COVID-19 : Our Response to the Global Pandemic
In the wake of the havoc wreaked across the world by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we’re conscious of the need to rethink how we manage certain services, provide transparency to our guests, and highlight expeditions and tours that operate in low-population areas and are wildlife focused. At the same time, we’re also committed to communities and wildlife reserve systems that depend on us and our ability to bring guests to generate local livelihoods.
Our 2020 season started out with some fantastic snow leopard expeditions but ended abruptly with the pandemic raging world-wide. While monitoring the spread of COVID-19 we also invested time and resources to learning new best practices to adopt across our remote camps and on expedition to protect both our staff and our guests.
In order to provide a safe experience to our guests while protecting our staff, we’re accelerating certain investments. For snow leopard expeditions in 2021 and beyond, we’re moving our snow leopard camps to a new location in Hemis National Park. We’ll be alone in our own valley, with no other expedition camps or tourists for miles. We will still be in the heart of snow leopard country with spectacular sightings for snow leopard tours, but will have road access and be just an hour from the city of Leh. This will lower and limit interaction with other tours and operations – especially at a sighting location.
Since new information is always coming out about the pandemic, we’re constantly updating our procedures and actively learning.
Read on below to learn about the other policies and infrastructural changes we’re investing in.
As the situation evolves and more facts and information about COVID-19 emerge, Voygr is adapting its operations and adopting best practices. We’re looking careful at WHO recommendations on travel, sanitation, and hygiene.
Recommendations for international travellers
It is prudent for travellers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions.
General recommendations for personal hygiene, cough etiquette and keeping a distance of at least one metre from persons showing symptoms remain particularly important for all travellers. These include:
- Perform hand hygiene frequently, particularly after contact with respiratory secretions. Hand hygiene includes either cleaning hands with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Alcohol-based hand rubs are preferred if hands are not visibly soiled; wash hands with soap and water when they are visibly soiled;
- Cover your nose and mouth with a flexed elbow or paper tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing immediately of the tissue and performing hand hygiene;
- Refrain from touching mouth and nose;
- If masks are to be worn, it is critical to follow best practices on how to wear, remove and dispose of them and on hand hygiene after removal (see Advice on the use of masks)
All vehicles used by Voygr will be thoroughly wiped down before guests get on board. Seats, seat-belts, doors, handles, window switches, and other touch-points will be wiped down with alcohol wipes. Drivers will wear masks and masks will be available for guest use.
For Voygr’s small group tours, we’ve always had a policy of assigning 1 person per window- so with a driver, there are never more than 3 guests per vehicle. Should guests on group trips need it – a separate vehicle an be arranged for them at additional cost.
The essence of our camps is in their remote nature – far from habitation and often surrounded by wilderness. They will continue to provide our guests access to the great outdoors – away from big cities and big crowds.
Great food is an essential part of travel and exploring new cultures. We’ve always practiced excellent food hygiene. To that end, we’re being mindful of new rules due to COVID-19 and adding more safeguards.
Buffet and self-service are being eliminated. All meals will be served to guests by trained, masked and gloved wait-staff. Kitchen staff will wear masks and access to kitchens will be restricted only to kitchen crews and wait-staff. Kitchen staff, as well as guests, have always had access to hand sanitizer in camp. We’ll increase the number of areas hand-sanitizer is kept in camp.
We’ve always adhered to the following rules and we’ll continue to do so:
- Keep clean. All staff wash hands before handling food and often during food prep.
- Wash hands after visiting the toilet.
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and equipment used for food prep.
- Protect kitchen areas and food from insects, pests, and animals.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, and seafood from other foods.
- Separate equipment and utensils like knifes and cutting boards for handling raw foods.
- Store food in containers to avoid contact between raw and prepped foods.
- Cook thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
- Brings foods like soups and stews to boiking to make sure that they have reached 70ºc. For meat and poultry, make sure that juices are clear, not pink.
- Reheat cooked food thoroughly.
- Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Keep cooked food piping hot prior to serving.
- Use safe water or treat it to make it safe.
- Select fresh and wholesome foods.
- Choose foods processed for safety, such as pasteurized milk.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with safe water.
All guest tents will be sanitized before guests enter them. After set-up poles and camp furniture will be wiped down with alcohol wipes. If camp staff need to enter a tent to clean it, turn on heating, or perform any other maintenance tasks, they will don gloves and wear a mask.
High touch surfaces in the dining tent will be wiped down with alcohol wipes before guests arrive for meals and after guests leave. For our remote snow leopard camps, we’re splitting the dining facility into multiple tents to allow for more space per diner. Guests will also have the option to be served their meals in their own tents, should they wish to eat privately.
Testing for COVID-19
While rapid tests are currently limited only to medical facilities, we’re envisioning that they will be more widely available once the current pandemic subsides and manufacturing is more robust. When available for public use, Voygr will invest in its own rapid testing kits to regularly test our employees as well as all arriving guests.
Since we specialize in remote expeditions, our expedition leaders are already used to monitoring the health of guests. COVID-19 specific training will be imparted to all expedition leaders.
Why Book With Voygr?
Read more about Voygr Expeditions to learn about our ethics, how giving back to the communities we travel to is part of our DNA, and what steps we take to actively preserve our planet.
Our Incredible Journeys
Snow Leopard Expeditions
Award-winning snow leopard expeditions take you on a quest for one of the world’s most elusive cats in the Trans-Himalayas of India.
Amur Leopard Expeditions
Search for the rarest big cat in the world on our Amur leopard expeditions in the magnificent Russian Taiga.
Siberian Tiger Expeditions
Help conserve the beautiful Siberian tiger on our expedition to the Russian Far East in search of this king of the Taiga.