The Most Extraordinary Experiences To Add To Your Travel Bucket List In 2020
Book an exclusive private island
Blame Robinson Crusoe. His 300-year-old story of shipwreck, misery, God, cannibals, slaves and savages has, over the course of time, morphed into a dream castaway experience. The deserted island mirage, with sunny days and balmy nights, swaying palm trees and white-sand beaches, sends the best of us into a trance.
Transformative travel may be all the rage, but the restorative power of getting away from it all and doing nothing should not be underestimated. It’s fuelled a boom in private-island resorts, scattered in cays and atolls across the oceans, offering levels of pampering that would make Mr Crusoe weep with joy on his boy Friday’s shoulder.
From Fiji to the Philippines, you’ll find overwater villas, underwater spas, floating bars, infinity pools, celebrity chefs, personal butlers, yoga gurus, glorious sunrises and spectacular sunsets, minus the hoi polloi.
The best nurture the mind, body and soul, while newer breeds such as Wa Ale in Myanmar and Bawah Reserve in Indonesia are grounded in conservation and philanthropy. Upping the ante are exclusive-use private islands—the Maldives is a fail-safe place to start: Four Seasons Voavah; the Owner’s Villa at Cheval Blanc Randeli; and Ithaafushi Private Island at the Waldorf Astoria are all worth a look. But for the ultimate in exclusivity and privacy, these three islands take it to another level.
What do you get for US$100,000 at Banwa? For a start, it buys you a night at this six-hectare slice of paradise in Palawan, a two-hour helicopter or seaplane hop from Manila. On it are six contemporary villas accommodating up to 22 people, with floor-to-ceiling windows, private infinity pools and beach frontage. They’ve also thrown in a golf short course, tennis court, water sports, cocktails and organic meals on demand, as well as unlimited massages.
And because it’s within a marine conservation area, look out for Hawksbill turtles, whale sharks, Tabon birds and Mantanani scops owls. Be warned, though, one night is not enough—you’ll want more, many more.
Discover more about Banwa here
Nukutepipi, French Polynesia
In space, no one can hear you scream, and at Nukutepipi, neither can your neighbours. This micron of an atoll in the Pacific Ocean is some 6,000 kilometres from the nearest continental landmass, which means it’s good for a thumping celebration, though its splendid isolation and abundance of nature make it even better for chilling.
The vision of Guy Laliberté, co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, the self-sustaining resort took well over a decade to realise. Sixteen villas and bungalows, set among lush vegetation, accommodate up to 52 guests in understated comfort. A host of facilities and activities are available: scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, whale-watching and lagoon tours, to name a few. You’ll never go hungry, with two restaurants serving island-grown produce and ultra-fresh seafood.
Discover more about Nukutepipi here
Tanzania has lions and elephants, but did you know it has whale sharks and manta rays, too? Overshadowed by its fame as a safari destination, the country’s beaches and islands are also bucket-list worthy. Take Thanda—developed by Swedish philanthropists Dan and Christin Olafson—an eight-hectare emerald and ivory jewel set within the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve.
The main villa, built in a breezy throwback plantation style, sleeps up to 10 adults and nine children, while two traditional open-air bandas house a further four guests. The Swahili feast is a decadent affair that includes curries with hand-squeezed coconut milk, fresh lobster and oysters.
Discover more about Thanda here
See also: This Exclusive Maldives Private Island Experience Just Launched For US$250K Per Night
Create incredible one-off experiences
Experiential, transformative and conscious travel—the terms fall in and out of favour faster than an influencer gains and loses loyalty. What you need to know is that the best travel experiences can be life-changing, not just for you but those around you. In the swirl of travelgrams, overtourism and sharing economies, the well-off and curious are increasingly looking for deep-dive encounters, ones that take you out of your comfort zone, even in familiar destinations.
“We’re living in an age where people are much more open than ever to embracing opportunities that truly better themselves,” says Tom Marchant, co-founder of luxury travel company Black Tomato. “The role travel plays in helping them along that journey is only going to grow.” The company claims to have consistently exceeded 200 per cent year-on-year sales growth. That’s no surprise when, according to a Skift research report in 2018, more than half of travellers rank transformative travel as very important, and more than half also place value on this type of travel.
What is possible these days is limited only by imagination and budget, with virtually every corner of the globe within reach for unique, knock-your-socks-off journeys. “We have a brilliant network of contacts around the globe that reaches far beyond the travel industry,” says Geordie Mackay Lewis, co-founder of Pelorus, “so we can ensure guests are accompanied by whoever knows the region best, be that an expert marine biologist, ornithologist or photographer. Whatever it may be, we can make it happen.” Take it away with these three.
Long before #traveldeeper became a thing, there was Black Tomato. Founded by three peripatetic Australians, the company was among the first to systematically craft experiences that went well beyond the norms of luxury travel. The company has evolved from headline-grabbing treks to the top of Mount Everest to offer a breadth of experiences spanning all seven continents, suitable for diverse age groups and interests.
Among their top picks for 2020 are a hands-on food and wine experience in London and the UK’s Lake District with English chef Simon Rogan, and a Blink experience in Semuc Champey, Guatemala. The latter is next-level glamping, with luxury tents set up for the duration of your stay, then dismantled, leaving no trace of your presence.
Discover more about Black Tomato here
See also: 10 Luxury Glamping Sites Around The World
Extraordinary Adventure Club
The struggle is real for the 0.01 percent of the population that the Extraordinary Adventure Club (EAC) is aimed at—children who have inherited immense wealth or burntout hedge funders. To be clear, though, this is no holiday—far from it. For those who can afford the minimum £175,000 fee, EAC is a radical personal transformation programme where travel to far-flung places is part of the therapy.
First, you need to be vetted by founder Calum Morrison, a former Royal Marines officer, and his team. Then you commit to six months of coaching and problem-solving with relevant experts before finding yourself in challenging environments, such as trekking with nomads through the Sudanese desert or dogsledding across a Norwegian mountain plateau.
Discover more Extraordinary Adventure Club here
Co-founded by a couple of former British Army captains, Geordie Mackay-Lewis and Jimmy Carroll, Pelorus positions itself at the wild and wonderful end of the travel spectrum, with trips planned and executed with military precision.
The company specialises in private adventures, which start with an interest or experience such as skiing or culture, before selecting the destination, expedition and special projects that push the limits. This could entail an espionage mission with counter-terrorism experts or joining anti-poaching patrol teams on the front line in Kenya. New for 2020 is a family-friendly Moroccan journey from the medinas of Marrakech to the passes of the Atlas Mountains.
Discover more about Pelorus here
See also: 9 New Museums Worth Travelling For In 2020
Sail to the ends of the earth
“How big?” is often the question on the lips of those in the world of superyachts, where the length of your ship is taken as proxy for the size of your bank account. As the number of billionaires soars, so too does the number of yacht sales, which increased from 285 pre-owned yachts sold at a value of $2.2 billion in 2009 to 428 sold for $2.9 billion in 2017, and 453 sold for $3.6 billion in 2018, with the figure expected to be higher again in 2019.
Along with record growth in sales, “yachts are getting longer,” says Paolo Casani, CEO of brokerage and charter firm Camper & Nicholsons. “As clients request submersibles and aquatic toys, and even outdoor kitchens and drone photography units, newer boats are breaking the mould in both size and design,” he adds.
Good news for you: there’s a greater choice of lavish, state-of-the-art yachts for charter. “While the Mediterranean and Caribbean remain the most popular charter destinations, we have seen an increased demand for advanced exploration capacity,” says Gary Wright, cofounder and chairman of Y.Co yacht brokers. This means there has never been a better time to charter a yacht to take you almost anywhere you want, including some of the most inaccessible places on earth, when you want.
Camper & Nicholsons
With a history dating back to 1782, Camper & Nicholsons knows a thing or two about yachts, whether it’s building, brokering, chartering or crewing one. Want a razor-sharp vessel that will turn heads in any port and is capable of circumnavigating the globe? Try the 57.5-metre Twizzle, a proven blue water cruiser that has nabbed a slew of design awards, with four staterooms accommodating up to eight guests.
Or how about a superyacht that will push the boundaries? That would be Tranquility, which packs in a 215sqft pool, beach club and spa suite complete with a sauna, hammam and treatment rooms. It also has nine guest cabins sleeping up to 18 guests, as well as accommodation for 31 crew within its ample 91-metre length. Whatever you have in mind, just ask.
Discover more about Camper & Nicholsons here
Prana by Atzaro
Prana by Atzaro claims to be the biggest and most luxurious phinisi in the world, a bold statement when the likes of Rascal Cruises and Aman Voyages ply the same Indonesian waters in style.
The claim has merit: the 55-metre, handcrafted teak and ironwood yacht boasts 9,687sqft of usable space across four decks, and hosts nine stylish suites. The master suite is bigger than most urban apartments, complete with a wraparound terrace. Soothing shades of cream and taupe hint at Ibiza, not surprising given the owners run an acclaimed boutique hotel on the White Isle.
Instead of beach clubs, however, you’ll be taking a chill pill as it cruises around Raja Ampat, a ridiculously Instagrammable archipelago that’s shot to fame with help from the likes of Kim Kardashian.
Discover more about Prana by Atzaro here
ee also: Prana By Atzaro: Exploring Raja Ampat On The World’s Most Luxurious Liveaboard
Sailing to uncharted territories is much easier with the 77-metre Legend. The swells across the notorious Drake Passage can still be sickening—up to 15 metres or more on a bad day—but this former Russian icebreaker is one of the very few charter yachts capable of getting you into the waters of Antarctica proper in supreme luxury.
Best for adventure seekers, it comes with two helicopters, plus a submarine and snowmobiles, making it perfect for snowshoeing on the White Continent. The interiors are somewhat Liberace-meets-oligarch, with a white grand piano, cream leather sofas and 11 cabins inspired by cities from Moscow to Rio de Janeiro, while the Balinese-style spa and 16-person jacuzzi will warm your soul in the bitter cold.
Discover more about Legend here
See also: The Best First-Class Airline Experiences In The World