Name: Geoffrey J.W. Kent
Position/company: founder, chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Kent
Lives: The world (travels more than 200 days a year)
Other properties: Monaco
Favourite all-time travel destination?
Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a world where water and land are so intermingled that it is hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Chief’s Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve is the ‘predator capital of Africa’. Lion, cheetah, leopard and painted dog are quite common. I remember once spending an afternoon watching a pride of lions teaching their cubs to hunt.
Favourite three cities in the world?
London for its great theatre, restaurants and complete multiculturalism.
Cape Town for the most fantastic weather and stunning natural beauty. At the age of 16, I rode my motorbike from Nairobi to Cape Town and I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing the towering, table-shaped mountain, set on such a dramatic peninsula.
Rio de Janeiro because I love the contrast between the sophisticated metropolis and the casual beach resorts which gives the city its unique personality and unforgettable charm. But it’s the exuberant nature and spirit of its handsome people that keep me coming back.
Most decadent holiday?
I took Sting and Trudi Styler on a private tented safari in northern Kenya. We used a Eurocopter, the quietest helicopter in the world, which minimises disturbance to wildlife and gives you a range of 300 miles. One morning we headed west before swooping down into the Great Rift Valley above Lake Baringo and then flew north through the Suguta Valley. This is one of the most savagely beautiful places on the planet with volcanoes, some extinct, others still active, and lava flows. Huge undulating sand dunes dominate the landscape. You feel you are witnessing the beginning of the world.
Most visited destination?
Egypt. Cruising on the Nile is like stepping back in time. And there are always new things to discover. If you explore beyond Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, floating past some of the most beautiful scenery along the river, you reach Denderah, one of the best preserved Greco-Roman temples in the country. Every year a statue of the goddess Hathor is carried from its secret hiding-place to the roof to be revitalised by the rays of the rising sun on the first day of the New Year. It’s a way of life that has changed little in centuries.
Most useful item to take on your travels?
My Nokia satellite phone. I can reach anybody, anywhere.
What’s the most surprising, most unexpected place you’ve visited?
The Galapagos Islands, 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. You can interact with the natural world to a degree that’s impossible anywhere else. Swim and snorkel with sea lions and turtles. Stroll past colonies of penguins and blue-footed boobies.
Tell us about your travel disasters
When I was working as a safari guide, I went out one evening with a lovely couple, the Kingsleys. But I miscalculated how deep a waterhole was and got the Land Rover stuck up to the gunnels. This was in the days before we had radios or mobile phones. It was getting dark and I had no matches because they had got wet. Mrs Kingsley had a magnifying glass that I used to start a fire with elephant dung. Then we heard lions. I took the cushions from the truck and got them up a tree — they were both about 70 years old at the time — where we spent the night. Although they have been on many safaris with me since then, that’s still the trip they talk about.
Describe the travel scene that’s made the most impact on you
For those dreaming of genuine adventure, Antarctica is the last frontier. This vast landscape of mountains and glaciers remains largely untouched by civilisation. Seeing whales close up from a Zodiac boat, surrounded by mountains and glaciers and icebergs, is definitely my most memorable ‘view’.
Where’s next on your travel wish list and why?
Tracking polar bears in Norway with Mats Forsberg, who guided the BBC crew that filmed Planet Earth. We’re going to a remote part of Spitsbergen in March when the female polar bears emerge from their dens with this year’s cubs.
Top tip for successful travelling in 2009?
You have to ask yourself, ‘If you had just three months to live, where would you go?’ Travel is increasingly becoming about the things money cannot buy, the shared experiences and treasured memories when we get together to celebrate the milestones in our lives.