The Good Life

Fit for a king

When exotic locales and luxurious settings just aren’t enough, are bespoke vacations the way to go?

It’s a world of hyper-personalisation and the run-of-the-mill vacation to Europe or South Africa is just not cutting it anymore. We have all been there, done that — jumped off a helicopter, swum with the dolphins, been on a safari to see elephants and lions and made a time-lapse video of the northern lights. Then how do you make your next Instagram reel of stories unique?

Wild Voyager, Experiential Travel Journeys, The Q Experiences and your ever-dependable Thomas Cook are here to help you. From getting you married in a champagne-filled bathtub with a view of the Taj Mahal to letting you walk with the pride of the jungle, these companies can fulfil all your crazy dreams and whims, at a given price.

It’s all about experiences as travel destinations lose their exclusivity tags. And Delhi-based Experiential Travel Journeys lets its clients decide everything from the kind of guide they want to the photographer they’d like to accompany them. In fact, they don’t even offer ready-made itineraries or ready-to-book tours or mass tourism packages, preferring instead to design the entire trip from scratch. “Travel design now is like an a-la-carte menu of experiences,” says Amit Kalsi, founder of the company. He talks about the time a client wished to experience the solar eclipse in July this year. “We found him the best location at Elqui Valley in Chile,” he adds. The company’s website lays out ideas for every kind of traveller and destination — from hunting from helicopters in New Zealand to visiting the remote tribes of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley. 

Now, if you wish to take a trip to the South Pole, and make it the most memorable experience, you can call The Q Experiences, a company that specialises in Polar journeys. “Even in remote wilderness like the Arctic or Antarctic, we can serve Michelin star cuisine,” says a spokesperson from the company. They have arranged experiences such as a private Fashion show in the presence of designer Elie Saab in Lebanon and dinner with the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.

“Instead of destinations, travellers are requesting for experiences that are unique, like soaking in a natural thermal spring in New Zealand, walking with polar bears or celebrating the New Year in Antarctica with the penguins,” says the spokesperson. These trips could cost anywhere from Rs.1-2 million.

One of the oldest travel and tourism names, Thomas Cook (India), offers customisations via its Go Beyond segment. “We have received requests such as a stay in a historical chateau or palace in Picardy, France, or a lighthouse at the edge of a cliff in California or even luxury tents at New Zealand’s remote Minaret Station,” says Rajeev Kale, president & country head – holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India). They also offer unique options such as horse trails in South Africa and fissure-snorkelling in Iceland. While pricing is extremely variable for such customised trips, staying in those requested palaces and lighthouses can start at $400 per night, per person.

But, if you want to take your adventure one step towards the extreme, you can do that with Delhi-based Wild Voyager. Staying true to their name, the company promises wild experiences for the adrenaline junkies — from wildlife-spotting trips to Masai Mara, Kenya to a volcanic adventure in Russia’s Kamchatka. These trips cost anywhere between Rs.350,000 and Rs.420,000.

Alankar Chandra, founder of the company recalls, “A group of travellers wanted to walk with lions.” They found a private conservancy in Kenya that permitted this dangerous adventure. “A team of guards would escort the group during the trip,” he says. Each person had to shell out about Rs.850,000 for the trip.

Holidaying like royalty seems to be a theme in this article, but another of Chandra’s stories puts a unique spin on it. “There was a British couple that wanted to live like royalty — an Indian Maharajah and Maharani,” he says. To make this possible, Wild Voyager approached a royal family in Rajasthan. They obliged and moved out for a week, allowing the couple to move in. “The entire staff was trained to give them the honours and protocols associated with treating royalty,” he says.

Whether you wish to re-enact any of the itineraries mentioned above or have a long-held travel plan that does not fit a run-of-the-mill itinerary, hesitate no more. With these companies, you are in safe hands.