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02 December 2020 update – promising news:
Today (2 December 2020) the first vaccine was approved in the UK and we expect the same will happen shortly in other countries – at least two vaccines are far more effective than anyone had thought (around 94 %). This is a game-changer as it is essentially safe from a Covid-19 point of view for you to embark on a trip if you’ve had access to this (originally we were only hoping for vaccines to be 50-70 % effective). Private trips may be easier/safer for us to run than stated on our 26 October 2020 update below, and hopefully our set departures might be up and running slightly sooner than we’d thought, too.
26 October 2020 update (please see above for more recent, encouraging, developments though):
We are now starting to run socially distanced birding day trips in places such as Norfolk in England, Ohio (where our American office is based) and across South Africa. Due to the danger of Covid-19, our day trips will function differently from how they usually do. We now have to ask that you meet our guide at the birding site rather than share a vehicle and abide by certain precautions (details of which we will send you when you contact us). Please do ask us about our currently approved day trip birding sites, and you can see our revised Covid-19 day trip protocol here.
In terms of longer trips, we have postponed all our set departures tours from April through December 2020 and are now assessing our January to March 2021 trips. Please of course feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about your trip with us during these months. If you’re considering booking a new trip, then we recommend booking trips from July 2021 onwards (quite a number of our later 2021 trips have limited spaces left, many people are already booking 2022 trips, and a few people are already booking 2023 trips).
Any deposits you pay from the date of this blog update (26 October 2020) onwards, will be transferred to a postponed trip without penalty, if Covid-19 prevents the tour from running in the year you book for and if your travel insurance company doesn’t cover it. As always, we do essentially require you to purchase travel insurance within a week after booking (and if possible, one that covers Covid-19).
We’ve noticed that several other birding tour companies are stating that they will “socially distance” while on their birding tours, to somehow try and make their tours safe even in the midst of Covid-19. We on the other hand believe that we sadly can’t run our set-departure trips at all due to the high risk of Covid-19 (and these trips are indeed being postponed). We may however consider running private trips (in addition to our carefully constructed day trips), and we’ll assess these on a case-by-case basis. While Covid-19 is still rife, we don’t feel it’s safe to fly, or to share a van with other birders. Some companies talk about regularly cleaning the tour vehicle seats and leaving more space in the vans than usual, but we believe that if anyone in the group has Covid-19, everyone in the group is likely to then catch this disease from the air in the van (and in normal times we anyway like to leave adequate space in the vehicles, with empty seats and places for optics and other gear). Hygiene on our tours has always been extremely important to us, and the proposed addition of hand sanitizer and the regular washing of hands, as mentioned by other companies, will not be a new feature on our tours. We noticed that some tour companies have rules such as “participants must not touch their faces” but we acknowledge that human beings will in fact subconsciously touch their faces if for example they have a sudden itchy eye or nose. So, regrettably, we’re essentially “waiting it out” until Covid-19 is no longer a significant risk, rather than attempting to run “socially distanced” trips. Safety comes first, for us.
We’re hopeful that from the second half of 2021, the future will start looking a lot better, and again we encourage bookings from July 2021 onwards. But we acknowledge that we might need to transfer your deposit to 2022 if our timing is too optimistic. Our tentative guess as to when things will be safe again (mid 2021 onwards) is based on what we hear from health organizations across the world but naturally the timing might need to be updated. Hopefully by the end of 2020 or the start of 2021, we’ll have a better idea.
Thank you so much for your amazing understanding. Honestly, we’ve seen the best in people during this trying year, and we would very sincerely like to thank all our brilliant clients who have been patient with us and stood with us despite horrid circumstances that test anyone’s patience.