As you might imagine, I log a lot miles on the road and in the air every year. People always ask me about my favorite places. Here is the answer. In my travels, I am always on the lookout for what’s new, innovative, and cutting-edge. Yet, I am consistently surprised when I run up against the ordinary in the travel industry. And, that is too often the case… the same old stuff – the same sights, the same activities and the same routings. I found this in Australia, China and Chile, just to name a few. At times, there seems to be little difference between private tours and the masses of buses in that they are all headed to exactly the same places.
Indeed, probably 95% of travelers are still being funneled into the same molds, whether they are private clients or mass market. At Big Five, we have deliberately chosen to look after the 5% who share our philosophy, where the most valued asset has nothing to do with price. Of course, there are classic sights that will nearly always be included. After all, who would go to Egypt the first time and not visit the great pyramids of Giza? But there can still be distinctiveness and originality in how they are seen. That is our intellectual property, where creativity, originality and outside-the-box thinking are the rule and not the exception. This is ingrained in our entire Big Five team, which means that we look deeper and farther afield to give you something more. Our aim is to present you with journeys that are worth taking!
With President’s Pick, I wanted to take that a step further, to share adventures that I am personally passionate about, tours that have touched me in some way and where I have seen a serious need to not merely think outside the box, but to destroy the box. I have never been one to follow, and I always aim to make a positive difference in every one of our destinations. Please enjoy my personal picks, and let us help you plan yours.
President’s Pick: Southern India’s Vijaynagar Empire 14 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Adventure Travel
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"I have always been fascinated with the southern part of India, especially the heritage that dates back to the 6th and 7th century. When I use the phrase ‘the space between’, I am often talking about India and about the locations in this itinerary. They represent India beyond the Maharajas, they represent a different segment of Hinduism and Buddhism. This region of India also represents the best example of sustainable tourism, offering you a window into what India could become."
President’s Pick: Ecuador’s Galapagos & Amazon 15 Days President’s Picks Interest(s):
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"The Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Jungle have never been more endangered. This luxury program was designed to illustrate that tourism done the right way can help preserve the Galapagos as well as the Amazon, by employing the right local guides, and using the right sustainable properties. This is about seeing the real Ecuador, the one that the large cruise lines and the majority of tourists overlook. Step back in time and see this amazing country the way it was meant to be seen."
President’s Picks: Peru 13 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Adventure Travel
Starting Price: $7,800
“When I look at Peru, I see more than just the phenomenal Machu Picchu or Lake Titicaca. Most travelers have the opportunity to see maybe ten percent of Peru’s true nature. There is so more to discover in addition to the Incan Empire and three or four major sites. It’s time to reinvent the way we think about Peru, to change our viewpoint. This journey is about blending history with nature and adventure. It’s about bringing out the active historian in you.”
President’s Picks: Botswana & South Africa 14 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Sustainable Travel, Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
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"Botswana is truly the last frontier, a pristine safari destination, with a mission to protect the pinnacle of sustainable tourism. This adventure goes beyond conventional safaris, introducing state-of-the-art facial recognition software as the means of identifying and tracking animals. This extraordinary Botswana safari takes place in and around the filming locations used by National Geographic’s Dereck and Beverly Joubert. You end your journey in South Africa's Winelands and with a photographic workshop in Cape Town."
President’s Pick: Incredible Indochina 28 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Adventure Travel
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“I first visited Indochina with my family in 1998, and remembered thinking how much potential this region had if the infrastructure could just be improved. Fast forward to today and the conversation has changed completely to ‘how do we keep these areas authentic?’ This itinerary answers that question. Noted chef and author Daniel Hoyer introduces you to Hanoi's street foods, and you will visit the studio of celebrated artist Helene Kling in Ho Chi Minh City, who has lived in Vietnam since 1996. You even spend a night on a floating luxury hotel on the famous River Kwai. From world-class accommodations to sailing the Mekong River, this exceptional journey takes you to the cutting edge.”
President’s Picks: South Africa 10 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Sustainable Travel, Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
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“Change is the name of the game in Africa and this is especially true in South Africa. As a second generation native, I have witnessed everything from government changes to the rise of leaders such as Nelson Mandela. Through it all, South Africa has always carried a special place for me because of its dynamic blend of the modern metropolis of Jo’burg and small cosmopolitan Cape Town with the quintessential safari experience. And, it serves as a gateway to the entire continent. Some things never get old.”
President’s Picks: Adventure Australia 13 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Sustainable Travel, Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
Starting Price: $13,000
“I have been traveling to Australia for more than a decade now, and it keeps drawing me back again and again because I discover more to enjoy single every time. The country is vast and has so many facets, so many nooks and crannies as yet unexplored by travelers that the opportunities to find something unique, something off the beaten track are almost endless. This journey fits in well with our other adventures in this country in terms of Big Five being fully sustainable in Australia.”
President’s Picks: Morocco 11 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Sustainable Travel, Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
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“The long drives that are involved in traveling in Morocco have always bothered me; especially when they yielded disappointment. Over last 10 years of travel to Morocco, repeatedly searching for new places and exciting opportunities, I can say “success.” Finally, I have found the Morocco no one else knows – even the carpet salesmen. And it begins with original Van Gogh art in Marrakech and culminates in the Agafay Desert. I invite to discover unexplored Morocco.”
President’s Pick: India 14 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Adventure Travel
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“I’ve traveled to the furthest corners of India ever since I was a child, and have always been in love with the country, its history, and its politics. For a long time now, I have felt that India had all the tools to be truly great, if it would just get out of its own way. That applies especially to tourism. For years, every commercial and magazine article talked about palaces and grand monuments. All integral parts of India, however, hardly the complete story. I began to look for community involvement – an integral component to the equation of authenticity. I was disappointed with the answers I received. Where was the value, where was the authenticity? Many seemed reluctant to explore new ideas. I want to introduce you to the India I know such as in this itinerary where we take you to Haridwar, closer to the source of the sacred Ganges River, where the water flows clean. You witness an aarti ceremony in the evening along the river, where prayer ceremonies are performed with passion, not for tourism’s sake. Indeed, you’ll find few tourists here. This is the authentic North India I want to share with you.”
President’s Pick: Colombia & Guatemala 11 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Sustainable Travel, Adventure Travel
Starting Price: $8,250
“I am a self-admitted history buff, and can’t get enough of it. In much of Latin America, the Incas and Mayans occupied so much of the space, it was difficult to see beyond. I wanted to examine the empires that came before, after, and in between these groups. Enter Colombia, a destination we helped launch in North America almost 10 years ago. Being a pioneer to this area is one my proudest moments. With Guatemala as one of our core products for so long, we were constantly looking for ways to combine Colombia with Guatemala as a way to complete the bridge between the Mayans and early Colombian empires before the Incas came to power. We had access to glamping equipment in Guatemala, which allowed us to offer our guests something more. This allowed them to stay overnight at an ancient site to really feel the Mayan spirit that is imbedded in the ruins, making this a much more compelling experience. I am proud to say Big Five was one off the first combine these two countries, and now I invite you to join us in being a part of history.”
President’s Pick: Chile’s Patagonia & Mapuche Culture 14 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Sustainable Travel, Adventure Travel
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“Everywhere I look when I see itineraries for Chile, I keep seeing the same four or five locations over and over. For quite some time, I felt that something more existed, an experience or interaction that not only showed me something new about Chile, it also met a personal requirement of mine regarding sustainability. Enter the Mapuche communities, one of the oldest indigenous cultures in a country. There is tremendous history in Chile dating back to the Incas and beyond that reaches beyond Chile’s tourist locations that everyone already visits. I am delighted to be able to take our guests off the track to see the real Chile.”
President’s Pick: Private Conservancies in Tanzania 11 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Sustainable Travel, Safari Tours, Adventure Travel
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“When a country struggles for tourism the way many in Africa have in the last 18 months, there is something special that comes out of that journey – innovation. Over the last decade, the resistance to poaching and the need to preserve indigenous cultures became so strong that the notion of community-based conservancies was born. It was pioneered in countries like Namibia and Kenya. That same idea spread like wildfire into Tanzania, where the commitment to the conservancy model of safaris is now thriving. We hope that the cliché of the mass of tourist buses surrounding animals and Maasai villages that are more like gift shops become a thing of the past. This safari is an example of what the future of safaris in Tanzania will look like in the years to come. Why wait for the future when it can be your present.”
President’s Pick: Argentina Adventures 16 Days President’s Picks Interest(s): Romantic Getaways, Adventure Travel
Starting Price: $8,000
“I have always had that fire burning in me to search out the most authentic of places. One of the areas that frustrated me the most was Argentina. No matter how hard I looked, all I could find were the same areas in every itinerary. Where had our imagination gone? Was this all Argentina had? We kept pushing for more until we finally uncovered a whole new layer. This program is the first part of that culmination that finally connects Argentina to the ancient cultures of South America through Salta.”