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Update Regarding COVID-19 and Oceanic Society Expeditions

By Wayne Sentman

Post updated: October 2, 2020 (originally posted March 19, 2020)

Dear Travelers,

We are now more than six months into a prolonged shutdown of international travel, and many of us have been eager for the opportunity to plan something “we can look forward to” in these trying times. We miss the opportunities to connect with nature and to be inspired by the hope we feel when immersed in it. For many of us, the uncertainty about when places will reopen and what happens when they do is both frustrating and confusing.

Here at Oceanic Society, our travel team is in constant contact with our international partners, professional adventure travel specialists, health care professionals, and other expedition operators. We are constantly monitoring and sharing information from a variety of sources, making sure that we are both ready to field our expedition groups when it is safe to do so, and providing our travelers with the most up to date and accurate information available. At present, many of the destinations to which we travel have not yet reopened, though we do anticipate a few re-openings to international tourists in October. Of the 10 countries that have not had any COVID cases so far, we have expeditions to 4 of them. You can imagine their reluctance to reopen too soon, but also appreciate the pressures these communities that rely on nature tourism must feel to end the pause.

In an effort to keep our travelers up to date, here is the latest information about the status of our expeditions:

  • All expeditions through the end of 2020 have been postponed.
  • We are still taking bookings for trips to Palau, Belize, and Honduras in January and February of 2021, but there is still a high likelihood that those trips will also be postponed.
  • We are expecting all of our expeditions from March 2021 onward to depart as planned.
  • We are working with families and groups of friends to organize private expeditions and private charters.
  • Our travel team will update all currently enrolled travelers immediately with any new information that would impact your expedition.

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.

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.

We look forward to talking with you and helping to arrange the travel plan that works the best for you and your family. We will be updating this post as often as needed, so please check back here for new information. In the meantime, here are 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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