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Update Regarding COVID-19 and Oceanic Society Expeditions

By Wayne Sentman

Post updated: March 19, 2021 (originally posted March 19, 2020)

Dear Travelers,

It seems like many of you are now vaccinated and many more soon will be. As the U.S. continues to make progress in rolling out the vaccines, we are starting to see a resurgence in travel interest, and, thankfully, our phone lines are again ringing. While many destinations remain closed to international travelers, others are open (or have remained open), like Belize, Galapagos, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Mexico. As we await word on places like Palau and Indonesia, we are anticipating that vaccinated travelers may be some of the first tourists allowed to reenter these popular destinations. This will be especially true if the preliminary evidence showing that vaccinated people are not transmitting COVID is confirmed. However, just because you’ve been vaccinated doesn’t mean you can disregard all public health advice. So for now, you must continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing and pack your hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes along with your passport.

Recently we hosted a travel webinar (which you can watch here) that went over some of the many questions people have been asking us, our thoughts as to where things are headed, and when and where we will all be able to safely travel again. As you may know, we can customize many of our expeditions for small groups of friends and families and have already begun coordinating private trips to Baja California, Belize, and the Galapagos for family groups.

On January 26, rules went into effect requiring those arriving into the U.S. on any international flights provide proof of a negative PCR or antigen test, the results of which must be from no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Airlines will be required to confirm the negative test result for all passengers before they board and to deny boarding to those passengers who choose not to take a test. We are working with our in-country partners to assure that these new testing requirements will be administered as seamlessly to your itinerary as possible. We do anticipate that by summer these testing requirements may be dropped for those that can show they are fully vaccinated against COVID. Please remember that two of the available vaccines are given in two doses, with the 2nd dose coming 3-4 weeks after the first; therefore full vaccination protection will be about 6 weeks after your initial vaccination.

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:

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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