CEO and Owner of Birding Ecotours
Colloquially referred to as ‘boss man Chris’ by some fellow staff members, Chris is exactly that, the CEO and founder of Birding Ecotours. Underneath Chris’s unassuming, friendly persona lies a deep, burning, lifelong passion for birds and bird conservation. The urge to share this passion with fellow birders from across the globe saw the start of what is now considered by some as one of the best global bird tour operators there is today: Birding Ecotours.
Since childhood, Chris has been an incredibly enthusiastic birder and often loved spending time tracking down owls whenever the opportunity presented itself. It wasn’t long, however,, until Chris had his eyes opened to the wonders of birds outside of southern Africa, and soon enough his interests broadened and his fascination expanded with the thought and prospect of seeing such exotic families as pittas and birds-of-paradise. This ever-growing passion soon became unstoppable, which then saw him complete a doctorate on African sunbirds at the University of Cape Town as well as a post-doctorate at the University of Wyoming on hummingbird energetics.
Soon after this, Chris came to the realization that the world of academics and lecturing in fact got in the way of his birding, which in turn saw the formation of Birding Ecotours, therefore allowing him to travel the globe and all its eight continents extensively in his ongoing avian pursuit. Not only has the establishment of the company allowed him to travel but it has also allowed him to make a difference when it comes to bird conservation, with 10% of the company’s annual profits going toward conservation and disadvantaged local communities. As Chris always says: “If I am not helping other people less fortunate than myself, and also helping to do my part to slow the extinction of species caused by humans, then what is the point of me being on this planet?”
Although previously based in South Africa for many years, Chris now finds himself running the Birding Ecotours USA office from the warbler capital of the world, Columbus, Ohio, where he lives with his wonderful wife Megan. Here they love exploring the local metro parks and working on their Ohio lists.
Client recommendations for Chris:
What do you most need in a guide and a tour company? Some would say trustworthy arrangements that yet stay flexible to the needs of the individual birder, some would say someone who can find you the target birds and others might say an all-rounder who combines birding knowledge, great communication skills and organisational ability. Birding Ecotours and its owner/operator Chris Lotz tick all the boxes! I’ve birded with Chris and travelled with the company and asked them to arrange tours for others, and Chris has come up trumps every time. I value my own integrity too much to give endorsements unless I have personal experience that truly warrants it. I recommend Chris Lotz and Birding Ecotours!
Bo Beolens, fatbirder.com
For my part, the tour with you was the best overall of all the tours we’ve taken; most memorable, rewarding, and enjoyable.
My brother John and I joined Chris on a tour of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. As scientists, we were difficult customers, constantly being distracted by plants and rocks instead of birds. Chris tolerated these diversions with unflappable grace. And when our attentions were finally engaged fully in the bird watching we could not have asked for a better guide who knew the calls, where to look for tricky sightings, and had all the necessary local contacts to help us find the truly strange and wonderful. My favorite example of the “strange and wonderful” category was the African Broadbill which was displaying, but in the midst of impenetrable vegetation. Despite this, Chris and the guide managed to get us amazing views in the spotting scope. It was my most memorable bird of the trip.
He accompanied us just across the border into Swaziland, past guards with guns (because we wanted to say we’d been there), and to a truly dodgy neighborhood in Durban to look at a rock outcrop, and never once complained – at least not out loud. We’ve been on several other international birding trips, and Chris is still our standard of comparison to all our other guides. And he’s still number one. We will be doing a pelagic trip off South Africa in the not too distant future, and will plan it so Chris can lead us there.
Wil Taylor (University of Wisconsin), on a South African tour guided by Chris
I have birded with Birding Ecotours since 2004. As I stated in my first web trip report of Southern South Africa that I thought you were one of the most competent guides I had ever birded with and that Birding Ecotours was an extremely professional organization in every way. In 2013, after birding with you a dozen times in 8 countries (and more this April and June) my opinions are now cast in concrete. Your ear and ability to co-ordinate the sounds with species is unsurpassed. You are decisive and a lot of fun to travel with which, in my opinion, are qualities essential in a top guide. You and Nadia organize trips meticulously and show truly sound judgement in your choices of routes, lodging and transportation arrangements. As you know, I ask a lot of questions and have always received thoughtful and timely answers. I have never been left feeling neglected in any way. I’ve been asked many time by birding friends all over the world for recommendations and Birding Ecotours is always my first choice in Africa. I don’t doubt that our coming trips to Asia and the Caribbean will be equally productive and fun.
Jay Lamb, San Francisco Bay area of California
Bo Boelens of Fatbirder put me onto Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours originally. What a favour he did me. Not only is Chris an excellent birder, but he goes out of his way to be really helpful.
I, and my partner, settled on Namibia with Ecotours as our next trip, and as we were in Jo`berg visiting friends a few days before the trip, I asked Chris if he could also arrange for me to see Flufftails in the gap available. The hub of Birding Ecotours couldn`t have been more delightful to deal with. Not only did he get very excited by this challenge, but took it upon himself to do our guiding. He found an equally enthusiastic birder, Kevin, to join the trip and off we set for the Dullstroom area, where there was a Striped Flufftail guide, all revved up and ready to go except it was miserable weather. Never mind, a quick re-calculation and we descended down to Nelspruit Botanic Garden and sunshine, and spent half a day revelling in Sth. African birds. Then we ascended and went lark and pipit hunting which Chris found by call. He also found us an Oribi which was stunning, we were so close.
Chris and his guide worked extremely hard the next day, trying to call out a flufftail. We could hear them but the thick vegetation prevented any views of them. After doing a circuit of the whole area, Chris and the guide doing more, as they were going up and down the hill, we were losing heart. Luck returned as Chris planted us by a carefully placed mp3 playing flufftail, and a narrow trodden path into the bracken. We waited as the sound of another Flufftail got closer.
I could hear Kevin hyperventilating as he suddenly found himself looking at a full frontal view of a male Striped Flufftail. As I was at a slightly different angle, I couldn`t see this marvellous apparition, but found myself breathing hard in anticipation when, from behind the clump of grass I was straining to see through, a female suddenly leapt across the gap like a frog, so fast that all I got was a view of the back and tail! No wonder they are a difficult bird to get to grips with but I would recommend this sort of diversion to anyone . I wouldn`t have climbed the hill after the Cape Eagle Owl if it wasn`t for Chris`s infectious enthusiasm either, and we were sorry to see both of them go they had been so easy to get on with, both entertaining and amusing.
Jan and John, Wales
I joined a custom trip, followed by an African Bird Club conservation tour, with Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours, in November 2012. I sent Chris a wish-list and he was very quick to reply with a detailed itinerary based on the list I sent him. I got 42 lifers on this trip, which actually exceeded my expectations: with a world list of over 7000 species, it is tough for me to see new birds anywhere.
Both the custom trip and the conservation trip were extremely well-organised, and the Birding Ecotours guides were superb. The African Bird Club will be doing more trips with Birding Ecotours.
Keith Betton, Chairman of the African Bird Club, UK