Luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent has launched its Life Changing Year of Travel campaign, a collection of experiences designed to truly immerse travellers in a variety of destinations and ways. Highlighting the companies wide ranging immersive experiences, the collection is underpinned by the combined knowledge and expertise of its 55 offices globally and over 2500 staff.
A&K’s travel experiences have been grouped into 12 different themes and travellers can choose to make a difference and understand animal life in a dream destination, such as meeting with conservationists in Botswana, or track a gorilla in Rwanda. For others who wish to challenge themselves, they can learn Muay Thai or try Sri Lanka’s unique art of stilt fishing. Read on to see our top selection.
CONSERVATION IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Arkaba is a quintessential homestead among 24,000 hectares of South Australian outback. Experience its vetted conservation programme designed to monitor rare wildlife and the surrounding precious landscape. Join a field guide in the evening to track a radio-collared quoll (a nocturnal marsupial). Set up monitors in key sites and install heat sensor cameras to capture the movement of these rarely seen creatures. You’ll also gain insight into the strategies used to minimise Arkaba’s impact on the land. Learn about its clever energy-saving tricks and the ‘buy local’ ethos. All Arkaba’s food and beverage is sourced from South Australia.
Stay: Arkaba, a former-sheep-station-turned-stylish homestead among a vast private conservancy.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a seven-night tailormade South Australia self-drive itinerary from £4,790 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
RESTORE ART IN ITALY WITH AN EXPERT
There is a global effort underway to help restore the monuments that are the cultural heritage of Florence and are regarded as world treasures. At The Chapel of the Madonna of Giambologna, an artistic gem of the Renaissance period in Santissima Annunziata (Church of the Annunciation). This church is considered one of the top must-see churches in Florence. Guests can take part on an ambitious restoration project sponsored by Abercrombie & Kent. Accompanied by a member of the small, on-site team of art restorers, visit the Giambologna Chapel, one of the Basilica’s many side chapels. Observe firsthand how restorers bring out the original features of its Renaissance artworks, which might otherwise be lost forever.
Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.co.uk; 01242 547 934) offers a three-night trip to Florence from £1295pp. Includes flights, transfers, accommodation and guiding.
GO ON A CHEETAH CONSERVATION WATCH – TANZANIA
Kusini and its southern plains are famous for their high cheetah population. But partly because of habitat loss and partly because of human conflict, cheetahs are now designated as Vulnerable to Extinction. Today there are very few of these sleek, majestic animals still roaming free in the wild. The Serengeti Cheetah Project compiles vital information in the fight to protect the species. When a cheetah is seen, it is photographed and identified by its unique spot patterns. Its location, condition and reproductive status are entered into a database to map, monitor and protect the movement of cheetah populations. Guests can go spotting a cheetah on safari with Sanctuary Kusini or another of our Serengeti camps, submit your photographs, along with information about where and when it was seen, to the Serengeti Cheetah Project. They will be entered into the database and provide valuable information to researchers.
Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.co.uk; 01242 547 702) offers 12 nights from £6,500pp. Includes flights, transfers, accommodation and some guiding.
COWBOY COLLEGE IN ARIZONA
Pull on a Stetson and leather chaps for a taste of real-deal cowboy life in Arizona’s desert. If you sign up to cowboy college, you’ll soon slot into the prairie picture. Saddle up and ride Western style, practising horsemanship as well as rope and wrangling techniques. Swing a lasso like a pro and master the art of shoeing. You can show off your skills at the gymkhana, jumping fences and cantering around barrels – guaranteed family fun. Highlights include cattle round ups and kids’ camp specials that will have your darlings reading animal body language and driving mini horse-carts.
Stay at: Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch A desert oasis with waterways, gondolas.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a 12 night ‘south west family explorer’ tailor-made holiday including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences from £5,680pp.
LEARN MUAY THAI IN THAILAND
Martial arts’ fans won’t want to miss this chance to experience a Muay Thai lesson with one of Bangkok’s
revered champions. Step into The Siam Hotel’s on-site boxing ring, where under the guidance of your pro, you’ll practice one of the world’s most effective striking martial-art forms. Learn to punch, kick, elbow and knee at lighting speed. Your instructor will perform pad work, while helping you perfect the dazzling moves. After an intense workout, you can soothe your muscles in The Siam’s Opium Spa. A pampering herbal steam and Muay Thai massage is the perfect antidote.
Stay at: The Siam – Heritage-style luxury and Art Deco flair in Bangkok’s historic heart.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a 12-night tailor-made Discover Thailand itinerary from £2,980 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
GANGA AARTI AT ANANDA HIMALAYA
Witness the unforgettable spiritual experience of Aarti, which takes place at sunset along the banks of the holy Ganga River at Rishikesh. It’s most atmospheric in the evening when countless oil lamps are lit and night falls. Accompanied by a local guide, you can listen to the hymns sung by saffron-robed gurus, smell the heady scent of incense and watch disciples sway in unison. Ananda’s forest scenery and palatial architecture in the Himalayan foothills perfectly complement this peaceful setting. Luxuriate from head to toe in an award-winning spa, celebrating the philosophy and wellness practices of the surrounding region.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a nine-night ‘The Indian Himalaya’ trip from £2,195pp tailor-made holiday including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
MEET A BRAZILIAN TRIBE
Veer off-the-beaten track to explore an untouched part of the Brazilian Amazon and gain access to one of the country’s most powerful tribes. Start with a hike through the Central Brazilian Plateau keeping an eye out for river otter and deer as well as elusive creatures such as puma and jaguar. You’ll meet members of the important Kayapo tribe and immerse yourself in their way of life untainted by the modern world. Learn how the women and children apply their body paint and decorate your face with the richly coloured designs. You also have the chance to explore the Iriri River, a large tributary of the giant Xingu.
Stay at: Kayapo Camp. A comfortable, wilderness tented camp with en-suite bathrooms and eco-creds to boot.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a nine-night trip from £4,945 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
FIRST LOOK AT JOALI, MALDIVES
Set on a swathe of white sand that crumbles into azure water, Joali is a hot-to-trot retreat in the Maldives’ Raa atoll. Bunk down in lavish villas boasting sun-kissed infinity pools and butlers, who can magic up icy margaritas and seafood snacks. Rooms boast backdrops of crystal water and swoon-worthy beach. Enjoy scuba diving with a marine biologist and dhoni rides at sunset. Families can make use of the all-singing, all-dancing amenities like the spa for kids, cookery school and ice-cream shop. Choose from four excellent restaurants, one serving fresh-from-the-sea Japanese fare.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a seven-night stay at Joali, Maldives starts at £8,320 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
OYSTER PICKING IN ECUADOR
Accompanied by an expert chef, head out to a rocky islet where you can pick oysters for lunch. Step out into the sun and salty air when the tide is low to gather oysters from the tide pools and exposed reef. Prize open the oysters with a knife revealing pearlescent beauties. Then indulge in that straight-from-the-sea flavour, especially vibrant in the first few minutes. There’s no need for Tabasco or sauces. You can taste the full effect of their natural flavour perfectly paired with a crisp chardonnay – the ultimate shoreside dining experience.
Stay at: Tanusas Retreat & Spa. A stylish coastal hideaway with thatched roofs and a pampering spa.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers ten-night tailormade Discover Ecuador itinerary from £3,995 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
TRUFFLE HUNTING IN TUSCANY
Rise early to capture idyllic Tuscan scenes from Asciano, a hilltop town famed for its annual white truffle festival. Meet an experienced tartufaio (truffle hunter) and his faithful dogs and let the hunt begin. Start scouring an exclusive reserve, one of the few areas in the world where you can find this precious tuber. As you wander through the woodland, watch the specially trained hounds use their powerful noses to dig out Italy’s most prized delicacy. Why not finish the hunt with lunch and wine tasting in a picture-perfect spot?
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a seven-night ‘discover Florence & Tuscany’s’ food and wine trip from £1,625pp including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.
GORILLA TREKKING IN RWANDA
You may be a fan of Gorillas in the Mist but nothing can live up to the real thing. A visit to Rwanda means you can get close to this highly endangered species and observe gorilla in the wild. Venture to Volcanoes National Park accompanied by an expert guide who can lead you to one of the resident gorilla families. Follow in Dian Fossey’s footsteps studying entertaining infants and charismatic silverbacks, some weighing in at more than 150 kilograms. It’s a soul-stirring encounter. With only eight travellers per group, you’ll be one of the rare few to experience these creatures completely undisturbed.
Stay at: Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, A cosy forested retreat in the foothills of the Virungas.
Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547 701) offers a Classic Rwanda itinerary from £6,695 including flights, transfers, accommodation and some experiences.