What is Experiential Luxury Travel? | Fauna Travel

What is Experiential Luxury Travel?

Sundowners at Tembo Plains Camp / Courtesy of Great Plains Conservation

By: Scott Dubois, Fauna Travel Designer

I plan everything from family vacations to honeymoons and trekking expeditions for the adventurous luxury traveler, but luxury is a loaded word. I use it to describe what I do, but what does it really mean to me?

Luxury has long been associated with exceptional accommodation, amenities, service, and dining. This is still true. I appreciate high-thread count linens, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a sublime spa as much as anyone. I’m an experienced luxury travel designer, and many of my favorite hotels fit that definition.

However, I think true luxury goes beyond materialism. Life is short, and becoming a father during the pandemic brought this clearly into focus. When I think of luxury, the words that now come to mind are time, space, connection, stillness, and nature. This is experiential luxury.

When I think of luxury, the words that now come to mind are time, space, connection, stillness, and nature. This is experiential luxury.

Finding Luxury Experiences

I’ve found that this type of luxury can be accessed most readily through a profound experience in nature. It’s an encounter with the world that generates a sense of awe. It’s meeting a wild elephant face to face, hiking a mountain peak, swimming with sea turtles along the edge of a reef, or gazing into the depths of the Milky Way. This is the luxury travel I want to be a part of.

Walking safari at Chem Chem Lodge / Courtesy of Chem Chem Safaris luxury Tanzania safari
Walking safari at Chem Chem Lodge / Courtesy of Chem Chem Safaris

When it is well done, experiential luxury can be described as:

  • Awe Inspiring: It facilitates an experience of deep connection and beauty, which can be healing.
  • Exclusive: It avoids overtouristed destinations to escape the crowds and minimize travel impacts.
  • Immersive: It gets to the heart of a place and minimizes the constant distractions of modern life.
  • Authentic: It favors genuine relationships over performative service and supports lodges with a true sense of place.
  • Sustainable: It preserves the environment and experience for future generations, and supports local communities.

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up booking traditional luxury hotels – far from it. But it does shift the focus of my itineraries and opens up fascinating new opportunities to explore.

Experiential and Material

The concept can be illustrated by a few contrasting safari camps that I consider experientially luxurious. Some are classically luxurious too, but there is a range of price points and amenities among them. As an adventurous luxury traveler, I love all of them.

My absolute favorite trips are a healthy blend of the material and experiential.

The Zambezi River flows along the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and two of the most spectacular parks in the region, Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools, protect the land on each side. Chula Island Camp is a minimalist tented safari on a large island in the middle of the river. There is only an insect screen between you and the wild here, and the camp’s guides are some of the best in Africa. You will spend days observing elephants on foot or gliding down the river in your canoe.

Further downstream on the Zimbabwean side is Tembo Plains Camp. Here you will have a private plunge pool, an opulent bed, a copper bath, and fine meals. It costs over twice as much, but the nature experience is excellent. The camp also supports one of the largest rewilding projects in Africa and all of its profits are invested in conservation, so you can feel good about your vacation.

Notably, both camps serve up a nice cup of coffee.

My absolute favorite trips are a healthy blend of the material and experiential, and Tanzania has many exciting opportunities to do this.

I dream of camping in Katavi National Park before floating in the stunning plunge pool at Jabali Ridge. And who wouldn’t want to spend a week trekking the Great Rift Valley before sipping on a gin and tonic overlooking the Serengeti at Singita Faru Faru, one of the most traditionally luxurious safaris in the world?

Let’s Go!

This is an exciting time to work in luxury travel. People are realizing there is more to your trip than the room. Travel can unlock the magic of being alive, which is the greatest luxury of all.

Contact me if you dream about wild places and good food, if you like testing yourself against a mountain before resting in a spa, or if you want the space to connect with your loved ones and the wider world.

Contact me if you dream about wild places and good food, if you like testing yourself against a mountain before resting in a spa, or if you want the space to connect with your loved ones and the wider world. We can plan an adventure that you will never forget.

Related Itinerary:

Trekking the Great Rift Valley / Courtesy of Lake Natron Camp

Trekking the Great Rift Valley to the Serengeti

This itinerary connects the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti regions with ancient Maasai cattle trails so that you can spend an epic week trekking from one safari to the other. Read more…

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