Looking for a spot of revenge travel? Ultimate Encounters’ annual hot list is packed with exhilarating experiences and adventures from around the globe.
We think you’ll agree that travel isn’t just about escape. It’s about contrast, about assembling unique experiences – sometimes solo, sometimes with friends and family – that help us shape our own perspectives, help us relate to those around us, and which fill us with the sensory inspiration we all need. In this year’s bucket list, we reach the most remote corners of the globe, we leave our comfort zones far behind, and in doing so we revive what it is to be curious. Whatever kind of traveller you are coming out of the pandemic, we’re sure there’s an experience on the list for you.
Heli -Ski Greenland With an Olympian
EYOS Expeditions will offer a few lucky souls the chance to heli-ski some of Greenland’s most remote peaks (above)with U.S. Olympian Bode Miller this April. The alpine ski racer, the most decorated male alpine skier in U.S. history and the only skier with five or more victories in four different disciplines (giant slalom, combined, super-G, and downhill will lead a ‘slope-to-sea’ heliskiing adventure from the 12-guest MV Nansen Explorer, the ice-strengthen hull of which allows access to the Greenlandic coast in early spring. He will be joined by ski guide and two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion Chris Davenport and polar guide Doug Stoup, who’s skied the seven continents, been to the South Pole 18 times, and pioneered skiing in Antarctica.
The expedition will take adventure lovers to the island of Maniitsoq on the western coast of Greenland, widely considered one of the most remote places in the world to heli-ski, and where it’s possible to ski from slope to sea. The ship will cover 150 miles beyond the Arctic Circle to Disko Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some of the largest icebergs in the world.
Flicks in the Jungle
If you’re a movie junkie or just looking for a romantic evening after a day’s sun worshipping you’re in luck at Vakkaru Maldives. The luxury resort recently launched a new Jungle Cinema experience that’s perfect for those classic movie moments. Located in the middle of the resort, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, Vakkaru’s new Jungle Cinema seats up to ten people, making it great for private screenings with the family, small groups of friends, or a romantic date night for couples.
With two screenings each night (at 7.30 pm and 9.30 pm), film buffs can choose from a wide selection of movie genres. You can opt for free-flowing soft drinks and popcorn, or even a more elaborate set menu dinner if you’re really looking for a heart-throbbing moment.
READ: EYOS First to Sail in Melanesia for An Entire Season
Soar Above Victoria Falls in a Microlight
Adventurers are invited to unfurl their wings and take flight in a microlight aircraft high above Victoria Falls with Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara. Part of the hotel’s specially curated African Adventure Experience, guests can enjoy mesmerising views of the world’s largest waterfall from a private craft as they glide over the Zambezi River. Your skilled pilot will chart a course over the bends of the Zambezi River, weaving between rainbows and pointing out wildlife along its banks before turning several circuits over the Falls themselves. The microlight can fly lower than other aircraft, allowing guests to feel the true power and majesty of this wonder of the natural world.
Watch an Eclipse From the Coral Triangle
Explore the seas of eastern Indonesia aboard the Celestia, a luxury charter yacht launching this month. The new Phinisi, a traditional Indonesian design with interiors by Cape Town’s Deirdre Renniers and engineering by naval architect Tresno Seery, will offer guests a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a hybrid solar eclipse from the waters of the Coral Triangle this April.
Boasting seven cabins, including one King Suite with a private terrace, the Celestia will offer bespoke itineraries ranging from 3-7 nights out of Komodo and 7-14 nights in other parts of the Coral Triangle, including Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands. Itinerary activities include world-class diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kayaking, water-skiing, wakeboarding, birdwatching, private island-hopping, stargazing, private beach dinners, meditative yoga, massage treatments, and nature hikes.
READ: Antarctica by Superyacht with EYOS Expeditions
Get Spiritual in Bhutan
Having reopened its borders to international travel on 23 September 2022, Amankora reveals the heart of Bhutan with ever rarer and more awe-inspiring cultural experiences for 2023. Built in 1638 on a cliff at the confluence of two rivers, the defensive fortress of Wangdue Dzong has finally been restored, following fire damage, and is ready to welcome guests once again to its grounds after a decade of rebuilding and careful restoration.
Another piece of history restored, the Trans Bhutan Trail provides further opportunity to discover the pristine nature that surrounds. Dating back to the 16th century, the 402-kilometre-long trading and pilgrimage route was abandoned in the 1960s following the construction of Bhutan’s first major roads. After 60 years, the trail has been reestablished, allowing the Bhutanese to walk in the steps of their ancestors, and visitors to follow the ancient path with curated daily hikes and multi-day experiences, paired with stays in all five lodges.
Cruising Australia in the Chairman’s Carriage
If you’re a train buff, you might be familiar with the Indian-Pacific. Operated by Great Southern Railways, the train travels 4,352km between Perth and Sydney via Adelaide – hence the name – and offers a gloriously all-inclusive slow travel experience. Available only on the Indian-Pacific, the Chairman’s Carriage offers a new level of train travel luxury, one that’s as indulgent as it is private.
Boasting three Platinum Double cabins and one Platinum Twin cabin, the carriage can accommodate up to eight guests and can be privately booked on selected departures. The carriage is dressed in the earthy tones of the desert landscape through which it travels, and boasts its own multi-purpose dining and lounge area with leather banquette seats. Guests in the Chairman’s Carriage also have access to the train’s Platinum Club and all its privileges, while all off-train experiences are also included, as is the finest dining and premium wines.
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Spend the Night in a Glass Igloo
Intrepid lads can spend the night in the wilds of Iceland’s Fjallsarlon glacial lagoon this winter. Available for booking through March 2023, two new glass igloos frozen into a secluded lagoon will open to guests for their first winter. Part of an exclusive, private tour from Northern Lights specialists Off the Map Travel, the “igloo boats” are accessible only by boat or all-terrain vehicles and float during the summer months and freeze into the ice as the temperatures fall. The igloos measure nine square meters and come equipped with a cozy and generous double bed, bathroom, panoramic windows, Wi-Fi and hot drinks. The igloos are warmed by central heating, ensuring comfortable night sky viewing.
Heli-Golfing in Tasmania
Designed by renowned modern golf architect Tom Doak and Australia ex-European tour pro and course designer Mike Clayton, Barnbougle Dunes in Northern Tasmania is a must for any jetsetting golfer and a unique experience offered by Unique Charters makes the experience all the more indulgent. Home to two Top 100 courses, you’ll get into Barnbougle by helicopter after a scenic flight from Launceston, meaning less time on the road and more time on the links. With a 9.30 am tee off, there’s time to play a full 18 at Dunes with lunch afterwards, or a quick 14 holes at Bougle Run, the estate’s newest addition, with time for a wine-tasting stop at Clover Hill on the way home.
READ: The Safari Company Launches New Helicopter Safari
A Journey Through Java
Explore the vibrant Indonesian island of Java with a spectacular new train adventure from Aman Resorts & Hotels and PT Kereta Api Pariwisata. The cultural heartland of Indonesia, Java is studded with ancient treasures engulfed by pea-green paddy fields and rain forests lined with pristine white beaches. Travelling in dedicated carriages adorned in the Aman style, you’ll venture from the capital of Jakarta, which buzzes with modern dynamism, to Yogyakarta, home to the Unesco-protected site of the Borobudur temple and luxurious retreat Amanjiwo, named ‘Peaceful Soul’ for the serenity, privacy and beauty of its setting.
Available on selected dates, the once-in-a-lifetime experience begins in Jakarta Gambir station’s exclusive lounge, where you’ll receive an authentic Javese welcome, before embarking on a panoramic seven-hour journey through Central Java, where temples turn to tree-lined hillsides, with a new story appearing around every corner. An exquisite Aman breakfast and lunch is served on board, surrounded by the opulence of one’s private carriage, and along the way, you’ll learn about the destination from Amanjiwo’s resident anthropologist, Patrick Vanhoebrouck, who shares the region’s historic and cultural highlights. Sip on a crisp glass of champagne with afternoon tea before reaching Yogyakarta Tugu station feeling refreshed, where a 60-minute private transfer to Amanjiwo awaits.
A Polar Raid in the Arctic
Expedition cruise line Ponant has created the Polar Raid, a new opportunity set to be unveiled on board its Le Commandant Charcot vessel on select journeys in Greenland in 2023 and 2024. Designed in line with Ponant’s philosophy, ‘Explore to inspire’, as well as its CSR roadmap, Blue Horizon, this new exclusive experience aims to build closer connections between guests, nature and local communities. A voyage within a voyage, this is a unique and surreal human experience nourished by Inuit wisdom and set against the wonderful scenery offered by Greenland’s wild and powerful nature.
You’ll set off to explore this wild land protected by the ice floe and share special moments with its inhabitants, the Greenlandic Inuit while following in the footsteps of French polar explorers like Jules de Blosseville, Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Paul Émile Victor. The challenging three-day two-night adventure has you far from the civilisation of the ship but in the hands of experienced local and international Arctic guides so you get a true sense of this remarkable location. Departures are available in May 2023 and April and May 2024, departing from Reykjavik.
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A Night Under the Stars
Head for Onguma Camp Kala, one of the newest safari retreats in Namibia, for a unique night under the stars aboard The Onguma Dream Cruiser. The new camp is situated within the Onguma Nature Reserve, a 34,000-hectare wilderness on the eastern border of the iconic Etosha National Park, and accommodates just eight guests in four spacious suites. Then there’s the custom-built Dream Cruiser, which features a romantic upper deck boasting a beautiful four-poster bed and lounge area, while a bathroom downstairs comes complete with a shower, flush toilet and basin. Couples are dropped off at a beautiful spot overlooking a waterhole in the Onguma Nature Reserve just before sunset to enjoy sundowners on the upper deck. The chef then delivers a decadent picnic dinner to linger over as darkness slowly falls, before guests retire to their netted bed, the perfect spot for star gazing backdropped by the sounds of the bush.
Hunt for Tiger Fish in Botswana
Botswana’s Nxamaseri Island Lodge, operated by Desert & Delta Safaris, offers a brand-new fly-fishing experience for guests looking to participate in the Barbel Run. Occurring between August and October, the Barbel Run is an annual phenomenon that occurs when floodplains of the Okavango Delta dry up and forces smaller baitfish and insects into the larger channels encouraging the magnificent Tiger Fish to hunt in the deep channels. Weighing up to 9kg, the Tiger Fish makes the Barbel Run one of the most thrilling freshwater fly-fishing experiences and not one for the faint of heart.
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A Cruise Through Champagne
Belmond has launched Coquelicot, A Belmond Boat, a new luxury barge that from May will take guests on a cinematic and highly personalised journey of Champagne, gliding along the region’s canals and unveiling exquisite views from a unique vantage point. The new vessel features three glamorous cabins with ensuite facilities, an indoor salon with an exceptional champagne bar, and an extensive outdoor deck for relaxing pursuits, sensational dining and sparkling conversations. In addition, as part of Coquelicot’s partnership with Maison Ruinart, the world’s oldest Champagne house, guests will be treated to a private tasting lunch by Ruinart’s chef-in-residence Valérie Radou, the first time Maison Ruinart’s chef will be cooking a private ‘four hands’ lunch outside of the winery.
An Outback Adventure
The 15-day Ultimate Outback Safari experience from Australian Air Safaris, which runs small group private plane tours across the country with departures from Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Sydney — just might be the best way to delve into the very heart of this sunburnt land. During the itinerary, groups are led by their pilot across Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia.
Along the way, you’ll stay at incredible outback retreats, including Bullo River Station, Finnis River Lodge, and Longitude 131. The tour also includes stays at some more traditional outback experiences like the Birdsville Hotel, and visits to iconic Australian landmarks like Uluru, The Kimberly, the Bungle Bungle Range, and Arnhem Land. Each tour is also assisted by local guides who share their passion for Australia, ensuring guests are never short of stories to tell when they get home.
READ: New Fine-Dining Restaurant Opens in Lofted Islands
Cycle Turkey’s Taurus Mountains
The Slow Cyclist, specialists in carefully crafted small group e-cycling and walking holidays, has launched a new journey to Turkey for 2023. The Taurus Mountains is a six-day itinerary that sees guests explore the remote mountains on the southern edge of Turkey’s Anatolian
Plateau by foot and electric bicycle, beginning in Lake Egirdir, just two hours from Antalya. Cyclists will traverse ancient mountain trails where the black goat hair tents of Yoruk nomads are scattered across hillsides, and the tinkling bells of their flocks can be heard floating on the wind. Highlights of the trip include discovering a little-visited 2nd Century city, seeing wild horses roam on the high plateaus, swimming in secluded lakes, and sleeping in a luxurious tent kitted out with comfortable mattresses and Turkish pikes (woven rugs). You’ll cycle between 20–60 km per day on a mix of quiet tarmac roads and occasional gravel roads, and walk for no more than three hours at a time.
Swim With Sperm Whales
Nothing could be more awe-inspiring than swimming with sperm whales in the clear Caribbean waters of Dominica. With pristine rainforest, a river for every day of the year, waterfalls, national parks, volcanoes, white and black sand beaches and a vast array of soul-restoring excursions and authentic experiences, Dominica provides the perfect escape to the wilderness and six-star all-villa resort Secret Bay offers the chance to swim with these sea giants in their natural habitat.
Sperm whales are resident off the stunning Caribbean island all year, and the resort’s in-water whale experience day trip, which requires a specific permit regulated by the maritime authorities, is led by specially licensed and experienced guides who have invested decades studying and becoming intimately acquainted with Dominica’s resident sperm whale population. Along the way, you’ll learn about whale migration routes, feeding habits and environmental challenges.
READ: A Spectacular New Mountain Lodge for Bhutan
Cruise the Remote Ecuadorian Coast
Looking for a unique take on South America? In 2023, Kontiki Expeditions offers an eight-day exploration of the seldom-visited Ecuadorian coast, allowing for a rich cultural adventure. With only nine staterooms and excursions to sparsely populated coastal ports, the 18-guest 128 ft superyacht M/S Kontiki Wayra will travel on two routes — The Toquilla Expedition and The Spondylus Expedition — along the Ecuadorian coast, immersing guests in the country’s wealth of birds, animals, flora, fauna, indigenous foods and cultural traditions while adhering to a “neo luxury” philosophy of sustainability and giving back to the communities visited.
The yacht’s small size and routes allow access to smaller ports, villages and nature reserves starting from or ending in Manta or Guayaquil. Along the journey, highlights of which include a visit to a cocoa farm, an excursion to a New Latitude vineyard, and a hike through the Pacoche Humid Forest, guests will enjoy the best farm-to-table dining and service from a 13-strong crew.
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