Wildlife Holiday News

Coronavirus update

Andy Tucker
By Andy Tucker
General Manager
25th March 2020
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It was a surreal experience driving home on Monday evening, on traffic-free roads, in the golden hue of the setting sun and under a clear blue sky. I had just locked up the Naturetrek office, and as I did so a Red Kite drifted overhead, while a Barn Owl quartered our meadow. Along with my 31 colleagues, I was unsure when we might all return to our happy ‘Naturetrek home’. It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks. It was only a short time ago that our sympathies within the travel industry extended to the Far Eastern specialists and the cruise lines. Now, we’re all affected, in all industries and in all walks of life.

Matters escalated for us all at Naturetrek, just before 1pm on Tuesday 17th March, when the Foreign & Commonwealth Office took the unprecedented step of advising against all non-essential travel worldwide. At that moment we had 80 clients and several staff members overseas in Indonesia, Botswana, South Africa, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Spain, India, La Palma (Canary Islands), Borneo, Chile and Sri Lanka. I am very pleased to report that all are now safely back in the UK, bar one couple in Nepal and one couple in Costa Rica, who are due to arrive back home imminently.

By the end of that pivotal Tuesday afternoon we had made contact with over 600 of you who were due to travel with us during the remainder of March and April, advising that your holiday was cancelled and offering you a transfer to a future tour or a refund. To those of you who have agreed to transfer your payment to a future departure, we offer our heartfelt thanks; our beleaguered partners around the world, and our staff, are truly grateful. Your action has given them, and us, hope. To those of you who have understandably requested a refund during this time of great uncertainty, please bear with us. We are working through a complex situation and processing paperwork as quickly as we can from our homes. It is soul-destroying work; undoing thousands of arrangements; kicking into touch so many memories not yet made.

Tour by tour, we are now contacting those of you who are booked to travel with us in May, June and July. For as long as we retain a glimmer of hope of operating tours in these months we will not cancel any of them, at least until matters become clearer, closer to each departure date.  During this period, please feel free to contact us if you have an urgent query but, otherwise, we ask you to please be patient. While you are waiting to hear from us, please respect our booking conditions and send final balance payments when they are due, bearing in mind these three quick points of reassurance and clarification:

  • When you send your final balance, please be assured that if we ultimately have to cancel a tour due to FCO Travel Advice, we will refund you or offer to transfer you to a different departure (although the ‘flight’ part of the refund may come through as an airline travel voucher, or similar, if that is what the airline has chosen or been required to refund to us).
  • If you choose to cancel your holiday before we officially cancel a tour, our booking conditions will apply, although you may be able to claim back our cancellation charge from your insurer.
  • In a few cases, where we have not yet ticketed any flights or incurred any other expense on your behalf aside from administrational expenses, we are offering a free transfer of monies paid to a future booking. At the moment, this applies only to departures in May and June, and we will contact you if this applies to your tour.

At this time, having seen our Prime Minister last night announce even more stringent measures to keep our country safe, it seems churlish to think ahead to future holidays, but thoughts of far-off places, national parks, wildlife, guides and lodge owners will keep us going during the weeks and months ahead. Instead of ceasing communication online and in print, we shall continue to work as normal and stay in touch with all of you who would like to hear from us, hoping that your day might be brightened with a beautiful image, or an exciting tale from a tour. Do check our Twitter feed, Instagram and Facebook page, for some remarkable sightings enjoyed by groups returning home just before the lockdown.

Through all of this we have been touched by so many messages of solidarity and support from Naturetrek clients and friends. We thank you all so much for your kind and supportive words at this time. This one is typical:

I have been thinking a lot about you and all your colleagues at Naturetrek in these worrying and very challenging times. You have all worked so hard over so many years to give me and my fellow travellers truly wonderful experiences around the world. I will always be grateful to you all for giving me these holidays of a lifetime. Naturetrek is a great company full of friendly, enthusiastic, and ever-helpful people. You have helped support people, flora and fauna, and their environments worldwide. I’m looking forward to the holidays I’ve booked with Naturetrek and hope to have many more in the future.

Many of our clients are over 60 in age, either in a vulnerable group, with background health issues, or caring for elderly relatives. Our thoughts are with you all during this time, and with our NHS staff and emergency services, and with all those showing the caring side of humanity during this crisis. We’ll be here for you, privileged as ever to be asked to help with your wildlife travel plans, once this is all over.

With very best wishes from all the team here in Hampshire.

Andy Tucker
General Manager