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Moon jellyfish bloom in Loch Sunart

Coronavirus updates

Latest update

September 2021

Please read this page carefully so you are aware as to how these changes may impact your adventure. The reality is that you will notice very little difference to 'normal' operations during your adventure. The biggest changes relate to meeting at Otter Adventures in Strontian and operationally now that Otter Adventures has additional guides on the team.

As part of our day to day operations, we are constantly managing risks in a hyper-dynamic environment. Coronavirus is an additional risk that we now have to manage and one that we take as seriously as every other risk. Consequently, we ask that the following are adhered to as much as possible in order to help us protect you and to protect our guides and local communities.

Regional and local restrictions

It is becoming increasingly harder to keep abreast of every regional variation and regulation across the UK as these change regularly, often at short notice. It is your responsibility to know whether you can travel from your region to our region and to act accordingly. Similarly, it isa your responsibility to advise us whether you have been in contact with anyone who may have had COVID symptoms.

COVID transmission research

We have looked at some of the research by van Doremalen (March 2020) regarding the transmission of the virus through airborne methods as well as through surface contact. While this early research was widely publicised and suggested that the virus was viable on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours, the research undertaken by Goldman (July 2020)received little recognition and suggested that, in the real world, there is little risk of contracting the virus through surfaces, but the biggest risk was in unventilated indoor environments.

A more recent study into sports equipment by Edwards et al. (February 2021) concluded that there was more risk of contracting COVID during interactions before and after the sport than from shared surfaces during the 'game'. While this research focussed on softer materials such as gloves, cricket balls, etc. there was a recommendation that manufacturers identify surfaces that are more likely to retain transferable virus.

While we are not removing our cleaning regimes, we are reducing them but increasing our drive to have everyone sanitise their hands before every adventure.

Operational changes - cleaning / quarantining

With the above, and other, research in mind, we have adopted a pragmatic and realistic approach to our daily routines as follows:

* All guests, irrespective of age, are asked to sanitise their hands at Otter Adventures prior to starting their adventure. If you do not have sanitiser to hand, please ask as we have ample.

* All 'hard' surfaces, such as kayaks, canoes and paddles, are cleaned with appropriate disinfectant between every adventure and thoroughly rinsed with water. As a result, the seats and thigh braces in the kayaks and the seats in the canoes may be wet from previous adventures. For this reason, we suggest having waterproof trousers on when trying the kayaks for size and during any water based adventure.

* Any 'soft' equipment such as buoyancy aids and dry bags are being quarantined for 24 hours, but not disinfected.

Toilets / changing

We still ask that you arrive at Otter Adventures dressed ready to participate in your activity as we are aiming to reduce the number of people inside our main building as this is also our family home.

We recognise that some guests may have travelled quite a distance to reach us, or may have young children or medical conditions, all of which may require using a toilet. The toilet is inside our home so please consider whether you need to use it before asking. We will allow one visitor at a time in to use the toilet, but insist that you wear a face mask and sanitise your hands on entry to the building (sanitiser is available).

Our guides are not required to wear masks indoors, but may choose to do so if they wish. They do sanitise before entering the main building beyond the stores area.

Contact tracing

We encourage everyone to download the NHS Scotland Test and Protect App to your phone or mobile device and ensure that Bluetooth is switched on. You should carry your device with you whenever practicable (electronic devices and water do not mix, so we recommend carrying it when you meet and depart from Otter Adventures but it is not required during your adventure). I’m told that the app does not track your movements, but does enable contact tracing to be enacted quicker and more efficiently should the need arise.

As Lateral Flow Tests are available from the government, we encourage you to order yours and to take at least one test prior to travelling to the region and one during your stay (if over three days). Should a Lateral Flow Test show positive before your adventure, you should self-isolate, arrange a PCR test and inform us that you will not be attending your adventure as soon as possible. If the PCR test comes back negative and it has been more than two weeks since your second COVID jab, then you may still attend your adventure. However, every individual attending must be in the same situation.


Coronavirus operating arrangements

Booking Arrangements

Bookings made online require the full payment to be made upfront. This will be 100% refunded so long as a 'reasonable' notice period is given. If you have any concerns about this, please contact us direct and we will book you in ourselves with no deposit required.

We reserve the right to retain sufficient to cover our costs should your cancellation mean that we will not be able to pay our guides due to reduced numbers or complete cancellation. Should we be able to fill your vacated places, we may refund all or part of your money paid.

Confirming arrangements for your adventure

Due to patchy mobile signal and the rapidly changing situation, it will be your responsibility to call us (07521 676274) between 18:00 and 21:00 pm one or two evenings before your trip to finalise plans for your adventure.

Please be very honest and open with us and advise us whether anything has changed since you completed the booking information. You will not lose out financially as a result of cancelling your trip during 2021. For your safety and ours, we reserve the right to cancel your trip at this point should we feel there is a risk of the virus being spread as a result of your adventure.

Meeting groups

We are confident that we have put in place sufficient measures to be able to meet you at Otter Adventures. Please park in the identified spaces and wait outside - there is not room inside to maintain social distancing.

We ask that you use an appropriate hand sanitiser (minimum 70% alcohol) when you arrive. If you do not have any, please ask as we have ample. If your adventure includes food, we have always recommended cleaning your hands with a sanitiser before eating.

The sharing of cars/vehicles is advised against at the current time. Therefore, only in exceptional circumstances, will we permit guests in our vehicles. Should we do this, you will be asked to wear a face mask.

Use of equipment

Due to limited equipment and the 24 hour quarantine of 'soft' items we have in place, we will not be including waterproof jackets and trousers on our adventures during the peak summer months. Please bring your own if you are on an adventure with us during school holiday periods.

During the session

While the social distancing distance has all but been removed outdoors, your guide will endeavour to maintain appropriate social distancing of at least one meter during the session as far as is possible and practical. We ask that you endeavour to do the same. To help judge this, a sea kayak paddle is over two metres, a canoe paddle or mountain bike around 1.5-1.7 meters.

Your guide will demonstrate how to put on your buoyancy aid/personal floatation device (PFD) whilst maintaining social distancing. We ask that group members help anyone in their group who is struggling with this. Your guide will also help unload/load boats and get them to the water so there is minimum contact with the equipment and social distancing maintained as far as is possible.

When getting in and out of the boats, especially on beaches you may well get wet feet. Please wear old trainers or neoprene beach shoes.

We have modified rescue procedures in order to maintain social distancing should you capsize. If you are struggling, this distance may well be reduced and face masks may not be appropriate due to the water environment.

First aid during session

We always strive to make your adventure safe, but occasionally minor injuries do happen, usually on dry land. Initially your guide will assist from a minimum of two metres distance and may ask one of your party to administer first aid. If there is a need for the guide to move closer, they may put on face coverings as they deem appropriate to the situation for their protection as well as yours.

Returning kit

At the end of your adventure, you will be asked to help put the boats back on the trailer, but not to tie them down. Your guide will also ask you to put 'soft' used equipment into a large ‘quarantine’ box in order to keep it separate from ‘clean’ equipment and reduce risk of transmission. They will also show you what to do with your paddles and other 'hard' equipment.

Cleaning between groups

‘Soft' items will be quarantined for 24 hours in line with research (see above). It may be rinsed in fresh water before and air dried in direct sunlight (UV rays are shown to render the Coronavirus untenable). If weather conditions do not permit this, they will be dried in a dehumidified room (low humidity and heat also reduces the viability of viruses).

‘Hard’ equipment, such as boats and paddles, will be sprayed with appropriate disinfectant and rinsed with fresh water then left in direct sunlight whenever possible.

DISCLAIMER: It is not possible to guarantee complete disinfection: the goal is to minimise risk in a similar way to other viruses and in adventure activities generally.

In line with industry guidance, we recommend that you wash/sanitise your hands frequently before and after your adventure.

Post activity follow up

Please do take the time to leave reviews of your experience on Facebook or Google so other visitors can be reassured that not only is Otter Adventures open, but that everything possible is being done to manage safety, including Coronavirus, during your adventures.

If you feel there is anything we could do to improve our service or adventure, especially if that relates to Coronavirus, please email me direct (admin@otter-adventures.co.uk) so we may learn from your experiences and improve the way we operate.

Procedures following suspected Coronavirus encounter

The general consensus is that we don’t know very much about the virus; Otter Adventures is certainly not an expert in this. Consequently, we will review these operating procedures regularly and in line with government guidelines so they may change at short notice. Please be assured that we will be doing our utmost to protect you and your family, our guides and their families as well as our local communities.

It is vital that you inform us and ‘NHS Inform’ if you or anyone in your party develop symptoms of Coronavirus within seven days of your activity. Downloading the ‘Protect Scotland’ app to your phone (see above) and ensuring Bluetooth is switched on will help should contact tracing be necessary.

Thank you for your understanding, patience and support throughout this difficult time.

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