He may have started his career with African safaris in the ’60s (in fact he’s credited with creating the concept of the luxury photographic safari in 1962), but Geoffrey Kent—the founder, chairman and CEO of prolific outfitter Abercrombie & Kent—has made it his life’s work to discover beauty and intrigue on all seven continents, and share it with those passionate about seeing the world. With that in mind, it only makes sense that Abercrombie & Kent’s latest reveal is a pair of journeys to Ethiopia and Brazil that he’s personally guiding. These new Inspiring Expeditions by Geoffrey Kent represent the culmination of a year’s worth of far-flung travel in which Kent zig-zagged the globe—from the South Pole to the Arctic Circle—in search of fresh adventure. Here, he shares more.
You’re very in-demand and guide only two trips a year. Where have you just been?
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We just returned from the White Nights in St. Petersburg, Russia. The midsummer evenings there are amongst the most memorable times I have shared with my wife. It is something you must experience in person, as cameras simply do not capture the luminous quality of the light at this time of year, nor the revelry that takes over the city.
What sets your expeditions apart from other trips?
For one, a professional cameraman/videographer accompanies us throughout so guests don’t have to worry about “missing the shot.” There are expert local guides and an A&K backup crew, plus a private chef curating menus that blend fine dining with local cuisine throughout the trip.
Tell us about Ethiopia by Air: Danakil & Beyond (October 4-13).
We have planned an expedition that is truly extraordinary in range and spectacle, transporting us from below sea level in the Danakil depression to 10,000 feet in the Simien Mountains (where there is wildlife found nowhere else, like the gelada baboon and walia ibex), the rock-carved churches of Lalibela and the painted tribal people of the Omo River. Flying by helicopter affords a unique bird’s-eye view of the Great Rift Valley that cuts through East Africa, taking in stunning lakes and mountain ranges as well as the Blue Nile. We will fly over centuries-old farmland, still free of modern machinery, as well as see medieval cliff-edge monasteries accessible only by rope.
What is it about Ethiopia that resonates with you or feels particularly special?
The region is home to strikingly diverse and beautiful people, proudly independent and never colonized in the modern era. There are more than 80 tribal groups! On this journey we will meet fascinating local tribespeople who live as they have for hundreds if not thousands of years, and discover Ethiopia’s culture through its music, art and cuisine, including the cultivation of coffee.
What are some of the particulars you’re most excited about having curated?
In Addis Ababa, a private viewing of the original 3.2 million year old Lucy skeleton, named by American paleoanthropologist Donald Johnson for the Beatles song popular at the time, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” We also get “after hours” access to the iconic rock-hewn churches of Lalibela that draw thousands of pilgrims a year, with a private church blessing by the priests. LimaLimo Lodge is a highlight in terms of sheer spectacle and architectural ingenuity, as it’s perched 10,000 feet above a spellbinding drop-off panorama of Northern Ethiopia. The lodge is beautifully designed and outfitted, a perfect example of the Inspiring Expeditions philosophy of bespoke adventure.
Your other new itinerary centers around Carnival, which has personal meaning to you, correct?
Last February my wife, who is Brazilian, and I went to Rio de Janeiro to experience the pageantry of Carnival. It was one of the most thrilling events we have experienced together.
So what can guests expect during Carnival + Cariocas (February 21-27, 2020)?
A week like no other. I’ve never been anywhere in the world with such a festive atmosphere, where the whole city just shuts down and parties 24/7 for the better part of a week. We want guests to really feel part of Carnival, from the glitzy red carpet of the Copacabana Palace ball to neighborhood street parties, and from the ultimate Sambadrome parade to the backstage insights to everything that goes into the biggest show on Earth.
And how will you go about that?
We’ll participate in the parade in front of 80,000 screaming fans—something I will never forget—with the complete backstage experience that goes with it as you prepare. And meet a samba queen who will share her personal insights. We visit a typical “bloco” street parade to see how the locals celebrate, and have our own private street stall to get into the spirit so we can dress up as the locals do and feel part of the experience.
What do you personally find the most exciting part of Carnival?
To be in the middle of all this crazy singing and dancing.
What comprises the rest of the Brazilian experience?
Food—there are opportunities to sample the full array of Brazilian cuisine, ranging from the best churrascaria in town to Rio’s best fine dining to an informal restaurant on Ipanema beach for the true Brazilian beach experience. We’ll stay in deluxe rooms at the see-and-be-seen Fasano Hotel Rio de Janeiro, with private balconies offering the best view of Ipanema. And cruise by luxury yacht to Angra dos Reis, where the Atlantic rainforest touches the ocean, stopping at beaches and islands for swimming and activities.
Who did you have in mind when designing these experiences?
The modern-day adventurer with an intense curiosity about the world. They see themselves as experience seekers; educated, active, accomplished. Travel is an essential part of their luxury lifestyle. They have the drive, the means and the time to visit the places that interest them. I believe true luxury is the privilege of discovery, adventure, relaxation and insight, enjoyed in a context that perfectly suits the experience. Seamless service, safety and security are a given. It is the unexpected that inspires a sense of wonder and elevates an adventure into a true luxury experience.