A new trip to Africa is putting an ultra-luxury spin on the traditional safari, starting with flights to the continent aboard one of the glitziest private jets in the world.
The trip will visit one of the continent’s finest wildlife-spotting destinations — Botswana — with stays at safari camps operated by Wilderness Safaris. Visitors will stay at Mombo Camp, King's Pool, and Vumbura Plains, three of the top spots in the Wilderness portfolio. At each, guests can take game drives into the bush to watch wildlife — including big cats, elephants, and more — as well as learn about the culture of Botswana.
But first, guests will get serious pampering aboard the Crystal Skye, a private Boeing 777, outfitted with an on-board bar, lounge, and fully flat seats for up to 88. (Yes, it’s the same jet that Kim Kardashian flew to her notorious 40th birthday party at The Brando, the private-island resort in French Polynesia.)
While the jet and the camps are some of the most luxurious in the world, the real draw is the wildlife, says Admiral Travel, the agency that’s organizing the trip, which departs Sarasota, Florida on Feb. 3, 2021.
“Having exclusive use of some of the most productive and uncrowded big-game safari areas on the continent is sure to produce exciting and memorable wildlife sightings in gorgeous natural settings,” according to a statement from Admiral.
Because of the pandemic, many safari areas across Africa have seen a huge drop in visitors, leading to what safari experts say is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to see wilderness areas like they were 30 or even 50 years ago. “You're getting massive slices of wilderness pretty much to yourself for the moment,” one expert told Travel + Leisure last month.
Of course, there are plenty of COVID-19 restrictions in place for the trip, starting with a cap of 66 guests — rather than 88 — on the plane. All travelers will be given PCR tests within 36 hours of departure. Then, on the ground in Africa, the group will be split into three bubbles that remain together throughout the trip. And Wilderness Safaris has, of course, implemented extensive coronavirus procedures at camps in Africa.
Another trip will follow on the heels of the Botswana expedition: A Feb. 17 departure will go to South Africa, for stays at two andBeyond properties, Ngala Safari Lodge and Phinda Mountain Lodge. (Ngala was ranked by T+L readers as one of the world’s best safari camps in 2020.) This trip will, of course, offer different wildlife viewing opportunities but follow the same COVID-19 protocols as the Botswana journey.
Whichever trip guests choose, they’ll be in good hands. The founders of Admiral Travel, Malaka and Ryan Hilton, are particularly well-suited for pulling off complex itineraries like these: Malaka is a member of the T+L A-List in part thanks to her knowledge of Crystal Skye charters, while Ryan is a safari-planning pro who’s previously arranged private-jet trips across the continent.
The cost for the Botswana departure is $59,995 per person; the South Africa trip is $51,000 per person.
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