• Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Most Expensive Safari

Completely Unique Safaris - The Rarest Safari in the World
December 24, 2014
By , Founder and Editor-in-chief

You've always had an appreciation for the unique.  Louis Vuitton may have only made a handful of the Montaigne MM, but naturally one of them is in your closet (two seemed like overkill). For a civilized nightcap, you have a private stash of Macallan Speymalt, because 1940 was a good year. And forget the selfie; when it came time to paint your portrait, you commissioned Will Cotton to make you into a cupcake confection.  So we know it's going to take a lot to impress you.  

Credit:  Evginiya Polyakova

Enter Completely Unique Safaris, a.k.a. the unicorn of high-end African travel. Think of CUS as your ultimate, fully customized sub-Saharan upgrade.  They’ll take any accommodation as a starting point, and then elevate the quality and service out of the stratosphere from there.  They go to extremes - from bringing in their own crack team of personal butlers, concierges, chefs, pastry makers and sommeliers, to details like arranging for Egyptian cotton bedding featuring your own custom monogrammed pillowcases. Not that anyone’s going to get confused as to which bedroom is yours - whether your party is 2 people or 10, they take down the entire property for your exclusive use.   


Credit: Guy Ellis Photography

The lodging might pique your interest, but it’s the experiences that take this over the top: think surprise pop-up galleries of emerging African artists deep in the bush, fresh oysters and lobsters flown in whenever cravings strike, and once in a lifetime safaris, where you can have full, exclusive reign of an entire wildlife reserve.  Even for the most jaded of travelers, few things beat the exhilaration of tracking leopards on a kill during a night safari.  

The mastermind behind this brilliant madness is Founder Guy Ellis, who in his day job is part hedge fund manager, part private equity investor and part CEO of the family business.  In his spare time, he's a renowned leopard conservationist, with almost 1000 safaris under his belt.  On your adventure, think of Guy as an amped up version of Chris Harrison on the Bachelor.  Except it really will be "the most dramatic event ever", with surprise rare vintage wine tastings under the stars, or perhaps a reverse dinner, where you start with chocolates and work your way backwards to the entrée and amuse bouche. 

The regular tourist rules just don't apply here, and no two safaris are the same. In other words: the sky is the limit, like in the case of a $2.2 million honeymoon, or a $425,000 "Safari Seven" experience.   Oh, and with very, very few trips available each year, this might be one of the rarer items you’ve ever acquired.

The Highlights

·      There are plenty of luxury tour operators, but CUS is a true, off-piste safari.  We can say with confidence, there’s no one in their category within the luxury sector. In winter sport terms, it’s equivalent to backcountry cat skiing on a private mountain, but more exclusive.  A typical safari has strict guidelines on how many hours each morning and afternoon a game drive can last, how many vehicles can descend upon a particular sighting and time frame of when, how and where you can explore.  You can ignore anything we just said in the last sentence because it doesn’t apply to you.  What this affords you is the opportunity to view far beyond the typical animals anyone can see on safari.  We were lucky enough to have a pangolin sighting on our adventure, which we’re told was akin to finding a 15-carat diamond in the bush. 

·      Cuisine, mixology and wine.  Imagine the finest dining in New York or Japan, and then drop it into the desert.  With the top chefs, mixologists and sommeliers in Africa, they do things with a Weber grill and aquarium pump that defy logic.  This is not just the best culinary experience on safari; it’s one of the best in the world. 

·      Service.  That crack team we mentioned?  They’ll do anything for you that’s not life threatening or illegal.  It will be rare you will want for anything, because this team anticipates your every possible need, and ends up knowing you better than  you know yourself by the end of the trip. 

·      Night activities.  For most safaris, when the sun goes down, you’re confined to the lodge. Less than 0.1% of those who go on safari experience a night excursion, but with CUS, that’s when the fun starts.  Besides tracking animals, the team will set up dinner in the middle of leopard country, moonlight treks in the desert only to find an art gallery popup and canapés as your destination and a whiskey session as you lay out under the stars.   

·      Sleeping out in the bush.  Yes, we thought this sounded insane as well.  But it is a profound, life-changing experience to have nothing but the vast landscape, animals and an opportunity for self-reflection for an evening.  It’s both a sense of accomplishment and an introspective time with absolutely no distractions.  And did we also mention beautiful, to take in the big old sky and stars in Africa?  Yes, this is the stuff lifetime experiences are made of.  

What to know:  CUS safaris are so customizable, this trip is good for couples, families, friends, singles and entourage.  While CUS makes the experience luxurious, the base lodging itself may not be a traditional five-star hotel.  CUS is for those who have experienced an extremely high level of travel, and perhaps feel they have seen it all.  That’s where CUS shines; this is an experience that can impress even the most jaded traveler.  The key for control freaks is to give in to an element of surprise, let CUS do their thing and shut off the Blackberry and iPhone for a few days.  Sort of like the sushi menu at Sasabune where they don’t do California rolls and the menu is “Trust Me”; well with CUS, you’re in the same good hands. 

To Reserve:  Not anyone can just book CUS; Galavante is one of the very few who can get you past the velvet rope of reservations, along with your approximately $30k/night base trip for up to six lucky, lucky guests.  The sky is the limit from there. Also, don't forget Africa is vast, and a CUS trip can include a safari, cultural experience like Ethiopia and some private island time on Mozambique.