Safety

On this page you can learn what we do to keep you safe and what you can do yourself.

We believe that being able to avoid a spoiled holiday experience is worth a little effort. Therefore we would like to ask you to invest a few minutes to read this entire page. This will help you to be informed about our safety measures, as well as to avoid some common health problems. Both will make you enjoy your trip with us even more.

First, please be aware of the fact that while taking part in our outdoor travel packages you will be in wilderness areas, at sea or under water, and your trip thus carries an obvious risk factor even if the best of the best safety and emergency measures are in place. We just can’t protect you against an act of god or nature, like a humpback whale jumping out of the water and falling on the boat, a freak wave or a tsunami hitting the boat or a crazy moray speeding out of her rock hole and chasing you while diving.

However there is a lot that we have done to keep you safe and there are some things that you can do to avoid health problems. It is important to us that our clients are aware of the risks involved and how to avoid them.

 As a standard procedure, and a requirement of our insurers, we will ask you to sign a “no-liability” form for any of our trips. In order to obtain the Coastguard’s permission for any of our marine tours we will require you to send us the following personal information of each participant at least one day in advance: Full name, gender, age, nationality and passport number. For any dive trip we will also require a copy of your diver certification.

 

Some general health tips to start with:

  1. For your safety, we recommend you make sure you have appropriate medical coverage in case of emergency.
  2. During the winter months from June to August temperatures are still around 16 degrees Celsius. The Peruvian coast will often be covered in fog in the morning that later on clears up and gives way to a grey and sometimes blue sky at around noon time. All marine travel programs are equally possible under these weather conditions but we recommend bringing warm and waterproof clothing.
  3. If you are a diver: Please remember that you need to get rid of the nitrogen in your body before flying AND before travelling to altitude in the Andes. After diving you need to stay 24 hours at sea level. Our staff is advised to remind you of this fact before you complete a booking with us. We would prefer to lose a client but at least know you are safe while enjoying Machu Pichu or any other Andean destination.
  4. Jet lag is common when a traveller crosses more than five time zones. Symptoms may include sleep difficulty, fatigue, malaise, nausea, loss of appetite, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Levels of performance, both intellectual and physical, may be less than normal and you are just not going to enjoy your travel experience with us as much. You can prevent jet-lag by getting adequate rest before departure, drinking plenty of fluids, eating light meals, avoiding alcohol and re-adjusting your schedule for meals, sleep, etc. as soon as possible upon arrival.
  5. It is not going to be a pleasant experience travelling at sea in a small boat when suffering with travellers diarrhea. Remember that not all of our boats have a toilet on board. There are a few things you can do to prevent this:
    • Do not drink tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected.
    • Do not drink unbottled beverages or drinks with ice.
    • Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked.
    • Avoid cooked foods that are no longer piping hot. Cooked foods that have been left at room temperature are particularly hazardous.
    • Avoid unpasteurized milk and any products that might have been made from unpasteurized milk, such as ice cream.
    • Avoid food and beverages obtained from street vendors.
    • Sea food is a must when traveling along the coast and of course the Peruvian Ceviche (raw fish cooked in lemon juice) is a specialty nobody wants to miss. However, if you are traveling on a tight itinerary and if you don’t want to run the risk of traveller’s diarrhea, we strongly recommend not to eat raw or undercooked meat or fish, including ceviche, no matter how good/clean the restaurant might look. There are just too many cases of people who ate ceviche while traveling and ended up with diarrhea or something worse (i.e. some form of food poisoning).

 

Sunburn and sea sickness

Sunburn and sea sickness are the most common problems our clients encounter. Please read and follow the advice below, in order to fully enjoy your trip:

Sunburn
During summer months from December to March skies are mostly permanently blue and without clouds. Therefore sun-exposure at sea is very high. But even in winter the cloud-filtered sun light reflected from the sea surface is strong enough to cause serious burns. We therefore recommend for the entire year bringing a hat and sunglasses, as well as using sun-block with the highest level of sun protection possible (45 or higher). If you can’t buy such sun protection in your country, you can find it in Peru (up to 100).

Sea sickness
Sea sickness results when the eyes are seeing one thing – e.g., the stationary inside of the boat – while the balance organ (the semicircular canals) detects another – your movement up and down. The brain gets confused, trying to figure out why your eyes tell you are stationary, but your inner ear tells your brain you are moving. Other factors can compound the problem: they include alcohol ingestion, anxiety, fatigue, odors (e.g., diesel fumes), being overheated and inner ear injury or infections. The smaller the boat, the larger your potential for sickness, as smaller boats tend to rock more quickly. Signs and symptoms include sweating, nausea, headache, drowsiness, increased salivation and a sensation of spinning or dizziness. Vomiting may make you feel better, but the symptoms will not resolve until the inner ear acclimates to the motion or you use another form of treatment.

Once you are sea sick no medicine will help – To be honest about it: you will probably throw up the pills before they can start having an effect – However symptoms will disappear almost immediately when stepping back on the pier upon your return. Read here how to avoid sea sickness and involuntary fish feeding:

  • Don’t make the mistake to NOT eat before your boat ride. An empty stomach is as bad as one being too full. Be adequately hydrated, nourished and rested. However, if you start to feel apprehensive about the boat ride, don’t eat a large meal before departure. Munch on crackers and sip water or a sport drink.
  • Positioning – If the boat is rocking bow to stern, seek out a spot in the middle of the boat for the least movement.
  • Fix on an object – Look beyond the boat: use the horizon as a reference point. This helps your brain to adjust more easily to the unstable environment. Avoid focusing on tasks like reading, setting up diving equipment and writing.
  • Fresh air – If you are feeling ill, nothing worsens it like engine fumes. Find a spot, where fresh air blows.
  • Keep something in your stomach – Stay well hydrated before and during your trip. Sip water, juice or sport drinks, but avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol and caffeine. If you are nauseated, don’t drink lots of water since it will create an unpleasant sensation of sloshing in your stomach. Eat saltines or bread to absorb stomach fluids.
  • Remedies for prevention – There is no cure for sea sickness, but plenty of remedies are thought to alleviate its symptoms. However – any medicine has to be taken before you step on board. Once you are seasick it is simply too late. If you have discovered something that works for you, stick with it. “Anti-nausea” medications are called antiemetics and are manufactured by many companies, i.e. Bonine (meclizine), Dramamine(dimenhydrinate), Marezine (cyclizine), and Benadril (diphenhydramine). Side effects of these medicines may impair your ability to dive safely, which is why we do not recommend taking them before diving. Some cause drowsiness. Because of this they carry warnings about operating heavy equipment or performing hazardous tasks. Before using antinausea medications always read the accompanying information.

Your safety on board

For Nature Expeditions your safety on board comes first:

  1. The Peruvian part of the Pacific is not known for storms and it never rains. Nevertheless you obviously will be equipped with a life-jacket and we require you to wear it at all times. Our life-jackets are of superior quality in comparison to standard Peruvian life-jackets used by some other operators.

  2. Children on board: We also have life-jackets for children from 5 years on. We do not allow children younger than 3 years on board our boats and we do not recommend to take children younger than 5 years. All children younger than 12 years have to be accompanied on board by a parent or authorised adult. For children between 13 and 18 years we require a signed authorisation from a parent or authorised adult. Our staff will advise you about this before booking your trip. (The latter also applies for under-aged divers between 12-18 years).

  3. Smoking is prohibited on board our boats.

  4. During all diving trips we are equipped with a DAN-rescue-luggage with two oxygen tanks. We are the only dive operator in Peru that operates this emergency equipment.

  5. All our boats have a valid and updated Safety Certificate from the Peruvian Coast Guard.

  6. Peru is not Europe or the US. In fact the rescue capabilities of the Peruvian coastguard are limited. The nearest coastguard ship is stationed in Callao port (more than 70 kms north of Pucusana port) and will probably take many hours if sent in an emergency. During any off-shore trips radios installed on boats do not reach the coast but are meant to contact other ships. But what if  there is no other boat around? For us it was therefore important to obtain a communication method that would always work – for any distance – and that would reach our own land-based staff in order to make sure immediate action is taken. Therefore, on all our marine trips (along the coastline or off-shore) we carry a SPOT-satellite emergency message system (not required by the Peruvian coast guard). SPOT allows our land based staff to track the position of our boats in real time at any moment. It also allows us to send help signals to the email box of our staff members on land. A second level of emergency signal alarms our staff AND the system operators emergency room, which in turn will alarm the Peruvian Coast Guard. We are therefore never out of communication even when the radio and cellphones are out of signal. SPOT enables our company to immediately initiate rescue procedures long before the Peruvian coast guard would react. To our best knowledge we are the only Peruvian marine tourism operator working with SPOT.

  7. Our smaller boats used for trips along the coastline are equiped with anchor, oars, rescue ring, first-aid box, tool-box, tow-end, flare gun, whistles, signal mirror, hand-held compass and hand-held GPS (in case a sudden fog should set in). Communication with our land based staff is established via cell-phone (the cell-phone is protected by waterproof housing and cell-phone coverage is 100 %  on our tours close to the coastline).

  8.  The Ocean Spirit is a 27 feet long Yacht and is our ship for off-shore tours. The Ocean Spirit is light, of adequate size for up to 12 birders or whale watchers and is equipped with a toilet. The seats are equipped with comfortable cushions and positioned along the walls of the hull leaving space in the middle so you can stand up and turn into the best position to observe marine wildlife or take pictures. The Ocean Spirit is faster and more powerful than any of the other tourist boats in the central Peruvian coast. Even though we rarely drive at full speed we can make the return journey (port to off-shore) in a comparatively short timeframe . Our speeds vary between 20 and 40 nautical miles per hour depending on Ocean conditions. On the Ocean Spirit you do not lose time travelling – you have maximum time at sea to observe whales, dolphins and birds and we are likely to have you back on land faster than any other tourist boat in Peru. The Ocean Spirit does not only fulfill the safety standards required by the Peruvian coastguard for pelagic off-shore trips, it actually surpasses them in several aspects:

    • The Peruvian coast guard requires a boat like the Ocean Spirit to have 2 bilge pumps. The Ocean Spirit has 5 bilge pumps.
    •  The Peruvian coast guard requires boats to have a national radio on board. We have this and a second one of higher quality.
    • We have all necessary emergency equipment on board – for example flares, signal mirror, rescue ring, first aid-package, etc and we have a marine safety certificate for offshore trips from the Peruvian coast guard.
    • The Ocean Spirit has a compass and a GPS-based electronic navigation system. We usually also carry handheld GPS as additional safety.
    • The Ocean Spirit does have an EPIRB visibly installed in its cabin.
    • The Ocean Spirit is equipped with two 200HP Evinrude E-Tec Outboard engines. Even if one should fail entirely the second one is more than strong enough to bring us safely back to shore at high speed if necessary. E-Tec engines are the only outboard motors existing which continue to function for 5 hours even if it should run out of oil.
    • Fiberglass boats like the Ocean Spirit normally do not have a wooden skeleton. We, however, reinforced the hull of the Ocean Spirit with an additional wooden skeleton being isolated from any water by several layers of fiberglass and fused with the hull. The hull of the Ocean Spirit has therefore become virtually unbreakable even in the heaviest of seas (of course, we have not yet tried the “Humpback-whale-jumps-on-boat” test !)

A final call for caution:

The Peruvian marine tourism industry has been affected lately by several marine accidents with fatal results. In one case, a tourist boat capsized and one person drowned. The investigation showed the cause to be poor boat design and negligence of the captain allowing too many people on the second floor of the boat, therefore affecting the stability. Nobody was wearing life jackets. In a second case negligence was the reason again for a fatality during a pelagic birding trip where one person fell overboard with nobody being aware. Again no-one on board was wearing a life jacket.

As a consequence of this, the Peruvian coast guard implemented much stricter regulations and safety standards for off-shore trips. According to our knowledge our boat, the Ocean Spirit, is the only tourism boat equipped with the necessary permits and safety standards to conduct real pelagic birding (reaching 45 miles from the coast – required to observe special species like Markhams storm petrels and albatrosses) or off-shore whale-watching tours. Most other boats used for marine tourism are most likely restricted to distances of a maximum of 5 miles off shore.

In light of the tragic accidents we would like to advise you to make the following inquiries before booking a pelagic off-shore tour in Peru:

1. What is the distance of your pelagic birding trip?
It is fairly well known that a “real” pelagic trip should go to 40-45 miles off-shore in order to see the special birds desired by birders. Shorter trips offered as pelagic trips or mini-pelagic trips may be an indication of the boats being used not having permits or adequate equipment to go further off-shore. Nature Expeditions is also offering a Mini-pelagic trip for people with little time, but we make our clients aware of the fact that they should not expect to see real high-seas species. For this you have to book our full pelagic birding trip.

2. Does your boat have the necessary equipment and permits to go up to 50 miles off shore for pelagic birding?
If you do not get a positive answer on your question be wary. Please be aware of the fact that along the central Peruvian coast Nature Expeditions is the only marine birding company operating its own boats and not subcontracting them.

When you step on the boat for your pelagic birding trip we advise you to be aware of the following warning signs:

  1. Are clients are allowed to be on board without wearing life jackets ?
    This is not only negligent but actually prohibited.
  2. Is the boat equipped with an EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) ?
    An EPIRB must be visibly connected to the wall in the main cabin or any other space close to the roof of the boat. In case the boat is turned over or sinks the EPIRB will send the emergency signal to the Peruvian coast guard. The EPIRB is never hidden away or stored – it is openly visible and must be installed. If there is no EPIRB on board you can be sure that this boat does not have a permit to go further off-shore than 5 miles.
  3. Does the boat have a GPS-based navigation instrument ?
    If the boat is navigated without an electronic GPS-based navigation system you can be sure it has no permit to go further off-shore than 5 miles.

 
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Related links:

 

Nature Adventures: Whale and dolphin watching BirdingScuba diving Diving and swimming with sea lions 

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Help protect nature in Peru: Be a dolphin conservation volunteer – NGO Mundo Azul on Facebook Facebook Page: Volunteering in Peru

Join, share, protect on Facebook: Pelagic Birding Peru  Birding Peru – Whale and Dolphin Watching Peru – Peru Bird Guide – Endemic birds of Peru – Diving in Peru