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Update Regarding COVID-19 and Oceanic Society Expeditions

By Wayne Sentman

Post updated: December 28, 2020 (originally posted March 19, 2020)

Dear Travelers,

Good news has finally arrived regarding effective COVID vaccines becoming available in 2021. While this is promising news for travel, the reality is that many people may still not be vaccinated until the late spring or summer of 2021. It does however seem that those over 75 years of age will be targeted in the 2nd phase of the vaccine rollout – so with some luck people falling into that age range could be receiving the vaccine by February or March.

Some important things to consider – the vaccine is given in two doses, the 2nd dose coming about 4 weeks after the first, so full immunity for anyone that is lucky enough to get vaccinated will be about 6 weeks after your initial vaccination. So if you receive your first shot on 1 March 2021, you would not really be able to travel with the full benefits of the vaccine until about 15 April 2021. At present, we do not fully understand if those who are vaccinated are still able to spread the virus, so you will still likely need to wear masks and practice all the same anti-COVID behaviors as we are currently doing well into fall/winter of 2021. We may also see countries and airlines require vaccine passports as we move into 2021, for all those wishing to book flights for international travel. You can learn more about that here and here.

If you are starting to be encouraged by the latest news to begin planning travel for 2021 or 2022, here is where we currently are with expedition planning:

  • We expect our March trips to Baja California for whales and whale sharks to be the first we run in 2021;
  • We have added an April 30 – May 8, 2021 Palau snorkeling trip, but this is not yet confirmed;
  • Our May 2021 Panama snorkeling trip looks like it will go and still has openings;
  • We are working on a domestic July 2021 natural history trip (to include nesting sea turtles) on Oak Island, NC (details will soon be posted on our website);
  • We anticipate that we can run our Kenya Safari in July/Aug of 2021;
  • Trips to the Galapagos, Costa Rica, and Borneo can all be organized as private departures at present;
  • All 2022 trips should now go as planned and can be booked through our website. We do still have spaces available on most trips and departures, and we will be updating and adding additional trip dates to our website throughout January 2021.

At this time, the information below from our earlier posting remains true and may still be of assistance in your travel planning. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Wayne or Pei (expeditions@oceanicsociety.org) with any travel related questions or private group travel planning needs as you contemplate planning your next adventure. We can answer many questions for you, and many of our expeditions can be customized or offered as private trips for families or groups of friends that may have been quarantining together. In the meantime, you may find the links below helpful as you decide whether to plan a trip in 2021.

UPDATED BOOKING POLICIES – WHAT IF YOU NEED TO CANCEL A BOOKING?

  • After your initial reservation deposit we will not be collecting additional trip deposits until we can confirm the trip departure.
  • We are working with our in-country partners to try to assure more flexible cancellation terms.
  • We are allowing travelers who are signed up for any trips from October 2020 onwards to switch to a later departure date at no cost. Once we confirm your trip, we will notify you and offer you the chance to stay booked or to transfer to a different date or trip.
  • We understand that each traveler may have specific risks with regard to COVID-19. We will do our best to allow individuals the freedom to switch expeditions if vaccines or other measures you are concerned about are not in place by the time your trip is scheduled to depart.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR CURRENTLY SCHEDULED EXPEDITION IS POSTPONED BY OCEANIC SOCIETY DUE TO COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS?

You will be able to choose between the following options:

  • Transfer full deposit payment to a future departure of the same trip.
  • 100% of your trip fees paid can be transferred to any of our future expeditions through 2023.
  • A full refund of your trip fees minus any penalties from local service providers or credit card fees that we are no longer able to recover. In most cases this is less than $150/person.
  • If we do have any fees we are unable to recover per the above – they will be offered as credit against any future booking until December 2022.

SOME ADDITIONAL RESOURCES THAT WE RECOMMEND

With best regards from all of us,

Rod, Wayne, Pei, Brian, Nicole, Linda Sue, Chris, Ashleigh, Lindsay, Rosie, Amanda, and Huntley

Author

Wayne Sentman is our director of conservation travel programs and an Oceanic Society naturalist since 1998. He is an experienced guide with a diverse background in marine mammal, seabird, and marine debris research. Wayne also co-teaches undergraduate field programs in Kenya on human-wildlife conflict and on the use of social media and art to raise public participation in conservation. He recently received a Master's in Environmental Management from Harvard University.

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