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Bringing luxury to life

Bringing luxury to life

Howard Saunders, Partner, The Original Ker Downey Safaris

Not long ago, my guests and I flew into Kenya’s famed Masai Mara national reserve. Within an hour, I had pulled into a favourite gully frequented by an impressive male leopard. As we drove up and saw the big cat perched proudly among the branches of the sycamore fig, totally unaware of the stir he had created, my guests remained stunned by this up close and personal immersion into wild Africa.

Thanks to the secluded nature of this area, we enjoyed the viewing exclusively without the usual tourist hordes. Authenticity of experience and the opportunity to feel the natural world in its purest form comes from insider knowledge. To produce the incredible, an intimate understanding of my adopted habitat-the African bush, has allowed me to deliver these unparalleled wildlife sightings.

Wild luxury

An elephant at the Amboseli campA century ago, travel to exotic locations was the preserve of the rich and famous who drew inspiration from the legendary explorers of the time. These early travellers sought out the almost mythical wilderness and in doing so understood that they were accessing places that very few could. Today jet setters may wonder whether such destinations still exist. But an elite network of travel experts attests to the fact that they most definitely do, and hold the keys to unlock its potential.

Where exclusivity is the nuance of luxury, the experiential nature of travel within this select group is redefining travel. The Shackleton Selous Society has been evolving the very definition of luxury. The society is comprised of fellows who have devoted their lives to crafting the most fascinating travel experiences available today: a private tour of Rajasthan’s forts; cruising Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; watching elephant herds meander in an exclusive 30,000-acre wildlife conservancy in Amboseli, Kenya; exploring Rome‘s treasures with behind-the-scenes tours of the Colosseum or helicopter rides to a hidden fly-fishing lodge in New Zealand. Sharing the experience exclusively with family and friends, away from busier locations may come at a premium, but with that comes that rarest of finds-authenticity.

Privately owned, personally guided

This sit-out in the bush is part of the luxury campWhen I personally take guests into my private safari camp on an African safari, my crew and I ensure that each part of the experience is highly personal and memorable. With my hands-on approach of being involved with the planning from day one, to directing the whole journey as a professional guide, I’m able to facilitate life-changing moments that such travel can provoke. Each trip is made unique as I offer special access to Africa‘s gems: pulling into a hidden acacia grove where I know that elephant family will be feeding; calling in the local lion researchers when we want to know more of the story of our camp pride; relating the story of my place in the prestigious 70-year history of our pioneering safari company that blazed the trail of wild luxury. And who better placed to create, and host any experience of this kind than someone living and breathing this life each day. Countless moments of my life have been spent searching for those treasures within Africa, and determining how best to weave them into the trip of a lifetime.

Every safari I run is tailored to suit the interests and time-frame of my guests; no two journeys are ever the same, and the magic of each trip is found in the little surprises that are built in. For it is often the unscripted moments that bring a safari to life, and Kenya’s phenomenal wildlife and a guide’s deep knowledge of them, provides the key. And then there are the activities that we plan with the utmost precision: the hot-air balloon ride over the vast savannahs of the Masai Mara; the helicopter charter to access fresh alpine lakes, extinct volcanoes and remote tribes; an audience with a pre-eminent wildlife conservationist, in the field.

Divine cuisine and fine wines accompany the timeless comfort of sumptuous canvas tents, which provide the ultimate setting for the private safari. The culmination of these can be a life-changing journey through some of the most photogenic scenery, entrancing peoples with the most diverse wild life that exists on our planet. It took a selection of the finest private guides around the globe to realise the value of highly personalised experiences that are so fundamental to each of our lives. Sharing that with the discerning traveller simply completes the circle.

A gorilla in the wild

Kenya safari fact file

TOUR DURATION: A typical safari is between 7 and 12 days, although each safari is customised and can be crafted to suit the travellers’ interestsPRICE: Upwards of USD$1,000 per person per day; safaris are all inclusive with full board accommodation in luxury camps and lodgesHOW TO GET THERE: Emirates and Kenya Airways operate daily flights out of Delhi and MumbaiWEATHER: Being on the equator, Kenya is pleasant to visit throughout the year, though April and May typically see higher rainfallCONTACT: howard@howardsaunders.com; www.howardsaunders.com ; www.shackletonandselous.com; ph: +254 722 742 310

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