Congo Camping, Old-School Safaris and Sailing in the Seychelles: 2019's Best Outdoors Holidays Revealed

by The Daily Telegraph, December 10, 2018

Luxury travel is evolving: now more than ever there is an emphasis on travelling responsibly, in a way that contributes meaningfully to local environments and communities. If one of your objectives for the coming year is to truly immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world (without having to compromise on the comforts you've come to expect on holiday), these new outdoors adventures promise profound and responsibly managed interactions with immense landscapes and vulnerable wildlife. 

Under African Skies Tented safaris

Sleeping under canvas was the original way to safari, and constantly-on-call travellers are increasingly seeking a return to such authentic, immersive, back-to-basics experiences – without forfeiting creature comforts.

Cottar’s in Kenya, Africa’s original safari outfit, is celebrating its centenary in 2019 with a nostalgic one-off ‘walk back in time ’ safari next October. Hosted by Calvin Cottar, great-grandson of the camp’s founder, the tour will move between mobile and tented camps closely associated with the Cottar family over the last century, including its 1920s Camp in the Masai Mara.

In Kenya’s Laikipia, meanwhile, The Safari Collection is about to launch mobile camping on the 17,500-hectare Suyian Ranch, privately guided by its founder, Mikey Carr-Hartley. Expect walks amid elephants, reticulated giraffes, zebras, lions and leopards.

Opening in May is Wilderness Safaris' second Rwandan property on the shores of hippo-filled Lake Rwanyakazinga in Akagera National Park, the elegant six-tented Magashi Camp. Over in Tanzania, Asilia Africa's Namiri Plains found immediate success when it opened five years ago, thanks to its remote location in the Serengeti National Park.

Next summer, it will reopen after a makeover. Guests in the stretch canvas tents will appreciate the addition of solar power - plus a pool and spa.

Even the Bidens, the hoteliers behind Cape Town’s fashionable Silo hotel, are opening their first tented camp. Launching in late 2019, Royal Gorongosa in Mozambique’s vast Gorongosa National Park will provide access to a totally undeveloped area, previously hampered by civil war and poaching, but now thought to have the potential to be Africa’s lost Eden.
By Jane Broughton

Fly-fishing A new angle

Fly-fishing was growing in popularity long before those Beckham boys were pictured at it back in May, so it’s no surprise that the coming year will see a surge in enticing places to do it.

While luxury adventure specialist Eleven Experience has offered fly-fishing at many of its properties for some time, the activity will be the key focus at Patagonia’s Rio Palena Lodge, an old fishing lodge they’ve exquisitely restored and will launch towards the end of 2019. The Rio Palena, known for its massive brown and rainbow trout, is just steps from the seven-bedroom property. In addition to classic wading excursions, more adventurous types can go fishing by helicopter, and can relax afterwards in the wood-fired hot tub and sauna overlooking the valley.

Meanwhile, within 6,000 acres of pristine land near the Ahuriri Valley on New Zealand’s South Island, the new eco-chic Lindis resort opens in early 2019. It is just steps from one of the best fly-fishing locations in the world. No surprise, then, that the property will have a designated fishing guide to take aficionados to secret spots along the Ahuriri river.

Post-excursion, star gazing is set to be among the most popular pastimes – the area is devoid of light pollution and offers spectacular views of the Milky Way.

And if it’s expert tuition you’re after, consider a new trip to Mexico’s Sian Ka’an Reserve with fly-fishing connoisseurs Farlow’s Travel. It visits some of the best flats for tropical saltwater fly-fishing in the world.
By Ondine Cohane

Rio Palena, from £5,585 pp sharing for eight nights; The Lindis, suites from £1,030 pn; Farlow’s, from £1,900 pp for seven nights, based on two sharing, excluding flights and transfers, first departing April 24 2019.

Eco-tourism Hotels with heart

A new hotel group offering meaningful introductions to destinations in the Indian Ocean, Asia, Africa and the Middle East has just opened its first property – in Mauritius. Salt of Palmar, near Belle Mare, is at the forefront of a new wave of sustainable, ethically run hotels. This light-filled, contemporary hotel equips each guest with a bespoke guidebook written by local Mauritians, and bicycles with which to explore.

Elsewhere, Blue Safari Seychelles, a new project aiming to preserve and protect the remote outer islands of the Seychelles, has just launched Cosmoledo Eco Camp, 620 miles from Mahé. With just eight rooms in repurposed shipping containers on removable plinths, the camp can disappear without leaving a footprint.

Opening next month in Panama and 100 per cent solar-powered, Islas Secas Reserve & Lodge’s nine low-impact casitas are shared between a 14-island archipelago, 75 per cent of which will be left conserved in perpetuity. It will also be home to an archaeological dig site and, by 2020, a station to monitor the migration of humpback whales.
By Francesca Syz

Salt of Palmar, from £225 pppn; Cosmoledo, from £675 pppn; Islas Secas, from £610 pppn.

Republic of the Congo Gorillas in the midst

When primatologist Paul Telfer had a chance encounter with a silverback gorilla in the Republic of the Congo in the 1990s, it changed his life, ultimately leading to his stewardship of the Congo Conservation Company, a private entity established by philanthropist Sabine Plattner to pioneer luxury eco-tourism there.

Lying just west of its infamous neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo, the country is home to a pristine 1.3- million-hectare tropical rainforest, and blessed with a supportive government. CCC took its first tentative stab at tourism in 2012 with two small camps in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which offers the continent’s best, most immersive gorilla experience.

The real turning point came in 2017, when their camps in the park – then numbering three – became part of Classic Portfolio’s respected collection of Africa-wide eco-sensitive camps and private game reserves. Within a year, the seven-night Odzala Discovery programme had two scheduled departures a week. January sees the launch of an 11-night Odzala-Sangha adventure – combining the Odza-la-Kokoua National Park with an 80-mile boat trip up the Sangha river into the Sangha Trinational Special Reserve, where guests will stay at newly refurbished Sangha Lodge.

This route provides a backdoor entry to one of the most ecologically important regions in Africa. From wading through clear streams under a canopy of green to encountering Africa’s largest herds of forest elephants, and from hunting with the Ba’Aka ‘pygmies’ to tracking the black-bellied pangolin, this is what Telfer calls ‘the jungle of your dreams’.
By Pippa De Bruyn

The Odzala and Sangha Discovery, £10,380 for 11 nights sharing.

Natural Wonders Other outdoor highlights

  • Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park in 2019 with a stay at the new Under Canvas Grand Canyon, a cluster of uniquely high-end safari tents in a secluded juniper forest close to the South Rim entrance.
  • Opening in August, lakeside resort T-Nest in Lovinac, Croatia, is enveloped by lush, age-old woodland. Staying in chic treehouses, canvas-covered villas and hi-tech cabins, guests will enjoy upmarket wellness and leisure facilities all sensitively embedded in the serene landscape.
  • Meanwhile, guests will be actively encouraged to enjoy the full grape-to-glass experience at Four Seasons Napa Valley when it opens next summer in Calistoga, California. As well as two outdoor pools and discreet private-dining cabanas, it will have its own vineyard and Thomas Brown winery.
  • Opening in autumn on a hill overlooking the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica, Nayara Tented Campw ill feature canopied four-poster beds and plunge pools fed by natural hot springs.
  • Black Tomato’s VIP glamping experience, Blink, sees travellers camping in exceptional locations from the Bolivian Altiplano to the Mekon g River. In Mexico, your lone luxury tent is set amid the peace of Rancho Xocempich, home to three cenotes (limestone sinkholes) and a 20-minute drive from the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá.

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