Seven ultimate adventures to take in 2017
If 2017 is your year for adventure, Robb Report highlights a superyacht charter in Cuba; safaris in Nepal, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe; an Amazon River and rails excursion in Peru; a surfing package in the Maldives; and a canyoneering excursion in Utah — all with five-star accommodations befitting the most discerning traveller.
River to Rails in Peru
For its mix of ancient and contemporary culture, Andean and Amazonian adventure, Peru has been a popular pick on top-destination lists for the better part of a decade. This year, however, the South American country is simply not to be missed, with new luxury options that are making it easier than ever to explore its varied riches — by river, by rail, and by trail.
Make the mighty Amazon your starting point, with a 4-night cruise aboard Aqua Expeditions' newly refurbished Aria Amazon (aquaexpeditions.com).
The 16-suite vessel ventures along the legendary river and its black-water tributaries, with two-per-day skiff excursions to spot wildlife — pink dolphins, piranhas, anacondas, macaws — visit villages, and, for more adventurous guests, maybe even stop for a swim.
When it's time to head for higher ground, the new-for-2017 Belmond Andean Explorer (belmond.com) promises a luxurious link to Peru's most popular mountain destinations.
The 68-passenger sleeper train, which is scheduled to launch in May, will travel from Arequipa in the south to the high-altitude Lake Titicaca in the east to the ancient capital of Cusco, pampering guests along the way with alpaca blankets in the cabins and pisco sours on the observation car's open-air deck.
After disembarking in Cusco, continue your adventure at Explora Valle Sagrado (explora.com), a 50-room lodge that opened in July near the Sacred Valley's Urubamba River. Explora's first lodge outside of Chile, the Valle Sagrado offers off-the-beaten-trail treks in the surrounding Andes peaks, as well as day trips to the must-see Machu Picchu and lesser-known Incan sites. - Bruce Wallin
On Safari in Zimbabwe
There's an official motto in Zimbabwe that says, "Everything that flies has to land." The adage seems particularly fitting these days, as the southern African country — which for years has been plagued by political repression, economic hardship, and rampant poaching — is at last making a return to the safari circuit.
"We are seeing tourism that we just didn't see 4 or 5 years ago," says Henrietta Loyd, founder and co-owner of the UK-based travel company Cazenove + Loyd (cazloyd.com).
The influx is due in part to new anti-poaching efforts, which have resulted in the return of wildlife and, with it, Zimbabwe's world-renowned safari guides. "There is also more investment coming back to the country," Loyd says, citing new and renovated lodges —among them camps from Singita, and Beyond, and Wilderness Safaris — as well as infrastructure improvements like the recently opened international terminal at Victoria Falls Airport.
Indeed, one of Africa's original safari destinations is finally coming in for a landing — and tempting a new generation of travellers to do the same. - Laurie Werner
Cuba from Sand to City
This is a golden moment in Cuban history — one in which the thaw has begun, but the long-isolated country has yet to be forever changed.
Seeing it all now is imperative. And though a stampede of hotel chains is waiting in the wings to make a mad rush at development, there is only one surefire way to see the entire country in high luxury right now: Hop aboard the superyacht St. David (stdavidyacht.co.uk; available through Cuba Educational Travel, cubaeducationaltravel.com) for a 7-night itinerary from Havana to Cayo Santa Maria and back.
The journey — which is bookended by two vibrant nights in the capital city, where passengers can soak in the local flavour at landmarks like the historic Hotel Saratoga — will drop anchor among unspoiled mangroves and coral reefs from Bahía de Cabañas to Cayo Jutías.
While at sea or in port, St. David offers plenty of diversions with six staterooms, three decks, an outdoor cinema, a water-sports centre, and a clubby lounge where the Cuba libres and mojitos will no doubt flow well into the wee hours. - Jackie Caradonio
From Savanna to Sea in Tanzania
The safari/beach combo has hit a new high in Tanzania. The East African country — lauded both for its wildlife conservancies and for its Indian Ocean islands — has new luxury options on both fronts.
Asilia upped the safari game in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with the opening of Highlands (asiliaafrica.com; available through Scott Dunn, scottdunn.com), an eight-tent camp set on the slopes of the extinct Olmoti volcano.
The lodge's Plexiglas domes are a brilliant departure from traditional safari accommodations, maximising views of the crater below and the starry night skies above. Asilia's excursions are also a break from the norm: In addition to the usual Ngorongoro game drives, the camp offers hikes to other craters, far removed from the tourist buzz.
Shortly after Asilia's launch, the eight-bedroom Entamanu Ngorongoro (nomad-tanzania.com) made its debut on a secluded perch along Ngorongoro's rim, giving luxury-seekers another chance to spy wildlife from on high. Meanwhile, post-safari respite can be found at the new Thanda Island ( thandaisland.com), a 8-hectare exclusive-use retreat within the Shunyimbili Island Marine Reserve. - Jackie Caradonio
An Elevated Adventure in Utah
The remote craggy cliffs and sandstone narrows of Utah's national parks have traditionally been the domain of experienced backpackers. This year, however, weekend warriors can access even the most isolated stretches of red-rock terrain with the St. Regis Deer Valley's (stregisdeervalley.com) outdoor exploration series.
Created with the Utah-based Elevated Adventure Company (elevatedadventurecompany.com), the bespoke trips take resort guests from Park City via private jet to geological treasures like the sprawling Canyonlands National Park, the majestic Arches National Park, and the Great Basin for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and more.
A Canyonlands adventure might include scrambling over outcroppings crammed with loose rocks, wriggling through keyhole-like tunnels, and rappelling down cliffs — all in a single venturesome day.
St. Regis guests can also cycle through the prehistoric formations of Moab and, for a true backpacker experience, overnight in the Great Basin. Of course, every weekend warrior will eventually finish the journey in comfort at the resort, which features a Remède Spa and Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. - Carolyn Meers
Chasing Waves in the Maldives
The Maldives is legendary among wave hunters. Shaped like a string of pearls, the long chain of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean meanders through some of the world's best — and most difficult to access — surf breaks.
Promising an over-the-top tour through this surfer's paradise is the brand-new Four Seasons Maldives Private Island at Voavah, Baa Atoll (fourseasons.com).
Opened in December, the 2-hectare resort — an exclusive-use property with just seven villas and suites — has partnered with the Aussie outfitter Tropicsurf to curate an epic surfing safari.
Travelling aboard the Four Seasons' 19-metre Horizon yacht, participants can paddle out at Jails, Cokes, and other secret breaks with one of Voavah's equally famous coaches, who include former world champion Sunny Garcia.
Four-night surfing packages are priced from $US280,000 (about $A369,600) for as many as 20 guests and include a total takeover — PADI dive centre and all — of Voavah. - Jackie Caradonio
Wet and Wild in Nepal
Little appears to have changed in Nepal's Terai lowlands over the last century. Rough-hewn dirt roads wind in and out of lush thickets of jungle, passing through tiny Tharu villages clustered with shaggy grass-topped huts.
Locals — women dressed in colourful skirts and men wearing woven hats — drift up and down the Rapti River, bathing, washing clothes, and gathering reeds for trade. And deep within the golden grasslands of the Chitwan National Park, Bengal tigers, greater one-horned rhinoceroses, and elephants still roam.
Just opposite the park, however, change has come in the form of the region's first luxury safari lodge, Meghauli Serai (tajhotels.com).
Opened last April, the Taj Safaris property might have seemed out of place in the long-enduring landscape if it weren't so carefully conceived: Sixteen thatch-roofed villas outfitted with Tharu artifacts and hand-painted murals nestle almost imperceptibly in the grassland.
Creature comforts include a Jiva spa offering ayurvedic treatments and an infinity-edge pool that appears to pour straight into the Rapti. Still, the true luxury of Meghauli Serai is its total immersion, from early-morning tiger treks and rhino safaris to evening canoe rides alongside wild gharials and swamp francolins.
Afternoons can be spent riverside with the locals; one in particular — the lodge's resident elephant, Anjali — might even join you for a swim. - Jackie Caradonio