Welcome! Dispatches from my travel desk.
We were preparing to leave Savuti Camp and our host, Dylan Harriss had come up with a big surprise. We are going to make a little detour to Victoria Falls to vist one of his friend’s shop and factory. One of the perks of having a private charter!! We can change our plans!
The name of the shop is Ndau located at Elephant Walk in Victoria Falls and it lived up to it’s considerable reputation. I love any excuse to stop and shop for exotic gifts, so I was thrilled. I came out with crocodile bracelets and feathered earrings. Yay!
We were also delighted to visit the Colonial Grand Dame – Victoria Falls Hotel established in 1904 and beautiful. Recently renovated, if has that old colonial feeling- I hope to get back to stay there soon.
We were cleared to circle the Falls and I have never experienced such a spectacular sight. A wonderful memory we will all treasure. Thank you Dylan and Gavin.
What a thrill to buzz the Falls!!
Next stop was Savuti Camp, again a Wilderness Camp, on the Linyanti Reserve ( northwest corner of Botswana). Savuti Camp is a wilderness area destination, far from the crowds and along the northern borders of this sandy, thorn-tree country. This is the northern most reach of the Linyanti river system, which in most years has been a barren, grassy gully. Four years ago, the water from the main river 17km’s away reached this and flowed down it creating a lifeline for the wildlife that has learnt to live in this harsh and forbidding zone. The result is a wildlife experience with a difference, and game drives are never sure what they will find. Tents were large and comfortable. Staff was outstanding; so friendly and happy to see us. They greeted us at the entrance with a song and dance, along with a wonderful bar and snacks. Love those gin and tonics out in the bush!!
Savuti is famous for it’s enormous elephant population. In dry season, one can see four to five hundred elephants at one time.
Vumbra Plains is one of Wilderness resorts’ premier properties. Each of the suites has been constructed with a totally private view of the delta floodplains, and are shaded by ancient, tall Jackalberry trees. The rooms are all open-plan in design and have a sunken lounge, spacious bedroom, over-large shower (in-door and outside too), dressing area and writing desk. The outside decks have a comfortable sala, with large comfy cushions to snooze on and of course a small plunge pool for those torridly hot days! There is 24 hour electricity and bed lights for those comfy evenings with a book just before going to sleep in spacious softness, with percale sheets and duvets. In the winter months, a hot-blanket or a hot water-bottle are available. These cabins are a luxury indeed. All of the suites are linked to the main lodge by a raised wooden walkway at the back of the suites that allows the hippo and other game unobstructed access to the river, and allows safe access for guests too. The main lodge with a large fronted service area is spacious, has a dining area, a lounge and a seating area that is slightly separate from the main lounge.
A birdwatcher’s dream, one can sit out on their private deck and be totally entertained.
We took small boats down the river late one afternoon and had sundowners on the boats all tied together. Sunsets in Africa are unforgettable.
Game drives were terrific-hippos, lions, giraffe , elephant, Kudu, Oryx, ending with an incredible leopard sighting. I really hated to leave Vumbra Plains after a very short two days.
Jack’s has no electricity after 5PM so when we returned to our tents for bed, we had lanterns. An interesting experience for me, I had never turned on a lantern, and when I move it it immediately went out- plummeting me in complete blackness. Fortunately I could put my hands on the trusty flashlight that Africa Inscribed had supplied us, ran out waving it, and got one of the staff to teach me the ins and outs of lighting and shutting down a lantern. Another new skill.
Next morning I was awakened by a lion’s roar- what a wakeup call!!
Game drive and bush breakfast were in store. I couldn’t think of a better way to start the day. Then we hopped back on our lovely PC12 and flew off to Vumbra Plains
We had the pleasure of taking a walk with the local bushmen. Some the new skills we learned were eating sour berries, catching small wildlife with a stick trap, and cleaning a scorpion’s eyes. As the sun was setting, the tribe went into a trance dance in a circle around a fire. A totaling memorizing experience, it depends on the tribal chief’s mood. He and 2 elders dance around a fire with the tribal ladies chanting. He works himself into a trance, contacting his ancestors. Watching the fire, under a canopy of endless stars, with the dancing and chanting is an experience I will never forget.
First stop was Jack’s Camp. The camp, named after Jack Bousefield, a legendary pioneer of this region, is a permanent, tented camp built with considerable elegance, understated style and by the soft lights of the paraffin lamps in the evenings. There are animals and birds that live here, not found anywhere else. The tents are decorated with Persian carpets, old period furniture, beds with wooden headboards and decorative drapes. Hot water and flush toilets add a comforting touch and the drapes around the beds in the bedroom area keep out the Mosquitos at night. Safari Chic.
We are on a journey with my favorite safari operators, Africa Inscribed.
Dylan Harriss and Gavin Ford started the company five years ago, and are a force to be reckoned with, on the safari scene. Based in South Africa, AI specializes in white glove private travel. Gavin, recognized as one of Africa’s premier guides has been escorting adventurers for over 30 years. They come by their expertise the expensive way, spending at least 200 days a year exploring, and experiencing camps and lodges all over Africa. No detail is too small. They build strong relationships with camp owners and staff. We partner with Africa Inscribed to make sure our clients have the best personal private experience .
Johannesburg is usually an overnight because international flights land too late in the day to connect with another airline. I recommend at least one day in Johannesburg for a tour with Robin Binckes who will do a visit to historical sites of South Africa starting with a breakfast intensive history of SA. By starting with a historical background, the entire trip takes on a different meaning if you are staying in SA.
Traveling in Africa is a love affair .
When I wake up the first morning in Africa, I find my senses tingling.
It reaches into your heart and turns on a switch. You are alive, senses are on high alert.
Adjectives come to mind: clarity, primal, life changing, striking a deep cord, it is like coming home to a warm place.
Having breakfast at the divine Saxon Hotel where Pinky found fresh sliced mango for me. Their breakfast buffet was beautifully presented. An expression of five star ethnic African elegance”is how the Saxon described and the attention to detail is amazing. The Saxon is better know to many as the location where Nelson Mandela edited his biography. I wish I had more time to spend in Johannesburg. Today we are flying off to Botswana – Jack’s Camp on the edge of the Kalahari desert.
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Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa in the desert outside of Dubai. A member of Starwood Luxury Collection, this resort is quite intriguing. Offering over the top desert tented experience, the Al Maha is in a category by itself. Activities include camel trekking, falconry, dune driving, archery, and wildlife exploration excursions.
Chatwal Hotel NY- a Virtuoso property
The Starwood Luxury Showcase was held at the Westin Riverside hotel in Chicago. I was delightfully surprised at the comfort level of the rooms and the service. Rooms were bright and pleasant, personnel exceptionally courteous. A large breakfast was served in the Club lounge.
This hotel hosted the Luxury Showcase and the food served was really imaginative and very tasty. Table decor was beautifully set.
Next posting will be the highlights from the Luxury Showcase
My goodness, I had always heard that Chicago was cold, but standing out waiting for the car made me a believer. This city is FRIGID!
I am thrilled to be here to meet folks from Starwood hotels all over the world.
Starwood hotels are Westins, W’s, Sheratons, Luxury Collection, and the ever incredible St Regis properties.
I am here to learn about the new resorts, and meet personnel from these hotels.
It is those personal connections that make my clients have an extra special experience.
I am always so surprised when I write a note to a hotel about a client’s arrival. Inevadibly, I get a response immediately from the General Manager or someone in management within the hotel. They really make an effort and it shows. Looking forward to seeing what properties are here!
Highlights of PURE
My focus was mostly on SE Asia and Africa, but I found some incredible new properties and Suppliers from all over the world.
Song Saa-Cambodia- At the top of my list.
Brand new 5 star luxury island resort off the coast of Cambodia. To get there one would fly to Phonm Phen and helicopter, or fly to Siem Reap and fly a shuttle.
Tiger Blue- Indonesia – a beautifully fitted Charter Junk that sails the Indonesian islands.
Some set dates for 2013. Really looks like a spectacular option for SE Asia.
Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio- Uruguay-
Artistic, food and wine experience. Fabulous property combines with its sister resort 5 minutes away on the beach.
Denis Private Island- Seycelles
a lovely private island alternative to North Island, and Fregate. Cottages looked very comfortable, and lots of activities.
In Any Event- UK
Darling ladies that are incredibly connected to any country house or higher up in the UK. They have behind closed door access to private gardens, homes, people,etc.
Baines River Camp- Zambia- Luxury camp located on the Zambizi. Lodgings looked upscale and delightful.
Selous Camps in Tanzania- More authentic Safari experience.
Castiglion del Bosco- Near Siena owned by the Ferragamo family, this villa is done so beautifully and elegantly one could move here.
Villa des Orangers- Marrakech- The place to stay in Marrakech
Camp Ya Kanzi- Chyulu Hills, Kenya- Highly environmental luxury camp with a huge focus on giving back to the tribes that surround them.
Tsawlu Kalahari Reserve-South Africa Relais & Chateaux Luxury Camp on the Kalahari Desert. Everything is carefully thought out. Game drive at your leisure- service is designed to revolve around the guests and their wishes.
Maison des Reves- Morocco- Extraordinary Kasbah and Desert camp experiences.
Westin Palace Madrid
I am impressed with the Westin Palace. It does not feel like a large hotel.
The concierge personally called me in the US before I left to make sure my transfer times were correct.
Transfers went beautifully, I was met at the airport after baggage claim.
Nice driver, spoke perfect English, not too chatty.
The car was a brand new Mercedes or BMW. It was dark.
Check in was speedy because I am a Starwood member and there is a dedicated place for members to check in.
I made arrangements for dinner at the Rotunda- their restaurant. Traditional elegant restaurant with a huge stained glass dome covering most of the round room.
Drinks were well presented, it was the largest G&T I have ever been served.
The Lobby was elegant, large and welcoming. Furnishings were Spanish antiques.
I was given an Executive suite and the television had a welcome to me on the screen.
Room 406 had a mirrored foyer/hallway, leading into the bedroom.
The room was short walk from the elevator.
There was a small balcony and the door opened for fresh air.
Rooms were inviting, bright, and large – you could actually put on makeup in the bathroom. One bedroom wall was dedicated to closets that were mirrored with a traditional window pane paneling.
I loved the hallways done with dark wood, but well lit and the carpeting was an elegant Persian pattern.
A great mix of tradition with our modern lifestyle. Comfortable, and wonderful personal service.