Hi all and welcome on my website !
As this is my first blog post, I should introduce quickly myself.
I started guiding birdwatchers 28 years ago. As comme as it may seem today, back in 1991 it was very special: I was the first professional bird guide speaking French in Belgium and, as far as I know, even the first French-speaking professional in Europe. I expected to help bird conservation this way: I thought that greater awareness of the beauty of the birds could lead to greater commitment and efforts to save them !
This was not so simple. When I realized that travelling can pollute and create more problems that it solves (like a lot of plastic waste and the destruction of natural habitats), I settled in Belgium and created a birding school or whatever you call our initial project. Indeed, with a local nature protection association (Natagora), we launched many classrooms (several in each French-speaking province of the country), open to all, and we taught about birding, bird-guiding, conservation, identification, ethology (bird behaviour), taxonomy, etc. This was from 2003 onwards and the project is actually still running successfully although I’m no longer involved.
It was so successful that it inspired neighbouring countries and, usually with my direct help, similar birding schools were initiated in Luxembourg and several areas of France. In that last country, I also spent months teaching, notably in Camargue and around Paris (between 2009 and 2015).
Many of my African colleagues told me that, even if travelling is indeed polluting, tourism is the only chance to save big tracks of natural space in Africa. This is true indeed, I have noticed that most of the funding for national parks come simply from the visitors. This is why, around 2005, I created VEO, a Belgian association that offer another form of tourism. With this association, I started teaching about birds and ecotourism in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, as well as in Brazil where the need of bird-guides and better ecotourism is also obvious.
The guides I taught were doing well, having jobs and working properly, but most of their employers targeted short-term income and not sustainability. Therefore, I decided to try to be involved deeper. As I could rely on some of my former students in Belgium and, later, in France, to take over the birding schools efficiently, I left to Tanzania and tried to produce my own “eco-birding” tourism. I finally created my travel agency in Uganda to organize eco-friendly nature trips in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and, occasionally, as far as Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Trips were plastic-free, vegan-friendly, smoke-free and food served was, as much as possible, organic and locally grown.
This is only 7 years ago, but public was not ready for that as it is today. More the agency grown, less the clients were interested on our philosophy and most of them considered efforts to limit the impact as boring, useless, a lost of time, etc. Worse, some people even thought that one vegan meal is… not a meal, and meat should be served on every occasion. This is why I resigned by the end of 2015. My former main assistant, Sharon, is however having her own agency there in Uganda now, and is trying, with some success, to do what I did, as she perfectly understood the philosophy and priorities.
In 7 years, things has already changed a lot indeed. Everyone is now seeing how bad is the climate change. Most have read UN report than a million of species might be extinct soon if we don’t change our way of life. More strikingly, scientific reports claim what I always did: a major or huge reduction in meat production and consumption is essential to keep the planet hospitable for most species including ourselves.
Since August 2019, even IPCC is now suggesting to switch to vegan diet to save the climate, at least in developed countries, another step of the science that confirms animal-farming is the biggest problem.
We cannot make people committed to save biodiversity. However, none of those who want to do something can deny we were right anymore. This is the perfect time to start a new program of really eco-friendly wildlife photography and birding holidays program.
Veganism is rising everywhere, people are aware of the situation of the World and science confirms that the right way is vegan, in addition to organic and plastic-free, what was already more widely admitted since long. Check out, as another proof, even more recent, in this major scientific publication of November 2019.
There is no time to waste. Our actions will be Worldwide and expect to grow as fast as possible regarding the commitment of our clients, partners and all people involved in nature conservation.
Since 2017, I’m building new projects, still researching in some natural places, and again teaching and lecturing, as on the photo below in a school of Ormoc (Leyte, Philippines).
This include practical actions for health and nature such, for instance, helping local authorities to stop wild burning of waste to stop in some islands of the Philippines.
As work is going on, it might be difficult to find the most interesting pages of the website for a new visitor. You can have an idea of the huge potential in having a look on our 2019 list. Not less than 365 bird species have they full encyclopedic page in French (click on the French name to enjoy the quality and diversity of the photos) and a English page ready to be filled with personalized information and the links to the company website as soon as they find a sponsor.
Two pages have already their sponsor. The SHOEBILL, a spectacular African bird, is sponsored by Irembo Holiday, from Uganda, and the same company also got a page on the LION. Indeed, spectacular non-bird animals will have pages published as well, depending on sponsoring.
New bird are added every day ; to make the search of a bird easier, we are also publishing bird family pages, check out some of them. Some are fully ready, you can see a few here:
- Weavers (Ploceidae)
- Ostriches (Struthionidae)
- Darters (Anhingidae)
- Fairy-Flycatchers (Stenostiridae)
To keep you informed of the many updates, we have launched a Facebook page, please feel free to visit and like.
Valéry Schollaert, Chiang Rai, Thailand, 19th January 2020