Colloquially referred to as ‘boss man’ 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 particularly loves tracking down owls and other more difficult-to-find birds. Through wonderful family holidays, he birded southern Africa intensively while growing up. His ever-growing passion for birds led him to formally study ornithology, eventually completing a doctorate on African sunbirds at the University of Cape Town. He then lectured at the University of Natal in Durban, before heading to the USA to do a 2.5-year post-doc at the University of Wyoming on hummingbirds.
While in Wyoming, Chris came to the realization that the world of academics and lecturing, albeit a rewarding career, in fact got in the way of actual birding, so he founded Birding Ecotours. The goal of this decision was to allow him to travel the globe and all its seven 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?”
From the beginning of 2017, Chris spent three years founding and heading up the American office of Birding Ecotours from the warbler capital of the world, Ohio (specifically Columbus). This task is now in the capable hands of born and bred Ohioan, Jacob Roalef. Since January 2020, Chris and his wonderful wife Megan have been based in the best birding county in Britain, Norfolk, at the UK office of Birding Ecotours.
Chris has received two “Owl Awards” from BirdLife South Africa. The first recognises his contributions to avitourism in South Africa and the second celebrates his contribution to BirdLife South Africa’s work, as he has served as the chairperson of South Africa’s official bird list since 2010.