As a husband and wife team our overriding priority as a dedicated birding and wildlife safari tour operator since 1998 is to provide a specialized eco tour service focusing on Southern Africa as our main geographic priority. Meticulous attention to detail and hand-crafted itineraries with the personal touch are the inspirational hallmarks we have maintained as key objectives.
WHO ARE WE ?
I have been passionate about nature and birding in particular since boyhood days in rural surroundings. Armed with an introductory bird book and an inexpensive pair of binoculars I embarked on what has proved to be an enduring and intense interest for over 50 years. During this time I enthusiastically indulged in tape recording, bird photography, bird banding and regional distribution assessments throughout Southern Africa as part of the initial S.A. Bird Atlas Project. This was the background to developing my ability to provide visiting birders with exclusively tailored itineraries covering specified needs from ‘relaxed’ to ‘intensive’ in detail.
Over the years my interest in nature has expanded progressively and I now hold the FGASA (Field Guides Association of South Africa) accreditation for Levels 1 to 3 and an Honorary SKS: Birding (Specialist Knowledge & Skills: Birding) qualification as well as BLSA’s (Bird Life South Africa) specialist guide endorsement as a fully registered National tour guide for all nine South African provinces by DEAT.
My personal Southern Africa bird list is presently 898, actively looking to reach 900 as a personal and challenging milestone!
Outside of birding, through the years of my corporate career as a CEO in a multinational beverages company, I developed an in depth understanding of the South African wine and spirits industry and enjoy sharing my knowledge with clients who have an interest in wine.
Aside from my lifelong interest in birding, my passion for scuba diving as a NAUI Master Scuba Diver has taken me below the surface to enjoy the mesmerising underwater world of equal fascination to birding at diving destinations across the world with the dive sites around Cape Town my personal preference.
Add to this the simple pleasures of fly fishing in remote and scenic surrounds offering solitude without loneliness and you have some idea of the breadth of my love for wild places and life therein.
Marie Louise Cardwell
My enjoyment of the multi-faceted mix of birding, fauna and flora, and cultures in Southern Africa and an analytical and structured approach to business (my background is management in the IT Industry with BSc and MBA degrees) have combined to provide me with the ability to fulfil my main role i.e. to ensure our tours and accommodation run smoothly.
I strongly believe that the ‘personal touch’ is the hallmark of what Avian Leisure offers in providing individually hand-crafted itineraries and a ‘one stop’ travel package covering private birding and wildlife safaris as our main focus but being sufficiently flexible to include whatever other special interests our clients may have…
Nothing makes me happier than positive feedback from satisfied clients that have stayed at Avian Leisure or experienced a highly successful safari, except possibly a referral or a repeat visit.
I don’t keep a personal bird list and love our adventures and photographic excursions to many different parts of Africa and the rest of the world whether I see all the birds there or not!
I was born in Zimbabwe and reside in South Africa. After graduating from University with a commerce degree, I decided to pursue a career in the natural world as a specialist birding guide and Photo journalist based on years of travelling through the outback of Africa.
I then joined Wilderness Safaris as environmental consultant and eco-tourism advisor, as a Group Biodiversity Coordinator and Guide when not leading specialist tours for Avian Leisure. I continue to guide birding trips and wildlife safaris each year to varied destinations. I am a qualified DEAT/FGASA Level 3 and SKS (birding) guide and my favourite bird families include raptors, larks and the bizarre Malagasy vangas.
I enjoy hosting photographic safaris as an avid photographer myself, and am at my happiest wandering through off-the-beaten track places in Africa, the world’s last remaining ‘mega-wilderness’ in my opinion.