Five beautifully designed holidays to book now
Here are five beautifully designed trips in five extraordinary destinations that are now accessible and that you can book right away. We ensure everything is easy, so you don’t need to worry about a thing.
“There is no better place than Africa for getting away from the crowds,” says Claire Ferguson, Head of our Africa + the Indian Ocean team. “Travelling here is very much about endless space miles away from civilisation and being in the wild. All the camps we suggest are very small and many can be booked out exclusively. They all provide private vehicles now and it’s also very easy to fly between them by private light aircraft.” Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda (scroll down for more), Ethiopia, Namibia and Zambia’s doors are already open to visitors, and we are hopeful that Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and others will follow soon.
Start your Tanzanian journey at Tree Camp at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which has only six suites. This is a comfortable base from which to experience the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. Now is a good time to go to this popular wildlife haven as tourist numbers are very much reduced at the moment. “The best time to visit the crater floor is at the crack of dawn when no one else is around and then back to the lodge in time for lunch on Tree Camp’s impressive dining deck, which has jaw-dropping views of the caldera below – one of the many reasons this lodge stands out for us,” reveals Claire.
Afterwards, you will continue north to Singita Mara River Camp in the Lamai Strip, where the Serengeti borders the Masai Mara Game Reserve. In September and October, this little tented camp makes the perfect base for catching sight of the world-famous great migration. “Mara River Camp gives you a true Serengeti experience,” says Destination Expert, Millie Summers. “The migration at the moment is even more amazing than usual, with hardly any other vehicles at the crossing points along the Mara River.”
Your final stop will be Singita Serengeti House, a stunning private property in the Grumeti Reserve, a vast private concession that you will almost have all to yourself. “Offering a very comfortable experience, this bush home at the base of Sasakwa Hill has uninterrupted views over the Serengeti Plains and a busy waterhole nearby,” describes Destination Expert, Cara Maitland. “Designed for exclusive use, it allows families or friends the privacy and space to have shared experiences in nature.” The team – which includes a guide, chef and host – ensures that your every need is catered for, with flexible activities and meals throughout. Laid-back luxury sets the tone and there is a fitness centre, firepit and 25m pool to enjoy between game drives.
2. ECUADOR + THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS
With its fascinating Spanish colonial cities, spectacular Andean scenery, Amazon Rainforest and rich, indigenous culture, we consider Ecuador to be one of South America’s most exciting destinations.
First, get a feel for mainland Ecuador by travelling by private car to Mashpi Lodge, in the cloud forest, or La Selva, one of our favourite Amazon lodges – both easily accessible from Quito. “At Mashpi Lodge, you are just 100km north-west of the capital city and yet you are surrounded by nature in the middle of nowhere, far away from civilisation. This amazing place is fantastic for birding, plant life and wildlife,” says our Latin America expert, Milly Warr.
Alternatively (or in addition, if you are a wildlife fanatic), fly by private charter to the Amazon. “La Selva feels very remote and you can really connect with nature. The journey there is half the adventure: you arrive in Coca by plane, travel by motorised canoe for a few hours and then continue on foot, before arriving by a silent paddle canoe on Lake Garzacocha, surrounded by lush and biodiverse rainforest,” describes Milly. “Hearing the sounds of the jungle all around you is an incredible experience. The area has been relatively untouched in recent months and, with very few tourists at the moment, it will feel even more wild.” We can design countless private experiences depending on your interests, such as walks with a naturalist guide, boat trips on the lake and its nearby tributaries, special sundowners on the observation tower and fantastic photography workshops.
Next, head to the extraordinary Galápagos Islands by private charter. Here, you will be met at the airport and driven to the dock, from where you will embark on a seven-night ocean adventure onboard Theory or Origin. We can arrange for you to have these yachts all to yourself, which is an unparallelled way to explore these wildlife-rich isles. “With hardly any visitors since March, the Galápagos looks as it did 20 to 30 years ago,” says Milly. “Both boats are smart and comfortable, with a capacity of 20 passengers, which means they are split into small guiding groups of a maximum of eight people, a big bonus. They also have their own glass-bottomed zodiac and stand-up paddleboards, which many boats do not have.”
Following your Galápagos expedition, you will return to Quito, from where we recommend going by private car to Hacienda Zuleta, a homely retreat and working farm a couple of hours north of the capital. This is the perfect place to embrace nature and end your trip, surrounded by glorious Andean scenery.
A tiny country with a variety of riches on offer and plenty of small or completely private properties, Rwanda is easy to explore by private car or helicopter – or ideally a combination of the two. “Rwanda, aptly known as the Land of a Thousands Hills, is still so unbelievably unspoilt,” says Claire Ferguson. “All the areas you will be travelling to feel very off the beaten path and you will be contained within a very small group of people at all times. Travelling here is a very exclusive, private experience, now more so than ever.”
We can create an unforgettable journey, starting in Kigali, the Rwandan capital. Your home will be one of the new pool villas at The Retreat by Heaven, a lovely, eco-friendly and owner-run boutique hotel, where you can relax by the swimming pool, enjoy the spa and try some yoga and meditation. We can also arrange for you to see some of the city’s highlights while keeping away from the crowds, including private access to some fascinating arts and crafts projects. The country’s history is such an important part of its story and you will learn about the impact of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi through the people you meet on your trip. We strongly recommend a morning at The Kigali Genocide Memorial. “This was one of the most powerful experiences I encountered on my last trip to the Rwandan capital,” Claire recalls. “The memorial is just that – created by the people of Rwanda as a symbol of hope and a reminder that such atrocities must never happen again. I remain amazed by the strength of the human spirit and the fact that, through the worst of all possible times, the genocide survivors somehow managed to pick themselves up and carry on.”
After this, you will be taken to Singita Kataza House, on the edge of Volcanoes National Park, one of the world’s best places to observe mountain gorillas in the wild. This exclusive-use villa, which can sleep eight in four amazing suites, is a secluded hideaway and a very comfortable base from which to track the mountain gorillas. The fully staffed villa also includes a wine cellar, fitness centre, cinema and a massage treatment room. There has never been a better time to see these habituated gorillas, as the group size is now limited to a maximum of six people, making for a truly intimate encounter.
Next, head to Magashi Camp, situated in the north-eastern corner of Akagera National Park, Rwanda’s only Big Five game reserve. The park also harbours one of Africa’s highest hippo densities, the elusive sitatunga and more than 520 species of bird. “Akagera comprises incredibly beautiful landscapes in a vast, wildlife-rich park and there is still so much to be discovered,” says Claire.
“There are only a few camps in the park and our favourite, Magashi, is the sole camp found in the north and the only one to sit in its own private concession. This guarantees you the utmost privacy when out on game drives. Also, in recent months, rhino have been reintroduced and successfully released into Akagera, so your chance of seeing this incredible creature is good.”
Finish your Rwandan adventure at One&Only Nyungwe House on the edge of the Nyungwe Forest National Park. “As I drove over the brow of the hill, all I saw before me was a vast carpet of green, and sympathetically nestled within it was Nyungwe House, with the ancient forest beyond. I was speechless,” remembers Claire. This is a wonderfully relaxing place to spend your final days in Rwanda. You can enjoy the spa and idyllic infinity pool when you’re not out chimp or colobus monkey tracking, enjoying some lovely walks, spotting birds or learning about the art of tea making. You can do as much or little as you like here, but it’s undoubtedly a heavenly refuge for some R&R before you head home.
4. COSTA RICA
Home to small lodges and stunning private houses in wild and beautiful surroundings that are easily accessible by private charter flight, Costa Rica is a great choice for your next holiday. “For families or friends travelling together, we recommend chartering planes within Costa Rica to ensure the trip is smooth and easy, and so that you can reach the country’s magnificent isolated jungle retreats full of enthralling adventures,” explains Latin America expert, Milly Warr.
Start your trip in the capital, San José, from where you will be driven in a private 4WD to Pacuare Lodge on the edge of the Pacuare River. “Pacuare is very remote,” says Milly. “Intrepid travellers can white-water raft to and from the lodge or arrive on horseback. We suggest staying in the Jaguar Villa, a superb private house with an amazing pool.”
After a few days, your driver will take you to Nayara Tented Camp, in Arenal National Park, famous for its ziplining, horse riding and mountain-biking with a spectacular backdrop of Arenal Volcano. “One of my favourite things to organise in this area, particularly for families, is an afternoon sloth spotting,” Milly discloses. “As with all our experiences, this is totally private – just you and your guide.”
Next, you will fly by private charter to the far-flung Osa Peninsula, where you will stay in your own gorgeous bungalow at Lapa Rios, encircled by lush gardens and pristine forest that is home to prolific wildlife, such as monkeys, sloths and more than 450 bird species, as well as the endangered giant anteater, the tapir and all of Costa Rica’s big cats – jaguar, puma, jaguarundi and ocelot – though these are difficult to spot.
Finish your trip at Kasiiya Papagayo on the north-west Pacific coast. This tiny property is ideal for unwinding on the beach, swimming and snorkelling at the end of your journey. We also know some incredible private houses on the surrounding Papagayo Peninsula, as well as the nearby Nicoya Peninsula, if you would prefer.
Now is a brilliant opportunity to have this North African country’s ancient treasures all to yourselves. “Egypt is somewhere we would always highly recommend an accompanying Egyptologist,” advises Destination Expert, Antonia Black. “This not only allows for far greater flexibility and security on your journey but also continuous and succinct explanation of the ancient history as you travel. Our guides work carefully to gauge our clients’ interests, and remain at their disposal throughout a trip should they wish to make any changes on the ground as they go.”
Begin in Cairo, where the indoor archaeological sites and museums are limiting the number of visitors inside so now is a fantastic time to visit. If you would like to go a step further to ensure complete privacy, we can arrange extraordinary private access to some of the city’s highlights, including entrance to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities before and after normal opening hours. Here, you will see the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Royal Mummies as well as more than 12,000 antiques. We can also organise for you to have the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last standing monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – all to yourselves before official opening hours.
After a day or two in Cairo, which will set the scene for the rest of the trip, fly to Luxor (also possible by private charter if you prefer). There is no better way to explore the wonders of Egypt than drifting down the River Nile from Luxor to Aswan on a private boat. We suggest one of Nour el Nil’s fabulous dahabiyas – Meroe, Malouka, El Nil and Assouan – exclusively for you. Alternatively, Sanctuary Nile Zein Chateau – with just two suites and four cabins – is a wonderful option for a small group or family of 12.
On a five-night cruise, you will pass through some of the Nile Valley’s most picturesque and ever-changing scenery. The journey also gives you a glimpse of rural Egyptian life on the banks and fishermen on the river. It takes you to the treasures of Luxor and Aswan as well as some of the quieter sites, such as the Temples of Abu Simbel. “Abu Simbel’s imposing complex is far off the trodden path, and as a result you will share it with only a few other visitors,” explains Antonia. “If our clients have time, I would highly encourage a visit to unearth this extraordinary place.” We can even arrange a very special private dinner in the Temple of Kom Ombo on a scenic bend in the Nile.
The above are just a handful of the infinite tailor-made trips that we can arrange for you. To find out more about where you can travel now, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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