We are pleased to share with you a recording of our most recent Field Notes webinar, 'Travel is on the Horizon' with Oceanic Society’s Conservation Travel Program Director, Wayne Sentman, and Coordinator, Pei Lun Lee. In the webinar, Wayne and Pei discuss the global outlook for nature travel in 2021 and beyond, including what to expect while traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, how to prepare and stay safe, as well as updates regarding Oceanic Society’s planned expeditions to Palau, Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Tonga & Fiji, Panama, Trinidad, Kenya, Borneo, and more.
Below you can also find a summary of the Q&A session, including written answers to questions that were not answered live. For the latest updates regarding COVID-19 and Oceanic Society Expeditions, please see this post which is regularly updated with new information.
If you are not already on our mailing list, please be sure to sign up here, and/or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to make sure you receive the announcements for future Field Notes webinars.
Questions have been organized beneath subheadings for convenience. Written responses are included below. For questions that were answered live, we have provided the timecode to watch the answer in the webinar recording.
Q: Will you be going to the Amazon again?
A: Our Guyana trip is in the Amazon basin, with the next departure scheduled for April 2022. We may also look at going back to Peru and Suriname after the COVID pandemic is no longer a hindrance to that.
Q: Is it possible to snorkel Raja Ampat but not on a liveaboard? Are the distances from land just too far to stay in hotels?
A: Answered live at 28:37
Q: I’m so anxious to hear when travel life will come back. I especially want to hear about our postponed trip to Fiji and Tonga.
A: Answered live at 57:49
Q: What would be a good location for seeing turtles?
A: Answered live at 31:04
Q: Not sure if Palau was talked about in January 2022. I was interested in this trip for my husband & 12 year old son.
A: We expect our Palau trips to be able to run by this November, so the January 2022 trip should be a safe choice. Palau anticipates having all of their population vaccinated by this summer (only ~18,000 people).
Q: I heard you say you expected the Trinidad May trip to run. What about the Dept of Homeland Security's current restriction for essential travel only to Trinidad, due to issues there other than covid?
A: We travel to remote locations all over the world, many times places where the Dept of State has travel warnings and advisories. We often have long-term relationships with the projects we work with and may therefore have different concerns about safety as it relates to the areas we travel to in a country. In general, travel advisories are on the side of extreme caution, and in some cases are overly cautious depending on where you are traveling within a certain country. That said individuals must make their own choices when deciding where to travel, so it is up to you to assess your level of comfort. You can always call and talk with us - we will be honest and forthright about any information we have so that you can make the most informed decision.
Q: Do you still go to Guyana?
A: Yes we do, our next Guyana trip will be April 2-13, 2022.
Q: A lot of the Indonesia trips jump off from Bali - do you know what Bali’s status is re prevalence of coronavirus and time for re-opening?
A: Answered live at 50:23
Q: The sea off Cuba is one of the best untouched areas in the Caribbean. Do you expect Cuba to reopen?
A: Answered live at 33:10
Q: Might you ever travel to the northwestern area of Australia?
A: We are looking at a place off of Ningaloo Reef for possible future expeditions. Given COVID concerns in Australia, nothing would likely be possible until later in 2022.
Q: Of all the reefs that you have experienced, which ones are plastic free?
A: I do not think I have ever seen a reef (in the last 20 years) that was “plastic free”. Plastic is ubiquitous in our oceans, so it is almost impossible to escape. I think the closest I have been to plastic free is in some areas of Raja Ampat and the Banda Sea, and in the Solomon Islands.
Q: Do the trips offered include interaction with local communities and if affirmative, do you contribute part of the proceeds to the communities involved?
A: Answered live at 34:40
Q: What is the limit of people you manage on the tours?
A: It depends on the trip, but 90% of our group sizes generally range from 6-12, we have a few programs where there may be up to 16 in the group.
Q: Will travel related businesses remain more flexible as the world opens up? I would guess they will go back to more rigid rules.
A: The travel industry has been hard hit during the pandemic. Travel providers and countries dependent on tourists will be eager to encourage people to travel again. Cancellation policies exist to protect the business and the travelers that are registered for a trip should someone cancel at the last minute (shared costs are dependent on group size), but in the post COVID world, we hope to see airlines, hotels, and tour operations offer fees paid as credit for future bookings rather than impose costly change fees or cancellation penalties.
Q: Obviously you can’t run a trip if the country is closed, like Palau. What will you do if the country is open, but the US requires isolation for returning travelers??
A: Answered live at 52:20
Q: You recommend doing more Carry-on during this time yet airlines are restrictive - can you give tips! Any airlines that have more carry on sizes or numbers
A: Airline carry-on limitations vary by route, by fare class, and by status, so it is difficult to give useful tips here, other than to pack light. We always recommend packing light not only to ease your travel, but also for the environment—heavier bags lead to heavier planes, which leads to greater fuel usage. There are many sites offering packing tips such as SmarterTravel, although for some trips, packing ultralight is simply not possible.
Q: If we sign up for a trip and COVID mutations or another virus prevents us from being comfortable to go, do you return my money?
A: Answered live at 38:38
Q: Will we need to have taken the vaccination before we travel with you?
A: Answered live at 42:25
Q: How do you anticipate handling PCR testing required for travel and re-entry? Will this be the traveler’s responsibility or will Oceanic Society help arrange this?
A: Answered live at 46:30
For more ways to stay engaged virtually, consider becoming an Oceanic Society member! For as little as $5/month, you will join this growing community of ocean-lovers and receive exclusive updates about our work (see a sample of our member’s only newsletter, The Tide, here). Members provide needed, consistent support that makes a real difference to our work
Brian Hutchinson is Oceanic Society's vice president of outreach, co-founder of the State of the World's Sea Turtles Program, and program officer of the IUCN-SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Brian holds a B.A. in zoology from Connecticut College, and has been working to advance global marine conservation for more than a decade.