MASERU – Humans have been bird-watching since time immemorial, but only in the last few decades has it become a full blown hobby.
There is a reason why so many people are willing to spend time and money to look at birds, and once tried, there is more reason to understand why.
Based in Quthing, Mt Moorosi, a tour guide from Moorosi Chalets, Telang Sekotlo, says birdwatching is at the moment only provided in the district. He is worried, however, that they have been forced to feed the highly endangered species of vultures in their area dead meat because of scarcity of food to provide for them.
Aside from simply watching or listening to birds, he says most birders will go a few steps further by documenting their observations, identifying the birds they see, and sharing their findings with fellow bird enthusiasts.
Birdwatching offers many opportunities, including younger travellers becoming more interested and the increased possibilities for marketing efforts on social media and other internet platforms.
Lerato Lisema, an ardent lover of birdwatching, says people outside the community may not see anything special about birds, but bird-watchers have a collector’s mindset.
“But, instead of collecting stamps or coins, they collect records of the birds they have seen, it could be notes, lists, photographs, or videos,” says Lisema.
With birds differing so much in appearance and behaviour, she says, it is hard to run out of things to be excited by them, adding that there is always a new species to look for, a new call to hear, or a new behaviour to watch.
Birdwatching tourism refers to travel where the main purpose is to observe birds in their natural habitat. It refers to finding, observing, and identifying birds for educational and enjoyment purposes. “It is very much related to nature tourism and adventure tourism,” Lisema adds.
She also indicates that activities catered for casual and enthusiastic birders are more accessible to offer for tour operators because casual and enthusiastic birders have a wider range of interest than birding alone and are less specific in their demands.
Hardcore birders, she says, are very knowledgeable and have very specific demands, especially about the birds they want to see.
“Ecotourism has been embraced by many as an economic alternative that can raise incomes for people who live close to biodiversity-rich areas while helping to conserve natural resources, but marketing pristine natural habitats as tourism “products” does not always bring significant benefits to surrounding communities,” she notes.
Moorosi Chalets focuses mainly on tourists, researchers, nature lovers. Since the business is targeting clients from outside Lesotho, such as South Africa, Europe and United Kingdom to mention the few, the Covid-I9 pandemic has put the business to zero percent.
“Even my visitor’s book is blank. I am trying to market domestic tourism but this is coming very slowly because of economic hardships. There is a very sad situation on role players when coming to economic growth of Lesotho.
There is poor allocation of resources that can revive the economic growth of Lesotho, especially in the tourism industry,” Sekotlo says.
The expectation is that this niche market will recover relatively fast when Covid-19 restrictions decrease. Apart from birdwatching, the facility provides activities such as cultural history, in particular the story of King Moorosi, Chief of the Baphuthi tribe.