Our founders’ story: Billy

Why did you decide to start Habitats?

I have been passionate by nature since the young age of 9. That’s means I’ve already devoted more than 75% of my life  to the beauty of nature. I became a biologist and my job as nature guide nowadays is to show people the beauty of nature around the globe.

I worked for the biggest nature conservation NGO in Belgium, Natuurpunt, for several years. The feeling of doing something for nature felt very natural. On the other hand, my business with nature conservation definitely isn’t over yet

It’s my dream to leave this earth knowing that I personally helped conserve nature. My focus will be on price-valuable nature conservation. The conservation cost for pristine mires, bogs and primary tropical rainforests, for instance, is rather low compared to the return you get and the quality of the habitat.

It’s my goal to be responsible for the protection of these habitats. I cannot reach that goal by myself. That will require the help of many others, including you.

In 2014 I started STARLING tours, a travel agency that focuses on nature tours. We work closely together with local guides, nature conservation NGOs and small local family businesses. We do believe this is one of the purest forms of eco-tourism.

With our tours, we help our customers to see the sheer beauty of nature. But while traveling, we also come across the less positive things that are going on in this world and that makes you think.

We are also aware that a part of our trips have an impact on nature, which has always been a struggle for us. Slowly but steadily, we are therefore working towards a program that is more ecologically ethical. With Habitats, we aim to establish a straight line to local nature conservation, with the local contacts we have established throughout the years.

WHat’s your favorite habitat?

Nature without any doubt!

One of the best experiences I’ve had so far was touching ground in the Ecuadorian Amazon’s primary tropical rainforest back in 2005. The feeling that I stood on a square meter, maybe never walked over by a human specimen, is just impossible to describe. It was during that trip I got to know one of our local partners, Jocotoco. I visited their fantastic reserve Canandé as one of the first tourists ever. So tropical rainforest has always been something special to me.

On the other hand I have other favorites like wetlands, coast, grasslands, … It is  the complexity of nature and the combination of habitats that intrigues me so if you ask me about my favorite habitat, I prefer not to answer this question and leave it an open answer.


What tipping point made you decide to focus on biodiversity conservation & restoration?

The real tipping point must have been the covid pandemic, when I felt the need for nature conservation the hardest. It is without any doubt that we as humans have a huge impact on mother nature. I saw this during my whole career as a nature passionate, and especially as a traveller, but my believe is that somewhere somehow, the key for the survival of mother earth lays in one of these habitats.

What’s your most memorable nature experience?

That’s a very tough one as I am a freak of biodiversity. I have seen around 5,000 bird species in my life so far. I stood on the dancing grounds of several birds-of-paradise species, and witnessed a discovery of new breeding grounds of the spoon-billed sandpiper, one of the rarest birds in the world. I travelled through South America without internet, and sat on a sailing ship in the middle of the ocean around the Galapagos Islands surrounded by a feeding frenzy of frigatebirds, petrels and killer whales. I can keep going on like this for a while.



During my career, I rediscovered extinct plants in Belgium. These are very small discoveries for humankind but great in feeling for me personally. I had many eyeball to eyeball views with enigmatic mammals like polar bears, snow leopards, gorillas and pumas. But it’s not only species that give me the thrill: in 2021 I stood on the slopes of an active volcano in La Palma, which was a life-changing experience. 

But once again, if you ask me for my favorite, I would like to keep the answer open. I still believe the best is yet to come. This thought gives me the drive to set new goals and to go out and find something that I’ve never witnessed before…