Very special, very expensive
Indeed, both new and established tour operators are increasingly making possible what not long ago might have been considered impossible.
Papaioannou cited a recent nearly half-million-dollar trip that A&K crafted for a “very high net worth” man who wanted to propose to his girlfriend while on safari in Africa.
“It was just the two of them,” she said. “A helicopter transported them to a beautiful spot in Botswana. The pilot snapped photos right when she said yes. When they returned to camp — the pilot had radioed back to the camp to let the hosts know she said yes — the staff was waiting, singing traditional love songs. Their room had been laid out with candles and a private dinner on the deck. The photo the pilot took was framed and waiting for them.”
Afterward, she said, “They flew on to a villa on the west coast of Africa where they had the chance to dive for diamonds. You wouldn’t believe the number of permits we had to get. They didn’t find any ocean diamonds, but we had arranged a private visit with a top jeweler. Two days later, he delivered a custom engagement ring. It just gives me shivers, it was so fun.”
While prices of an A&K custom trip “run the gamut,” she said, it has a special team that works with celebrities and very wealthy individuals.
Last year, she said, the team arranged, in addition to its private-jet-around-the-world group journeys, seven private trips, including a $2.2 million itinerary they created for a couple to take their son on a four-month post-graduation trip.
While there has been a great deal of publicity in recent months about the imminent launch of space tourism, the high-end private tour operator Kensington Tours recently launched an equally history-making adventure to the bottom of the ocean.
The company partnered with a group of British scientists to let travelers participate in the Kensington Deep exploration of the Indian Ocean off the Seychelles.
The mission, which used submersible vehicles, made history when the scientists from the Nekton Ocean Research Institute, joined at different points by five Kensington Tours guests and Seychelles president Danny Faure, dove more 650 feet into an area never before explored.
It was also the first time that a multicamera live signal was successfully broadcast from manned submersibles using optical video transmission techniques, according to Kensington Tours. And in one more first, Faure broadcast a plea to protect the world’s oceans from nearly 400 feet down.
During the mission, Kensington Tours said, the scientists took 300 trips into the deep, where they collected some 1,400 samples and 16 terabytes of data and surveyed about 25,0000 square meters of seabed.
Travelers were based at a nearby Four Seasons resort on a private island.
The next mission is set for 2020 in Mozambique, and Kensington, a mission partner and Nekton Institute founder, said it will be offering more travelers the chance to take part in it, as well.
With price points starting at about $350,000 for eight people, Kensington Tours said it is developing itineraries for the next round that, like the original, will offer guests the chance to participate while staying in luxury resorts and aboard private yachts.
“We are also looking at whether there are ways that we can take submersible travel to different parts of the world where clients already travel,” Hickey said. “There are other things we are looking at. But we’re still in the early days.”