Our Clients Are Traveling Again!

Travel has Begun!

As our clients return from their first trips of the year, they’ve started to share their journeys with us in the hopes of  encouraging others to begin traveling again.  The following trip reports were written by some happy travelers.

Galapagos Travel Log:

Jim Barber and his small group had this to share about their recent journey to Ecuador and the Galapagos in November…

A huge Thank You to the South Pacific Island Travel (SPIT) staff for all they did to help us get through the difficulties of travel to the Galapagos when everyday the rules and travel restrictions were changing.  We had scheduled our Galapagos travel a year ago and little did we know the challenges we would have to overcome to get there when our trip had been cancelled and rebooked 4 times.  Throughout every cancellation SPIT stood by our side and we were so happy when it all came together after the fourth try!

Once we embarked on our travels to Ecuador,  SPIT continued to follow us through on our journey and ensured that after we landed in Ecuador we were greeted by the Galapagos Sky live-aboard staff and taken care of for the next 10 days.  As for the Galapagos Sky Team, they were amazing for what they did to get us  through the travel restrictions imposed by Ecuador and The Galapagos.

The Galapagos Sky is an amazing boat and beautifully furnished with all the amenities a diver could ever want.  The crew was fantastic and treated us like nothing we have ever experienced on a live-aboard before.  The dive masters were local to the Galapagos Islands and exhibited so much passion for what the islands meant to them… it showed with the dive sites they took us to.  The Galapagos boat crew had a philosophy “all hands on deck” when we geared up for the dives and when we came back from the dive site, which was so helpful for the amount of equipment required to dive the Galapagos.

From Whale Sharks, Hammerheads, red lip bat fish, seahorses, Mola Mola, swimming iguanas and much much more…. We saw it all!  LOVE LOVE LOVE the Galapagos Sky.

Socorro Travel Log:

Longtime clients and friends Barry & Jill Levenson just returned from Mexico and shared their travel experience with us. The following are some highlights of their time in Socorro.

We flew from Seattle to San Jose then on to Cabo on November 12 so we could board the Belle Amie on the 13th.  We were a bit apprehensive about flying but were relieved to see that Alaska Air enforced the mask rule. I think we may have been overly prepared.

We spent one night in Cabo at the beautiful Playa Grande Resort, and were pleasantly surprised that the Hotel and its restaurants took mask wearing and social distancing seriously.

At 4 pm on boarding day we brought our dive gear and luggage to the Nautilus guest lounge at the Tesoro Hotel where we checked in. A Nautilus medic took our temperature, blood oximetry and blood pressure and we answered a series of screening questions about Covid prior to boarding the beautiful Belle Amie. Once on-board the Captain gave a short briefing and discussed Covid safety protocols.

Soon we were motoring past the famous Arch of Cabo San Lucas on our way to Magdalena Bay where we hoped to be able to snorkel near bait balls of Sardines and the Striped Marlins that feed on them. This was an exploratory dive for the Nautilus group. After three days we left Magdalena Bay for St. Benedicto.

Our first dive here was the famous site called The Canyon. After a detailed briefing we knew to expect a healthy current so we did a negative entry and immediately made our way to the wall. I was muttering under my breath as I clutched the reef and followed the other divers to the far edge all the while trying to keep my mask from blowing off my face. I laughed at myself because  as soon as we reached our destination a spectacular 35 foot whale shark moseyed up to our little group as though she was expecting us. She leisurely swam around us for the rest of the dive.

The next day we stayed near St. Benedicto and dived the Boiler, probably the most famous of the Socorro dive sites. A large group of gregarious dolphins were there to meet us.  Since this is our fourth trip with the Nautilus fleet we are very familiar with these amazing Dolphins but this time we saw something new that surprised and delighted us. One of the biggest Dolphins went vertical about 10’ in front of me. She had a piece of plastic back in her mouth and was waving it back and forth. I was alarmed as I thought she was going to eat it but I quickly realized that she was taunting us, like a dog with a bone. She would casually let go of it and when one of us tried to grab it she would quickly move in and snatch it back. It was remarkable and pretty adorable.

Mantas would usually make an appearance at least once each dive, and we were almost constantly surrounded by White Tip, Silver Tip and Galapagos sharks while Hammerhead sharks lurked in the current. We even spotted a large Tiger shark warily eyeing us from afar. It was a fantastic day!

The crew wore masks when humanly possible for the entire cruise.  There were 20 guests so meal times were staggered in order to try to maintain social distancing during meals. The guests were also asked to wear masks in all public areas.

This was a magical trip and worth every bit of perceived risk. We can’t wait until our next trip. The boat  is kept immaculately. The entire crew was warm professional and helpful at every turn.


We’ll continue to monitor travel restrictions for you and keep you apprised of new countries opening up to travel.  With a vaccine on the way, we’re looking forward to a New Year filled with travel and more adventures. If you have a travel story to share, let us know!

Ready, Set, Wait….Go! Belize is Open for Diving!

Guest Columnist:
Amy Christopher is Head of Travel Operations and Co-Owner of Ocean First in Boulder, Colorado, a long-time client of South Pacific Island Travel.  The group just returned from a much anticipated trip to Belize, and from the sounds of it they had a wonderful time! The following column is her trip report: 
Ocean First's November trip to Belize was a "COVID shuffle" originally scheduled to run in April 2020. Here we are in November and after many shifts in dates and participants we were ready to go. All systems go and then there was Hurricane Eta due to hit Belize on the day we were supposed to arrive. It is 2020 after all. We moved the trip out 2 days and were rewarded with a week of absolutely perfect weather.

COVID safety measures were obvious and adhered to from our arrival into Belize (BZE) and all the way to the hotel. All travelers must show proof of a negative PCR COVID test taken within 72hrs on arrival. If your results did not arrive in time or you didn't get a test in advance they have a rapid test on site for $50USD. It takes 20 minutes to get the results returned and you are on your way. There is a great deal of reassurance seeing how seriously COVID is taken in Belize and knowing that your whole group tested negative was very reassuring. Our temperatures were taken on arrival into the country as well and they have solid contact tracing measures in place.

Sunbreeze Hotel greeted our group warmly and it was obvious they were thrilled to have guests (and especially a group) back on the property. After an efficient check in we were shown to our rooms. The property is immaculate with signage everywhere reminding us to wear masks and socially distance. The rooms are spacious and tidy and honestly have the most comfortable beds I have ever had in a hotel. Everyone said the same and we have all been sleeping so well.

The restaurant is operating on an abbreviated schedule until tourism perks up again. They were very accommodating and the food is great. After a relaxing and an early night we headed over to the dive shop to get checked in.

Ambergris Divers was ready for us. They are also following solid COVID procedures and greeted us with enthusiasm. We had our forms filled out in advance so the process went really fast. After getting everything settled we were ready to dive. Our group had the boat to ourselves and we had an awesome crew all week. Manuel and Flip were our divemasters and they are fantastic; so patient, friendly, knowledgeable, and clearly happy to have divers again. The diving has been off the charts awesome and I have never seen a group of divers so happy and relieved to be back in the ocean after what feels like an eternity. The first dive is always a bit of trial and error as we settled in and got weights figured out and the initial jitters out of the way.

First dive: sharks sharks sharks. So many sharks. Huge nurse sharks, baby nurse sharks and several robust Caribbean reef sharks all cruising around. The divemasters hunt lionfish and the sharks love them so they do tend to associate divers with a lionfish snack. The nurse sharks in particular are developing a taste for lionfish and will hunt them on their own which is great for the reef ecosystem.

Our dives really were amazing. Aside from the sharks we had moray eels, octopus, Southern stingrays, schools of eagle rays (!!!), healthy corals, hawksbill turtles, dolphins (!!!), and so much more. The water temp was 82F and we literally had perfect weather. Sunny, no rain, calm seas, clear water. It was so wonderful and everyone was so grateful to be here. After a very tough year we all felt an enormous sense of gratitude to have something go so right for once. So much has been postponed or canceled and here we were... doing what we love and living in the moment.

We have a group out exploring the Mayan ruins today and the small contingent that opted out are relaxing by the pool or perhaps going paddle boarding later. We head out tomorrow after a much needed vacation and break from the world. To say we are getting a break from reality is kind of backward. We are getting a break from the world and thriving in reality. Get out and travel! It is totally manageable. Life will pass you by if you let it. This group has chosen to get out and do it and we are so happy we did.

Hawaii is Open. Let’s Go!

For the last several months, I have heard the islands calling out to me. And now that Hawaii is open to travel again, I decided it was time to pack my bags and answer their call! Hawaii’s Pre-travel testing program allows travelers, who test negative for COVID-19, to visit without quarantine.  So this past weekend, after a few easy requirements, I left Seattle for Honolulu.

Things to Know: 72 hours before departure visitors are required to take a Nucleic Acid Amplification (NAAT) pre-travel test, available through one of Hawaii’s trusted testing and travel partners.  After receiving the results, you will need to create an account online at Safe Travels Hawaii, complete the required details, fill in your travel itinerary, fill out a health questionnaire, and upload a current picture of yourself along with your test results. On the day of travel, just head to the airport as normal! (This is a helpful video regarding how to prepare)

We flew on Hawaiian Airlines where all staff and passengers wore masks, and the plane was sanitized.  During the flight, the crew offered us beverages and food service, which was the only time we removed our masks. Upon arrival in Honolulu, we followed the signs to the COVID line. The entire process to get through the line and collect our luggage took about 90 minutes.  We had no trouble catching a taxi to the hotel, the driver wore a mask and the taxi was very clean.  Because a large portion of Waikiki businesses is still closed, we had very little traffic on the way to our hotel.  Check-in at the hotel was a breeze, with no lines and everyone wearing masks.  And, although the streets of Waikiki were noticeably quieter than the hustle and bustle we are used to, it felt good to be back on the islands.

Travel make a look a little different now, but with a little pre-planning, it is easy to do.  Hawaii is excited to welcome you back and when you are ready to travel, we’ll be ready to help get you there. More shops and restaurants are opening daily, so if the islands have been calling to you, maybe it’s time to answer the call!

Now that I’m back from my trip to Hawaii, I’m making plans to take a group to Cozumel. It’s time for us to get back to travel, to support our tourism friends and explore this amazing world, keeping our safety and the health of those around us a priority.

What COVID-19 has Meant to Our Tourism Partners

Remember the good old days, not so long ago, when planning a vacation simply required saving some money and scheduling a few days off work?  When the hardest part of planning a trip was figuring out which beautiful destination we wanted to visit next?

At South Pacific Island Travel, we’ve seen firsthand how frustrating it has been for our clients, but we’ve also worried about how our tourism partners, located across the world, have been coping with the sudden lack of tourists coming in their doors. Over the last six months, resorts that would normally be booked solid, were forced to close temporarily, or find new sources of income to survive the resulting shutdowns and travel restrictions. They’ve been spending the down time rethinking their operations so when travel resumes, they can be better prepared to address and handle all the issues stemming from COVID-19.  We reached out to several of our long-time tourism partners to find out how they are doing and get their reaction to the current situation.

Their answers to our questions are below:

How is your business coping with COVID 19 and planning for future travel?

DIL: Indonesia, as a country, has closed its doors to international tourists until the end of the year, and we hope to be able to receive guests again early 2021.

Walinidi Plantation Resort

WPR: Our business was affected dramatically by COVID-19, with 100% of our business disappearing over a few days back at the end of March. We were however (due to relaxed travel restrictions domestically) able to re-open for business in early June and have been operating at a reduced capacity with some small weekender/public holidays and school holidays domestic bookings. We go into semi-lockdown during periods of no business, and back to full capacity when needed depending on number of guests in-house. We have also adapted to new health and social distancing regulations. In terms of planning for future travel, we are focusing on keeping the resort, all infrastructure and machinery maintained while we wait for international borders to reopen.

PTR: We were struggling at the start of all this; however, we are staying afloat by diversifying our business.

BL: We are safely moored up at a small shipyard in the west of the Solomons and we are in semi-hibernation. We have kept our core crew on to keep the boat in good shape for when things restart.

What kind of changes have you incorporated to handle COVID-19?

DIL: When we can receive our International guests again, we will of course be implementing all recommended

Dive Into Lembeh

protocols to ensure the safety of our guests and staff. Some examples are temperature control upon arrival at the resort. Hand sanitizer available for guests to use in public areas and rooms. All public areas cleaned according to COVID-19 protocols, including dive boats and guest dive equipment. As a small resort with a large open-air restaurant and bar area, we have plenty of ventilation. Diving is always done in small groups of maximum 4 per guide anyway, so social distancing in our resort is easy!

WPR: Social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, hand washing stations, compulsory face masks, more cleaning and disinfecting, and reducing contact with guests.

PTR: We have a local 50% Off Special to entice the Expat families in Suva to stay with us, which is working well. We are holding a Saturday night function each week with a live band, cheap eats and drinks and the local people of the area LOVE it. We open for Sunday lunch each week and our friends, locals and other resort owners are supporting us by enjoying lunch in paradise. We have transformed our veggie farm into a kava farm (kava sales are very high right now) and we are selling our eggs (we have 200 free range chickens).

BL: As the border to the Solomons is totally closed we have not had any guests onboard since March. As soon as borders reopen and flights resume, we will implement the latest safety procedures based on DAN’s and other accepted internationally recognized recommendations.

Are you changing your policies regarding cancellations and bookings?

DIL: We have been re-scheduling all our guests to later dates free of charge.

TR: Yes, we have changed our booking policy to become more competitive and flexible in the case of cancellations and payments.

WPR: Yes, we are offering 100% credits to cancelled bookings that may have otherwise been non-refundable.

BL: As guests have not been able to travel to the Solomons for their trips, we have been offering full credit of money paid to future trips. Our booking policies are still the same, but we do not expect people to pay finals until things have improved.

What are your plans for handling COVID if a guest becomes sick?

DIL: We have a doctor that we can contact that makes house-calls. If a guest becomes sick, we can isolate this person in their spacious bungalow, where we can serve them their meals.

PTR: We are in the process of implementing training plans for when our staff return to work and will have a set

plan for this very thing. Contact the local Health Centre/Hospital and the Ministry of Health (MOH), arrange transportation to the Hospital and send the MOH guest details for tracing.

WPR: There is a COVID-19 Centre in Kimbe and any sick patients would be sent to the hospital for testing and treatment.

BL: The Solomons have been careful in closing their borders right away and keeping them closed and have had no cases so far, we expect that to continue. We would be a bit surprised if things reopen before there is a vaccine and once there is, then guests getting sick will not be such an issue. If it is still an issue, then we will again follow the latest advice at the time.

What are your concerns for the future?

Paradise Taveuni Resort

PTR: We are concerned that certain countries may not be able to travel (USA) for some time and this will certainly affect our lifestyle. The USA is our biggest market, and we are concerned that they may be restricted from entering Fiji. We are concerned about the Domestic Flight prices being so high and this will deter the AUST and NZ travelers from travelling to Taveuni.

WPR: Vaccines taking too long to manufacture and/or distribute, local governments not offering enough assistance to the tourism industry, people still being hesitant to travel abroad regardless of opened borders.

BL: Once the border is open and travel is open, we will be back operating straight away, we have a lot of rescheduled bookings and will be busy. Our main concern is that the pandemic situation will carry on much longer than expected.

What do you miss most about tourism right now?

DIL: The company of our guests!

WPR: Meeting and greeting guests from all around the world as well as being able to travel to visit family and friends and holiday abroad.

Bilikiki LiveAboard

BL: We miss running trips and taking people diving to the wonderful reefs of the Solomons. We miss going diving in the Solomons (and other places) ourselves. We miss being able to fully pay our staff and make a living from doing something we love.

What would you like to share with our clients?

DIL: We are trying our very best to continue to support the staff members we have had to temporarily lay off in this difficult time. With donations of kind guests, we have been able to provide all staff with monthly care-packages of food supplies, which is heart-warming. We will continue to do so until we are able to receive our guests again, and when we do, the whole team will be ready to welcome everyone!

PTR: What we have learned through this pandemic is that to survive we must diversify and think outside the box. Once travel resumes, our business will be bigger than ever as we will have a whole new local market to continue servicing as well as the international market that we have been used to. We are ready to welcome international travelers back as soon as the flights start up.

WPR: We are doing fine, despite the global situation. We wish there were more government support here in PNG, but we are confident that once borders reopen our loyal clientele will be eager to return to PNG, and hopefully PNG will receive even more tourists as people who may not have travelled much before start looking at going to more exotic destinations after almost a year of being contained within their state/country.

BL: We are doing OK - fortunately, there are no cases of the virus in the Solomons. It is obviously a difficult time but everyone in the Solomons seems to be coping OK. Our thoughts go out to those in countries not coping with things so well and to those who have lost loved ones. We just hope that there can be more coordinated action worldwide on the virus and that a vaccine is found soon.

We appreciate hearing how much effort our travel partners are putting in to making sure future visitors are being taken care of in a safe and welcoming environment.  It is refreshing to hear how excited they are for tourism to resume, and how much they look forward to hosting visitors and introducing them, once again, to the beauty in and around their resorts and liveaboards.

One thing we all have in common after reading their answers –when the world opens back up to tourism, we will all be ready to travel to start again!

For a list of locations currently open to travel, visit our It’s Time to Travel, Now What? blog.

What Will it Take to Travel Again?

For most of us, traveling to distant places and exploring the world has always been just a matter of finding the time and the funds to do so. But since the onset of COVID-19, that all changed. Families and businesses across the world have been affected by the virus, and the travel industry was no exception. People in record numbers canceled trips.  During the early stages of the pandemic, TSA reported a 96% drop in air travel and hotels witnessed an 80% drop. It was an unprecedented time for all of us and we’re still reeling from the effects.

Today, months after COVID first hit the world, countries are slowing starting to open their borders for travel. However, because the United States is still witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases, travelers from the U.S. continue to face restrictions.  For those of us who had planned vacations and had to cancel or are antsy to book a future trip to continue quest for adventure, we’re forced to stand by and be patient, hoping for an end to the spread.  Until then, we’ll wait, planning in our heads where we’ll go when it’s safe to do so.

Because the U.S. is currently in a holding pattern for travel, we thought it would be interesting to find out how you were dealing with the COVID restrictions.  Our curiosity led us ask a few of our long-time clients how they were feeling about travel when it was safe to do so. We wanted to know about their concerns, requirements for safety and future travel plans. Their responses were thoughtful, hopeful, and full of interesting opinions. We were intrigued by what we read and felt by sharing a few of their answers with you might feel less alone in your own thoughts.

The following are some of the questions we posed and the answers we received.

What will it take for you to travel again when things open up?

  • Confidence that the virus can be managed, and travel is safe
  • When the CDC says it is 100 percent safe to travel
  • Will not travel until “avoid unnecessary travel” restrictions are lifted
  • Being vaccinated or otherwise knowing that I am immune
  • Eliminate the possibility of being quarantined in a foreign country
  • See a decrease in viral infection rates
  • Know what the entry requirements are for wherever I’m traveling (COVID test within X days of arrival, quarantine on arrival, etc.)

What concerns do you have regarding future travel?

  • Being infected while on long flights or by crowds and lines at the airport
  • Being quarantined at various points of entry
  • No concerns, it’s a risk I’m willing to take
  • Balanced approach to being cautious – too much caution takes away from the travel experience
  • Being stuck someplace if I become sick and what type of medical care is provided in foreign countries

What will be important for you to see a resort or live aboard to make you feel safe?

  • For live aboard trips, I’d want to know the number of trips that have occurred with no infections for crew or passengers. I want operators to post that type of information on their websites for all of our safety
  • For resorts and live aboards to follow CDC Guidelines 100%
  • To know that I am personally immune
  • To practice prudent, common sense cleaning procedures
  • To follow COVID safety procedures and have a contingency plan in place to get someone to medical care should they become sick

 Where’s the first place you want to travel to when travel opens up?

  • Key Largo
  • Any place tropical with warm water
  • Turks & Caicos, Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Tahiti

What have you missed the most about not traveling?

  • Traveling with friends
  • Meeting new people and photography
  • Scuba diving
  • The stimulation of seeing and experiencing new things
  • Immersing myself in the culture where I travel
  • The inability to escape everyday life
  • Adventures, seeing new places, new cultures, and sights, both above and below water
  • The excitement and anticipation of adventure

One thing everyone seemed to agree on: When it’s time to do so, we’ll all get back to traveling again. We’ll all be a little more guarded and cautious prior to and during travel, but it’s not going to stop us from heading off on an adventure when it’s safe to do so. COVID-19 stopped us from seeing the world for a bit, but we’re still excited about discovering new places, meeting new people and checking new locations off our bucket lists.  So, spend this time researching your next place to visit and know that when you’re ready, and when it’s safe to do so, South Pacific Island Travel will help you get there. Until then, remember, “Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions,” Albert Einstein.


What are your thoughts on traveling? We'd love to hear how you're feeling! 

Celebrating 20 Years of Adventure

Twenty Years Sounds Like A Long Time, But It Can Go By In A Blink of an Eye.

As a young girl, I remember always loving an adventure. I spent every spare moment finding new places to visit and explore and when I learned how to scuba dive my passion for undersea travel was born. After owning and operating a small dive shop for many years, I soon realized I wanted to combine my love for diving and the discovery of remote dive destinations around the world with others. It was then that I decided to close the dive shop and transition to becoming a diving travel consultant. Soon after, with the help and support of my friend and business partner, Rick Jones, we celebrated the opening of South Pacific Island Travel.  


I now share the business with my daughter, Kim Larson, who is also a certified diver, has lived overseas teaching diving and shares my love and excitement for introducing others to the joys of travel and exhilaration of discovering the wonders of oceans. Together we spend our days customizing itineraries for guests, leading them on exciting trips across the globe to explore unique countries and remote areas.  Originally specializing in travel to the South Pacific, with trips to Papua New Guinea, the Highlands and Sepik River over to the Solomon Island, Vanuatu and Fiji we have since expanded our knowledge by traveling to destinations in the Caribbean, SE Asia, Maldives, Red Sea, and Africa. From the start, we believed it was important to have firsthand knowledge of the places we sent our guests. Today, that philosophy still rings true - If we sell a destination, we have been there! 


We have seen a lot of changes over the years, from the adjustments to travel after 9-11 to the current uncertainty caused by Covid-19. Along the way, our focus has always been on our clients, making sure they have the information they need to travel safely and comfortably, knowing we are only a phone call away should they need us.  It has been a wild ride, with lots of learning and laughter along the way.  


Opening a travel agency originally allowed me the opportunity to share my knowledge and passion for diving with my clients. Little did I know that my love for discovering new locations would lead me to a lifetime of travel, fun, and friendships, or that it would allow me to work side by side with my daughter, and provide us both with the opportunity to help our customers enjoy diving and travel as much as we do. I am filled with gratitude for my clients and am grateful for the endless memories, rich with experiences and friendships, that my years in business have brought me.


Cheers to the next 20 years!


Donna Lattin
Owner, South Pacific Island Travel

It was fun to receive your comments after this story came out. We've shared a few below! 

Great story of your adventures! Thank you for sharing. Though Tom and I moved to Houston we hope to take a trip with you. (You helped us with airfare to Raja Ampat) Best trip yet and your seating recommendations were perfect on EVA air in premium economy.  Our May trip to Red Sea got bumped to next year. We did optimistically book an African safari in December. We could use help with airfare for that trip in the coming months. Cindy & Tom


Thank you for the newsletter. You girls have always been the best, most knowledgeable, caring, and dependable adventure travel agents. I truly hope the situation clears as quickly as possible so you two and all your clients can get back to exploring the world. And I hope your knee is better than new!!  Joel


You keep going sunshine!  Here’s to you and kind success for another 20 plus years!  Keep kicking butt!  Jen


I enjoyed reading about the history of your life and business.  When you get too old to dive, I hope never, you should consider being a writer. Best wishes, Ken


Great write up! Vickie