To get something out of the way quickly, although it features diving and Palau is considered the Holy Grail for divers, this trip is not meant to be just for expert divers.
It is an expedition for those of you who are looking to go where your friends haven’t been, a place that it would be hard for them to get to and an experience that combines dipping into history with a bit of adventure, juxtaposed with a sufficient amount of luxury. While the term “one-of-a-kind” typically refers to a piece of jewelry or a work of art, this trip could easily be classified as such, although I’ll try to avoid marketing jargon. At any rate, I can safely report that it is a trip that will never be repeated as you will see, so you definitely will be experiencing something nobody else ever will.
Palau is one of those last few places in the world you would want to go that doesn’t yet have several new luxury boutique hotels or tented safari camps from where you can base yourself. This means that if you wanted to visit, and there are plenty of reasons to do so, you would be roughing it.
The South Pacific group of over 340 islands is the subject of the first in a series of trips Abercrombie & Kent founder and chairman Geoffrey Kent is launching under the banner “Inspiring Expeditions.” On this and future trips in this line, Kent will accompany the group for the entire journey, which should be interesting in itself as the best selling author is considered something of a cross between Dr. Indiana Jones and James Bond, but without the blood and guns.
But first you might ask, why Palau?
“I was having a meeting with Prince Albert, and he told me about this magnificent trip to Palau (he had just taken). He told me, ‘You have to go to Palau. It’s one of the last great expeditions.’ So I told Toby (Fenwick-Wilson, his Harrison Ford lookalike advance man and guide extraordinaire), ‘We’re off to Palau.'” That was about two years ago. At 73, having been trekking the world for over half a century, there aren’t that many places that have escaped Kent.
Palau is on every diver’s fantasy list since Jacques Cousteau put it there in his famous 1962 expedition. It also holds remants of one of World War II’s most important battles. Japanese soldiers remained for months and years after the war ended, living and hiding out in caves. There are coral gardens, turtle hatcheries, wrecks of ships and planes, a shark reserve and swimming in a sea of jellyfish (they don’t sting). Tribal customs remain strong, with barter of goods and services still used in place of money. Women dominate the hierarchy. One highlight will be Seventy Islands, a World Heritage Site closed to visitors since 1956, but which will be accessed by special permission. It reveals traces of human life on earth dating back over 3,000 years, evidence of climate change dating back to the 17th century and 385 types of coral.
If you have any hesitancy about diving, Kent says there is a dive guide for every two guests, and if you aren’t certified, you can do it there. He adds that the itinerary was made so that it works if you only want to snorkel, and if you get tired of that there are extensive water toys (see Fast Facts below) from kayaks to jet skis to a speedboat with water skiing.
Perhaps the most interesting thing is the sheer magnitude that goes into planning a nine-day program, bringing in everything you need to do it in the highest level of luxury where there is nothing. For Kent, who grew up on a farm in highlands of Kenya where he started in the travel business, logistics in far-flung corners of the world is just another day at the office.
Still, it took an immense amount of lengthy preparation by Fenwick-Wilson to get the permissions to run the trip in the first place. What it all means is the group of 18 can expect to find a VIP welcome typically reserved for VVIPs and Heads of State. Kent says, “The President and movers and shakers and conservationists are excited that a group of our caliber are coming.”
A considerable part of the attraction is traveling with Kent. Tiffany Dowd, who is known on Instagram as LuxeTiffany and is one of luxury travel’s leaders in social media marketing, was on A&K’s 26-day around-the-world trip aboard a private 757 last year.
She says, ” In my opinion, he is one of the most interesting people in the world. He’s extremely engaging and the ultimate story teller, and it was amazing having him share his experiences with world leaders and celebrities.” She says, “The people who travel on these type of trips are well traveled. One couple had just returned from Antarctica. Another had just seen the gorillas.” She notes, during the trip, “You can start to see friendships develop.”
About Kent, she adds, “He never loses that sense of excitement and adventure. All of the guests have one-on-one time with him. He has a way, and it’s very personal. He’s always asking guests where they want to go, what they want to do, and by the time we were done over half had decided they wanted to take another trip with him.”
At the same time, Dowd says there isn’t pressure to be part of the group. “You can absolutely do things on your own (however) every country we went to there was a red carpet reception when we arrived. You are treated like a VVIP so you want to do everything because you feel like you would be missing out.”
Who shouldn’t go? Kent says, “People who may not like travel unless it’s at a Four Seasons or in a Bentley. This is not climbing Everest, but it’s for people who like activity and to be active, not sitting sedately.” He also says the trip is probably not for “a man of his own mind, who simply wants to be with his family,” but adds, “I can certainly do whatever they want, just not this trip.”
When I asked Kent for any other thoughts, he said, “Be prepared for surprises.” When I asked him what type, he said, “People parachuting onto a deserted beach to meet us with champagne, but that would not be something major.”
One other point Kent makes is that there will be a dive doctor aboard in case there are medical needs, and no luxuries will be spared, be it fine wines, or his own espresso makers he will be bringing aboard a luxury yacht.
Asked to describe the vibe he expects, he said, “Like a house party.”
The Day by Day Itinerary (Nov. 13-21, 2016):
NOV 13: A Night at The Peninsula Hong Kong
Arrive in Hong Kong, China. Transfer by helicopter to your elegant suite at The Peninsula Hong Kong. Enjoy dinner with Geoffrey Kent and your expedition team. Sir David Tang, founder of Shanghai Tang and China Club, will be on hand to discuss social and business life in Hong Kong and China over the past half century.
Nov 14: Private Jet Flight to Palau to Embark ‘Saluzi’
Transfer to the airport via Rolls-Royce. Fly by private jet to Koror, Palau. Receive a motorcycle escort to Palau Pacific Resort for a cocktail on the beach. Embark nearby ‘Saluzi,’ your exclusively chartered superyacht. Gather for a welcome dinner blessed by a local shaman.
Nov 15: Ulong Sandbar and Ulong Channel Dive
At Ulong Sandbar, scuba or snorkel amid sharks, parrot fish and countless other colorful species. After lunch, dive or wakeboard Ulong Channel. Tonight, enjoy an onboard lecture by the founder of the Micronesian Shark Foundation.
Nov 16: Exclusive Jellyfish Lake Swim & the Big Drop Off
Immerse yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim among millions of non-stinging Mastigias jellyfish, with Jellyfish Lake reserved exclusively for A&K guests. Then, dive or snorkel the Big Drop Off, or relax with exclusive beach access, enjoying a massage.
Nov 17: Relics of World War II & Helicopter Tour
Tour the World War II battlefields of Peleliu Island on self-driven off-road vehicles. Fish for marlin and mahi mahi or dive the teeming German Channel and famed Blue Corner. Visit Peleliu’s World War II museum and survey the surrounding islands by helicopter.
Nov 18: Exclusive Access to Seventy Islands & Blue Holes Dive
By special permission, experience exclusive insider access to Seventy Islands, a World Heritage Site closed to visitors since 1956, and then dive into one of Palau’s world-famous Blue Holes or unwind with some paddle boarding.
Nov 19: Sunken Wreck Dive & Dolphin Encounter
This morning, dive on ‘Iro,’ a Japanese ship sunk during World War II. Alternatively, enjoy kayaking the Rock Island Labyrinth. Later, experience an incredible dolphin encounter. Dine tonight at the Belau National Museum, joined by local dignitaries.
Nov 20: Shark City Dive & Festive Farewell
Drop anchor at Shark City and dive or snorkel the reef among sharks, snappers and barracudas. Meet scientists at the Oceanography Society Research Station. Gather for a festive farewell dinner.
Nov 21: Disembark ‘Saluzi’
This morning after breakfast, disembark ‘Saluzi’ and transfer to the airport to return to Hong Kong by private jet and continue to your departing flight.
The Yacht ‘Saluzi’:
A&K’s inaugural “Inspiring Expedition” includes seven nights of cruising aboard superyacht ‘Saluzi,’ which has been chartered for the trip. Named for the mystical warhorse of Tang Dynasty emperor Taizong, ‘Saluzi’ features large public spaces, extensive deck areas and a new interior by yacht designer Luiz de Basto.
Daniel Ziriakus, COO for Northrop & Johnson, a leading yacht charter broker, has been aboard Saluzi. He says, at 226 feet in length and 45 feet wide, she is exceptionally spacious. “You feel like you are on a big ship, and it feels like a luxury apartment, so you don’t feel confined.” He says that it has state-of-the-art stabilization that decreases roll and makes for a comfortable ride. Additionally, she has “at anchor” stabilizers to provide additional stability when not moving. “Saluzi is really incredible, from the technical aspects to the design and amenities. It has very nice space indoor and outdoor and typically can take up to 32 guests,” he says.
A&K has limited this journey to 18 guests in nine suites featuring en suite bathrooms and full entertainment systems. Onboard amenities include a gym, spa, nightclub and an open-air cinema.
Cruising at up to 17 knots her crew of 32 provides an “impeccable, personalized service, making your voyage among the islands of Palau an unforgettable luxury experience,” according to Kent.
‘Saluzi’ Water Toys
Below is a list of the water toys available for you to use while aboard the superyacht:
– One (1) Castoldi jet tender
– One (1) Avon Penta tender
– One (1) Yamaha FX cruiser
– One (1) Yamaha FX
– One (1) Seabob Cayago F5 and Two (2) Seabob Cayago F7
– Two (2) Hobie Cat sailboat- One (1) Glass-bottom kayak
– One (1) Powerski jetboard
– Three (3) Wakeboards
– Two (2) Stand up paddle boards
– One (1) Skurfboard
– One (1) Kneeboard
– Waterskis (1 pair adult & 1 pair Beginner)
– Inflatable Toys (3 pcs) Wake snake, Radar Orbiter, Manta Ray
– Sets of snorkelling equipment
– Sets of fishing equipment
– Two (2) Floating Mats
– One (1) Kayak
Guests will be asked for dietary preferences in advance, and the food will be varied and fresh with A&K’s Executive Chef supervising. There will be choices at meals. Ziriakus says, Saluzi’s kitchen is state-of-the-art so there should be not worries about having food prepared to your liking.
There are two Master Suites which have both been taken, and seven VIP suites (pictured below). All include ensuite facilities and lounge seating area akin to a junior suite in a hotel. You can waitlist for a Master Suite, although cancellations are rare, they do happen.
About Palau (from Britannica):
Palau is made up of about 340 volcanic and coral islands about 550 miles east of the Philippines. According to Britannica, the population is estimated to be 16,900 and the islands have been inhabited for 2,000-3,000 years by Malays from Indonesia, Melanesians from New Guinea, Philippine natives, and some Polynesians from outlying Polynesian islands in Micronesia. Since the 18th century populations have included Europeans, Japanese, and Americans.
The Palauan religion of powerful ancestral and nature spirits was supplanted by Christianity, brought by missionaries. Slightly more than half the population is Roman Catholic; just over one-fourth is Protestant. There are smaller numbers of Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and members of other faiths.
The constitution of the Republic of Palau established a presidential form of government, which was installed in 1981. The executive consists of the separately elected offices of president and vice president, the Council of Chiefs to advise the president on traditional laws and customs, and the cabinet. The Olbiil Era Kelulau (National Congress) consists of the Senate and the House of Delegates. Both executive and legislative branches are elected for four-year terms. Voting is open to individuals age 18 and older. The Palau judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, with both trial and appellate divisions, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Land Court. At the local level, each of the 16 traditional settlement areas constitutes a state with an elected governor and legislature. Palau has no armed forces; the United States is responsible for protecting the country.
Pragmatic adaption still hasn’t erased the trading and wealth-exchange customs that characterize today’s Palauan society. Reciprocity and redistribution customs are still carried out with clans exchanging food and services for money and gifts at births, house completions, and funerals. Women are the strength of the society and control land and money. Men continue traditional tasks such as fishing or more typical businesses in urban areas and are elected political officers.
The Telegraph : My Luxury With Geoffrey Kent
Forbes: A Life Well Traveled
Fortune: Founder of Abercrombie & Kent recounts life of adventure
Master Suites (2): $185,000 per person, double occupancy
VIP Suites (7): $145,000 per person, double occupancy
5 percent of the price will be donated to support The Oceanographic Institute, Foundation Albert I Prince of Monaco.
Also of Interest
A&K offers a number of different experiences. In September it will host a 23-day private jet trip to Cuba and South America aboard a 757 outfitted with 50 seats that turn into flatbeds. It’s 26-day Around the World trip departs Oct. 17 and there is a 21-day Africa private jet trip departing Feb. 17.
Luxury trains such as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Belmond Royal Scotsman, The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Rovos Rail and The Blue Train can be taken over for full charters as well as regular departures. You can also charter your own crewed luxury barge to meander the canals of France and A&K has an extensive villa rental offering. There are also Arctic, Northwest Passage, Greenland and Antarctica luxury adventure expedition cruises.
Kent also personally works with private clients for dream trips, such as taking 100 of your best friends to a palace to celebrate whatever you want. The company also offers its Tailor Made trips with over 35 variations.
Contact CEO Geoffrey Kent at email@example.com or via phone +377 9798 5333