Tailored to perfection
For those to whom money is no object, the style of travel differs largely from our own with trips often planned as celebratory breaks to mark the closure of a new deal, or fashioned specifically to allow much needed R&R. Busy professionals are electing to spend well-deserved holidays with their children and parents, often welcoming friends into the mix. Something particularly popular in Africa is going off the grid and on safari for a rewarding and tangible experience that puts people back in touch with the basics, with nature and with each other.
Whether they are city, island or bush-based breaks; the wealthy want their activities to be personalised and conducted by dedicated guides that follow their specific interests. Experiential travel is everything, with cooking lessons secured with top chefs, cellar tours with winemakers, and walks through cobbled streets hosted by accomplished historians. Replenishing yoga retreats in exotic destinations such as Thailand, Bali and India, with healthy food, a well-equipped gym and personal trainer, are all standard requirements for the well-heeled wanting a break.
That old adage ‘the world is your oyster’ has never rung more true. Flights link once remotedestinations, luxury trains add opulence and romance to cross-country routes, and indulgent cruises have become as popular and easy to plan as that annual road trip, especially for those who travel on an unlimited budget.
More than a commute
Of course, it isn’t just about where they travel but also how. Helicopter transfers replace tedious drives providing easy access into remote areas and city centres, with the ability to land at hotels and even private properties. If a car is required, it’s most likely to be chauffeur driven. Private planes and charters bring convenience to local commutes, with First and Business Class easing the strain of scheduled long-haul flights. At Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, the Emirates Business, SAA Baobab and Virgin Atlantic lounges bring exceptional amenities, waiter service, premium food and beverages, and shower and spa facilities to the frequent flyer. In flight, renowned chefs are designing culinary-focused menus for the upper class that start with tasty amuse-bouche and see you all the way to the dessert and liqueur trolley, making it all about the journey.
For some of the rich and famous status dictates, and there will be animated conversations with friends over bottles of French Champagne and imported single malt whisky in rooftop bars and exclusive clubs. Money talks, as does the need to occasionally demonstrate success with nights on the town at private tables in VIP lounges serving as an important part of the need to be noticed. Inevitably there are always accounts of recent vacations, and these can fuel a touch of competitiveness as comparisons are drawn between stays at Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives and time living like royalty in the South Pacific’s Bora Bora. Wherever it is, privacy, security and exclusivity are key, as is the ethos of exceptional service, as well-heeled travellers like to get what they want and don’t mind paying for it.
Angelina Joli and Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and Leonardo DiCaprio, are among the celebrities who enjoy a love affair with Africa, and return regularly to spend time on safari or discreetly tucked away at the likes of Ellerman House or the faithful Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. One of the craziest stories out of a remote lodge in northern KwaZulu-Natal was how a rather famous Hollywood star insisted on having her baths in Perrier water while outside, the wildlife looked thirstily at depleted dams.
Dream holiday planning
The ease of access to online platforms does not have the rich and famous booking their own air tickets and accommodation, even though paging through a travel magazine may influence their decision of where to go. Time is too precious for that and most enjoy loyal relationships with high-end tour operators and private concierge services who are tasked with refining arrangements for annual or bi-annual breaks. The agents keep a score of where they have been and each year present them with the option of trying the newest, latest, most luxurious spot on the market.
Crafting these bespoke dream holidays in Africa are Wilderness Safaris, &Beyond and Eye See Africa – Boutique Adventure Tours; while for experiences beyond our borders, the likes of Abercrombie & Kent, Whole Journeys and Micato Travel are leading the way. Simultaneously other services encompassing everything from golf tee-off times, spa treatments and access to exclusive night clubs are being arranged by Luxury Seventy Seven and Back in Town private concierge services.
Two companies stand out as game changers in this field – Momentum Adventure, that offers opportunities to travel with some of the world’s most experienced guides, yachtsman and professional off-road racing teams to create adventure itineraries that take you hiking, sailing and rallying in remote parts of the world; and White Desert Luxury Adventures, whose excursions to the southern-most part of the world have you flying into Antarctica by private jet from Cape Town, and once there, accommodated in state-of-the-art sleeping pods that have hosted NASA’s Buzz Aldrin and UK’s Prince Harry, with activities like trekking, rappelling into glacial crevasses, and visits to the Emperor penguins.
Where do the wealthy stay and play?
Icon Villas (www.iconvillas.travel) and Luxury Retreats (www.luxuryretreats.com) can source the right space to match your needs, be it aquatic homes or Hollywood-style mansions, private bush villas or remote island stays. The Quirimbas archipelago off northern Mozambique is home to the incredible Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort, which is found on a thin strip of white land that juts out of the marine blue waters, as well Ibo Island Lodge. Another excellent luxury island option is the Constance Tsarabanjina off Nosy Be that provides a barefoot-chic, intimate and eco-friendly retreat in Madagascar’s unspoiled waters.
Leading the way in safari villas is Mhondoro Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden Game Reserve with its three-bedroom luxury villa with private pool and contemporary decor. Upping the offerings, Singita remains a first-choice option for high-end travellers with villas in the Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands in South Africa, as well as in the 350 000-acre Grumeti Reserves in the heart of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania, a place popular for witnessing the annual wildebeest migration.
Should the mega-rich opt to sail the seas off Turkey and Greece, ScicSailing (www.scicsailing.eu) provides the ultimate in ocean therapy with a fleet of super-chic gulets with 4-8 en-suite cabins and activities such as waterskiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing offered. Their indulgently luxurious yacht even has a jacuzzi on the front deck.
For luxury train travel in South Africa, Rovos Rail and the Blue Train always impress, while the Trans-Siberian Express remains one of the greatest train experiences of all time.