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Luxury Holidays Move Beyond Europe and the Predictable

The best holidays don’t always begin and end in Europe. And they aren’t about putting up your feet either

Published: Oct 11, 2013 07:43:56 AM IST
Updated: Oct 11, 2013 08:34:43 AM IST
Luxury Holidays Move Beyond Europe and the Predictable
Image: Corbis

Economic distress hasn’t ruffled the Indian holiday spirit. Kotak Wealth and Crisil Research, in their luxury report ‘Top of the Pyramid 2013’, say that the affluent Indian’s vacations plans have largely remained unchanged. You concur. After all, your aunt’s second cousin recently went to Hawaii. Your neighbour has Spain and Arzak on his mind. Your boss just changed her Facebook cover photo. She was skiing in Gstaad last month. These sound fun but you don’t want that T-shirt that only suggests ‘expensive vacation’ —you would rather it said ‘unusual’. Yes, you are reading the right story.

Farthest South

In 1922, English explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard wrote The Worst Journey in the World, a memoir of the disastrous British Antarctic expedition led by Robert Scott in 1910. You would do well to read the book before you sign up for Abercrombie & Kent’s South Pole expedition. This one is not for the weak-hearted. You’ll need to be fit enough to drag a sled for six to eight hours every day for a fortnight, have a fair bit of skiing and snow-camping experience and be able to endure temperatures that can plummet to 30 degrees below zero in the frigidly beautiful continent. The rewards? You’ll be among a handful of individuals to have set foot on the South Pole. The expedition is operated twice a year, in December, and is priced at Rs 38 lakh a person (excluding airfare to Santiago, Chile, and back).
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The Fighter Jet Ride
A clutch of companies north of the Caucasus and elsewhere is offering the passenger seat in lethally quick machines like the MiG-29 and the Sukhoi Su-27, or, if you have a Cold War fetish, even relatively older, subsonic aircraft such as the Hawker Hunter. What does it feel like to climb around 50,000 feet vertically into the atmosphere?

Ask Gautam Singhania. Some years ago, the chairman and managing director of the Raymond Group, well known for his trans-European drives in supercars, went to southern Ukraine to fly in a Sukhoi Su-27. He was first flown on an L-39 Albatros jet trainer. Then, a little later, it was time for him to don the oxygen mask and the pilot’s uniform. “The one thing I remember most vividly was the Sukhoi’s tremendous manoeuverability,” says Singhania. “It was slightly disorienting, we were pulling between 5 and 6 Gs. But it did everything—sharp banking, loops and tailslides.” He wants to fly an Apache helicopter next. If you’re keen on a similar experience, point your cursor to , or . Or, for big little boys, who still read Commando comics on the sly (“Look out, Blue Squadron—Bandits!”), the Fullerton-based Air Combat USA even offers simulated ‘combat’ sessions. Prices for a ride aboard a fighter jet start from Rs 9 lakh.

The Rs 6-lakh-a-night Island

Richard Branson’s Necker Island, ravaged by a fire about two years ago, has been refurbished and is now available for exclusive hire. The billionaire-founder of Virgin Group bought the island, part of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, in 1978. Since then, it has played host to princess Diana, former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Google co-founder Larry Page, among others. The Great House on the 74-acre island is inspired by Balinese design and features nine bedrooms. Depending on which part of the house you are in, you have a choice of two oceans to view: The Caribbean or the Atlantic. Apart from the Great House, you also get six other individual Bali Houses located around the island, an array of chefs and butlers, the opportunity to snorkel and scuba-dive or simply unwind in a hammock by the sea. The weekly rate for exclusive use of the island for a group of 30 people is about Rs 42 lakh, but couples can book themselves on select ‘Celebration Weeks’. Prices start at Rs 19 lakh. Details on .

Luxury Holidays Move Beyond Europe and the Predictable
Image: Getty Images

Julian Robertson’s Route du Bonheur, New Zealand
Where do legendary hedge fund managers go after they’ve made enough money? Julian Robertson, the man behind Tiger Fund, headed to New Zealand, fell in love with the place, built a couple of properties and earned even more money by renting them out. Robertson’s three properties—The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in North lsland, The Farm at Cape Kidnappers on the dramatic Hawke’s Bay, and Matakauri Lodge, near Queenstown, in South Island—are among the pearls Relais & Châteaux, a collection of the finest boutique restaurants across the world, has discovered in New Zealand. A nine-day itinerary may work well. Tee off at the Kauri Cliffs and pay obeisance to Tāne Mahuta—a grand patriarch of a tree in the Waipoua Forest which is older than Christianity; fly to Cape Kidnappers and contemplate the tuatara—a lizard that once lived among dinosaurs; and watch the sun ignite the waters of Lake Wakatipu from the Matakauri Lodge. Robertson’s Route du Bonheur is priced at about Rs 4 lakh per person. More at .

Luxury Holidays Move Beyond Europe and the Predictable

Not Just Another African Safari
Micato is to African safaris what Rolls-Royce is to luxury cars. Their most exclusive offering is the bespoke ‘Private Jet Safari’. With a fleet that includes a Gulfstream II and a King Air 200, it is geared to indulge the long wishlist: Camping in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, an early morning tour of the ancient rock-cut churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, a viewing of the gorillas in Rwanda. A two-week tour could also include the Skeleton Coast of Namibia and the Great Migration in the Serengeti. A week-and-a-half of the high life in Africa, including stays at top-quality lodges and hotels, costs around Rs 50 lakh per person. More on .

Two wheels and A Trail
Bangalore-based motorcycle adventure company indiMotard offers interesting travel options in Sri Lanka and Ladakh but its standout offering is a wide loop in Cambodia that pulls in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the Angkor Vat temple complex, fried tarantulas, French colonial bungalows, and the Gulf of Thailand. Be warned though: This is no ordinary road-biking trip. It is more of an Enduro Expedition, so think trail biking, no network coverage and around 200-odd km of focussed riding for about a week. indiMotard provides the motorcycles—Honda XR250s. The tour costs Rs 74,500 per rider; a pillion will cost an additional Rs 48,000. More details at .

The prices and information have been sourced from the travel companies and other websites. The writer is managing editor of the magazine Man’s World.

(This story appears in the 18 October, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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