Like a huge number of tourism authorities, tour companies, optics makers, and charities, the British Bird Fair is my opportunity to get feedback from birders in the UK and, in fact, all over the world.
Our “Birding For All” stand is all about the charity I set up to encourage service providers to look to the needs of birders with mobility issues, but as I’m known to wear a lot of different hats in the birding world I get asked a lot about other aspects of my many personas. People will stick up a thumb and mouth “Love your ‘Grumpy Old Birder’ column,” or I’ll see them raising a quizzical smile from their nonbirding partner as they point me out as the Fatbirder. I rub my not-inconsiderable frontage and smile back encouraging them to come and talk.
Of course I don’t miss the opportunity to push BFA and all it stands for, but I also take the opportunity to ask them how they know about Fatbirder.com and what they use the site for. The overwhelming response is that they use my site when planning their outings or birding trips. Because the site carries plenty of info about the localities, whether it be a U.S. state, an English county, or a tiny Pacific country, it’s a starting point when researching a destination or, indeed, a bird family. Delve deep enough and you will find a signpost to everything birdy. But one question the site cannot answer, and I get asked it a lot, is: “Which tour company should I go with?” or “Which lodge or guide would you recommend?” for any particular place.
Well, I’ve been around a while and made it to quite a few different countries, but I’m not David Attenborough, who has been to more countries than most people even knew existed!
This got me to thinking: Where would I go to find out which tour companies go where, or what lodges are good value and eco-friendly, etc. Moreover, how would I know which ones are keenly priced and full of value and which ones are overpriced and sell you short?
Of course there are several well-known search engines which, if you use a couple of terms like birding and Arizona will eventually lead you to a guide and a B&B, etc. However, you often have to drill down a long way to find them, meanwhile passing all sorts of other entries, which may or may not deserve their position on the page. There are also sites that advise you about trips by both advertising or listing resources or sharing people’s reviews. The trouble is, I sometimes find myself having to write a review contesting the five stars other people give a restaurant that, to my mind, serves one-star food! What is more still is that these sites cover literally millions of different hotels, travel companies, and so on rather than specializing.
Last year, these thoughts were to the fore when an old friend came to me with the idea of setting up some sort of nature guiding website that would encourage all those companies who cater to us nature nuts to sign up and display their wares and would also invite reviews from their real clients. Excellent, said I, I wish I’d thought of it!
We began to pursue the idea and recruited a software man to help. Sadly, my friend dropped out, having enough calls on his time. But it was too good an idea to drop so I and my new software partner decided to give it a go… And so, late last year, WAND was born.
Wildlife And Nature Destinations is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone looking for a nature-based or wildlife holiday or trip. The idea is that we encourage guides and companies to sign up and create a page about themselves. Individual guides will upload a portrait (we all like to know who we are going to meet) along with a description of what they do and where, along with their contact details, website, etc. Tour companies do the same, listing ALL their destinations as well as the targets of the tour (such as birds, general wildlife, plants, and whatnot). Categories and listings may expand, of course, but they will all be about resources for nature travelers and wildlife enthusiasts, whether it be a birder-friendly B&B or a restaurant with a wonderful view of nature.
Users can also sign up and upload their trip reports or write reviews of any of those resources listed on the site.
Having got the software working we launched in time for January 1, 2016, and it’s going great guns! Enough companies and individuals have signed up to cover 365 destinations (yes one for every day of the year) in 150 countries and 30 types of tours.
For the site to work, we need lots more companies and guides to sign up (although there are already nearly 200 to choose from) and for as many of us birders, botanists, bear-watchers, or what-have-you to use the site to search for their ideal tour, guide, or accommodation. You can search tours by destination and tour type and, longer term no doubt, as the resource grows we’ll introduce further search parameters.
We cannot wave a wand and transport you magically to your ideal birding location, but we can help you find the right people to meet your needs when you get there!
About the Author
Bo Beolens is best known in birding circles for his extensive web presence: Fat Birder - one of the world’s biggest and most-used on-line resources for birders and Birding Top 1000 lists the top birding websites by their popularity. He also has a monthly column in a UK birding magazine as The Grumpy Old Birder and has written articles in BWD and other magazines. He has had seven books published and more are in final edit… ‘The Eponym Dictionary of Birds’ came out in time for the British Bird Fair in August 2014. He also champions birders with mobility problems setting up a charity in 2001 Birding For All Having birded on six continents he also organises trips for others via his Anytime Tours website. If he ever gets time he goes birding! His wife Maggie and son Ash are keen birders but the rest of their children and some of their five grandchildren (21, 14, 12, 10, 5) have yet to be convinced... although two are now showing a healthy interest! Having reached the magical age of 65 Bo has recently launched a new BLOG: Angry Old Bloke