A statement from The Council of Australian Tour Operators
A simple scroll through social media and various news outlets at the moment and it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the world is doomed! We’re all about to be eaten up by the Coronavirus and should stop everything immediately.

It’s not too far-fetched to say that this is causing a Worldwide Panic. What started off primarily in the East is now rapidly spreading West with Europe and North America currently in the grips of the panic and its associated irrational behaviour.

We don’t profess to be medical experts and never will be. However, one piece of advice we should all be following is not to take medical or travel advice from social media or mainstream news headlines.

Whilst this situation is changing daily, to ensure minimal impact on the year ahead, consumer confidence is critical and every participant in the travel industry has a role to play.

We all need to be making decisions and directing customers to the best credible information available.

World Health Organisation
For the latest information and guidance from the WHO regarding coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT)
The Smart Traveller website (www.smartraveller.gov.au) provides the latest travel safety information for Australian travellers heading overseas.

Each year in Australia alone more than 3,000 women die from breast cancer, more than 3,000 men die from prostate cancer and more than 3,000 Australians commit suicide.

Dramatic headlines create clicks and sell papers. So, when a Government Minister talks about reviewing the National Emergency Action Plan and details the different threat level responses the media naturally leads with what the ‘worst case’ scenario looks like as this will create more interest for the story. It is not until you read the body of the story that you realise the headline has been over dramatised. The problem is most people only read the headlines.

Governments and professional businesses need to have emergency plans in place and at times like this it makes sense to review them and make sure all is in order. The World Health Organisation, similarly, has protocols in place and has been calling for all governments to prepare. The news media is simply amplifying this message. It does not mean however that the worst-case scenario is any more likely than the best-case scenario.

Adding further fuel to the fire of dramatic headlines are the politicians who will take any opportunity to look strong in the media to help their opinion polls – for example by shutting borders or prematurely declaring a pandemic when one does not exist. This impact then snowballs and creates further unnecessary angst in the community.

Social Media Loves Drama – and a Conspiracy Theory!
Social media and instant access to information via smartphones is overall fantastic. However, spend enough time online and you’ll be convinced the earth is flat and man didn’t land on the moon. As mentioned before, it is best not to take medical advice from strangers on social media.

Sadly, the result of all this panic is that holidays and even public events are being cancelled for no valid reason.

The head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this week, ‘Our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself, its fear, rumours and stigma.” He stressed that fear and misinformation were the biggest challenges to overcome.

Fear, misinformation and panic is leading to irrational decisions which in turn is placing entire industries and economies under threat. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and it is not inconceivable that several airlines and companies relying on travel, tourism and events will stop trading as a result.

“The biggest impact of COVID-19 will be economic rather than medical.”
So before making any decisions it is important that you are armed with up to date information from reliable sources.

DFAT Smarttraveller (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
On Friday 28th Feb, CATO met with senior officials from the DFAT Smart Traveller Division which included a senior manager from the DFAT COVID-19 Task Force.

A very realistic approach to COVID-19 is that taken by DFAT who operate on a very strict No Double Standards policy. Under Australian law DFAT is unable to withhold information from the public which they have available to their own staff. This ensures all travel safety and security information is shared with the Australian public. DFAT is obviously monitoring COVID-19 very closely and amending travel warnings as a result.

United Nations World Health Organisation (www.who.int)
The World Health Organisation is the world’s peak health organisation providing advice and assistance to governments to help improve health services and manage health emergencies.

WHO has been involved with COVID-19 since its initial outbreak and continues to be the leading source of up to date information.

At a press conference in Geneva on 28 February 2020 Dr Tedros said that most cases of the virus could still be traced and there was no evidence of the virus spreading freely in communities.

The head of the WHO’s Emergency Health Program, Dr Mike Ryan, stressed that current data information does not suggest that the virus has become a global pandemic.

Dr Tedros reiterated that the spread had the potential to become a pandemic but cautioned against unnecessary panic.

The Next Steps

 If you are travelling in the next 2-3 months

  • Closely monitor www.smartravellers.gov.au and the information available on www.who.int
  • Check with your insurance company as to the level of coverage you have.
  • Check with your tour operator as to the status of your tour.
  • Your decision to travel should be based on the advice from the above sources taking into account your personal circumstances
  • If you fall into a high-risk category consult with your GP before making a decision.If you are travelling from 1 June 2020 onwards
  • Do nothing now. The situation will likely change significantly in the next 3 months and making a decision to cancel or delay your booking now may result in unnecessary cancellation and amendment fees.
  • Keep monitoring the information sources above and keep regular contact with your travel consultant.

 Fear of Quarantine After Travel
There is some fear amongst travellers that they may be sent to special quarantine facilities in Darwin or Christmas Island if there is an outbreak at their holiday destination. Whilst this fear is understandable it is important to bear in mind that the only Australians sent to special quarantine facilities were those evacuated out of Wuhan City and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.The normal practice for Australians returning from countries with high rates of infection is to self- isolate at home for 14 days and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms of illness develop.

A Final Note
Travel restrictions from China and other parts of Asia are having a significant impact on visitor numbers to many destinations. Similarly, there are many irrational cancellations from the western world. As a result, this could actually be the best year to see some of the world’s most popular destinations without the mass crowds.


Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19) is always changing. For further updates and information we advise you to visit the following websites:




Africa General

There is no singularly best country to go on safari. Each African country offers a unique experience. Generally the safari hotspots are southern (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia & South Africa) and eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania).

Yet the wildlife varies significantly within these regions. The open savannahs of Kenya and Tanzania boast huge herds of zebra, wildebeest and predators including lion and cheetah, whilst Southern Africa has more diverse scenery. Botswana’s Okavango Delta for example, a myriad of islands and waterways, is home to an incredible variety of birdlife, countless species of impala and unique desert adapted species.

Africa is a huge continent with many countries and some are considered dangerous. Generally the Southern and East African countries are safe and peaceful such as Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. These are also the best countries to visit for seeing incredible wildlife and scenery. For more information,please contact one of our specialists.

African safaris can be exhilarating. Getting up close to animals in the wild is and experience like no other. Most African safaris are conducted in 4WD Land Rovers or Land Cruisers and therefore generally very safe. Some safaris can be done on foot or by Mokoro (traditional canoe) and this can create a higher level of risk however these tours are still considered safe as most animals keep there distant from humans. Guides can also carry rifles to be used as a last resort.

You will almost certainly need multiple vaccinations when travelling to Africa however each country may differ. Hepatitis A, Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Meningitis are the most common deceases and should be vaccinated against. A Yellow Fever Vaccination is mandatory when travelling to certain African countries. For the most up to date information on vaccinations, either contact us or your local travel doctor before going to Africa.

A concession is a designated privately owned and managed area. Often these concessions are unfenced, and share boundaries with other concessions or government run national parks. The benefit of staying within a concession is that lodges do not compete with other vehicles for prime game-viewing sightings. There are also no self-drive vehicles permitted in these areas, creating a more exclusive experience.  Another benefit is that in many of these concessions permit both off-road and night time game-viewing. In a national park, this is not allowed.

The cost varies substantially depending on a number of factors including: the time of year you visit, the standard of accommodation you wish to stay in, how long you intend to travel for and how often you are traveling from place to place.

There are a number of different options to consider when flying to Africa. But in particular there are two hubs: Johannesburg is the central hub when flying into southern Africa. Qantas operate a service daily from Sydney, roughly a 14 hour flight. South African Airways also fly into Johannesburg from Perth. Connections are available from all major Australian cities.

There are a number of airlines that fly unto East Africa. Emirates and Etihad Airways are the two major Middle-Eastern airlines that fly into the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Qatar Airways also fly directly to Tanzania and Kilimanjaro International Airport.

When staying at a lodge in the bush, the first thing to remember is that many of these are very remote and therefore Wi-Fi access will be either non-existent or very limited. However times are changing, and Wi-Fi is becoming more available.

This will highly depend on the time of year you travel. When on safari it is always important to where lighter colours in layers. Evenings can sometimes get very chilly whilst in summer, the temperate an rise above 40 degrees in a number of countries. Long sleeve, light khaki is the ideal safari clothing, for maximum protection from both the sun and bugs. For more information check out our weather chart here.

Our philosophy has always been moving less is to see more. The benefit to flying is that you spend less time traveling and more time out on safari. However, driving also has its benefits, as you can see more of the local way of life, the infrastructure within the country and the changing landscapes. Though generally road conditions are quite good within many African countries, they can from time to time be quite bumpy, certainly within national parks.

East Africa

Generally the best time to Travel to Africa is during the dry season (May-Oct), but game can be seen year-round in many parts.

The beauty of the famous east-African wildebeest and zebra migration is that it’s year round. The herds migrate across the plains of Tanzania’s famous Serengeti National Park following the rains in search of fresh grass before crossing into Kenya’s Masai Mara. The map below shows historically where the wildebeest and zebra are at certain times of the year.

Your Content Goes Here

The Tanzanian island of Zanzibar is a popular destination to visit after an east African safari. Its beautiful beaches are the perfect way to finish a trip whilst historic Stone Town offers a fascinating insight into the islands history. There are regular flights from multiple major and minor cities within Kenya and Tanzania making it easy to get to.

Australian Nationals require a visa to enter Kenya. A single entry visa is US$51, an East African Tourist Visa (multiple entry visa) is US$101 and a Transit Visa is US$21 per person. Visas can be applied for online prior to travel.

Yes, you do need a Yellow Fever vaccine when visiting Kenya. You do not require a vaccine for Tanzania although we do recommend it. When traveling into any African country from a region known for yellow fever you are required to show proof of vaccination.

Your Content Goes Here

There isn’t necessarily a ‘best’ route to climb the famous mountain. Each route is unique, differing in terrain and have their own benefits. The Machame Route (6 days) is considering to be the most popular, which means more climbers. The Lemosho Route (7 days) is incredibly scenic and the route leads to the western side of the Shira Plateau. Crossing the plateau is said to be one of the most stunning walks in Africa. It comes down to what you feel comfortable doing, whether that’s a more challenging, shorter route, a beautiful scenic hike, or a route that will have fewer trekkers. With our expertise, we can assist you to make the decision that best suits you.

The Gorillas

In Uganda the best place to see the Gorillas is in The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or at the Virunga Volcanoes.

In Rwanda the famous Parc National des Volcans is one of the best places to see these gentle, highly endangered primates.

Gorilla trekking can take place at any time of year with April/May and November being wetter. However, be aware that rain occurs all year round. For general game viewing safaris, the best time to go is during the dry season (between June and September).

A gorilla trek which may take as little as half an hour or up to 6 hours depending on where the gorilla family might be located. Once found, a maximum of one hour can be spent with them


Tipping is customary for pretty much all services in Egypt. A tip of 10-15% is expected at cafes and restaurants and smaller change is acceptable for food purchases from street vendors and markets. It is also a good idea to tip local guides and drivers USD 2-4 per day.

Drinking tap water isn’t recommended in Egypt. Avoid drinks with ice and to peel fruit before eating it as these are often rinsed with tap water. To avoid buying bottled water bring a reusable water bottle and refill it with filtered water.

Egypt is considered a safe country in Africa to travel to. The northern Sinai Peninsula should be avoided however the main tourist sights such as the Pyramids, Abu Simbel, Luxor, Philae are still all considered safe.

Antarctica General

Fly to Buenos Aires in Argentina or Santiago in Chile and then take an internal flight to the port of Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. Board your ship to crossing the Drake Passage which takes around 2 days. Flying to Antarctica out of Punta Arenas in Chile is also an option, landing at King George Island on the Peninsula.

Antarctica is a a vast wilderness with breathtaking waterways, icebergs and coastline. There is a huge diversity of birdlife including Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie Penguins, Storm Petrels, Skuas and Terns. You are also likely to see bigger mammals like Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard Seals, Elephants Seals and Orcas as well as Humpbacks and Minke Whales.

Exploring the coastline of Antarctica by Zodiac, Kayak or on foot is the best way to get up close to nature and wildlife and have an incredible experience. Camping on the ice is another activity offered by many cruising companies however it is always weather dependant. The ‘coolest’ thing to do in Antarctica is taking the ‘Polar Plunge’ and jumping into the freezing ocean. If you’re lucky however, you might be close enough to some hot springs to jump in afterwards to thaw out.

Visiting a a science research station is can be a memorable experience as you learn about what life is like in Antarctica and what work can be conducted there.

For the more adventurous explorers, Scuba diving, running a marathon or even climbing the tallest mountain in Antarctica ‘ Mount Vinson’ is one to tick off the bucket list.

Alaska General

  • Cruise through dramatic fjords to Glacier Bay National Park
  • Search for amazing wildlife including Black Bears, Brown Bears, Grizzly Bears, Whales, Seals and more
  • Explore the amazing coast lines by foot, kayak or skfiffs
  • Witness the Northern Lights
  • Learn about Alaska’s Native heritage

Like Canada, driving in Canada is very easy. There is a terrific network of roads and rental car companies that make it a breeze.

Canada General

  • Visit Banff National Park, Gros Morne National Park, Prince Edward Island
  • Take a train journey aboard the Rocky Mountaineer or Via Rail discovering Vancouver, Jasper and Lake Louise
  • Head north to Churchill in search of Polar Bears
  • Explore the scenic an remote Baffin Island
  • Visit Tweedsmuir Park or the Khutzeymateen searching for Grizzly Bears

Canada has an excellent rail network that is led by Via Rail, who operate intercity passenger rial services across the country. The service spans across 8 Canadian provinces linking major cities including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montréal. Via Rail operate a number of overnight or multi-day departures that offers a unique way to see the country.

World renowned Rocky Mountaineer is another major rail operator. Their luxurious trains operate almost exclusively in British Columbia, exploring the stunning Rocky Mountains. Their rail service runs from Vancouver to numerous towns including Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff.

Train Journeys

Rocky Mountaineer operate tours seasonally between April and early-October. This is because tours are run during the day to take full advantage of daylight hours, so you don’t miss any of the breathtaking scenery. This means you can appreciate the benefits of luxury Canadian rail travel but still enjoy the comforts of hotel accommodation overnight.

Rocky Mountaineer operate tours seasonally between April and early-October. This is because tours are run during the day to take full advantage of daylight hours, so you don’t miss any of the breathtaking scenery. This means you can appreciate the benefits of luxury Canadian rail travel but still enjoy the comforts of hotel accommodation overnight.

Both Silver Leaf and Gold Leaf offer excellent service, food, beverages and of course scenery. The major difference between the two is space and exclusivity. Gold Leaf offers seating in glass-domed cars that give unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains. The car is also bi-level and features a lower level dining room and an outdoor viewing platform.

Via Rail is an independent Crown corporation of Canada. In 1977, the federal government created VIA Rail Canada with an exclusive mission to organise and provide all intercity passenger train services in Canada to reduce costs and improve service.

Rocky Mountaineer is a British Columbia based, family owned business established in 1990. The company has grown substantially over the last 30 years to become the largest privately owned luxury tourist train company in the world. Their goals still remains the same as it did when they first started out: to provide the most spectacular and unforgettable travel experiences in the world.

October is known as the ‘great last fall feast’ for grizzly bears. With spawned-out salmon pushed down to the river mouth, grizzly bears are lured out by easier fishing. With expansive viewing of the great outdoors, from the warmth and comfort of Rocky Mountaineer, those who travel to the Canadian Rockies in October may be able to see a grizzly bear before they go down for their winter sleep.

Yes, Via Rail operates a year-round service connecting Canada’s cities.

Both options are excellent and offer different benefits. Canada’s excellent rail system allows you to move easily between cities or towns within the Rockies and gives you the freedom to relax. If you enjoy overnight rail travel there are also a number of options available, such as Via Rail’s The Canadian, which connects Vancouver and Toronto.

Self-driving in Canada is also a viable option, with many car rental stores located across the country. Self-driving gives you the freedom to leave when you want, travel where you want and stop and look at fascinating scenery or historic sites as you go. Canada’s road system is also excellent, and a self-drive through the Canadian Rockies is easily combined with a rail tour with Rocky Mountaineer.

Northern Lights

Two of the best places to see the otherworldly Northern Lights are the pristine wildernesses surrounding Yukon’s capital Whitehorse and the remote Northwest Territories settlement of Yellowknife. Within these areas, remote backcountry lodges away from town lights provide some of the best places on earth to see the Aurora Borealis.

Remote Blachford Lake Lodge, a 25 minute flight from Yellowknife and located under the Aurora Oval is one of the best locations in the world to see the lights. Aside from its location, there are only 10 rooms at this property making it a truly exclusive experience.

The winter months is the best time to see the lights, but it does vary between locations:

Yellowknife – The best time to see the lights in Yellowknife is from mid-August to the end of September, and again from late-November to mid-April. October and the first few weeks of November are not the best times to see the lights due to weather, during this time of year it can be notoriously cloudy.

Whitehorse – Between August and early April is the best time to see the northern lights in the Yukon.

We strongly suggest a minimum of 3 nights at any of our lodges. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly because some are very remote and it takes time and effort to reach them; secondly because weather plays a part when seeing the lights and staying an extra night or two gives yourself more opportunities to see them; and thirdly because there is more to see and do than just the magic of aurora!