FAQs / General Information
WildWings are a division of Strand Travel Ltd, based in London. The company has been trading for more than 20 years. We are fully bonded and licensed with ABTA (G7745) and hold CAA ATOL license 5429. Payment for your travel arrangements may be made by cash, cheque, bank transfer, debit and credit cards*. (*a 2% surcharge will apply for all payments by credit card.) All our air-inclusive holidays are ATOL-bonded, a certificate will be issued to you at the time of booking. All flights only we sell, are also now ATOL-bonded. Customers travelling on our voyages (except Spitsbergen and Baja), will travel under the terms and conditions of the vessel’s operator, a copy of which will be supplied with your deposit receipt.
Warning: Please be aware that if you book and pay with a travel supplier abroad direct, especially one or ones outside of the EU, you have no legal or financial redress if things goes wrong. There have been a number of well publicized travel company failures recently, including birding tour company failures. In such an economically turbulent world we seem to currently live in, you may want to think before you book. Only by booking your flights and ground arrangements with an ATOL holder are you fully protected.
All payments must be made in Pounds Sterling, US Dollars or Euros. Overseas customers are very welcome, we can quote reductions for ‘ground only’ prices for those of you joining our tours at the overseas destination. You will always be quoted the up to date price by our staff at the booking stage. All our voyages show the exchange rate used and are subject to adjustment at the balance stage. Please note as a business, we buy our foreign currency at close to the market rate, not the rip off ‘tourist’ rates payable on the high street. This gives you the best value for money.
Please note – All information/products and prices subject to change or withdrawal at any time.
WildWings T- Shirts/Daypacks
All our inclusive tour and voyage customers customers will either receive a complimentary WildWings T-Shirt (please state your size(s) in the relevant box on the booking form), OR you can choose one of our WildWings Daypacks. Ideal for taking in the field, with an outer net pocket for a drink bottle, these are perfect for carrying a fieldguide and/or camera and your lunch plus a bit more!
Birders of all abilities, varying from beginners to the most experienced, find our holidays suitable. Please do not hesitate to ask if you are unsure. On some of holidays, flexibility is the key, with you having the option of joining organised excursions or doing your own thing. Our aim is your enjoyment. It is after all your holiday, and on many tours and voyages you can set your own pace. (Not for us the ‘crocodile’ style of bird tours where we can avoid it). Finding one’s own birds abroad is just as enjoyable as seeing species already found by the leader and/or guides; the choice is yours. Our overall emphasis is on getting great views of what we seek, rather than the highest possible list with in far too many cases, brief, fleeting and often frankly ‘untickable’ views only obtained. Most of our WildOceans holidays run at a more leisurely pace than our birding programmes. Our mammal tours often involve early starts and evening ‘spotlighting’ too. We usually have a rest period in the middle of the day though. Our cruises are ideal for all, you can take the voyage at your pace, although to maximize your bird and wildlife enjoyment, we strongly suggest being outside from dawn until dusk, our Leaders certainly will be!
Our success hinges on good planning, back office support and ultimately on our experienced, professional leaders. They all have an excellent sense of humour and enjoy passing on their enthusiasm to you. We ask all our clients to complete post tour questionnaires so that we are able to constantly improve our trips. The questionnaires continue to indicate that the leaders do a first class job, so much so, that on more than one occasion, other tour company’s clients have asked to join our groups abroad!
Accommodation is at the very least comfortable, usually with private facilities, and described in detail in the individual tour literature. It varies from local pensions and baronial castles to the standard international chain type hotels.
For the majority of our tours, we use scheduled flights on top quality airlines such as British Airways, Air New Zealand and KLM. Whilst the main departure airport is usually London, special price regional add-ons are available from most of the UK’s airports for most tours. Please ask at the time of booking. Discounted airport hotels and airport parking are also available.
Physical exertion: Fitness is not generally an issue, and our holidays will suit anybody who is in what is generally termed good health. If in doubt, please ask. It is expected that all participants can carry their own luggage for short distances.
Smoking: WildWings has a no-smoking policy for public areas on our tours, as of course do all airlines and many hotels and restaurants.
Details of all our birdwatching holidays can be found in the following pages. Last and previous year’s trip reports can be found on our website or are available from us. If you need any assistance in choosing the right trip, please telephone us to discuss your queries. In cases when the staff in the Bristol office cannot answer any questions, it may be possible to speak directly to the tour leader.
For reservations please telephone 0117 9658 333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a booking request from our new website.
Prices: We are sometimes asked how our prices are often lower than other companies. Our policy is to offer exceptional value so that you want to travel with us not only next year, but every year. Because we are also a travel agency offering flights and independent travel services, we are able to spread the cost of many of our office overheads across our whole operation. Most of our holidays include all excursions, whilst for those where the excursions are optional, these are offered at cost price, on a flexible day-by-day basis, rather than the expensive ‘package’ offered by some companies. We set out clearly any additional costs such as travel insurance and any items to be paid for locally, and we can advise on the cost of optional extras such as drinks, allowing you to accurately assess the complete cost of your trip. Our client to leader ratio varies and is made clear in each write up. The majority of our tours actually operate, we do not speculate with your travel dreams, they are priced to sell. We will operate a tour on a break-even basis if necessary rather than disappoint our clients, but obviously ultimately, not at a loss.
Airlines have been increasing their fares and ‘taxes’ again recently resulting in some price rises. The Pound has been relatively stable against the Euro in particular but is weaker then we would like against the US Dollar. The prices costed are based on all the known costs at the time of print (August 2013) but are subject to change. Our website always has the most up to date details or just call or e-mail us. Early booking ensures group fares for flights, a flight supplement may apply for late bookers, if applicable, this would be advised at the time of making your reservation. We may also ask you for an on account payment for some tours, after the initial deposit has been paid, this is to guarantee the airfare element of your holiday against increase. Any further increase in UK Government Air Travel taxes will have to be passed on at the cost price.
Groups: Some of our trips are especially suitable for groups (particularly Beidaihe, Sri Lanka, PNG and the Trinidad and Tobago plus Jamaica programmes for example) and free, or reduced-cost places may be available for group organisers. Contact us to discuss your requirements.
Private Tours/Groups: We have been asked for, and increasingly run, a number of private tours using our leaders for you and your fellow club members or friends. All current and past WildWings tour itineraries are available, customised with pleasure. Early enquiries are recommended due to our own continual ongoing future tour planning. Alaska, Texas, Trinidad and Tobago, Colorado and Poland have all run very successfully for private groups using our leaders. You choose the itinerary, the dates and your travelling companions!
Other interests: Whilst birds are always the main target, other aspects of natural history will be of interest, cetaceans and other mammals in particular. Most of our leaders will point out plants, butterflies and dragonflies, but would be the first to say they were not experts in those fields. We always like to offer the opportunity to try local food and drinks wherever possible, for example a highlight for many people on our Beidaihe trip is to experience ten-course Chinese meals including the local beer. Our trips are designed to be enjoyed for their birds and wildlife and be positive life experiences.
Tailor-made trips: If you wish to extend your stay in the destination country, go out early or combine your tour with other travel arrangements - this is a service WildWings specialise in. Please note it is preferable to request special travel arrangements at the time of booking your tour as it may not be possible later, or may incur a financial penalty.
Photographic opportunities on most tours are good to excellent, especially most of our cruises. Please ask for specific information, as most our leaders will be able to offer advice. Note, we are not in a position to grant any special requests in respect of photography on any of our tours and voyages to any one individual or group of individuals in the interests of fairness to all participants. We are to offer tailor-made photographic departures, please ask for details.
Comprehensive pre-trip information is supplied after you have booked: This will include advice on clothing, health, bird books and currency. You will also receive a bird checklist before departure for your use on tour. If visas are required, full details will be supplied to make your application as straightforward as possible. You should always take out travel insurance at the time of booking, a service we no longer provide. UK-based voyage customers may wish to try ‘All Clear Cruise Insurance’.
Rooming arrangements: Most rooms are twin bedded and as single clients usually prefer to avoid paying a single-occupancy supplement, we can usually find someone for you to share with. If we accept your booking on a guaranteed share basis, and we don’t find you someone to share with, then you will receive a single room at our expense. For clients who prefer a single room, these are usually available on a limited basis on most tours on payment of a supplement. Please ask at the time of booking.
Overseas residents are very welcome on any of our tours: Please contact us by phone/fax/e-mail/post and we can quote you excluding the international flights. Payment usually has to be made in £’s Sterling, by bank transfer, cheque or credit and debit cards (please note a 2% surcharge will be made for payment by debit and credits card) but can also be accepted in US$ by bank transfer. If paying by bank transfer, please ensure any bank charges are paid by you and we receive the correct amount due, thank you.
Itinerary: The holiday itinerary as given in the brochure should be used only as a guide. Whilst in almost every instance there will be no variation to the published itinerary, we reserve the right to change it to take into account unexpected conditions, and of course to take account of the birding. In practice, this usually means no more than doing things in a different order and any major change to a tour would of course always be advised in advance.
Vegetarian and special diets: Please make a note on the booking form of any dietary requirements. We will do our best to accommodate you, but your requests cannot always be guaranteed. We cannot accept requests for Vegan diets or Kosher (except for Israel).
Making your booking: Booking is very easy by telephone, e-mail or the website. We will usually confirm your reservation immediately and ask you to complete the booking form to be found at the end of this brochure or from the ‘My Trip’ section of our website. Deposits are usually required within a week of booking.
Payment: We welcome payment by bank transfer and cheque, payable in Sterling. Credit and Debit Cards can be used but a surcharge will apply, currently 2%. We can also accept US$ by bank transfer only.
Please book early: Whilst we can often accept late bookings, we usually have to return unsold flight seats and hotel accommodation up to three months before departure (unlike normal package holidays). Also, places are limited on all departures so book early to avoid disappointment. Late bookers may be subject to flight supplements, these will be quoted at the time of booking if applicable.
Advance registration: If you would like to provisionally reserve your place on a trip prior to brochure production, a refundable deposit of at least £50 per person will guarantee your place without commitment until the trip is finalised. We will then write to you with the details, and ask you to confirm your place by paying the balance of the full deposit. If you do not want to confirm your place/s, your registration fee will be returned.
WildWings are totally committed to the conservation of the natural world and we donate money to ‘front-line’ organisations and projects every year. In operating our own tours and holidays we use local businesses and guides in each destination to inject money and employment into the areas that our clients visit. Since 2004, we have been donating money annually to the ‘Save the Albatross’ campaign for each customer that we send to Antarctica. This is also supported by our tour leaders when they travel on our various expedition ships and we are pleased to be donating thousands of pounds a year to this crucial campaign as a result. Artist Bruce Pearson will be onboard our November Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia voyages, we will be donating 5% of this voyage to the Save the Albatross campaign too. Our donations are currently being specifically used to buy tori-lines for use on Southern Ocean fishing vessels, to keep albatross and other seabirds off the hooks. We also continue to fund our annual Oriental Bird Club Conservation Awareness Award. We also make donations to local conservation projects from a number of our other tours.
Come and meet the staff and most of our leaders. We are always at the British Bird Watching Fair at Rutland Water, in Marquee 4 every August (www.birdfair.org.uk). Stop by for a chat, tell us about your last trip and ask us questions about your next. We look forward to seeing you there.
Your images wanted!
We are delighted to illustrate this brochure with many of our customer’s images. If you would like to see your work in print or online, of birds and wildlife, the people, places and vessels taken on your travels with WildWings, then please submit them via e-mail or on disc, thank you! Alternatively, you are welcome to post images on our Facebook page.
Our new website is kept up to date, year round, with the latest information, dates and prices. Forthcoming tours and expeditions on the website appear as soon as they are available to book. Make our homepage a favourite, with the availability, news pages and blog changing frequently. There is more information on the website than we have space for in a brochure, especially our post tour reports. If you do not have access to the web or encounter problems, please simply contact us and we will either e-mail the information or print the relevant information and post it to you. You may also wish to sign up to our new e-newsletters, a discount voucher will apply for all who sign up between August and October 2013, saving you up to £50pp!
The WildWings team
Our friendly, knowledgeable and highly experienced staff are very happy to answer your questions and look forward to hearing from you soon. We only offer programmes that we really know ourselves and we are all keen travellers too. Sarah-Jane Thompson is responsible our other tour’s operations including our Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica and Sri Lanka programmes plus our group voyages and our clients travelling independently, worldwide. Nicky Hudson designs our brochure, website and our adverts and has also recently joined the Baja California fan club! The office staff are backed up by one of the best teams of tour leaders to be found anywhere in the world, based here in the UK, plus our many essential colleagues overseas, we are jointly committed to giving you the best bird and wildlife experiences available, and to have a great time doing it.