Dear Agency Partner

Normally we would have a Thanksgiving message here with the expected picture of a turkey and a pilgrim or some variation of that theme. You know the one you will likely see 259 times between now and Thursday.

No, 2020 deserves something more like gratitude. Gratitude for reminding us to appreciate the smallest things. Most importantly, it reminds us that regardless of what is happening in the world, from politics or pandemics, we need to put each other first. We share a common humanity and this Thanksgiving, it seems even more important that we pause and  take a minute to remember that we rebuild with each other, not over each other.

Now I know Canada’s Thanksgiving has already passed, however, it’s very fitting that a person I admire, Lesley Paull, is currently in Tanzania with Big Five and she sent this video. Without hesitation, Lesley and Peter generously donated the glass for windows and the stationery for our long-standing Spirit of Big Five project, Ereto Primary School. More than a school, they are helping to provide those children with a future.

I am grateful to them and so many others who have helped. So, even though it’s passed, I ask that we celebrate both nations’ Thanksgiving this week, in honor (honour for our fellow Canadians) of those children at Ereto.

In the video, they are singing Asante, which means… you guessed it, thank you in Kiswahili.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours in the US, Canada, and beyond.

Dear Agency Partners,

Fast forward this video from Egypt to the 43:50 mark. Do it now, you won’t be sorry. That is when Farah Abouseif talks about the whole reason we love heading out in Cairo in the evenings to focus on non-tourist  neighborhoods. The perception people have of each other or their cultures combines equal parts assumption based on what we have heard, association based on what others do and assimilation of others’ opinions.

At dinner, I love how Farah, speaking from her experience working with the UN on women’s rights in Egypt, very eloquently explains how tourism is helping break the stereotypes set for women, and about some of the misperceptions about Egypt and Islam. More than a dinner party, this is a conversation on gender equality, truly a story worth telling.

Now, rewind the video to minute 31:52. One of the attendees, who I think the world of, got a bit emotional and shared that experiencing Egypt had been her dream since she was ten years old. To know that the conversation and the dinner brought out her story was so powerful. This reveals the exact intersection where dreams and travel merge.

The beginning of the video takes you to an evening in Cairo. The sun has set and dinner awaits. Now, my mother is from Sudan so I naturally developed a love of certain Arabic foods, especially Falafel and Tahini, famous in most restaurants. You explore other foods you won’t find on most menus back home, including pigeon, and a dish that I grew up on, Ful, cooked fava beans cheese and vegetables. The best drink with this food is Karkade, served hot if you want it as a desert, or cold if you want to cool off after a hot day.  Well, on this particular evening in Cairo, some daring travel advisors joined my alter ego, Flat Ash (you meet him in the video), and my infamous sister, Farah, for dinner.  I consider her a little sister because we have known each other since we were kids, even with a little over a decade separating our ages.  Still it never ceases to amaze me how much Farah can relate to any guest, of any age, with any beliefs.

Every dinner party has a powerful moment where a dream was revealed. This was no longer merely a dinner, it was an evening event with great companions sharing animated conversations, so we decided to broadcast it on Big Five TV.

If you are ready to pack your bags, here are some of the logistics to enter Cairo. You need a PCR negative test maximum 96 hours prior to your flight into Cairo, so if you are connecting through Europe, then 96 hours prior to that flight, considering the time differences. As always, don’t plan your test so you arrive right as the 96 hours expire. We suggest sticking with the 72-hour window. Print two copies in case one gets marked up as you transit through Europe if that is your connection. You will need proof of health insurance, your insurance card, and we recommend also having a travel insurance policy.

While these current measures are necessary, trust me, you won’t remember a bit of it as you sit down to your dinner in Cairo. Discover Big Five’s Egypt.

Dear Agency Partners,

Colombia opened its borders on September 21 with clear requirements on bio protocols.  I have some new logistics to share with you about that but, first, let me show you this really cool video.  The Spirit of Big Five Foundation has been helping Cartagena Unida feed 30,000 families in the areas around Cartagena, but now our next step is helping those citizens find work in tourism to become self-sustaining.

The revamped catamaran experience is part of that and it begins with the garbage. You read that right. We collect red mangrove seeds that are discarded, wash them and take them out to the islands, allowing the seeds to dry in the tropical sun along the way. These seeds are planted in the islands where mangroves are required to rehabilitate the fertile ground. The process involves hiring local fishermen and deck hands from islands that our foundation has been delivering groceries to, like Bocachica and Tierra Bomba, so they can earn a fair wage through tourism to provide for their families without help from Cartagena Unida. This is what sailing with a purpose looks like. This unique experience can be added to any visit to Cartagena. Any catamaran experience already booked will automatically include this experience.

Now for the logistics. Initially, a Covid PCR negative test was required to enter along with registration on the local immigration site for entry and exit. In early November that changed with the PCR requirement being dropped. That means to enter Colombia now, a Covid test is no longer required. However, you must register on the immigration website prior to check in. This is available up to 24 hours before your flight. It’s a good idea to do it then as it asks for your flight information, passport info, contact number, and, most importantly, where you are staying. This is checked prior to checking in at the airport, so make sure you have available a screen shot of the acknowledgement or the email receipt after completion. This will be checked prior to check in, at check in, before boarding, and on arrival at immigration. When you depart Colombia it’s the same form, this time for exit, also done, we recommend, 24 hours prior to flying. Just like your arrival, this is checked before even entering the airport, at check in, and again at boarding. Here is the link to the immigration website. Please bookmark this for your convenience –

While in country, masks are required. As a WTTC Safe Travel certified company, we have all our hygiene protocol in place including alcohol sprays for your hands, shoes, and even your luggage. The experience in Cartagena, which is the most prepared city in Colombia right now, is quite good.

The city limits entry for locals is based on the end of their ID numbers. At each place, including all hotel and restaurant entrances, it is not only your temperature but also your ID number that is recorded. This protocol is in place to only record anyone with a high temp, and also as a procedure that allows contact tracing.

I know this sounds like a lot but it’s worth it to come back to Colombia, your home.

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