Hi everyone – well, the saga continues and, as politicians the World over are saying right now, we’re all in this together. Firstly, and most importantly, I hope that all of you are safe, sound and unaffected by this dreadful virus. Secondly…make sure you keep it that way! The natural world is going to be waiting for you at the end of all of this, in all its splendour, and you’re not going to miss a thing as a result. In fact, I completely expect every animal I see in the next 5 years to be overjoyed and re-connecting with the camera again, and as such, putting on a show….after all, they would have plenty of time to rehearse some decent routines for us all! (Sea cucumbers excepted….)
OK…so, in all this, there’s doubtless a few questions bobbing around in minds, and as such, I’ve tried to crystallise everything here in as simple a way as possible (for my benefit by the way, not yours…I am bear of small brain remember!) that will hopefully answer the principal queries that you all have.
Before I delve into that, I want to assure you that we are going to do everything we can to help and assist. We may only be a small travel company – after all, it’s the photos that’s the main thing for me – but we are determined to do things the right way. We are guided, as all companies are, by the legislation and in that regard our association membership – in our case Travel Vault – have been excellent in outlining what has to be done and the steps we need to carry out. This is the same for all of us – from the largest operator putting out 10000 trips a year, to the person who just runs a single workshop on Lundy Island. Nothing is different across the board. That said, I’m going to try and go the extra mile where we can if we have to – it certainly won’t be for want of trying that’s for sure.
From the other side, an overwhelming majority of the places I use are long standing relationships. They are friends and colleagues operating incredible wildlife locations and providing photographers like me with exceptional opportunity. It is because of those relationships, I am able to share them on with yourselves. These people are often the only frontline on anti-poaching and security where they operate, and rely heavily on people like me visiting them as a result. As you know, conservation has always been a major driver for me, and as such I want you to be assured that we are going to do our very best to maintain our levels of support for these organisations, camps and lodges in this difficult time. We need the wildlife to be there, and safe, and we need the locations to continue to thrive. This is also at the top of our agenda.
So…into the questions. I hope to have covered everything here, but if there’s something missing, then don’t hesitate to contact me or Carrie
WHAT’S THE CURRENT STATUS OF MY TRIP?
As we stand today, 30 April, ALL trips are going ahead with the exception of Yellowstone that has now been postponed until 2021. We have not cancelled or postponed anything else at this stage as we have not been instructed to do so. If this changes, those booked on the particular trip that is postponed/cancelled will be notified personally.
WHEN WILL I KNOW IF MY TRIP IS GOING AHEAD?
In a nutshell…as soon as we do. We are endeavouring to find answers as soon as we can, and of course want to keep the option of the trip open for as long as we physically can. It is far safer to assume all is taking place, than trying to second guess.
I’VE PAID FOR MY TRIP IN FULL BEFORE THE LOCKDOWN?
This only really applies to one trip right now, namely Yellowstone. On the basis that the full payments were received before the lockdowns started, ALL of this will be covered by your travel insurance should the trip not be able to go ahead. From our side, everything is paid up and impossible to reclaim as all suppliers will declare “force majeure”. However, rest assured, your insurance will cover you for the full amount. In the disappointing case that the trip has to be shelved, we will talk to you individually about moving forward too and helping out. I’ve got plenty of ideas on that, so don’t worry, we’ll get you to Yellowstone as soon as we can.
I’VE PAID A DEPOSIT AND NOW HAVE TO MAKE MY FINAL BALANCE PAYMENT?
Ok, this is one of those legal positions, and this is where we have to conform to the industry standard. If you have paid a deposit for a trip, and are now due to pay the remainder, it’s important that you continue to do so. You should assume that the trip is going ahead, and if therefore you do not fulfil the contract (I know it sounds onerous, but we are audited like everyone else, and it’s just the non-wriggle room position we are in), then you would automatically forfeit your place on the trip and lose your deposit. That deposit, in that situation, would probably not be covered by insurance as a result. In addition, if you get within the 90 day window, we are duty bound to impose the terms and conditions, meaning you would be liable for the full amount if you cancelled/didn’t travel etc. I know it sounds horrible – it does to me too – but we have no other option…it’s the law.
HOWEVER!!!!! There is a silver lining
SO WHAT HAPPENS IF I PAY AND MY TRIP IS CANCELLED?
If this happens, then your deposit would be covered by your insurance. We would also then credit your “final payment” amount to another trip in the future (perhaps one you’ve already got booked with us anyway), or to a rescheduled version of the trip that got put off. This is not the case with Yellowstone (as that was already fully paid), but will be with every other trip.
AS SUCH YOU CAN MAKE YOUR FINAL PAYMENTS, SAFE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOUR FUNDS WILL BE RE-PURPOSED FOR YOU IF THEY NEED TO BE
WHAT HAPPENES IF THE TRIP IS RUNNING, BUT FOR SOME REASON I DECIDE NOT TO GO, OR CAN’T GET THERE?
If the borders are open (and in this sense any compulsory quarantining would not be a consideration), and lodges/camps etc are open, the TRIP IS ASSUMED TO BE RUNNING. If therefore you decide not to go for some reason, then it will be seen as a unilateral cancellation as per T&C. There is NOTHING we can do about that I’m afraid. If the trip is running, and someone just doesn’t go, we have still paid in full for that space. If you are prevented from doing so because of a medical condition or other, then the best thing to do is seek a medical letter and use that for your own insurance to cover the cost of your full trip.
ARE THERE BACK-UP PLANS FOR THE TRIPS?
Yes. We are doing what we can to create windows to potentially re-run or re-schedule trips should that be the case. As such, if your trip was postponed, we would be in a position to relocate you to another version of that trip instead next year or at the latest 2022. We hope that this doesn’t come about…but want you to be assured that we are doing the very best we can to create new openings whilst at the same time maintaining the present ones.
Well done! You made it this far! I think that’s everything – the key thing is to keep your payments up to date; this enables you to be covered in the eventuality of the trip not taking place, to mean you’re able to activate your insurance, and to ensure we are able to keep the windows open for as long as we are able to as well.
Thanks everyone for your support at this, well, impossible time. We’re all doing what we can to get through, and I can’t wait to be nagging you all on location and moaning about your lens choice and picture taking later this year.
Hang in there – we’ll be stronger for it at the end.