WHERE TO NEXT?
The guide hacks away at the thick bush in our way – chopping and cutting bamboo and eucalyptus trees to make our path easier. The jungle is thick with trees, bushes and vines. The ground is soft and damp from the recent rainfall.
Walking up a steep incline at 8,000+ feet is a bit challenging, but I’ve prepared for this. We are en route to see mountain gorillas up close in the wild and my excitement mixed with nervousness manifests itself in a fluttering sensation in my belly.
Following our tracker, stepping ever so slowly, quietly attempting to blend into my surroundings as best as I can. I concentrate my gaze through the thick bush wanting to spy what I’ve come to see.
I see blackness. It could be a shadow.
But it just moved.
It is what I’ve come to see – a mountain gorilla.
I hear a branch break behind me and a scuffle. I turn around and see a young gorilla walk right by.
I want to take out my camera to capture these moments, but I know with just an hour in their presence it will go by quickly.
Now that I know what to look for, I begin to see gorillas everywhere. They live in families – this one has ten members.
Just off the ground a baby gorilla is climbing up a tree, precariously balancing on a limb. He settles into a comfy spot to graze on the bamboo leaves and shoots that surround him.
Then I see the largest creature of them all – a silverback male. His size and obvious strength are awe inspiring. As the dominant male he is the leader of this family.
He stops what he is doing, looks up, and stares me straight in the eye. His gaze scans me up and down. He is sizing me up. It feels hypnotic. To be this close to such a beautiful animal, locking gazes with his human-like persona is beyond captivating.
Maybe he perceived me as uneventful as he then just moved on.
My gaze turns back to the baby gorilla who is now pounding on his chest in an apparent attempt to “be like dad.”
The gorillas can be anywhere, so my eyes are on overdrive scanning the bushes and trees. I see other gorillas in the family – napping, grooming each other and foraging. The young ones are curious and come close to check us out. They have no fear.
Watching their movements I see so many similarities with humans – the juveniles tumble and play, the females gather in groups and one reprimands a young gorilla. The silverback is the careful observer constantly looking around to make sure the environment is safe.
The opportunity to be in the presence of these beings, sitting mere feet away, observing their rituals, looking deep into their warm brown eyes is unlike any other experience in the world.
The above is an example of what it is like to go gorilla trekking.
This summer our clients, a family of six with kids 16-25, went on an epic African safari to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Lucky for me, when they returned I was able to hear about it all and live vicariously through their adventure. A sampling of their comments are below…
- At each new stop we didn’t think it could get better, but it did.
- Everything was unique.
- The guides were tremendous.
- The logistics were amazing.
- The density of animals in the Masai Mara!
- The people always make your trip and everyone we met was wonderful.
- Our son did the 3 peaks challenge – where you climb with a Kenyan warrior. The Kenyan ran in sandals. It took approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes – the equivalent of 107 flights of stairs. They came in the 5th fastest ever recorded at the lodge. And while they were out they saw a leopard hunting a warthog!
- Our location on the Mara River was so special! There were crocodiles and hippos right outside our tents! You could hear animals come through camp at night.
- We came upon a croc that had just killed a zebra. Over the course of the next 30 minutes eight more crocs slowly joined in, spinning around and eating. It was INCREDIBLE!
- We all had dinner at the treehouse one night and the boys loved spending the night in it. The stars were unbelievable and we could see Mars.
- The family-run lodge in Kenya had an amazing view and the staff were so warm and welcoming. Everywhere was great at adapting foods for our daughter’s allergies.
- A big splurge was including the helicopter flight for a 2 hour sunset trip, ending up with cocktails and canapés on top of a mountain. It was magical.
- The last night on safari we sat around reflecting with one another. It was impossible to say one favorite thing because there were so many.
And lastly the gorilla trek, which turned out to be even more special than they had anticipated…
Our gorilla family was interacting with another gorilla family. In eight years the guide had only seen this happen three times. Two male silverbacks were running at each other, challenging one another over a territorial battle. In the end one silverback left with a bruised ego. It was an unreal experience.
See some of their personal photos below.
You never know what you are going to experience on safari!
Gorilla trekking is a year-round activity. There is seasonality and changing weather patterns, but it is always an option. Plan a year+ ahead to ensure you get the ideal accommodations and the ideal room for you.
This week’s inspiring articles include an under the radar Mediterranean island (I’ve been – it’s amazing!), 5 places to bask in spectacular fall foliage, stepped up wellness offerings at African safari camps, the most anticipated restaurant openings in the U.S., a golf course with its own island and 12 epic hikes in the U.S. to plan a trip around.
The informational articles include how to get the best foreign exchange rate and an entertaining article “Mistresses and more: Travel agents reveal 1% clients’ insane demands.” (I did not contribute to this article)
Enjoy your week!
- This week’s highlight – Blanket Bay in New Zealand
- Where to Next? Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo
- Articles to Inspire+Inform
The roaring fire dances in the open log fireplace, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows framing Lake Wakatipu. The comfy, inviting sofas combined with the heat of the fire beckon you in for a bit of relaxation. Reading a good book, enjoying a glass of wine and canapés before dinner. Talking with your friends and family.
You are at Blanket Bay, one of the most luxurious places in the midst of an adventure-filled landscape on the south island of New Zealand. Where relaxation meets adventure in 5 star accommodations. As a Relais & Chateaux property led by chef Dan Reynolds, you are guaranteed to have incredible food.
Choose to eat dinner inside by the fire or out on the terrace. Or consider reserving the Wine Cave or the tasting room for a special celebration. Their spa offers a place of deep relaxation with services like a Manuka honey healing facial.
If you are looking for a bit more active ways to relax, head to the games room and play pool, shuffle board, darts, backgammon, chess, cards or watch an international sporting event on the big screen TV. Enjoy the Self Serve Bar, stocked with beer and soft drinks. It is always open.
If it’s a beautiful day and you are staying on property today, play pétanque (bocce ball), garden chess or molkky. Take out a Specialized bicycle available for guests’ use. Or take a walk meandering along the lakefront or a dip in the hidden away, outdoor heated pool gazing at the glorious lake views.
Now come the real adventures…from an adrenaline rush to more tame pursuits, the options are truly endless.
- Off property hikes, including the highlights of the Routeburn Track, which passes through some of New Zealand’s most awe-inspiring alpine landscapes
- Horseback riding
- Fly-fishing for rainbow trout in Lake Wakatipu
- Funyaking (inflatable kayaks)
- White water rafting
- Jet boating remote rivers
- Mountain biking
- Swinging across canyons
- Surfing down rivers
I highly suggest the wilderness jet-boat safari. Launch from Blanket Bay’s private dock for a “unique combination of breath-taking scenery and an exhilarating ride as you follow the braided, glacier-fed rivers by jet boat. Your guides give you their authentic touch, talking about the area’s rich history, the Greenstone trail and countless Maori legends. After tying up the boat, take a short walk amongst the ancient beech tree forests – an atmosphere you may recognize from The Lord of the Rings films.”
And helicopters. Helicopters and New Zealand are tightly connected. There are some spectacular places and experiences that can only be accessed by heli.
Consider the Fiordland Heli Traverse – flying over majestic fiords and up close to 2000 foot waterfalls. Soar over glaciers and land on the snow with the remarkable mountain backdrop behind you. Drop in near the New Zealand fur seals to forage for fresh lobster. A highlight for all is enjoying a gourmet BBQ picnic lunch, with New Zealand’s award winning wines at a location chosen especially for this day.
Once you’ve adventured enough and want a more low key off property option, enjoy a world class winery, art galleries, golf courses and shopping nearby.
Your stay at Blanket Bay comes with the usual perks and VIP treatment when booking your stay through Truvay Travel. New Zealand in peak season (our winter) is in high demand. Plan a year in advance to get your choice of the best places to stay.
📷 Blanket Bay
🌟 Our clients have been on a European tour with stops throughout the UK, Greece, Italy, Monaco and France. Every hotel is spectacular, and we especially love the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
Why is the Hotel de Paris so special?
- Opened in 1864, this historical building is the most exclusive hotel in Monaco. The rooms and suites are beautifully decorated with Murano glass chandeliers, Louis XVI style furnishings and Italian marble bathrooms.
- Below the flower gardens you’ll find the largest hotel wine cellar in the world. Sommeliers oversee a breathtaking selection of over 350,000 bottles from five main areas: Champagne, Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone Valley.
- It is home to the 3 Michelin star Le Louis XV, an Alain Ducasse restaurant. Serving Mediterranean cuisine skillfully paired with wine from the cellar.
- On the 8th floor, the 1 Michelin star Le Grill serves Mediterranean gourmet cuisine with fantastic sea views.
Do as much or as little as you like:
- The Monte Carlo Shopping Promenade is next to the hotel with 50 luxury boutiques. In the hotel you’ll find Le Patio, the open-air courtyard with luxury jewelry stores.
- Enjoy a cabana at the Olympic sized pool or a cabin on the private Monte Carlo Beach.
- Time your stay with the Monaco Yacht Show at the end of September. Browse the superyachts in Port Hercule, the world’s number one yachting destination.
‼️ Don’t miss…..the Princess Grace Suite. This two-story, 1400 hundred square foot suite has two terraces overlooking the Gulf of Saint Tropez. Enjoy the view from your jacuzzi or heated infinity pool. This suite has been on my personal list for years and one day I hope to experience it!
Of course it comes with the usual perks and VIP treatment when booking your stay through Truvay Travel.
📷 Hotel de Paris
Reach out to plan your trip to
These are the 50 best hotels in the world, Lonely Planet
A golf course with its own island? Five luxe experiences in one Aussie location, The Sydney Morning Herald
Find Your Way Back: Here’s How CEO Imani Ellis Dedicated 30 Days To Herself Abroad, Essence
“The play portion of her creative residency looked like this for Ellis: saying yes to activities that sparked joy, no matter how small, intentionally seeking moments of playfulness and spontaneity, resisting a rigid agenda, and allowing more wiggle room for activities.”
(I’ve been to this island and love it! Particularly for those wanting a more OTBP destination)
The 2023 Men’s Health Travel Awards, Men’s Health
African safari camps step up their wellness offerings, Travel Weekly
Smuggling 20 Diet Cokes? The junk food Americans can’t travel without., The Washington Post
Bright Ideas in Travel 2023, Condé Nast
How a government shutdown could affect your travel plans, Washington Post
(If you aren’t able to access an NYT or Washington Post article, send me a note and I’ll send it to you in a PDF.)