Today (January 7, 2019): My 2019 trips that I am most excited about.
At the end of the past year, I reflected on my most memorable travel experiences of 2018. But now that 2019 is finally here, it’s time to look forward and share with you 10 great trips that I am planning for the coming year and that I am looking forward to share with you in my Wednesday blog posts (which always feature a flight trip reports and luxury hotel reviews).
If you have some tips and suggestions for my upcoming trips, please share them in the comments section below!
In spring 2019, I am going on a short weekend trip to Colombia, to attend the wedding of one my best friends in Cartagena. I had different options to choose from regarding my flight from Europe to Colombia, and in the end, I booked a transatlantic flight in Business Class on a B787 Dreamliner of Avianca from Madrid to Bogota (I could also have flown Iberia or Lufthansa but decided to try Avianca for the purpose of this blog, since I have already covered the Business Class products of Iberia and Lufthansa). Avianca is the flagship carrier of Colombia and the second largest airline in Latin America, after LATAM. Avianca is also the world’s second oldest airline after KLM, and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2009, when it was announced that it would merge with TACA. Avianca’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners have 28 seats in Business Class in a 1-2-1 herringbone layout, and the premium product gets excellent reviews on other blogs, so I am looking forward to this flight. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make nice trip report!
The lush strip of land called Bora Bora lies in the South Pacific Ocean’s most mesmerizing lagoon and has, as you probably expect, some pretty awesome beaches. Luxurious bungalows nestled over ridiculously clear waters with Mount Otemanu as a tropical backdrop put Bora Bora in the bucket list of many travelers. I am planning a week-long (return) trip to Bora Bora in October, which should be the end of the dry season. I will stay at the St Regis and Four Seasons resorts, both of them representing the best French Polynesia has to offer in terms of accommodations. I also intend to stay at the The Brando Resort on French Polynesia’s private island of Tetiaroa – an atoll composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling lagoon 30 mi (50 km) northeast of Tahiti. It was in this natural wonderland that actor Marlon Brando settled down and finally found his home (hence explaining the name of the resort). I will fly to French Polynesia in Business Class on Air Tahi Nui via Tokyo for just 25 USD and 80,000 miles American Airline miles. I am also exploring the possibility of visiting Easter Island on my way back home, since LATAM operates direct flights between Tahiti and Easter Island. Easter Island is home not only to monumental statues, called moai, but also to the famous Rapa Nui lodge.
Dutch carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of my favorite airlines in the world. I love KLM’s super-friendly cabin crew (in their oh-so-recognizable blue cabin attendant uniforms) and the carrier’s attention for design elements – such as Marcel Wanders tableware, the Jan Taminiau amenty kit, and the Delft Blue miniature Dutch houses (filled with gin). KLM is currently completing the retrofitting of its A330 aircraft with new World Business Class cabin interiors and seats, created by renowned Dutch designer Hella Jongerius. The Business Class cabins of all KLM’s Boeings 747, 777-200 and 777-300 have already undergone this transformation. KLM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners already have the new-style World Business Class cabins. KLM’s new World Business Class features full-flat seats, in-seat power, improved privacy, and a brand-new personal entertainment system with an 18” screen, HD quality films and a touchscreen navigation menu in 12 languages. I have booked a Business Class ticket on one of KLM’s A330s for my trip to Rwanda early 2019 (more on that below). I keep my fingers crossed that KLM will have finished the refurbishment of its A330 fleet by the time I am flying them (the old product is underwhelming), so that I can report on the (hopefully great) product.
In summer 2019, I will follow in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone and brace for one of thé ultimate trips that one can make in a lifetime. I will travel from the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to South Africa’s magnificent Mother City Cape Town, an epic journey that will bring me through the vast wilderness of Namibia and Botswana, covering all of Southern Africa’s highlights. I will hike in the Fish River Canyon, spot wildlife in Etosha National Park, track predators in the Okavango Delta, watch the sun rise over the world’s highest dunes in Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, and get sprayed by the world’s largest sheet of falling water at Victoria Falls. I will end my journey in pure chill in my favorite city on earth, Cape Town, with its stunning beaches, beautiful mountains, inviting vineyards, spectacular drives, and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants. En route, I will stay in some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife lodges, including the terrific Belmond properties and & Beyond safari lodges in Botswana, as well as some of the ultraluxurious Wilderness Safari camps, such as Mombo Camp and Abu Camp in the Okavango Delta, Little Kuala in Sossuvlei and the new Hoanib Skeleton Coast lodge in Namibia’s remote area of the Kaokoveld.
Stretching from the Himalaya mountains and the Ranthambore jungle to the beaches of Goa and the lush tropical greenery of Kerala, India is larger than life, with a population that exceeds a billion, 23 official languages and more than a million square miles of land. With more than 5,000 years of history and an amazing array of natural landscapes, it could truly take a lifetime to experience all that India has to offer. And while India inspires, astonishes and enlightens many who tread her soil, deciding where to visit in the country is probably the one thing that causes me headaches and indecision, since India is so vast and varied. Like many first-time visitors, I will focus on the destination of Rajasthan, because of its opulent palace-hotels, ancient forts, and safari drives. I will stay at the two Indian outposts of Aman, the world’s most exclusive hotel brand. Set on a former royal hunting ground, Amanbagh recalls India’s Golden Age of pomp and palaces, while luxe tented camp Aman-i-Khás borders the untouched jungle of a tiger preserve, where daily safaris seek out the largest of cats as well as hyenas, crocodiles and chital deer. I will also stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas Resort near the iconic Taj Mahal, and the famous Oberoi Udaivilas and Taj Lake Palace properties in Udaipur.
Each year, I take a week-long holiday in the Maldives, and this year, I am returning to one of my favorite resorts: Soneva Fushi (so except some more Soneva clips on my Youtube channel). Soneva Fushi, the first ‘Robinson Crusoe’ style hideaway in the Maldives, is set on the privately owned tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The island – which is 1,400 m (4,600 ft) long and 400 m (1300 ft) wide – ranks among the largest islands in the Maldives. Apart from the crystal clear waters, white beaches and tropical climate, the island’s unusually rich vegetation offers a unique natural experience. Massive, multi-bedroom, fairytale-like luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools. Intuitive service is provided by Mr/Ms Friday butlers who know what you want before you want it. A stroll on the island’s spotless beaches invariably summons up Robinson Crusoe stories.
Contact me to receive complimentary Soneva ambassador benefits at Soneva Fushi (e.g. upgrade, resort credit, and a personalized Soneva experience).
In 2016, Air France welcomed its very first Boeing 787. Today, the flagship carrier of France has 7 Dreamliners in its fleet, operating flights to several long-haul destinations, such as Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Bamako (Mali), Bogota (Colombia), Boston (United States), Detroit (United States), Guangzhou (China), Montreal (Canada), Nairobi (Kenya), Male (Maldives) and Osaka (Japan). The Boeing 787 features Air France’s most recent Business Class cabins. There are a total of 30 Business Class seats, with a 42-inch (106 cm) pitch, configured in a 1-2-1 layout, with direct aisle access for all passengers. Each Business Class seat converts into a 2 meter (6.5 ft) fully-flat bed, with Air France saying that “everything has been designed to ensure an impeccable quality of sleep, with soft seat cushions, a silky duvet and an XXL feather pillow”. Each passenger also has a 16-inch (41 cm) wide HD touch screen. I have previously flown with Air France on several occasions before I launched my blog/vlog, so I am happy to fly them again (on the Paris to Male route), enabling me to experience their newest Business Class offering and make a trip report and clip about the experience.
In 2019, I am making a return visit to one of my favorite destinations on earth, the Seychelles, an archipelago of legendary beauty in the Indian Ocean, just south of the Equator and east of Kenya. The Seychelles’ 115 coral and granite islands, which are the peaks of a massive underwater plateau, star in countless tropical island fantasies and represent one of the world’s very last frontiers. Once your aircraft descends into the Seychelles International Airport, you know that you have arrived at a place of awe-inspiring scenery, with granitic mountain ranges clad in virgin jungle cascading down to hauntingly beautiful, palm fringed, with sand beaches. The Seychelles beckon travelers to their shores, by offering adventure, romance and luxury resorts in pristine surroundings. IMHO, its unrivaled scenery makes the Seychelles the planet’s best beach destination (even better than that other famous Indian Ocean destination that I like so much, the Maldives). I have booked a stay at 4 of the Seychelles’ most exclusive hotels: Banyan Tree Seychelles, Four Seasons Seychelles, Maia Luxury Resort, and Raffles Praslin. I will publish trip reports and Youtube clips of each resort after completion of my stay.
Qatar Airways is one of my favorite carriers for flying Business Class. And the airline – which is still facing difficulties following a severe diplomatic crisis in the Middle East – took its Business Class product to a new, unprecedented level last year. The so-called ‘QSuite‘ offers the industry’s first-ever Business Class double bed, with privacy panels that stow away, allowing passengers in adjoining seats to create their own private room. Adjustable panels and movable TV monitors on the centre four seats allow colleagues, friends or families traveling together to transform their space into a private suite, allowing them to work, dine and socialize together. Each seat is crafted with thoughtful and luxurious details such as hand-stitched Italian leather and satin rose gold finishing, bringing an unprecedented level of luxury, privacy and style to Qatar Airways’ Business Class offering. The Qsuites are currently available on the carrier’s newly delivered A350-1000 aircraft; in addition, Qatar’s B777 fleet is retrofitted with QSuites at an estimated rate of one aircraft a month. I have booked myself into a QSuite for my trip to the Seychelles (Paris to Doha). Let’s just hope that Qatar does no make a last-minute aircraft swap since that would ruin the opportunity to make a nice trip report :). I will publish my trip report in March 2019.
Spotting a wild gorilla in the African jungle is on many people’s bucket list and ranks among my favorite wildlife experience in the world. Mountain gorillas are the most majestic, and sadly, rarest apes of all non-human primates. Only 700 of these magnificent creatures remain in the world, all of them found in the border area between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A guided gorilla tracking takes anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, and allows you to spend one hour with the apes once you found them. I have previously spotted mountain gorillas in Uganda’s magnificent Bwindi National Park (more than a decade ago), an awesome adventure inspired by my emotions after seeing the movie Gorillas In The Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey. Early 2019, I am traveling to Rwanda, which is emerging as one of the most exciting new luxury destinations in Africa. I will be staying at two of the countries most exclusive lodges, One&Only Nyungwe House which is situated on a working tea plantation on the edge of Nyungwe National Park (and the first of two new One&Only resorts to open in Rwanda) and ultraluxe Bisate Lodge, which is managed by Wilderness safaris and comprises only six spacious forest villas, offering a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla experience. I will publish my Rwanda trip reports in February.