There was a time when long-haul travel meant steamer trunks, bespoke transportation and a sense of unbridled excitement. There were no maddening crowds fighting for space, no wasted hours in check-in lines, just five-star service effortlessly delivered in the wildest reaches of the globe. For those looking for luxury in unspoiled nature, we found two fabulous, curated offerings.
A SAFARI LIKE NO OTHER
For big game without the big crowds, Roar Africa and its founder Deborah Calmeyer escort just ten guests aboard a specially outfitted Emirates A319 jet for the safari of a lifetime. (Upcoming trip is August 26 to September 7, 2022.) Roar is the first and only company that Emirates has allowed to customize an aircraft. The inaugural Greatest Safari on Earth embarked in August of 2021 and was a huge success. But at $125,000 per person, it doesn’t come cheap.
It’s fitting that such an over-the-top travel experience begins with a stay at the glittering Bulgari hotel in Dubai. Guests then board the customized Emirates jet, along with Deborah and her expert team, including Dr. Ian McCallum, renowned poet, conservationist and psychiatrist, and Dr. Lucy King, a zoologist.
The first stop is in Zimbabwe to visit one of the world’s seven wonders—Victoria Falls, otherwise known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders). Lodging is at Matetsi Private Game Reserve, which sits on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. All meals are included, and each suite has a private plunge pool to refresh after a day of adventure.
Days are spent on game drives at both Matetsi and the nearby Moremi Game Reserve. One day is set aside for a riverboat cruise along a private stretch of the river, which is home to the hippos, exotic birds and crocodiles. Also, expect to see vast elephant herds wander down to the water for a drink as you float past.
Next stop is the Xigera Safari Lodge, located in a quiet corner of Botswana often referred to as Africa’s “Last Eden.” At Xigera (pronounced Kee-jeera), you create and curate your own dining experience. The talented chefs have an “anything, anytime” approach. Whether it’s a bush breakfast or a picnic on your private deck, the chefs are always happy to oblige.
The third stop is perhaps the most extraordinary. You’ll camp at Angama Mara, which is located high above the floor of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The lodge takes its name from the Swahili word for “suspended in midair.” The camp is a collection of tented suites overlooking Kenya’s Maasai Mara, considered the loveliest game reserve on the continent.
You can choose to drift across the Mara in a hot air balloon, take a walking safari with the local Maasai, or enjoy a picnic in the same location where scenes from Out of Africa were filmed. Here is your chance to witness a portion of the “Great Migration.” This is the journey of millions of wildebeest, accompanied by zebra, gazelles, elands and impalas, that stampede about 1,800 miles in search of greener pastures. Pure magic.
The last stop at Singita Kwitonda in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, allows guests to observe endangered mountain gorillas. About 600 mountain gorillas, which make up more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, live in the area of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The trek to meet the majestic beasts is considered one of the most dramatic, thrilling and poignant wildlife experiences.
COMING TO AMERICA(S)
Prefer to adventure closer to home? This January, Aman Jet Expeditions is launching its “Adventures in the Americas” journey. Fourteen guests will be whisked from one Aman resort to the next by private jet. Instead of searching for the Big Five game animals, you’ll hit the Big Four luxe resorts: Amanera (Dominican Republic), Amanyara (Turks and Caicos), Amangiri (Utah) and Amangani (Wyoming). The fourteen-passenger excursion departs on January 23 and returns February 4, 2022. Cost per person: $69,888.
The journey begins in the Dominican Republic at Amanera, an ultra-luxe resort tucked between the ocean and the rainforest overlooking the sands of the Playa Grande. Guests can horseback ride through teak forest plantations, take a ceviche cooking class, wreck-dive in turquoise waters, kayak through mangrove forests, explore colonial Santo Domingo and learn the Dominican art of cigar rolling with a maestro.
The next leg is to the white sand beaches of Amanyara, a secluded resort in Turks and Caicos. The resort is an 18,000-acre nature reserve overlooking half a mile of the North West Point Marine National Park. Here, you’ll explore the surrounding cays on a private yacht, hike with a naturalist, learn to kite-board or explore the coral reefs and marine life with the help of a motorized Seabob-jet.
Leaving the lapping waves of the Caribbean behind, the next stop is the American desert. Guests are taken from the Bombardier jet to the famous Amangiri hotel via helicopter, following an aerial tour of the Grand Canyon. Once settled, there are options to explore the majestic setting with a three-canyon hike (led by a Navajo guide), horseback rides and trips out to Monument Valley or Zion National Park.
The journey wraps up in Jackson Hole at the Amangani resort, the perfect place to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. In addition to daytrips to the parks to spot wildlife, guests enjoy activities such as skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, snow coach tours, and photography workshops. Need more adrenaline? The hotel can also arrange heli-skiing and helicopter photo flights over Yellowstone.
The luxury of this experience is matched only by its intention to support local communities and wildlife. Deborah and her team have long been committed to conservation, humanitarian work and economic education and development in Africa.
Conscious that flying on the new A319 Executive Private Jet creates a significant carbon footprint, Roar Africa ensures the entire trip (flights and on-the-ground emissions) are carbon-neutral with high-quality offsets. Environmental projects that were funded from the inaugural journey include the installation of sixty-nine solar panels in Rwanda, the planting of 1,300 trees, access to fresh water for 3,000 Kenyans and donations to Rhinos Without Borders in Botswana.
Deborah reflects on her venture: “Witnessing the transformation of our guests as they were immersed in the wilderness reaffirmed the importance of returning humans to wild spaces. It’s my sincere hope that this journey will inspire a new wave of responsible tourism to Africa. The enormous pride and unending hope of the African people in each country made us all the more aware of the essential role tourism plays in Africa, and I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2022 and 2023.”