to the details of your specific tour to see if local flights are included or excluded.
Q:What are the payment terms and how does one pay?
A: A tour will only be considered confirmed and provisional bookings will only be made once a non-refundable deposit of 25% has been received by Birding Ecotours for each participant. Full payment for the tour must be made at the latest two months prior to the starting date of the tour. The tour can be paid for by electronic transfer/wire, or by credit card (AMEX, Visa or MasterCard), but there is a 5% surcharge for card payments. In many instances, American citizens will be able to simply send a check to our US account. You will be sent details as soon as you confirm you are joining a trip with us.
Q: What must I bring on the tour?
Some Things we Recommend you Bring
(general list for all tours – specific destinations may need further recommendations)
Binoculars (the guides cannot lend theirs)
A spotting scope and tripod or window mount (optional)
Any other birding equipment
Photographic equipment (optional)
Spare batteries for photographic and other gear
Flashlight/torch/headlamp with spare batteries
Personal medication (including anti-malaria drugs). We recommend packing important medication (and a change of clothes) in your hand luggage in the unlikely event of lost luggage.
Some countries might require a valid Yellow Fever Certificate, and we advise visiting a travel clinic or your family doctor and visiting the Center for Disease Control website for health advice.
Passport and, if required, visas
Copies of passport, medical insurance policies, and other important documents, which can be left with the Birding Ecotours office or at your home.
Money for alcoholic beverages, gifts, tips, items of a personal nature, etc. Traveler’s checks are often difficult to use except in the USA, but Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, including for drawing local currency at ATM’s.
Hiking boots plus another pair of shoes and sandals
Cap/hat and dark glasses
Long-sleeved clothes as a precaution against biting insects
Q: Is a birding tour really for me?
A: If you have never joined a birding tour, please contact us and ask us more about what a birding tour really involves, before signing up. Some people are surprised how tiring some birding tours can be, or how focused they are on searching for birds.
Q: Do you ever change the itinerary or tour leader?
A: We rarely change an itinerary but occasionally do because of availability of accommodation, road conditions, updates on where the best current sites are for certain species, the discretion of the guides, and other factors.
A tour leader can also rarely be changed, due to unforeseen illness or other factors.
Q: What language are tours conducted in.
A: English (unless mutually agreed to offer a tour in a different language – this could apply, rarely, to private tours)
Q: What are the accommodations and vehicles like?
A: We usually use clean and comfortable accommodation with en suite bath/shower/toilet, hot water, and electricity, but in some countries this is not always possible. Please ask us about the accommodation for a specific tour – for example, in South Africa the accommodations are comfortable but in Ghana they are not! Typically, the accommodation and vehicles we use are a little more comfortable than what the average birding tour operator uses, but our prices are in the middle/average, meaning that you typically get excellent value on Birding Ecotours trips. But we also feel it is better to be in the middle of the best birding area, even if the accommodation standard is not as good as in a town that is further away from where the birds are.
While we try to find comfortable accommodation wherever we go, this is not always possible in all countries, and also we do not use overly luxurious accommodation, as most birders feel that would be a waste of money. But, on a private tour, you can dictate to us whatever you want – from camping to 5-star.
Q: Can you help me book flights?
A: Yes, we will always try our best to help with anything at all! We’re here to serve you. However, it is usually easier if you book your flight through your own travel agent as we can’t always get the best deals from your particular country. But we will help whenever needed!
Q: Can you book accommodation for us the night before the trip starts and the night the trip ends?
A: While Day 1 is usually a travel (arrival) day, and the last day of the tour is usually also a travel day (departure), many people do like to arrive early and/or leave late. We can indeed book extra nights before and after the trip, and we in fact recommend you let us book them, as it avoids confusion and allows us to book the accommodation that is most convenient for the tour (most of the time it is the same hotel or lodge that you use on the first night of the tour, but in some instances it could be an airport hotel or an accommodation establishment close to where the guide lives).
Q: How do 1-day trips work?
A: Our 1-day Cape Town, Johannesburg/Pretoria, and Durban area tours cost R3200 for groups of 1-3 and in some cases for groups of up to 6. We run all our 1-day tours as private tours, since we have found we never manage to put groups together. Most people travel singly or in couples, or they bring their own small group along, and the price of R3200 is divided by the number of participants on the tour.
Our half-day tours are poorer value for money and cost R2000 for half a day. This is because we often do more than half the mileage that we do on a typical 1-day tour.
These prices include guiding fees and vehicle costs, but they exclude the relatively small but variable costs of entrance fees (which depend on which tour you do) and lunch (you can tell us if you prefer “on the run” sandwiches or a sit-down restaurant meal halfway through the day of birding). Entrance fees and lunches for you and the guide are for your account. The birding guide will fetch you from wherever you are staying, after breakfast, and drop you back before dinner/before dark, in the case of a 1-day tour (airport drop-offs are also perfectly OK). In the case of a half-day tour, the trip will run either from breakfast until lunch, or from lunch until dinner. Please e-mail us for the starting time you prefer – we are happy with an early start (e.g. 5 am) but we also understand you will sometimes prefer a later start (e.g. 9 am). The trip is yours, and you can tell us when you want to start the day. We often recommend 7:30 am at the entrance to your hotel, but we can also advise about the best time to avoid rush hour for specific tours.
Longer trips – Accommodation and meals have to be added to the price – please ask us; we can usually get accommodation for R500 per person sharing per night (ballpark), but if more luxury is needed the price, of course, increases. The guide’s accommodation also needs to be paid.
Tour prices for Port Elizabeth and other cities is the same. For smaller cities and towns we sometimes struggle to find guides.
We strongly recommend that you book far in advance even for the three larger cities. At certain times of the year our birding guides get booked particularly far in advance, but even at the best of times we recommend booking as far in advance as possible. On the other hand, we can often accommodate you even if you book a week in advance (sometimes even the day before).
You are welcome to just pay the guide cash (South African Rands, ZAR) on the day of the tour, after you have booked with us. For trips that are longer than 1 day, we need payment of a deposit in advance.
Which tours do we recommend? If you have never visited the Cape before and only have one day available for guided birding, we suggest doing a 1-day tour of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay, which can be custom-made to your exact needs (you can discuss this with the guide at the start of the day). If you have a second day available, we recommend doing a 1-day West Coast birding tour. If you have more than 2 days available, there is a stack more you can do birding-wise – please ask us for suggestions. In Johannesburg, we recommend Suikerbosrand/Marievale (south of Johannesburg) if you only have one day available. If you have a second day, we suggest Zaagkuilsdrif and environs (north of Pretoria), an area which has Kalahari-type birds. The Roodepoort Botanic Gardens provides an excellent half day around Johannesburg.
We believe in providing first class service, and if you e-mail us with any questions you will find we answer in lots of detail and very enthusiastically.
We look forward to hosting you here in sunny South Africa!