Well it seems hard to believe that a year has passed since we last posted here on the Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ website. A lot has changed since then, but as if caught in time, there is still a lot that needs to change. New Zealand was in the enviable position of living life fairly normally, albeit without tourism from overseas tourists. But without COVID-19 in the community, life was fairly normal, rugby matches with full stadiums, movie theatres still operating, and bars and restaurants without limits. That was until August 2021, when cases of the Delta strain were detected in the Auckland community and the slow realisation that the virus was here to stay. Since then daily cases have increased, with the Government maintaining a fairly strict lockdown, in the hope of keeping the daily cases from swamping our health system. The approach has now officially changed from an elimination strategy to a suppress and vaccinate strategy. The number of vaccinated people has increased rapidly, after a fairly slow start, and now there seems to be the very real possibility of the New Zealand border opening at some stage in early to mid-2022, although the Government is still fairly guarded about exactly when and how the borders will open.
Back in mid-2021 we set about postponing our Oct 2021 through Feb 2022 tours for already booked clients. Having done this for many folks already the previous season, this was not a happy task, but the writing was on the wall. Now, with scheduled tours due to have started this very week, the border is still firmly closed to all but NZ citizens and residents and their families. That is if they can even get a place in the limited managed isolation facilities. Recent updates in the last few days suggest that the border might ease for New Zealanders in late summer (Feb-March 2022), but this effectively confirms that we would not have been able to run any tours this season. Of course that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow for us or our confirmed clients, but we are happy we read the signs early, rather than waiting any longer.
So with a very full set of tours in the early Oct-Dec 2022 part of the season, we are very hopeful that border restrictions will start to ease in early to mid-2022. We have almost no places on tours in Oct-Dec 2022, and gaps exist on tours at this stage only from January 2023 onwards. With that in mind, if you are thinking of a New Zealand birding tour, best to get in quick and register interest with us. At this stage, although the Government have not yet fleshed out a plan for the reopening of the New Zealand border, it seems highly likely that a vaccination certificate will be required for entry into New Zealand. Certainly entry without any quarantine or isolation requirements is almost certainly going to require vaccination. Moreover, a number of the Airlines have also suggested that this will be a requirement to fly long-haul, which of course means travel to and from New Zealand. All of our guides are vaccinated, and to keep fellow travellers, guides and New Zealand safe, we will be requiring clients on our tours to be fully vaccinated. More details can be provided on request, and new documents required to confirm your booking on a tour will give further details. As an operator we are not alone in this decision, and strongly consider vaccination to be a way forward to reopening travel as safely and successfully as is currently possible.
With our last tour run in March 2020, it’s been a long and winding road, but we are hoping we can see ahead to a busier future. Luckily for us, we have managed to survive the pause, when others have not been so fortunate. With the New Zealand birding season being primarily during our Austral summer, we and our guides were fairly well set up to deal with ups and downs, and a highly seasonal income. Whilst definitely not ideal, we are all relishing getting back out there in just on a year, and providing our clients with an incredible New Zealand birding experience. So, drop us an email if New Zealand is on your list, we look forward to hearing from you!