COVID Protocols

COVID-19 Protocols

Updated June 13, 2022

RECENT NEWS: Effective June 12, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer requiring travelers arriving by air to test for COVID-19 in order to board flights. Testing is no longer required for entry or re-entry into the US.

Here is a direct link to the CDC policy page.

We Are Travelers


Taking precautions so we can get back on the road again. We are open and we are operating tours.
Our guest feedback tells us you are also happy to be out in the field enjoying nature again. Our goal is to lessen risk for our travelers, our guides, and those we visit. We cannot control every element of travel, but we will use the best available information to minimize risk as we travel. Our policies aim to do that and to minimize possible COVID disruption to your journey.

As conditions and regulations to cope with them can change quickly, this update has general information and for our travelers registered for a specific destination, we keep in close contact the weeks of the 60-days out to departure.

Where We Go:


US State Department & CDC Travel Alerts
We use a combination of credible sources to evaluate trends and on the ground conditions in the often very rural places we visit on our international trips. We also compare the trends and numbers to that at home in the USA and evaluate travel to our destinations on a comparative risk basis to conditions we have at home.

Reliable Colleagues, Lodges and Guides
Amid challenges of the pandemic we are choosing to work with lodges and operators that we know well. We are offering more tours within the USA, and we offer more tours to countries close to home where we have a trusted ground team to help us operate with minimal risk.

How We Go


Full Vaccination is Required for Travel
Since July 1, 2021, Naturalist Journeys / Caligo Ventures has required that all travelers and company guides are fully vaccinated. As of February 1, 2022, fully vaccinated status includes at least one additional booster. You must have completed your COVID vaccination course including the booster at least two weeks prior to travel. We recommend that all travelers keep their boosters current as subsequent boosters are available.

Why Do We Require Vaccination?
We do this out of concern for you and for our providers at local destinations that serve you. Also, more and more locations are requiring vaccination for entry and this status can change at any time including while we are traveling out of country. We stress that local guides and drivers also need to be vaccinated, and but acknowledge that this is not always possible at locations out of the USA.

Pre-Tour Recommendations


Don’t miss your trip! Two-weeks ahead of your travel we recommend that you minimize your social interactions, particularly inside gatherings. When considering your schedule, ask yourself—is this worth missing my trip? Know that we cannot reschedule your travel without penalties. Use current standards for cleanliness, masking, and social distancing. You may not travel if exhibiting symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19. If you have had a recent episode of COVID or have recently been exposed to COVID-19, you must test negative before joining the group. Please travel responsibly.

Travel/Transit Tips


Plan Ahead:


Testing:
Many countries have relaxed entry requirements in terms of required testing. But this is not true of all locations, and it can also change with little notice. We will alert you to what we know about requirements, but it is your responsibility to check the embassy website ahead of travel and to know the regulations, just as you do for Visas and other aspects of travel. The U.S. announcement effective June 12, 2022, ends the requirement for testing ahead of return.

COVID Test Kits:
We urge you to bring 2-4 home test kits with you on tour (depending on the length of your tour, one for every 3 days) in case someone in the group tests positive, it will be necessary for all the group to test regularly. While we can find lab tests in some locations, in remote locations we must depend on our own testing.

Online Health Forms/Apps:
Again, many countries are relaxing these mandated documents be completed ahead of arrival, but always check again for any updates before you go.

Upgrade Your Mask
and be particularly cautious in the airports. Wear the highest quality mask you can find in the airport and on the plane. Purchase an N95 or KN95 or equivalent mask and keep it on. If you feel you need to dine, consider food to go and find a quiet corner to eat in. It’s not worth spoiling your trip to let your guard down on the way and wake up on Day 4 in trouble.

Consider A Day-Pass To A Lounge
If you have a longer layover, many airlines offer a lounge day-pass, and this is often a less-crowded and more controlled environment to wait for your flight.

Download the Airline App and Know Your Password
Changes happen and this gives you a tool to solve your travel issues without standing in a long line.
Use our travel agent! For International travel, Naturalist Journeys pays the ticket fee to work with our travel agent Pam Davis of Willamette Travel. She is available to help with planning and emergency help while you are traveling. Travel agents are a big help in these chaotic times!

General Precautions


What We’re Doing:
— We retain a small group size, typically 7-10 persons per tour.
— We file COVID-19 Risk Management plans for all our USA federal land permits.
— We follow masking and social distancing protocols and require clients to agree to these before travel.
— We stress cleanliness by keeping high standards and providing supplies to travelers.
— We carefully research dining. Expect more catered meals at our small lodges, picnics and to go options, patio dining and when inside, dining at restaurants that are smaller and not crowded. If you are uncomfortable with a dining choice on tour, you can ask for your food to go.
— We require masks inside vehicles and keep vehicle windows open to circulate fresh air.
— On USA tours we offer the option to drive your own vehicle, following our guide in a caravan. We do not crowd seating in vehicles.
— We investigate local conditions ahead of arrival. We are in close communication with our lodges and activity providers to share our COVID-19 protocols and to know ahead of time what their policies and attitudes are when hosting our group.
— We keep you informed of local protocols. Many countries now have a health app or other method to track health status at entry. We will help you understand the process for each destination.
— We continue to network with our colleagues about our collective response to COVID-19; we follow the Adventure Travel and Trade guidelines that are extensive, professional and well-researched.
— We follow a protocol of testing, and for anyone testing positive, isolation to manage a COVID-positive situation that may occur on a tour. You will be supported with help finding a suitable hotel with meal service as you rest and recuperate, or if needed as in any medical situation we will find and rely on professional medical help. You will not be able to further interact with the group until a minimum of five days have past and then only if you test negative. We strongly advise you choose a trip insurance plan that assists you with COVID-19 illness, even though mild, causing you added expense or delays. It will be up to your guide, and the office staff of Naturalist Journeys to determine when you may rejoin the tour. Our travel agent will be available to help you plan travel homeward once ready.

Masking


COVID is not over yet, though thankfully most vaccinated individuals who contract it experience modest symptoms. We must still proceed with caution in our group travel. Expect that masks will be required at times on our tours. You will be asked to keep masked up when with the group inside in public places and not eating or drinking. All transport, including vehicle use, will require you to wear masks. We ask you to wear a mask when entering public spaces such as bathrooms and restaurants. If you are fully vaccinated and outside, and using social distancing precautions, you do not have to wear your mask unless local regulations require it. If you are on your own photographing or walking a garden, keep a mask handy to put on when you meet others. If you need a break from your mask, walk away from the group. Since birding happens quickly and people crowd to get directions, it’s best to bring a variety of masks and find those that fit well and are comfortable for you so you can keep them on. For inside spaces current advice is for a higher-quality mask. We recommend a KN95 or better – especially for times inside for extended periods, such as time in airports in route to your journey.

Social Distancing


– We will avoid crowded places as much as possible. In the field we can move around to avoid them, and we ask that you give each other space – be mindful.
– We will not use scopes as much as we do in more normal times but will have them when needed.

Cleanliness


We are all pretty-well trained by now and we advise common sense and mindfulness as we travel. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, and bring hand sanitizer. We will have supplies in the vehicles to wipe down surfaces. Our hotels and motels have cleanliness procedures that they follow, and chain hotels detail their protocol. It’s has been in their interest to have high standards. Still, you may wish to bring a supply of disinfectant wipes, and you can request no service in your room during your stay if you prefer that. We make every effort to choose high-standard hotels, small boutique hotels where we can but in some locations near prime birding areas we may choose “best available”, and we cannot guarantee other than normal standards.

Limits and Risk


You are choosing group travel. We can endeavor to minimize your risk particularly within our group. But we cannot control each aspect of travel or conditions at all places we visit. We cannot lessen standards set by countries for entry, such as testing or uploading documents to a health pass. We cannot move you to another tour within the time frame of the penalties of our terms and conditions – by 60 days out your funds are at your destinations. If planes are flying and borders are open, our vendors are not likely to send back returns. The panic of 2020 is different that today’s situation where we have knowledge and tools to cope with conditions. Certainly, if conditions become severe this will change, but currently our tours are running as normal.

We ask our operators to select local guides and drivers that are vaccinated and we chose locations that can do this, but you may encounter non-vaccinated persons as we travel, inside the USA or out. Also note that our lodges and transport companies often do not do their schedule until the week of your visit – we will not know the status of every local person we encounter. We can request that they wear masks when we wear them, but in some countries, this is no longer the custom – the driver is by an open window and those of us in the back are not, so we will keep masked regardless of local customs inside vehicles. We will bring a good supply of masks to share with locals involved with our group in case they lack them. In general, we find mask wearing to be far more common and compliant outside of the USA.

Timely Question: “What If?”…



Someone Gets COVID On A Tour
– We ask that people monitor their health daily and report any potential symptoms. If someone has symptoms or suspects they may be ill we will take the following steps:
– For severe illness professional medical transport and treatment will be arranged
– For symptoms suggesting COVID infection, prompt isolation will be required until testing can be done
– Testing will be required and our ground team will coordinate how to achieve that
– If a positive test occurs for anyone in the group, others of the group will also need to be tested and group activity will cease until test results can be received.
– As long as travelers have a negative test, they can continue group activities.
– Further testing intervals will be set using the medical advice of professionals attending to our travelers.
– Testing and medical care support will be coordinated to assist travelers that need to isolate / quarantine or change travel plans
– For the affected individual this situation is similar to having a broken bone, a stroke or heart attack on a tour. We are here to help coordinate care, but guides are trained in basic first aid only and we will seek professional medical care for all situations at your expense. Illness that extends beyond the tour will require individual responsibility to request and pay for help as needed.
– We cannot stress this often enough: Travel insurance is your friend.

My Tour Cannot OperateThis is being asked often and we understand! If we cannot operate a tour safely, we will reschedule. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a chance that your tour may not go despite our best efforts. Borders may close, or quarantines may be imposed that we cannot do within the tour schedule.

I Change My Mind We want to reduce your risk of losing your travel investment, too. A general guideline is that your financial risk is there, particularly once you make your final trip payment at the required 60, 90, or 120 days. For some tours we have extended that payment schedule to give us time to collectively make a sound decision on whether or not that tour can run.

If you want to cancel ahead of the penalty times, we can move your full deposit forward to another tour of your choice or refund you less the administrative fee stated in our Terms and Conditions.

Some of our travelers are still rebooking travel from previous disruption. Rebooking options from mid-March 2020 to mid-June 2020 for those making full payment were:
• $$ Full Value – rebook the same tour for up to three years
• $$ 75% Flex Travel Coupon – bank your tour funds and choose a new tour for up to two years
• $$ Cash refund – 60 – 70% is possible, based on what we can negotiate with our service providers. If you only paid a deposit, we will carry full value to a new tour or refund you less the administrative fee.

These disrupted travel rebooking options remain the same since we instituted them for 2020, but we have extended the timelines, so you have more options.


Looking Forward—A Note from Our Owner


We have put a strong 2022 / 2023 calendar together and we continue to future options. We understand that travel still feels uncertain, but also know that many travelers want a plan and something to look forward to. We will not take any final payment or send payment on to our suppliers until we can confirm the tour is possible to run. As mentioned in our COVID precaution guidelines, we require travelers to show proof of full vaccination (and as of February 1, 2022, a booster) before travel. These recommendations are for your peace of mind as well as for the safety of others.

Our clients’ and colleagues’ health and safety are our main concern. Our office staff members are almost all working from home, so email is the best way to reach us. We do monitor phones and will get back to you.

At Naturalist Journeys, we retain a strong network of experienced suppliers in the field, and we lean on our very good relations with them as we look for solutions. For almost all of our cancelled tours, we requested new bookings, which was a real help to them and strengthened our professional bonds. For all our destinations, we monitor daily news updates, use professional consultants, and watch State Department and other government guidelines that affect travel. We have learned that these good relations are our strength to come up with good solutions when we do have COVID-situations, which in group travel are thankfully not common but at times occurring.

COVID will continue to be a challenge, but we are equipped to take that on. We appreciate the enduring and strong support of our travelers, urging us to hang in there and be strong. We are a small, specialized, “boutique” company in the true sense, so our solutions may not mirror the giants of our industry. We treasure more than ever our personal (and for the most part patient!) client base as we try to keep up with needs on both sides of the tour equation. We recognize that if we don’t support our providers, our travel options will be fewer in the future in the very special places we visit. We understand we may not make everyone happy, but we trust that all recognize the complexity of the situation.

Are we optimistic? Yes, we are travelers. Whatever the new “normal” is, we will find a way to do what we love to do best. For us, travel is one of the greatest joys of life. We know that our joy brings vibrancy to local communities that in turn secure a healthy and protected place on the planet for wildlife. We feel that we can reduce risk and venture out, if we do so respectfully and carefully.

— Peg Abbott, and the team at Naturalist Journeys
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