We are getting back to traveling. I am glad to report that Costa Rica continues to welcome North American travelers in these interesting times. We understand some of the concerns people have. That has led us to provide additional travel insurance required for entry into Costa Rica at no additional cost. This will not replace the recommended comprehensive travel insurance, but rather provides our guests with a seamless arrival process that gives peace of mind.

Your health and safety are always our primary concern, so we also urge guests to travel through airports conducting the newly approved rapid testing. The list of airports is growing fast as increasing numbers of U.S. airports have introduced COVID-19 testing options during this pandemic. Testing facilities are currently available at some airports such as Newark International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey, and at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. The facilities offer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (nasal swab) tests, as well as rapid molecular tests that can produce results within 15 minutes; and antibody tests. At JFK, it is recommended to make a reservation online for a test in advance, but walk-ins are also available. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is expected to open by November while San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has partnered with Dignity Health–GoHealth Urgent Care to provide testing both on-site and at nearby locations.

Travelers will not stop exploring and we aim to ensure that you can continue to venture out safely and securely.

To quote author and artist, Mary Anne Radmacher, “I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

From glamping, to extraordinary nature, to discovering some of the world’s best coffee, explore Big Five’s Costa Rica.

You can also

Dear Agency Partner,

The pioneers are starting to travel again, showing the world what it’s like to be on the road again. During this time, I am reminded of the famous apparel brand, FUBU, For Us By Us, started by one of the “sharks” on the CNBC show, Shark Tank. You see the FUBU brand’s mission in the early 1990s was to be bold and go against the grain, and to shine on their own. Sound familiar? Well, the pioneers who are traveling right now are doing just that – being bold and shining on their own.

And who better to showcase what it is like in Kenya right now with Big Five than one of our favorite travelers, Charlotte French, Cavatica Luxury Travel, which is affiliated with Avenue Two Travel, a Virtuoso agency.

Charlotte traveled through Kenya with Big Five just a few weeks ago. She trekked in search of wild rhino on foot in Sera Conservancy; visited the very private Singing Wells in the Northern Rangelands; and tracked the elusive leopard in Kalama Conservancy near Samburu. And, of course, she ventured into the private reserve to see the herds of buffalo, zebra and others in the Masai Mara. She was able to see the conservancy model in action, which Big Five has long supported.

Now I have to admit, I traveled with Charlotte in Colombia last year and she understood from the very beginning of our commitment to conservation and travel.  On this trip, she carried out some great inspections of her hotel accommodations at Hemingways Nairobi, Saruni Rhino in Sera Conservancy, Saruni Samburu in Kalama Conservancy, Hemingways Ol Seki Mara in Naboisho Conservancy, and Elewana Sand River Camp, known for its location close to crucial water bodies that are ideal for viewing the annual great migration. Charlotte then extended her stay at Hemingways Watamu, near Malindi on the Kenya coast.

With a background in biomed, Charlotte carved out a career delivering needed AIDS and other medicines to remote parts of the world, including areas such as Congo. Yet, she found that she could not enact change and help in the way she wanted to, which led her to the travel industry. I think that is what makes me a great admirer of hers, and why I thought it was important to share her story.

I remember a conversation with her in April, when she told me that she had received numerous offers to return to the biomed industry when travel came to a halt. But she so believes in the power of change through travel for the long term. I thought this was one of the best examples for anyone to follow. So when Charlotte asked me about going to Kenya, how could I say no? I knew Charlotte would paint an accurate picture of what the safari experience is like right now, because she believes what I believe – that you do not have to convince an adventure traveler that it is safe to hit the road again. You simply need to show them the truth.

Charlotte channeled her inner JK Rowling with an in-depth blog and presented a movie of her experience. So whether you are a reader or a visual learner at heart, she has you covered. You can watch her safari video here, or enjoy reading her blog Parts 1 through 4.

To learn more about Charlotte French and Cavatica Luxury Travel, visit this link

To learn about custom sustainable safaris in Kenya by Big Five, click here.

Dear Agency Partners,

Well, things are starting to show signs of picking up, finally. It’s so great speaking to some of you and getting back to planning life-changing journeys. Earlier this year, while booking conditions were being rewritten on a temporary basis, we noticed a lot of ambiguity and gimmicks in the new terms. Learning from that, we reiterated our No Gimmicks approach, which is not temporary, but rather it’s a way of doing business. No Gimmicks essentially has three parts. You can read the whole document here.

  1. Be up front about the situation on ground. Borders are opening up, however, improved protocols are in place. We don’t want to paint a false picture of the current ground situation. The smiling faces and a great experience away are still waiting as long as we set the proper expectations. I have always believed that selling is about trust, not about convincing. This is why Big Five TV broadcasts live on location every Tuesday at 2:00pm EST. So far, we have broadcast from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Egypt, with many more to come in the weeks ahead. Big Five TV was just live from Costa Rica this past Tuesday. Enjoy that video here.
  2. Be clear about deposit requirements. We cannot help our hotels, guides, drivers and others in the supply chain get back on their feet if we offer a deposit that can be taken back.  No Gimmicks means that if we have to make a deposit refundable, we probably shouldn’t have asked for it in the first place. As a financially stable company, we want to generate cash flow like everyone else, but it cannot be at the expense of you or your clients. So that means when you make a booking with us, if you want us to hold it longer than normal, we are happy to, and we will extend as far as possible without a deposit. So when you make the payment, you and your clients are ready. That means in some cases, we are holding space without a deposit until November or even December in extreme cases because the guests want to be sure the border is opening. There is nothing temporary about building trust.
  3. Speaking of borders opening, how do we know when is it safe to claim the border is open? For Big Five, we don’t go by social media proclamations for obvious reasons.  We only consider a destination open once we receive the official documents from the government with official arrival protocols. This is one race where we don’t want to come in first. We need to be certain first that everything is in place. Every opening document is uploaded to the library section of Axus travel app and Travefy, and the original pdf can be shared upon request. If the opening document is in a foreign language, we won’t translate it, rather we will combine it with the English declaration made by the respective tourist board. This is to ensure you, our travel advisor partner, always have the original document, not an edited copy. As a side note, did you know most airports are managed by private for-profit entities? That means that an airport can announce that it is open, even if the border remains closed. The official documents we wait for prevent you from being in that kind of situation with your clients.

We talk you out of working with us, until we don’t need to talk you into working with us. That’s part of our collaborative process. If we aren’t the right fit, we will do the best to recommend you to someone who is. And if we are the right fit, our process works with you, our advisor partner, at the center. We want to know as much as possible about likes and dislikes, past trips, interests etc.  The most minute detail is of paramount importance. We want a million questions and a million more. This is about sustainability, about unique experiences, and most importantly, about a lifestyle.

Warren Buffet correctly says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and 5 minutes to ruin it.” There is nothing temporary about that.



Dear Agency partners,

The fact that I am writing this from the Equator should tell you how far the travel industry has come since mid-March. I arrived in Ecuador earlier this week and everything went like clockwork. My negative PCR Covid test certificate in hand, I boarded my JetBlue flight to Quito. I don’t think I have ever seen a plane this clean!  Upon arrival, we were escorted to a closed gate where we completed a health declaration form and had our temperatures taken. After that, it was off to immigration and customs, both seamless. We then went out to the arrivals hall where Big Five guide Javier was waiting with a smile.

Ecuador, like Big Five, has its WTTC Safe Travel stamp and all hygiene protocols in place. We headed into the San Marcos neighborhood in Quito and to my favorite boutique hotel in town, Illa Experience Hotel. Some things have changed slightly. Upon arrival, my hands were sanitized and temperature taken again before we checked into the hotel and went to my room. It all went smoothly.

The next morning, I had an amazing breakfast at the hands of chef Alejandro Chamorro, one of the top ten chefs in all of Ecuador. Then, it was off to the Cotopaxi region to a hacienda I have long called home, Santa Ana. This is the part where I stress that Ecuador is more than just the Galapagos Islands. Like no other country, Ecuador cannibalizes itself because each region literally competes with the others. How do you help fix that? Add two nights more to the mainland to compliment the Galapagos experience. I also have a few broader ideas that the Big Five team is working on.

Back to Cotopaxi, something really special happened here. First, we engaged with the community to discover their needs and, then, began planting trees. Next, we began looking for a viable solution to loose garbage since there isn’t regular garbage pick-up here.

While here, we had a sneak peak at the hottest property coming to Ecuador in 2021, a new glamping experience with direct views of Cotopaxi volcano. Make sure to watch the video of our visit. We were the first ones to walk through the property and we couldn’t be more excited! For those of you who love the starbeds of East Africa and the glamping yurts in Jordan, this is your place! You can bet that we are already working on a new program! If you just can’t wait, explore Big Five Ecuador now.

Finally, we ended at Hacienda Zuleta with my friend Fernando. This is where we come back to the known path, to a place of magic. Of course, no sooner did I get back on the path that Fernando pulled me off the path again to the other side of his land overlooking Cayambe Volcano, which sits at the same latitude line as Mt Kenya. Since I was born in Nairobi and know the Mt Kenya region well, seeing this sight 40 years later felt like it brought me full circle.

I intentionally skipped the Galapagos on this trip to showcase the mainland. A quarter of the population of the country is indigenous.  Limiting a visit to just Quito doesn’t give visitors the chance to see and experience the unique and authentic aspects of mainland Ecuador. Like a growing list of other countries, Ecuador has taken all the necessary steps to insure all is ready and waiting for travelers.

Big Five only recognizes a destination as open once we have official government documents. We are now live on Axus and Travefy and have loaded these documents on to both platforms already.

So do your best Neil Armstrong impression and take that first step.

Dear Advisor Partners,

Who is open, who is allowed, how do you get there, what do you need…  Where do you find all this info? Well, you will be pleased to know we have been busy building media hubs on the Axus Travel App and now also on Travefy. That’s right, Big Five is live on both platforms!

Since March our team has been busy building a central library for our advisors in the Axus Travel app with cutting-edge sample itineraries, bios and videos of our guides, hygiene protocol info and information on the newest collections and our popular webinar recordings. And in a few weeks, that same information will be available in a central library on the Travefy app as well.

The best part – country openings. The most common question we get daily is which countries are open and what do I need to go there. While we have information from the tourist boards, we don’t recognize a country as open until we have the official documents from the presiding government, regardless of the noise on social media that a country is open. This is part of our No Gimmicks approach to keeping things clear and transparent for our advisor partners and their travelers. These opening documents are also loaded into both Axus and Travefy platforms. We look at both platforms as content delivery for itineraries and as media hubs to ensure that guests know what their advisors know. New content is loaded every week to both platforms.

It’s the ultimate one stop for our advisor partners. With Axus and Travefy, you can say that we axuvefy our content to ensure our advisor partners are equipped with fresh ideas and examples of sustainable travel ideas at their fingertips. Check it out.

We are getting closer to the time when we can start traveling again so we thought we would share this beautiful video on Ecuador to whet your appetite. Enjoy.


For more:




« back