There’s a real buzz in our offices — everyone seems to have either just returned from somewhere exciting, or they’re busy planning their next adventure.
So, we sat down with four of our most seasoned specialists to discuss how you can best plan your own unforgettable trip for next year, or beyond. To help inspire you/get the creative juices flowing, we asked our foursome to unpack the top three trends they’ve identified while designing client trips for next year.
Africa safari specialist Tom
Tom’s thirst for travel has seen him visit almost 60 countries across six continents, but it’s the wildernesses of Africa and the epic wildlife that keep drawing him back.
Southeast Asia specialist Sophie
Sophie’s had a busy year, having recently completed an Audley research trip to Borneo, and graduated with a postgraduate degree in International Development focusing on sustainable tourism.
South America & polar specialist Caroline
After almost 12 years at Audley, Caroline has become a stalwart presence in our South America team and has recently returned from an expedition cruise to the Arctic.
India, Sri Lanka & Iceland specialist Niall
Niall’s search for adventure has taken him all over Asia, including a tuk-tuk journey across India. His passion has earned him a place on Travel + Leisure’s list of top travel advisors.
'We’re seeing a focus on getting as much out of a trip as possible, particularly when it comes to where to stay. No one’s been able to travel for a while, and people are looking for more than a place to rest their head.'
Tom: There are some camps where you’ll find a chandelier in your tent, but I think the real luxury is in the experience itself. The best camps offer only a handful of tents, personal butler service, and private vehicles and guides. Asilia camps are my top pick — their temporary camps that follow the Great Migration maintain an air of elegance and put you in the heart of the action.
I’m also planning more trips for multiple generations — I think people want to reconnect after the past couple of years. Private safari villas are a great way to do this: you get your own dedicated guides, safari vehicles, and chef.
Niall: If you’re looking for wow factor, I love India’s palatial forts. You can add a few days to your trip and really take time to enjoy the pampering experience. There’s also a new Six Senses property near Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan. Housed in the converted 14th-century Fort Barwara, it’s a really grand property with a focus on wellness.
Sophie: There are some exciting new places to stay in Borneo offering an extra level of comfort. I recently tried out Cove 55, just outside Kuching, where I spent a few days lazing by the infinity pool at the foot of Mount Santubong, overlooking the South China Sea. During your stay you can explore the rainforest, and take trips to see the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins.
Caroline: My top recommendation for a memorable stay is Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador. It sits on a private reserve and every room has floor-to-ceiling views of the cloudforest. It’s very comfortable, of course, but the real luxury here is the location and exclusivity — there are just 22 rooms. And the birdwatching opportunities, right from your doorstep, are hard to beat.
Experiences with wow factor
‘It’s not just hotels where there’s a desire for wow factor, it’s in the experiences, too — travellers want every moment of their trip to be the best it possibly can be.’
Sophie: I’ve got a client off to Borneo in a few weeks and he’s just added a helicopter trip to see Mount Kinabalu, the island’s highest peak, from above. It’s going to be the high point of the trip... literally! I suggest you follow suit if you’re looking for a moment, and a view, to remember.
Niall: If Bhutan is on your must-do list, it’s time to bump it to the top. The government is now strictly limiting the number of visas, so you’ll have a great experience with only a few other visitors. It’s also got a surprising number of luxurious hotels, like the Amankora Gangtey Lodge. It has just eight suites overlooking the Phobjikha Valley, each heated with a bukhati — a traditional wood-burning stove.
Tom: For me, gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re looking for something quieter and more exclusive, there’s nothing that compares. You could opt for Uganda if you want to really focus your whole trip around primate experiences, or Rwanda if you want a wider variety of safaris. When I’m planning a trip, I like to build the anticipation and put gorilla trekking at the end.
Caroline: A once-in-a lifetime experience? I’d say cruising Antarctica. Just getting down there is an adventure. There’s a range of new ships launching, including Silversea’s Silver Endeavour, which has exceptionally comfortable cabins and views that are worlds away from the old porthole windows!
Bolder trip planning
‘We’re also noticing a bigger sense of adventure. Everyone wants to deviate from the popular routes, in search of something different — be that a detour to a little-visited town or city, or a full-on trip into a wild frontier’
Tom: There’s a classic route through South Africa that I often use as a basis to craft trips around, but lately I find myself deviating from this and adding time in Zambia or Botswana, or even more unusual regions in South Africa beyond Kruger National Park, like Madikwe Game Reserve in the northwest.
It really makes me happy, as a specialist, because I think you get the best trip when you can let go of a set of must-visit locations and be open to more off-the-beaten-track experiences.
Niall: Hiking is a great way to get off-piste. There’s a series of privately guided multi-day hikes in Sikkim, a remote part of India squeezed between Nepal and Bhutan, where you stay in local village houses that have been converted into mini luxury guesthouses. Dinner is served alfresco, overlooking the Himalayan peaks.
Sophie: Deramakot Forest Reserve in Malaysian Borneo is a remote, frontier-like location. You’ll stay in a basic lodge that’s looked after by the park ranger’s family, near a remote jungle research station renowned for being the best place to see Borneo’s five species of wild cats in their natural habitat.
If you’ve got a wildlife experience you’ve always wanted to do but keep putting it off, now is the time. When looking for wildlife there’s never any guarantee, but with challenges to many species’ habitats, it may be now or never, and your stay helps promote the conservation of the area.
Expert tips for planning your 2023 adventure
- It’s tempting to try and squeeze in as many countries as possible into one trip, but rushing from place to place and including multiple border crossings doesn’t always give you the best experience. Focus in and slow your pace — you’ll see much more.
- Plan well ahead. There are lots of rearranged events finally taking place that can affect trip planning. For example, weddings often block a hotel out for a number of days — or up to a week in some countries.
- If you’re considering a cruise, make the most of early booking offers and secure your voyage soon.
- Travel outside the peak season and you’re likely to have a better experience overall, as it’s quieter and better value for money — you’ll often find our specialists on their own travels outside the peak season. If you’re planning a special trip but need help narrowing down your options, speak to our concierge service.
- If you don’t normally travel business class but you’ve always wanted to try it, now is the time to splurge and go for it. You’ll get fast-tracked through most airports and usually have access to a dedicated check-in, security area, and lounge — you’ll just glide right through the airport.
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