When a wildlife habitats, nature, danger, guiding, birding becomes the part of human’s life and business then the outcome of such an awesome mixture must be more than just perfect. We have had a chance of dealing with such a website creator for whom nature is pession, attraction, challenge and even more – job. Facing danger, conquering Africa, recognising birds by their calls, finding rare species of animals: these all is about one of our Portfolio plugin’s users Leon Marais . It’s definitely worth to get acquainted with his website creation and guidance experience and maybe this inspiring story will let you to pack your bags right now and go to Africa!
1. Having more than 25 years of experience in organizing wildlife tours, what can you tell about its peculiarities, important points, popularity? Could you remember the thought that forced you to create Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris?
Wildlife seems to be getting more popular, and I think social media has a part to play in this – people can see what their friends / contacts / groups are posting, and suddenly they know what they are missing out on! You can see it in the different groups now appearing on Facebook – butterflies, birding, insects, spiders and scorpions, plants and flowers, never mind the big mammals – there are groups catering for all kinds of interests. This goes hand in hand with the advent of digital photography, which has brought professional-level gear and techniques within the grasp of anyone who has a big enough pocket. Wildlife photography is probably one of the fastest growing sectors of the market… Unfortunately, if wildlife is now more popular than ever, it’s also under threat like never before. And most tour operators will agree, we have to focus on how our businesses can benefit wildlife, or at least not be in any way detrimental. In terms of our business, it was started in 1990 by avid amateur birder Peter Lawson, who I guess wanted to get out of the insurance business he was in and somehow get paid to go birding! I joined the company in 2007, and I guess my base thought was the same – to get paid to pursue my passions.
2. One of the most valuable parts of your tours is devoted to birding. What can you tell about it? What exactly can attract visitors in participating this tour?
Birding is coming out of the shadows a bit, so to speak, becoming more popular (as mentioned in question 1) and slightly less ‘nerdy’ – though I still wouldn’t advocate bragging about the size your current bird list on a first date! But basically you have a sect of people around the world who are willing to travel to see birds. Some use it as an excuse to see new parts of the world, while for others seeing new birds is the whole point of the vacation. These are the people we cater for, bringing them to Africa to see birds (and wildlife) and beautiful places.
3.What is birding for you as a specialist? Could you differentiate species of birds by their calls only?
I am a birding specialist guide and yes, knowing birds by their calls is very important. In fact, I’m busy with my National Birding Qualification at the moment, which involves visual and sound testing.
Which was the rarest animal or bird that you have found during your expeditions?
I guess the rarest animal I’ve seen is a Ground Pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) – it’s not necessarily the rarest mammal around, but seldom seen and very sought after by wildlife enthusiast. I know other guides who have never seen one in decades of guiding. Unfortunately Pangolins are the most trafficked animals on the planet, as their hard scales are sought after as some kind of delicacy in the East.
5. What peculiar qualities could you mention in animal’s behavior in a wild life? How do they conduct on their territory? Could you remember one of the most dangerous situation during one of your trips and your or maybe tourists’ behavior in that situation?
I’m fortunate enough to not have had many dangerous encounters with my guests, especially in my current capacity as I don’t lead any walking safaris anymore – that’s where the greatest potential for danger is, when out walking in Big Five country. I guess my most recent ‘dangerous’ experience involved a Giraffe – I came around a thicket of bush, and between the bright sun and the deep shadows I didn’t see that a big bull Giraffe was feeding on the tree thicket, only a few feet off the track and I only noticed him when the sun went dark and he scraped past the front of the vehicle, missing us by inches. A 1.2 ton Giraffe falling on your car full of tourists is just not going to end well.
6.Your website definitely has a great role in your business because it shows your passion, work and activity in an organized and bright way. What has been changed after creating it? Did you Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris gain more popularity?
Yes, I’m very happy with our new website, especially as I did most of it myself – the wonders of open source software. But it’s obviously not a question of ‘build it and they’ll come’, so we are currently having a SEO program implemented, which will hopefully deliver results. Enquiries are coming in fairly regularly, so that’s a good sign.
7. We are happy that our Portfolio Plugin deserved playing one of the most significant roles on your website: presenting the photos and descriptions of various interesting and beautiful animals. We will be glad to know your opinion about this role and plugin’s importance in your sphere of business.
The Huge-IT Portfolio Gallery is one of my favourite components of my website. I think it showcases our rage of set-departure safaris nicely. Support from Huge IT was also very good, both before and after purchase.
8. It’s written on your website “you’ll want to return to Africa with us time and time again”. What do you think, what can considered to be the motivation that will force visitors to return to you?
We hope that the quality of the service we offer leads people back to us ‘time and time again’! But over and above us, it’s Africa herself that usually hooks people – one visit is just not enough. It’s not just the animals (and birds!), it’s her people, the smell of the air, the skies, the space, the sunsets…. Trust me, if you love travel and wildlife, Africa has no comparison.