Soft landings for adventurers
WHENEdmundHillary and Tenzing Norgay planted their flag on Everest’s summit 60 years ago, they were at the threshold of a new tourism frontier. ‘‘Adventure travel’’ was then the preserve of a few hardy souls willing to stretch the bounds of endurance and self-sacrifice. Today, venturing into remote regions, getting close to dangerous animals and buckling up for heart-stopping activities such as canyoning in Corsica or ice diving in Russia has been embraced by everyone from Gen-Y backpackers to cashed-up baby boomers.
Tour operators have updated and expanded their itineraries to ensure every age, fitness and scaredy-pants level is catered for. Safari tourism is a good example of the myriad options that nowfall under the ‘‘adventure’’ umbrella. Chalking up those exhilarating animal experiences no longer has to mean hours of arduous trekking or overnighting in spartan tents.
Operators such as Abercrombie & Kent have tailored their packages to maximise precious holiday time and minimise discomfort, choosing camps and lodges best located in terms of game movements, introducing more personalised itineraries with stays in bush lodges or tented camps, and incorporating a wider range of activities into daily schedules. The chance to experience destinations previously thought too challenging — in a high degree of comfort — has proved irresistible.
A&K’s safari bookings to Botswana, for example, have almost doubled in the past year. ‘‘There’s a definite increase in requests for more unusual destinations and off-the-beaten-track properties,’’ A&Kregional managing director Sujata Ramansays. ‘‘In response to this trend, [we are] introducing a trip to Madagascar next month and including a new property in a protected coastal region of eastern Tanzania.’’
In Bhutan, likewise, the arrival of luxury operators such as Amanresorts has opened up a previously formidable destination to a wider audience. With its five luxury lodges tracing a footprint across the terrain, private drivers and guides assigned to each guest, Amanresorts has lifted the bar in terms of soft adventure. In mybook, things don’t get much better than combining a leisurely walk through the scented pine forests of the Paro valley or a hike up to the stunning Tiger’s Nest monastery with the promise of a 90-minute spa treatment back at one’s five-star mothership. Susan Kurosawa is on leave.