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Avitourism may have same economic potential as gorillas – Rwanda

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Game Warden

Reports www.tourismupdate.co.za



“Bird watching in Rwanda can reach similar economic potential as the gorillas already have today.”

So said Ellen Kallinowsky, Principal Technical Adviser of the Promotion of Economy and Employment programme of the German Development Corporation...


To read the full article click here.


Certainly here on Safaritalk members do plan and go on birding centric trips, but I wonder what the percentage is with more general wildlife tourists?


Are we as a group of birders well catered for by the tourism industry? Whether it be Africa or elsewhere and what as a birder would you like to see more of when you travel?



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Game Warden
1 minute ago, Game Warden said:

and what as a birder would you like to see more of when you travel?


Other than birds... ;) In terms of how you are dealt with, your interests catered for etc.


(Thought I'd get that in quick before some other quick wit posted a similar response...)

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Well many birders that I know, myself included, would like to have good, up to date information and cheap, no frills accommodation. 


Some people prefer to gen up and self guide - case in point my Japan trip last year. Others will be looking for reliable guides (reliable as in finding and identifying species, including LBJs, endemics and so on). 

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@Game Warden - I am somewhat skeptical of the article's premise. 


Rwanda is coming very late to the game and competition like Kenya, South Africa and Zambia are way ahead - both in terms of lots of existing expert guides and companies and decades of well-honed birding areas and routes.  Rwanda is also a landlocked tiny country without habitat as varied as its African competitors.    And even formerly well-visited birding destinations like Kenya are bleeding "birder market share" to Central and South American countries like Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, etc.   The number of North American birders heading to Africa is dropping, as more and more of them go to improving destinations like Colombia and Ecuador in particular.    For North American birders, Central and South American destinations are much cheaper, closer and less physically taxing to visit than Africa.


For another, birders are notorious penny pinchers.    I do not think that (per capita) they would contribute anywhere close to as much economically, compared to gorilla trekkers.  


Frankly I think the people mentioned in the article are kidding themselves to a certain extent.



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I wasn’t intending to jump in as I’m a little busy at the minute and if posting anything it should be the next bit of my trip report; however, I will briefly add something.


I agree with what you say regarding the comparison between birds and gorillas, taking into account the fact that Rwandan gorilla permits are now $1,500 each, I don’t see how birding can bring in comparable income, but I don’t really agree with you say about Rwanda as a birding destination.


The following is from the African Bird Club website



What comes to mind when you think of Rwanda? Gorillas, troubles in the mid 90s? Or maybe you think about 703 species of birds and the highest concentration of Albertine Rift Endemics species outside the DRC.

For birders, the chief attractions are likely to be Nyungwe Forest and Akagera National Parks. Though there are numerous other easily accessible birding sites elsewhere in the country, further details of which can be found in the Hotspot section.




Nyungwe should be on any birders to do list. A total of 322 bird species have been recorded, including 29 Albertine Rift Endemics (if you accept various splits), more than at any site in Uganda and currently second only to the Itombwe Mountains in the DRC and it is the only safe site to observe the attractive Red-collared Babbler Kupeornis rufocinctus. The good roads provide far easier access to high altitude habitats than to the more popular sites in Uganda. Add to this, 13 species of primates; including Chimpanzee, Angola Colobus, L’Hoests Monkey, numerous endemic plant species and utterly spectacular scenery, you have one of the most rewarding eco-tourism sites in Africa.


If you stay for two nights in either Nyungwe or Akagera then the price of a gorilla permit drops to $1,000 each, that would still be more than many birders would want to spend, but it certainly makes a difference.

For the serious lister who wants to see as many of the world’s or at least Africa’s birds as possible then Rwanda does actually have considerable appeal, (leaving aside the cost if you include gorilla trekking).


703 birds is a pretty amazing number for such a small country, given that Ghana where I’ve just been, has just 725 even though it is apparently around nine times the size of Rwanda, of course that’s still a lot fewer than either Uganda, Kenya or Tanzania.


As far as birders being penny pinchers, that’s true of UK birders, simply because most don’t have too many pennies, so they have to do everything on a tight budget, but that doesn’t stop really dedicated birders from getting to some amazing parts of the world. But then obviously saying that, such people aren’t going to bring in a whole load of money, so I’m also a bit sceptical about what the article is suggesting. When it comes to gorillas, you can completely replace the budget crowd, with the seriously well off, who if they aren’t bothered by having to pay $1,500 each for their permits, will likely want to stay in some pretty upmarket accommodation, which would then also have a hefty price tag, but that won’t work with birding. Put up the price of accommodation or raise park fees or whatever too much and you will just end up being unaffordable for a lot of birders, if they can’t find ways to still do it on the cheap and there aren’t loads of very well-off birders waiting to take their place.


Looking at the Bird Quest website, they offer Rwanda as an extension to their Uganda trips, the idea then is that those who want to have the option to go gorilla trekking in Bwindi in Uganda, this is much cheaper and then in Rwanda they just go to Nyungwe to mop up some of the remaining Albertine Rift endemics that they all need to see, so then it doesn't matter that seeing the gorillas in Rwanda is now so expensive. I haven't looked at a whole lot of other companies, but I think that others also offer Rwanda as an optional extension to other East African tours, it must add a fair bit to the cost, so I don't know how many birders opt to include Rwanda, 


I certainly agree with what you say about South and Central America, having birded once in Ecuador albeit a good few years back, that country is extremely well set up for US birders and it is right in your backyard, much easier to get to than Africa. While the situation in Colombia still isn’t perfect yet, it is now possible to safely visit far more of the country than it has been for years, my impression is that it is catching up with Ecuador as a major birding destination.

Edited by inyathi
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Specialised birding trips are pretty popular for Singaporean birders/photographers but they share one thing in common with what @inyathi and @offshorebirder have mentioned - they are pretty penny pinchers. I think it's got to do with retirees  (with minimal income streams) making up a big propertion of the travelling birders, so they are taking the opportunity to travel and to indulge in their hobbies. the trips are generally short and accommodation in the cheapest but clean places. Costs can be kept down because costs are still comparatively low in Asia than what is in Africa or Europe. 


But the birders are trying to go further afield. I've been asked a couple of times to consider organising and hosting birding trips to Africa but I'm too tied up at work and I'm not sure if cheap birding trips are possible in Africa, and I'm still new at ID-ing birds! the last could be overcome with a guide but that only adds costs. 


what Inyathi said about Rwanda's 703 bird species was really interesting. So i took a look at E-bird to see what birds have been seen recently. The list seems to rely a lot on tourists so it's not a long list but still quite a few get seen in Akagera's southern section. Granted most of the birds can be also seen in other parts of Africa, but for those who can afford Akagera, or combine with it with Uganda as suggested above, it's not totally devoid of birds. 


here's the link to e-bird: https://ebird.org/region/RW/hotspots?yr=all&m=


to Matt's question - what I'll like to see is that camps cater to  birders who are also interested in mammals and/or reptiles and insects. When we have to share with other safari goers, it'll be tough for us and for them if we want to stop for every bird. it'll be great if camps can keep aside a vehicle for those interested in birds as well and match the guests accordingly. PV is just so expensive for a penny-pinching birder. 



Edited by Kitsafari
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