Africa’s safari areas have made great strides in recent years to combat poaching and promote conservation. Tour operators on the ground, led by some of our favorite preferred partners, have done admirable work not only in fostering wildlife preserves but also in making sure the communities they operate within benefit from the tourism dollars flowing in. From jobs to schools to health initiatives, safari-goers and safari companies have been supporting the communities that support them. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened that, as a lack of business leads to less funding for animal sanctuaries, fewer jobs for locals and more poaching as opportunities to earn money dwindle.
There are, however, now several countries in Africa’s safari areas that are accepting American travelers. With that comes the opportunity to glimpse some of the world’s most stunning wildlife and stay in some of the world’s best lodges and have the places practically to yourself.
The vast grasslands of Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa are open to travelers. Kenya requires a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of arrival, along with a health screening upon landing. Tanzania might test you on arrival depending on your screening. Once there, you have open to you the majesty of Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge open to you, along with cultural visits with the Maasai people and oh so many beautiful creatures.
Neighboring Rwanda is also open to visitors with a negative test within five days of arrival in addition to a negative test on arrival (you’ll have to spend a day in quarantine at your lodging to await results). Once cleared, travelers can go gorilla trekking and birding in the country’s verdant national parks. Uganda is also open, with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival required.
Moving south, Zambia allows visitors in with a negative PCR test taken within two weeks of arrival. You will also need to inform officials of where you will be staying for potential follow-up screening. You can still go on safari there and visit Victoria Falls, though anyone crossing to Zimbabwe not only needs a negative test taken within 48 hours, there is a 14-day quarantine.
Namibia’s dunes, wildlife and birds are open to you if you have a negative test taken at least 72 hours but no more than seven days before your departure. Going to South Africa is more complicated but possible as part of a longer itinerary as you’ll need to spend at least 10 days in a low-risk country (the U.S. is high-risk) first. You’ll also need a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure, a government contact tracing app, mandatory travel insurance and a health screening on arrival.
In the wide open spaces of Africa’s safari areas, you’ll be able to go on private or small group tours with a feeling of safety and security, see amazing animals and cultures up close and help spur the local economies. And you’ll easily avoid the crowds.
The list of countries we can visit is slowly but surely expanding. But it’s not as simple as booking a plane ticket and showing up. Good thing for you, you have a travel advisor who is constantly staying on top of the latest opening and requirements.
Most openings are in the Caribbean, and pretty much all the islands have testing and health declaration requirements. You might also be subject to additional screening on arrival. Anguilla actually requires hopeful travelers to apply for a spot. The island is COVID-free and would like to keep it that way. Should you be approved for your dates, you’ll need a negative test taken three to five days before travel. Antigua requires a negative test taken within 48 hours. Anguilla is also requiring a donation of $1,000 for individuals or $1,500 for families of up to four, with an additional $250 for each family member beyond four. Aruba’s testing window is 72 hours, though it only applies to residents of certain hotspot states. Barbados’ is also 72 hours, or you can take a test on arrival and quarantine until results are back. Bermuda requires a negative test taken within seven days, and the health declaration comes with a $75 fee. Dominica’s test window is 24-72 hours before travel, and the Dominican Republic’s is five days. To go to Jamaica, you’ll need a negative test and application approval if you live in one of a few hotspot states; otherwise, Americans have a temperature check on arrival. Turks & Caicos and St. Vincent & the Grenadines require a negative test taken within five days, while St. Lucia’s window is seven days and St. Maarten/St. Martin’s is 72 hours.
Expanding our net a bit into Latin America, Costa Rica will open Sept. 1 to residents of New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Connecticut who have a valid driver’s license from one of those states and a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival. While the land border with Mexico remains closed for at least another month, the main tourist areas are open with no entry requirements; resorts are capped at 50% capacity. In South America, Ecuador requires a negative test taken within 10 days (rules differ for the Galapagos, where Silversea’s 100-passenger Silver Origin will begin sailing in September). Brazil requires travelers to present proof of health insurance but no test or quarantine.
If you have safari on your mind, Kenya is open to those who have a negative test taken within seven days of arrival, and Tanzania has no testing requirement but a health declaration to fill out before landing. Rwanda’s testing window is five days, and arriving travelers will quarantine for 24 hours before taking a second test. Egypt requires a negative test within 72 hours along with a visa and health insurance.
Despite European Union rules, some European countries are accepting Americans. Croatia doesn’t require a quarantine for travelers presenting a negative test taken within 48 hours of arrival, though it does require proof of accommodation. Albania has no test or quarantine requirements, nor does Serbia—unless you’re entering Serbia from neighbors Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia or Romania, in which case you’ll need a negative test taken within 48 hours. North Macedonia has a screening on arrival but no test requirement. Visitors to Ukraine will take a test on arrival and quarantine for 24 hours while awaiting the results.
In Asia, Turkey has no testing requirements. The UAE allows visitors to enter Dubai with a negative test taken within four days of arrival and travel insurance, or to Ras Al Khaimah with those same protocols plus proof of accommodation. Cambodia requires a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival, travel insurance with at least $50,000 of coverage and a $3,000 deposit in case you’re hospitalized.
French Polynesia is once again welcoming visitors, provided they present a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival and travel insurance. The Maldives require proof of accommodation and a health declaration.
Technically you can travel to the Bahamas, St. Barths, Ireland, the UK and Ethiopia, but they all require 14-day quarantines so you’d better have a lot of time. No matter where you’re going, be sure to bring your mask because it’s required in public spaces almost everywhere.
Confirm specific requirements for your destination with Stefany Di Manno Ceccato, she can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and or email@example.com.
We all have that big adventure we’ve really wanted to go on but have put off for one reason or another over the years. The opportunity will always be there, we tell ourselves. If there’s one thing we know after seeing life abruptly come to a halt, it’s that things can change in a hurry and nothing is truly guaranteed. Once it’s safe to travel again, it’s time to take that adventure. And the time to start dreaming about it and planning it is now.
As part of our “Travel Dreaming” series, Dr. Travel himself Paul Largay spoke with three people who know their way around an adventure: Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions, Don Martinson of Natural Habitat Adventures and Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours & Expeditions. They’ve always specialized in going off the beaten path to seek out what there is to discover in the remote areas of the world. With those places soon to be more sought out than ever, they’re the ones to turn to for an authentic and sustainable adventure. There’s no better time to get started with the planning and settle on the dates when more is certain. As Dr. Travel put it, “What coronavirus has not stopped is our curiosity, our need to know and, most importantly, our desire to dream.”
With that, our guests shared some of their favorite adventures, from polar bear viewing in Manitoba to gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda to getting up close and personal with Adelie penguins in Antarctica. Whatever your definition of adventure, these companies can accommodate it while making you feel comfortable at the same time.
Expeditions are not, “eating borscht and sleeping on a wooden pallet,” Bain said, Lindblad trips offer the opportunity to go on an exerting hike then have a great glass of wine when you get back. Martinson stressed the abundance of options on a Nat Hab trip. There are always activities for those who want them, but no one is left out if not feeling up to the challenge. For instance, on Nat Hab’s Yellowstone wolf quest photo adventure, participants have the option to snowshoe to Old Faithful or ride to the iconic geyser in a coach. Sanghrajka noted that on the same trip in Colombia, guests can paraglide then do a rum tasting with the mayor of Cartagena’s son. “It’s the stuff you can’t script that speaks to me,” he said.
While as Martinson said, if you walk across a football field unassisted, you can go on most of these trips, you might want to ease yourself into adventure, especially if you have young kids. The Galapagos is a great place to dip your toe in the water. “Each time you go, it’s a different experience,” Bain said. “It’s great for kids and a good precursor to Africa.” Martinson also recommends the Galapagos, along with national parks and Costa Rica for getting kids hooked on adventure and science. Sanghrajka relayed that he first took his kids to Guatemala, where the roasted marshmallows in steam from an active volcano before watching another spew lava from deep within the earth. “When your teacher asks what you did for summer vacation, you’re gonna win,” he told them.
As the kids get older and your family works it way up the adventure rung, you can discover places such as East Greenland, “a place that made me feel smaller than I’ve ever felt before” as he kayaked around huge icebergs and waterfalls in a transformative experience. While the guides are world-class and the accommodations comfortable, some places are hundreds of miles from the nearest five-star hotel. “It’s not about the thread count, it’s about the animal count,” Martinson said. If you’re an avid diver exploring the waters of the South Pacific, Bain noted, that’s where true luxury lies, in making a dream come true.
What remote adventures are on the horizon for when we can finally escape and get back out into the world? Bain recommends the Russian Far East and Northeast Passage from Norway to Nome. Martinson is keen on small-group and private excursions in America’s national parks. Sanghrajka is excited about northern Peru. “Kuelap is 1,000 years older than Machu Picchu and sees about 100 visitors on a busy day,” he said. “The third highest waterfall in the world is there. I can’t wait to get up there.”
We know we can’t wait to get out into the wide open spaces again and take the road less traveled. We’re thrilled to have partners who have blazing trails in these remote areas for years. “When you people say we’re going to want to get out of the box, I say we’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”
Another year is fast approaching. Not just any other, but 2020, a year full of symbolism somewhat just because of numerical coincidence but also because it’s fraught with implications about the future. Technological advances keep opening more and more destinations to visitors from the world over. These places are among those set for a big year in 2020.
The Caribbean island was one of those hit hard by the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Dominica has responded by doubling down on a commitment to sustainability. Single-use plastics and styrofoam are on the way out. Hydro, solar and geothermal energy are in. The hot springs and volcanoes that generate that geothermal energy are also big draws for visitors, as are the excellent diving conditions and new resorts popping up. The waters offshore are teeming with whales and dolphins, and the Sisserou parrot — a must-see for birdwatchers — is found nowhere else but Dominica’s mountain forests.
The country has begun to heal from the horrific genocide of a quarter-century ago, and Volcanoes National Park is fast becoming known for gorilla trekking. With the success of Volcanoes, other national parks are developing throughout the country, showcasing black rhinos and other species that make central East Africa a draw. Akagera National Park has as much wildlife diversity as you’d expect on safari, and the resort scene has developed with opening of such properties as One & Only Gorilla’s Nest.
Even those who have visited Australia might not have made it over to the island state off the southeastern coast of the country’s mainland. Those who do are greeted by an outdoor wonderland full of activity, but also culinary delights such as award-winning black truffles and wines, along with oyster and champagne experiences that have helped being a touch of luxury to the wilds that have defined Tasmania. As luxury continues to be defined by authenticity, capital city Hobart and surroundings continue to deliver.
Sandwiched between Russia and Turkey and long subject to larger foreign powers, Georgia has enjoyed a renaissance of local arts and culture, attracting nearly 10 million visitors per year to a nation of fewer than 4 million residents. Capital city Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia have grown up at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, serving as a main stop along the silk roads. Today, a quarter of the country is covered by national parks, and beaches, ski areas and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The only English-speaking country in South America is also home to the longest single-drop waterfall in the world: Kaieteur Falls. Nearly 1,000 animal species call the rainforests that cover most of the country home. Ecolodges take visitors into the heart of those forests. The cities contain multi-ethnic diversity — nearly 30 percent of Guyana’s residents are Hindu — with elements of European, African and Indian culture and food. A new and exciting year is upon us, and we can’t wait to see where 2020 takes us, and you.