The booking conditions and general information set out below are designed to outline our commitments to you and your commitments to us as clearly as possible. Please read them carefully before booking. We want you to have an enjoyable tour and the avoidance of any misunderstanding is to our mutual advantage
Should you book a tour with us the conditions set out below form the contract between us. The contract is deemed to have been made at our offices at Kemple End and is subject to English law and the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts.
Many of our tours visit developing countries where travel is still an adventure and local conditions are often very different from those we are used to back home. You should be prepared to cope with unusual situations, local inadequacies and unpredictable events as and when they occur.
In particular you should bear in mind that the standard of hygiene in some places is poor and that ‘stomach upsets’ of different types are, as a direct result, a hazard of travel. As we only visit most restaurants etc. on a very infrequent basis we cannot monitor or effectively influence their standards.
ABOUT OUR TOURS
Birdquest is a birding tour operator of very long standing (founded in 1981), with a high level of assets and the financial resources that can provide our clients with peace of mind. Birdquest is a United Kingdom government licensed tour operator. Our Air Tour Operator’s Licence (ATOL) number is 2937. The flight-inclusive holidays we offer are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom, so your payments to us are fully protected. Even if you book a holiday that is not covered by the ATOL scheme, your payment is still protected under the United Kingdom Package Travel Regulations.
We cannot stress enough how important it is to book your birding tours with a bird tour company that offers you financial security. The great majority of birding tour companies based outside the European Union provide no financial protection whatsoever for their clients. This saves costs for them, allowing them to cut prices, but leaves you very vulnerable if anything goes wrong. If they become insolvent you may lose your entire payment.
What a Birdquest Tour Price Includes
General Inclusions: Our tour prices include all surface transportation (from the notified tour start point to the notified tour end point), all accommodations (including taxes and service charges), all meals and all entrance fees.
Airfares: As regards airfares, we almost always include all flights that are part of the tour itrinerary. There are a very few tours where we exclude one or more integral flights. Such exceptions are always clearly stated and all such instances are because it is cheaper for participants to book these flight sectors as part of their international travel. Why pay more than you need to?
Please note, when comparing tour prices, that some bird tour companies exclude the cost of airfares for flights that are an integral part of the tour itinerary. These flights are totally unavoidable parts of the tour cost, so we can only conclude that such practices are designed to keep the headline tour prices down.
Tips/Gratuities: We also include all tips for local drivers, local guides, boatmen and accommodation/restaurant staff. (However, gratuities for the Birdquest leader(s) are not included. Please see the next section.)
In a small group situation, expected local tipping can easily amount to the equivalent of US$300-400 per person during a longer tour.
In particular, local drivers and guides usually work extremely hard to make a tour a success, working very long hours, and, as they receive low basic wages, tips for them are not a pleasant bonus but a crucial part of their annual income. We feel it is infinitely preferable that we include this major item of expense so that local drivers and guides are properly and generously rewarded and tour participants are saved both the fiddle of having to pay out substantial extra sums in cash during a tour (sometimes several times) and also the potential embarrassment that tipping involves, especially when you get the amount wrong, inadvertently. It is certainly worth carefully checking any tour company’s policy on such gratuities.
Birdquest has a well-deserved reputation among local guides and drivers for tipping generously and we strongly believe that our Birdquesters would not want these invaluable yet usually poorly-paid members of our tour teams to be treated in any other way.
Bottled Water: In addition, bottled (or filtered) water will be provided in those countries, regions or specific locations where the local tap water supply is generally considered unsafe to drink (by those with relevant local experience).
Please bear in mind that water supplies are improving in many countries and that an increasing number now have tap water that is perfectly safe to drink, either nationwide or in particular areas. We do appreciate that some clients take a very cautious view about drinking the local water, so you are always welcome to buy bottled water at your own expense anywhere we do not provide it. Our leaders will always be willing to assist in this regard.
Please note that in some situations our leader may decide to provide some bottled water at meal times simply because it is impossible to get tap water served at the table and not because there is any health issue locally.
What the Tour Price Excludes
The are only two exceptions to our tips/gratuities-inclusive policy.
1. Gratuities for the Birdquest tour leader(s). The leaders work extremely hard to make your tour a success. If you think their service was good or excellent, it is entirely appropriate to give them a gratuity at the end of the tour. It will surely be warmly welcomed.
Bird tour leading is a calling and not a well-paid profession, thanks to competition from low-cost operators combined with the impossibility of working too many days overseas without destroying all hope of having a stable home life!
Leader gratuities are a matter for personal discretion, but we are often asked for guidelines. We consider that between US$7-10 per group member per day (or equivalent in any ‘hard’ currency) would be an appropriate amount. (If there are two Birdquest leaders, you can divide the gratuity between them.)
2. Where we arrange a group tour on a ship/boat. All tour operators generally exclude tips/gratuities on such cruises. Gratuities are a matter for personal discretion, but we do suggest (in our tour information) an appropriate range for each cruise.
Other Exclusions: The tour price also excludes drinks (soft drinks, alcoholic drinks and hot beverages), à la carte dishes on those occasions where the included meal is fixed-menu, snacks, laundry, telephone calls, private excursions, excess baggage charges during the tour and anything else of a purely personal nature, including taxes, service charges and tips relating to such items.
The tour price also excludes all expenses incurred before arrival at the starting point of any tour and after arrival at the ending point of any tour, including international and/or internal airfares (and all taxes relating to these flights, included in the ticket cost or otherwise), additional accommodation costs, airport transfer costs (unless included), travel insurance, passport charges, vaccination charges, visa charges (including visas obtained on arrival) and excess baggage charges.
In addition, should you decide not to accompany the group for any reason, you are responsible for the extra cost of any accommodation or meals while the rest of the group are elsewhere.
On a very few of our tours there are additional exclusions and these are clearly specified in the tour description on this website.
As a general rule we use comfortable hotels, motels, guesthouses and lodges of a medium, good or very good standard, with rooms with en-suite bathrooms, wherever possible. In locations where such accommodations are unavailable we must use simpler accommodations, although wherever we can we choose those hotels, guesthouses or lodges with great locations, friendly staff, good food or other features that compensate for the simplicity of the establishment! Where any of the accommodation to be used clearly falls below the normal standard of accommodation described above (i.e. medium to very good quality) then such exceptions are specified in the tour description. In a minority of locations overall, usually in developing countries, we have no choice but to use basic or even very basic accommodations.
In the event that the accommodation has to be unexpectedly downgraded for any part of the tour we shall give you an appropriate refund (equivalent to the difference in price of the accommodation concerned). Please bear in mind that in many developing countries standards of maintenance are poor and this can result in unpredictable hot water supplies and other shortcomings such as faulty showers, toilets or lighting, and missing bath plugs or toilet paper.
If you are a couple travelling together then please indicate on your booking form whether you prefer a double-bedded room (i.e. one large bed) or a twin-bedded room (i.e. two smaller beds), by indicating ‘Double’ or ‘Twin’ as appropriate. There is not always a choice but we will try to match preferences where we can.
Over half of those travelling with us are alone and some people in this situation prefer to share a room with another party member of the same sex for the sake of company or economy. If you are travelling alone and would prefer to share a twin-bedded room then please indicate this on the booking form by indicating ‘Twin’ in the question about accommodation.
Important: Bookings from those electing to share are only accepted on the condition that, should no room-mate be available, you will accept single accommodation and pay the appropriate single accommodation supplement.
Priority in allocation of room-mates is strictly based on the order in which bookings are received (except, of course, where friends who book separately but simultaneously both indicate on their booking forms that they wish to share with each other). Naturally, the earlier you book the higher the chance of being able to share, although there are occasions when even those who book far ahead fail to find a room-mate. In particular, few women opt to share. (Smokers should kindly note that smoking is not allowed in the room if you are sharing with a non-smoker, which is much the most likely scenario as less than 5% of our group members smoke.)
Many hotels and lodges now charge a flat room rate for their twin-bedded or double-bedded rooms, regardless of whether one person or two people occupy them. The inevitable consequence is costly supplements for single occupancy. Where rooms intended for single-occupancy exist, the standard and location of such rooms may not be as good as that of twin or double rooms.
Please note that we cannot give an absolute guarantee that single accommodation will always be provided for those requesting it, but we can say that it is a rare event that people have to share unexpectedly. When unexpected sharing has to occur, the lack of availability at a particular hotel or lodge is usually not notified to us in advance and is only discovered on arrival. At some locations, usually remote lodges, single rooms are not available at any time, or only provided in return for a huge supplement: any such instances are mentioned in the tour description. If a single room is not available for you at any location where it was expected and paid for we will make an appropriate refund after the end of the tour. Please note that the extra cost per night of single accommodation often varies widely over the course of a tour (remote lodges can sometimes be more expensive than first class city hotels, while small, basic hotels cost far less), so any refund will reflect these variations in costs.
While we will do our utmost to secure single accommodation for those requesting it, bookings are only accepted on the understanding that you will consent to share in the event of an unexpected lack of single accommodation at any location (we want to stress that this is generally a rare event, but as it can happen you must be prepared for the possibility, however remote).
We use small coaches or minibuses/passenger vans during most of our tours. Where necessary we use cars or 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Please bear in mind that in many developing countries vehicles are frequently not maintained to a high standard and the level of comfort is often well below what we are used to back home.
We have our own IATA ‘in-house’ ticket agency and can make efficient flight arrangements anywhere in the world.
We will be pleased to arrange flights for you to and from the tour starting and ending points. (Kindly note that if you live outside the United Kingdom you may be able to access less costly long-haul fares in your own country. We suggest you check.)
If you are willing to pay the considerable premium, business class flights can be arranged.
Should you wish to extend your tour in the country concerned (by flying out early, deferring your return, or both), we can arrange this for you.
We strongly recommend flying out in advance of any tour that involves a long-haul flight and taking a day to recover from the effects of a long flight and ‘jet-lag’. We feel confident you will be fresher and enjoy the tour more.
Wherever possible we use quality airlines with excellent safety records for international flights. There is little or no choice as regards carrier on most domestic flights.
Important: In common with almost all operators of inclusive tours, we use lower fare category tickets as part of our standard tour arrangements. Such tickets have refund and rebooking restrictions. In the event that you miss your flight the airline is under no obligation to carry you and any extra costs are your own responsibility (although some airlines will carry you on their next available flight on the same route without requiring a new ticket to be purchased, space permitting). We can, on request, provide fully changeable and refundable air tickets, but these are much more expensive. Most people feel that the risks involved with restricted tickets are far outweighed by their much lower cost.
Important: Revising flight arrangements at a later date, after you have made an original request for air travel arrangements to us, can result in you suffering costly airline cancellation and rebooking charges (up to the full ticket cost), so please bear this in mind.
All participants need to ensure that they reach the starting point for the tour in good time. We will notify you in good time where the joining point will be, and at what time of day.
Kindly note that, in the event your own arrival flight is rescheduled or delayed so that you are unable to arrive by the scheduled tour joining time, it is not possible for us to delay the rest of the group for long, and any costs incurred in catching up with the group would be your own responsibility. Consequently we would advise you to arrange a flight that will allow you a generous safety margin.
Kindly note that we cannot accept any responsibility in the event you are somehow prevented from reaching the departure airport in time as a result of a badly delayed internal flight, a traffic jam caused by an accident or some other unanticipated event.
Important: If you are not making your air travel arrangements through us, please be sure to send us your full flight itinerary at least three months before the tour starts.
Hotel & Airport Transfer Bookings
We will be pleased to arrange hotel accommodation at airports or elsewhere in connection with our tours for anyone needing this. Private transfers can also be arranged, where needed. Please contact us.
BOOKING & PAYING FOR A TOUR
It is sensible to call us on or email us to check if places are still available on any tour you are interested in before sending your booking form to us. We will be happy to hold open space for you for up to 14 days.
To make a definite booking you need to complete the on-line booking form on our website and submit it to us electronically. (If you do not have internet access, you may complete a printed booking form obtained from our office and post or fax it to us.)
You also need to pay us the required deposit per person, as specified in the tour description. (A very few tours have both initial and second deposit requirements: such cases are clearly specified in the tour description.)
If you are booking less than four months before the date of departure of the tour you will need to send full payment.
Please see the Payments section below for payment methods.
If you are submitting an on-line booking form and decide you wish to pay the deposit by means of a credit or debit card, you can, if you are concerned about security, telephone your card details to us. Our website is secure, however.
On receipt of your booking form and deposit our official confirmation will be sent to you.
The person signing the booking form warrants that he/she has the authority to make the booking on behalf of all other persons included on the booking form. (On-line booking forms are deemed to have been signed by the persons submitting them.)
For your own protection we strongly recommend that when you make a booking you hold travel insurance that will cover you for medical/repatriation expenses and for cancellation/curtailment charges in the event you have to cancel due to the illness of yourself, a travelling companion or a close relative. If you do not already have travel insurance you should take this out as soon as possible.
If you are arranging your air travel in connection with the tour through us, we will need full payment at the time we book your flights.
Unless specified otherwise in the individual tour description, the invoice for the balance of the tour cost will be sent approximately four months before the tour start date and the full payment due needs to be received by us not later than 14 days after the date of invoicing.
We reserve the right to treat your booking as cancelled and levy cancellation charges if the full payment is not received by the due date. In any event, you will be responsible for payment of any additional costs, such as higher airfares, that may arise as a result of your late payment. If you are going to be away from home when the tour payment is due, please make arrangements with our office for early payment.
PAYMENTS TO BIRDQUEST
Birdquest clients may opt to pay for a tour in any of the currencies listed below:
Payments in Pounds Sterling
You may pay by any of the following methods:
1. Make a bank transfer of the required amount direct to the Birdquest Pound Sterling account at National Westminster Bank PLC, 11 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, United Kingdom.
For UK clients, our bank’s sort code is 01-10-01 and our bank account number is 00199990.
For clients resident overseas, the international bank identifier code (IBAN-BIC/SWIFT) for our bank is NWBKGB2L and our international bank account number (IBAN) for our Pounds Sterling account is GB03 NWBK 011001 00199990. (Note: there are no spaces in the account number in reality: these are included for legibility only.)
2. Post us a personal cheque (or a banker’s check/bank draft if you live overseas) drawn on a United Kingdom bank and made out to Birdquest. Our postal address is: Birdquest, Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe BB7 9QY, United Kingdom.
3. Pay with a debit or credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos.
Payments in US Dollars
You may pay by any of the following methods:
1. Preferred method available for residents of the United States only. Make a wire transfer of the required amount in US Dollars direct to the Birdquest account at Wells Fargo, 10900 Research Boulevard, Austin, TX 78759. Our bank’s routing number for domestic wire transfers is 121000248 and our bank account number is 3368433078.
If you prefer, you can mail a personal check directly to our bank, but if you do this be sure to enclose a covering note asking them to credit the Birdquest account, quoting the account number shown above.
2. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in US Dollars direct to the Birdquest US Dollar account in the United Kingdom at the National Westminster Bank PLC, 11 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB.
The international bank identifier code (IBAN-BIC/SWIFT) for our UK bank is NWBKGB2L and the international bank account number (IBAN) for our US Dollar account is GB54 NWBK 607301 06015654. (Note: there are no spaces in the account number in reality: these are included for legibility only.)
3. Mail us a personal check/cheque (or a banker’s check/bank draft) made out to Birdquest in US Dollars (checks must drawn on a bank situated in the United States of America). This should be sent to our office by airmail. Our postal address is: Birdquest, Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe BB7 9QY, United Kingdom.
4. Pay with a debit or credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos, but see Card Payments below.
Payments in Euros
You may pay by any of the following methods:
1. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in Euros direct to the Birdquest Euro account at the National Westminster Bank PLC, 11 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, United Kingdom.
The international bank identifier code (IBAN-BIC/SWIFT) for our UK bank is NWBKGB2L and the international bank account number (IBAN) for our Euro account is GB79 NWBK 607202 08512922. (Note: there are no spaces in the account number in reality: these are included for legibility only.)
2. Pay with a debit or credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos, but see Card Payments below.
Payments in Australian Dollars
You may pay by any of the following methods:
1. Have your bank make a wire transfer of the required amount in Australian Dollars direct to the Birdquest Australian Dollar account at the National Westminster Bank PLC, 11 Spring Gardens, Manchester M60 2DB, United Kingdom.
The international bank identifier code (IBAN-BIC/SWIFT) for our bank is NWBKGB2L and the international bank account number (IBAN) for our Australian Dollar account is GB67 NWBK 607301 66158648. (Note: there are no spaces in the account number in reality: these are included for legibility only.)
2. Pay with a debit or credit card displaying the Visa or MasterCard logos, but see Card Payments below.
Payments in other currencies
Tours priced in Canadian Dollars, New Zealand Dollars or Japanese Yen may be paid for in those currencies. If you are sending a bank (wire) transfer, please pay the amount due to the Birdquest Pound Sterling account (see details under payments in Pounds Sterling). Our bank will convert your payment to Pounds Sterling on arrival, but you will be credited by us with the full payment you sent in the currency concerned.
Card Payments for Currencies other than Pounds
Please note that, if you opt to pay by debit or credit card we can only physically bill your card in Pounds Sterling, not in any other currency.
However, if you wish to pay us in US Dollars, Euros or any other currency we can still accept card payments, but we will have to convert the amount paid in the currency concerned to the equivalent in Pounds Sterling using the current ‘spot rate’ (this is the ‘median’ exchange rate between currencies, and so much better than any bank exchange rate on offer).
Your account will be credited by us with the amount you wished to pay in US Dollars, Euros or any other chosen currency. We will inform you how much in Pounds Sterling equivalent we have billed your card. Your card issuer will convert this amount into your home currency on your card statement. However, some card companies may not give you a good exchange rate, so we do recommend wire transfers rather than card use.
Please note that mixing currencies is not possible. You will need to settle the balance of the tour charges in the same currency in which you paid the initial deposit. The same applies to any interim deposits/payments.
CANCELLING OR TRANSFERRING A BOOKING
Any cancellation by you of a definite booking must be notified to us in writing (email or fax are acceptable) and will take effect on the day that this is received by us. The following scale of cancellation charges will, unless a different scale of charges is specified in the tour description, be applied, based on our estimated expenses and losses suffered as a result of your cancellation:
More than 365 days before departurture: 50% of total deposit paid
180-365 days before departure: 100% of total deposit paid
91-180 days before departure: 50% of final tour price
1-90 days before departure: 100% of final tour price
Day of departure or later: 100% of final tour price
Kindly note that for those very few tours involving initial and second deposits, the term ‘total deposit paid’ includes both deposits.
Kindly note that some tours involving cruises/boat charters have different cancellation conditions: any such variations will be detailed in the tour description.
If the reason for your cancellation falls within the terms of your travel insurance the cancellation charges will normally be refunded by your insurance company (less any excess applicable). For this reason we strongly recommend taking out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you adequately for unexpected cancellation.
Consecutive Birdquest Tours
Please note that you cannot cancel a booking on a tour that will operate, just because another tour that you are booked on has to be cancelled through insufficient participants or for some other good reason (for example, natural disaster or increased security concerns), without incurring our normal cancellation charges. Each Birdquest tour is treated as a separate and autonomous booking, including situations where two tours follow each other in close succession.
Air Ticket Cancellation
If you have had us arrange air tickets for you, to/from the joining/ending points of a tour, and you subsequently have to cancel your booking, you will be charged the cancellation fee(s) applied by the airline(s) concerned. Most air tickets we supply are completely non-refundable. If there is any refund available, kindly note that it can take up to three months or more to obtain refunds from some airlines.
If you wish to transfer your booking to another tour, this will normally be treated as a cancellation and rebooking, and the relevant cancellation charges will apply
Should you be prevented by reasonable cause (such as illness) from proceeding with your tour you are free to find a substitute, provided we receive written notification. Within two months of the tour departure date we may not be able to accept a substitution as within this period there may not be sufficient time for the substitute to complete visa, health or other travel requirements. Any additional costs incurred as a result of a substitution (such as airline cancellation and reticketing charges) are your responsibility. We reserve the right to reject any substitute should we have reasonable grounds for doing so.
No refund can be given for any unused accommodation, meal, flight or other service provided as part of the tour.
We reserve the right to increase the price of a tour, in the currency in which the tour is priced, in the event of cost increases incurred by us that stem directly or indirectly from increases in fuel costs or increases in government taxes, fees, dues or levies. Such reasons for price increases are very uncommon, but they do occur from time to time. We also reserve the right to reduce the price of a tour.
We undertake not to increase the price of any of our tours, in the currency in which the tour is priced (this currency is always specified in our tour descriptions), owing to changes in exchange rates.
In order to maintain the prices advertised in our tour descriptions we are dependent on reaching a certain level of support for each tour or extension. Most tours and extensions are based on a minimum of 5 or 6 participants, although some tours, including those involving boat charters, have higher minimum levels.
The great majority of our tours and extensions achieve the required minimum level, but some do not. We appreciate that it is very frustrating to have a long-anticipated tour or extension cancelled, so it has long been our policy to do everything possible to ensure that our tours (including any extensions) operate, and that our clients and friends are not disappointed. We regularly operate tours and extensions with just a few participants.
In the event that the required level of bookings for standard operation is not reached, we will still go ahead and operate the tour or extension if we possibly can. We face considerably increased costs per head in such situations (including an increase in leader costs per head) and so we may have to charge a supplement in order to cover the increased costs per head.
We will absorb cost increases stemming from a) fuel cost increases, b) increases in government taxes, fees, dues or levies and c) the impact of small party size up to a total amount equivalent to 2% of the total tour price, in the indicated pricing currency, as shown in the tour description on our website.
No price increase for the above reasons will be made less than 20 days before departure. If any price increase to you for the above reasons, after a 2% absorption by us, exceeds 8% of the total price of the tour in the indicated pricing currency (i.e. the total tour price, including any extensions and/or single supplements) as shown in the tour description on our website, you may either opt to pay the increase or you may opt to cancel your booking and receive a full refund or transfer your booking to another of our tours, provided we receive written notification within 14 days (fax or email are acceptable) of the date of despatch of the price increase notification.
Kindly note that normal cancellation charges will apply if you decide to cancel your booking following notification of a price increase to you, for the above reasons, that is 8% or less of the total tour price in the currency in which the tour has been priced.
CHANGES TO EXCHANGE RATES
For each tour on our website, we state the currency in which the tour is priced. In the great majority of countries our tours visit, we are quoted and billed for local services in US Dollars. Consequently, most of our tours are priced in US Dollars, with a minority in other currencies. Equivalent amounts in other currencies are only indicative, as exchange rates vary over time.
If you opt to pay for the tour in a currency other than the tour pricing currency, we will convert the amount due on your tour invoice to your elected currency. We will use the ‘spot’ (midpoint) exchange rate prevailing at the time the invoice is prepared. This is an advantageous rate for you, being significantly better than the rate offered by banks and foreign exchange providers. As we have to purchase the currency required to pay for the tour at the poorer rate of exchange offered by these providers, this means, in effect, that we are voluntarily electing to absorb increased costs amounting to between 1-2% of the tour price.
Furthermore, if you opt to pay for the tour in a different currency from the tour pricing currency, and provided there has been no increase to the total tour price for the reasons covered in the ‘Price Alterations’ section above, we undertake to absorb the effect of a decline in your elected payment currency by up to 2% between booking confirmation and tour invoicing. We will compare the relevant exchange rates and any applicable deduction will be shown on your tour invoice.
If your elected payment currency increases in value between booking and invoicing, you will receive the entire benefit of the increase.
Kindly note that, if you opt to pay for the tour in a different currency from the tour pricing currency, our standard cancellation charges will normally apply if you decide to cancel your booking because of a change in the exchange rate between booking and invoicing.
TOUR ALTERATIONS & CANCELLATIONS
The tour descriptions are prepared up to three years before the date of operation of the tours they feature and subsequent variations may sometimes be made to published details, either voluntarily by us or involuntarily. All tour details are provisional until the confirmed tour description, with confirmed rather than provisional prices, is published on our website.
We frequently make changes to our tour itineraries to keep up to date with ever-changing birding knowledge and developments, with the aim of improving your tour. Occasionally we may have to make involuntary changes when access situations at particular venues deteriorate, or where they become closed or otherwise inaccessible for some reason. We reserve the right to modify our itineraries where we deem it desirable or necessary. We also reserve the right to substitute a competent alternative leader for a published leader where we deem it desirable or necessary, although we will always do our best to minimize leader changes.
Other examples of changes that can be expected from time to time include changes to the tour dates (by up to 7 days in either direction announced more than 9 months before the original tour start date, or up to three days in either direction announced between 4-9 months before the original tour start date), minor changes to the tour duration (lengthening by up to 24 hours, or shortening by up to 12 hours), re-ordering of the itinerary, changes to the amount of time spent at each venue and changes to accommodation.
Naturally we will notify you as soon as possible in the event of changes to the tour dates. Such changes as specified above, and other such changes, will not have a significant impact on the performance of the tour or your ability to travel and are not grounds for cancellation without charges.
Very occasionally major alterations to tour dates are necessary which might materially affect your ability to travel. We define such major alteration as a change to the tour dates by more than 7 days in either direction made more than 9 months before the original tour start date, a change to the tour dates by more than 3 days in either direction made between 4-9 months before the original tour start date, or any change to the tour dates made within 4 months of the original tour start date. Naturally we will notify you as soon as possible in the event of any alteration of the tour dates that has to be made.
If a major date alteration, as defined above, is made by us, you may either agree to proceed with the tour over the revised dates or, if you prefer, you may cancel your booking and receive a full refund or transfer your booking to another of our tours, provided we receive written notification within 14 days (email or fax are acceptable) of the date of despatch of our notification.
If an alteration is made to a tour where the price has been confirmed and which results in a substantial increase in costs, we will absorb whatever we can of the cost increases and only pass any remaining balance to you. In the event of such an alteration, you will have the option to either agree to proceed with the tour as modified and accept the price increase we specify or, if you prefer, you may cancel your booking and receive a full refund or transfer your booking to another of our tours, provided we receive written notification within 14 days (email or fax are acceptable) of the date of despatch of our notification.
Very rarely major alterations to the tour itinerary become necessary, through circumstances amounting to force majeure (see Tour Cancellation), either before after departure. In such rare situations, we will do our very best to modify your tour in a manner that minimizes necessary disruption. We will make a partial refund to you if the modified itinerary results in a cost saving.
Please note that we cannot take responsibility for any additional costs or losses that you may face, including any airline amendment charges you may suffer, as a result of either minor or major itinerary alterations that are caused by circumstances outside our control.
Under exceptional circumstances we may have to cancel, rather than alter, a tour in the event of unusual or unforeseen circumstances outside our control (including all situations considered to represent force majeure): for example, technical or maintenance problems with transport, changes imposed by rescheduling or cancellation by air or sea carriers, government action, industrial dispute, war or threat of war, civil strife, terrorist activity, riot, natural or man-made disaster, or severe weather conditions. In the event that we have to cancel a tour due to circumstances outside our control we will offer you an alternative tour if we are able, which you will be free to accept or decline. Alternatively, we will provide you with a full refund of the tour price.
Alternatively, we may have to cancel a tour if there are insufficient bookings to make the tour economically viable. We want to stress that the vast majority of our tours operate as planned, with only a small minority failing to do so. If a tour cannot go ahead because of insufficient numbers it will be cancelled by us not less than 30 days prior to departure, and we will inform you of this decision as early as we can. In this case, you may either transfer your booking to another of our tours or you may opt to receive a full refund. Most tours and extensions are based on a minimum of 6 participants, although tours involving boat charters require a minimum level of two-thirds capacity.
Please note that we cannot take responsibility for any additional costs or losses that you may face, including any airline cancellation charges you may suffer if a tour is cancelled. Consequently, we suggest you do not make any air travel commitments that could result in significant cancellation fees until you have checked with our office that the required number of participants has been reached. Even then, please bear in mind that subsequent cancellations or events can, on very rare occasions, result in a tour being cancelled.
It is not possible for us to give accurate airfare information far in advance of tour departure dates, as airlines continually change their prices and booking class availability, and may impose fuel surcharges or pass on tax increases, and we have no control whatsoever over any of these factors. In consequence, we can only give a very approximate airfare indication far in advance of travel.
Group Size Limits and Number of Leaders
Our group size limits are lower than for many other bird tours. The normal group size limit for each tour is specified in the tour description. The limit is usually somewhere between 6-9 participants plus leader(s), but there are exceptions. We reserve the right to increase the group size limit by one in certain circumstances. Examples include tours where we have one place left on a tour and we receive a booking from a couple or two friends, and tours where an extension is otherwise full, but not the main tour.
Where two leaders are listed, we may only send both leaders if the tour is sufficiently well supported; alternatively, we may elect to send both regardless of group size. Where only one leader is listed, we may elect to send an additional leader with the group, and in such an instance we may elect to increase the group size limit by one only for tours predominantly visiting dense forest areas or by up to two or three for tours in more open habitats.
Birds and Mammals
The species mentioned in the tour descriptions are meant as a guide to what you might see. You should not expect to see everything mentioned, although you should see a high proportion if you participate fully in the tour. In the case of regular tours (as opposed to new tours), each of the species mentioned has been seen during a clear majority of previous visits by our groups, unless there is a caveat such as ‘if we are lucky’ (which indicates a lower frequency of observation), but please bear in mind that this does not mean all these species are seen on every tour!
Birdquest is a birding tour operator of very long-standing (founded in 1981), with a high level of assets and the financial resources that can provide our clients with peace of mind. Birdquest is a United Kingdom government licensed tour operator. The flight-inclusive holidays we offer are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom, so your payments to us are fully protected. Even if you book a holiday that is not covered by the ATOL scheme, your payment is still protected in full by the strict United Kingdom Package Travel Regulations. This protection applies wherever you live in the world.
Our Air Tour Operator’s Licence (ATOL) number is 2937. When you buy an ATOL protected flight-inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists what is financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong.
We, or the suppliers listed on your ATOL Certificate, will provide you with the services listed on the ATOL Certificate (or a suitable alternative). In some cases, where neither we nor the supplier are able to do so for reasons of insolvency, an alternative ATOL holder may provide you with the services you have bought or a suitable alternative (at no extra cost to you). You agree to accept in those circumstances the alternative ATOL holder will perform those obligations and you agree to pay any money outstanding to be paid by you under your contract to that alternative ATOL holder. However, you also agree that in some cases it will not be possible to appoint an alternative ATOL holder, in which case you will be entitled to make a claim under the ATOL scheme (or your credit card issuer where applicable).
If we, or the suppliers identified on your ATOL Certificate, are unable to provide the services listed (or a suitable alternative, through an alternative ATOL holder or otherwise) for reasons of insolvency, the Trustees of the Air Travel Trust may make a payment to (or confer a benefit on) you under the ATOL scheme. You agree that in return for such a payment or benefit you assign absolutely to those Trustees any claims which you have or may have arising out of or relating to the non-provision of services, including any claim against us, the travel agent (or your credit card issuer where applicable). You also agree that any such claims may be re-assigned to another body, if that other body has paid sums you have claimed under the ATOL scheme.
If your holiday with us is not covered by the United Kingdom’s ATOL scheme, all monies paid for your holiday are held in a trust account until after your holiday concludes, so your total payment to us is always completely safe.
Airlines, Airports, Aircraft Types
As all flights in connection with our tours are arranged on an individual basis, we are not in a position to state in the tour descriptions the airlines or airports to be used by our clients. If you book air travel with us, details will be provided in your flight schedule, which will be sent out well in advance of your travel. We are not in a position to state the aircraft types which will be used.
Please note that European Union regulation number 211/2005 establishes a list of air carriers subject to an operating ban within the European Union. You can rest assured that we will not book you a flight inside the European Union on any such airline, and should any airline we book you on for a flight inside the European Union be subsequently added to this list we will reroute you. The EU regulation establishes a right for passengers to be re-routed or, if necessary, reimbursed if they have been booked on a banned airline.
Passports, Visas and Vaccinations
You are responsible for ensuring that you bring with you a valid passport (which should have at least 12 months left to run at the commencement of the tour) plus, where necessary, a valid visa and/or a valid Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Remember, if your passport is getting full, that any visa will require a full blank page plus space on the opposite page for entry and exit stamps. The tour information we will send you will provide information about any visa or vaccination certificate requirements known to us at the time the information is issued, but, as regulations can change, you are normally responsible for checking visa requirements yourself and, if a visa is necessary, obtaining your visa direct from the appropriate embassy or consulate.
All names and addresses on our mailing list are stored on computer files. These files will most definitely not be passed to any other party, for advertising purposes or for any other reason, but should you object to having your name and address stored in this way please inform our office and we will remove your entry. We do not store credit card details, nor do we share customer details with any third parties.
In the unlikely event that you have cause for complaint you should notify one of the leaders (or our office where appropriate) as soon as possible so that we may do our best to assist you. If a problem remains unresolved in spite of prompt notification then you should make a complaint in writing to our office within 28 days of the completion of the tour.
Restrictions on Participation
We reserve the right to remove from the tour any person unable or unwilling to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with the satisfactory operation of the tour. In this event we will make no refund, nor be liable to pay any compensation, and any additional travel costs involved in returning home are your own responsibility.
We have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the tours described in the tour descriptions have been properly arranged and that the airlines, ship operators, vehicle operators, travel agents, hotels, restaurants and other organizations we use are reputable. We will accept liability for matters which arise as a direct result of our negligence and/or breach of our contractual duty to exercise care in making arrangements for you, including acts or omissions by our employees or agents. Further we will accept liability for any negligent act or omission by our suppliers, who may operate elements of your tour arrangements (other than air, sea or land carriers, or hotels, as specified below). We will accept full liability for death, personal injury or illness arising out of our negligence or that of our employees, agents or suppliers (other than air, sea or land carriers, or hotels, as specified below). In the case of any other loss or damage suffered as a result of our negligence or that of our employees, agents or suppliers (other than air, sea or land carriers, or hotels, as specified below) we limit the maximum extent of our liability to twice the amount paid for the tour in question. However, we cannot accept responsibility for claims arising out of carriage by air, sea or land, or provision of hotel accommodation. We have no control over the carriers or providers concerned and you are subject to their terms and conditions, which are governed by international conventions, which exclude or limit liability in respect of death, injury, delay, loss or damage to baggage, etc. It is also important to note that operational decisions may be taken by air, sea or land carriers, or their regulatory authorities, that result in delays, diversions, rescheduling or cancellations. We have no control over such decisions and are therefore unable to accept responsibility for them.
It is very important that you obtain insurance cover against the usual risks associated with travel, from the time of booking your tour until the time you return home. If you are in a position to take out travel insurance you would be very ill-advised to travel without it. Please ensure that your insurance provides adequate protection against the two major concerns: medical/repatriation expenses while abroad and cancellation/curtailment charges in the event that you, or a travelling companion or close relative, fall ill either before or during the tour. Most of those travelling abroad more than once a year will find that taking out an annual travel insurance policy is the simplest and most cost-effective option.
Birders often carry a lot of expensive optical and photographic equipment. Regular travel insurance does not provide sufficient cover and so, if you are not already covered under your household contents policy, we recommend you take out specialist insurance cover for your equipment.