by The Telegraph, January 17, 2018
If this is the year you've finally decided to seek out new horizons, you're in luck. With conversation and sustainability a core consideration, a number of hoteliers and travel pioneers are facilitating access to some of the world's most remote and beautiful locations. From exploring the majesty of rural Chile to contributing to the community in Cambodia, adventure awaits.
Experience the call of the wild in Chile
When the inspirational American conservationist, philanthropist and businessman Doug Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in Patagonia in 2015, conservationists around the world wondered what would become of his dream to protect the region’s most ecologically valuable areas. Earlier this year, his widow, Kris – the former CEO of outdoor clothing firm Patagonia Inc – promised one million acres of privately owned land to the Chilean government on behalf of Tompkins Conservation, the organisation they created together.
In a move that symbolised the end of a long-held mistrust between Santiago’s politicians and the American philanthropists, President Michelle Bachelet responded by designating a further 10 million acres as wilderness. The accord created three new government-managed national parks – Pumalin, Melimoyu and Patagonia – and expanded three existing ones.It also furthered a Chilean plan to create a 1,500-mile National Parks Route, linking 17 protected areas.
For those keen to explore it, a good base is The Lodge at Valle Chacabuco inside Patagonia Park (from £377 per night; itineraries can be arranged by Steppes Travel ), built by the Tompkins themselves. Between these and three new marine parks created last November in collaboration with the tiny South Pacific island of Niue, covering 290,000 square miles of ocean, Chile is setting a much-needed example for its South American neighbours. While some travellers will be sad that great swathes of the marine park are off-limits to all but scientists, others will realise thatthatis precisely the point.
By Chris Moss
Sail seas of sand in Namibia
Natural Selection is a new collection of owner-managed safari lodges that considers tourism a valuable tool in the battle to conserve and protect southern Africa’s last great wild places. At its core is a network of seven camps across northern Botswana, with another two due to open in South Africa this year. The company’s most adventurous projects, though, lie in Namibia, where 2018 will see the unveiling of Nkasa Linyanti Camp, in the wildlife-rich wetlands of Caprivi, and Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast, with 12 rooms designed as shipwrecks hidden in the dunes.
Perhaps the most exciting, Hoanib Valley Camp (from £300 per night), which opens in the Kaokoveld in May, is a six-tent camp developed in partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. This will be home to a long-running project overseen by Dr Julian Fennessy, the world’s foremost expert on giraffes, and guests can interact with researchers working to conserve this desert-adapted Angolan species. Encounters with the traditional Himba people are a further privilege of spending time in one of the last truly wild places on the planet.
By Nigel Tisdall
Scale your own private mountain in the United States
Why share a mountain when you can have one to yourself? They’ve got this thoroughly spoiling concept covered at top ski resorts in the US. It all started with Montana’s Yellowstone Club, where members stump up a £230,000 joining fee, purchase a property (from £1.5-£19 million) and pay annual fees of £30,000 to access the clubhouse and 2,200 acres of skiable terrain. Vermont’s Hermitage Club followed, offering members-only ski access to Haystack Mountain at weekends and during school holidays: family memberships cost£64,500.
Now there’s Colorado’s Cimarron Mountain Club which has opened membership to 15 families, with annual fees from£42,000 and properties from around £2.4 million, offering private cat skiing on 1,950 acres and a slick clubhouse. Eagle Point Resort, Utah boasts 40 marked trails and can now be booked for up to 200 people from £5,900 per day. And Silverton Mountain, Colorado can be yours from £11,500 per day, with the option of a helicopter for extra thrills.
By Gabriella Le Breton
An East Africa solo safari
Privacy is always key for savvy safari-goers. With this in mind, the latest crop of sole-use villas in some of East Africa’s most under-threat wildlife hot spots are in high demand, as travellers seek solitude and flexibility, while knowing that simply by checking in, they are “making a difference”.
This month, Asilia Africa will open Jabali Private House (from £2,500) in Tanzania’s largest national park, Ruaha – home to 10 per cent of the world’s lion population. Alongside three earthy-yet-chic bedrooms, a private plunge pool and in-room spa treatments, expect night drives and walking safaris and organically grown fresh produce.
Singita has just completed a lavish upgrade of its flagship safari villa, the four-bedroom Serengeti House (from £4,750). It overlooks the Grumeti’s open plains, where guests have unlimited access to 350,000 private, game-filled acres. Over in Kenya’s Masai Mara, up to 18 guests can have exclusive use of &Beyond Bateleur Camp ’s rebuilt North or South camps following this romantic property’s March 2018 reopening (from £9,335). It stands in the privately leased Kichwa Tembo concession on the edge of the reserve’s vast, game-rich expanse. In Laikipia, also in Kenya, Segera Retreat has just added the solar-powered Nay Palad Bird Nest (from £872), a circular sleep-out retreat for up to four guests, with 360-degree views of the wilderness.
By Jane Broughton
A new perspective on Cambodia
Secret places are getting harder to find in south-east Asia, but south-west Cambodia remains one. Knai Bang Chatt (from £136), a Le Corbusier-inspired design hotel in the seaside resort of Kep, was one of the first great places to stay. Then came Song Saa Private Island (from £675), a sanctuary of 27 waterside villas in the untouched Koh Rong Archipelago.
In spring, Rosewood Phnom Penh is due to open; summer sees Six Senses Krabey Island debut, while Alila Hotels & Resorts has a villa resort underway on nearby Koh Russey, due to open in late 2018. Thrill-seekers may want to wait for Shinta Mani Wild Bensley Collection, which opens in the Southern Cardamom National Park in autumn. Created by the flamboyant designer Bill Bensley, this will offer 16 tents on stilts and a mantra that “adventure awaits”. Bensley has also designed the Shinta Mani Angkor Bensley Collection, which opened last month.
By Nigel Tisdall