“What’s on your travel bucket list?” I get asked that question all the time. And, more and more, I hear about people crossing off bucket-list items as everyone seems to be on a quest for ultimate experiences. Here, I give my top seven picks for bucket list experiences, and invite you to send me your own! The standouts will be posted on this blog, and one reader will win a $200 gift card to the fabulous Anushka Spa.
The criteria for making the list are simple: The experience has to be memorable, enriching, and repeatable. Onward, then, to the Worldview bucket list:
1. Gorilla tracking at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda — I will grant: this is not an easy thing to do. But there are only 700 mountain gorillas left in the wild, so a little effort on our part seems only fair. The Bwindi forest is called “impenetrable” for a reason. There are no cut trails; to traverse it, you have to cut your own. Sometimes it takes all day of ascending and descending difficult terrain to find the gorillas, if you find them at all. But if you do spot a group, you will forget all the hardship of getting there—guaranteed. There is nothing quite like watching these magnificent creatures interact and bond with each other. And yes, the similarities to human behavior are uncanny.
2. The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Scotland — Right off the bat, let me say that you have to be a member to experience this one. Memberships are available, but they are pricey (£20,000 to join, £7,500 a year thereafter plus per-night fees). So what does membership get you? House-party atmosphere in the most spectacular castle and grounds in the British Isles (if not the world), access to fab Scottish links golf, and gentlemanly outdoor pursuits such as falconry, skeet shooting, archery, fishing, horse riding, ATV driving … The castle is perhaps best known as the site of Madonna and Guy Ritchie’s wedding, but I think its real claim to fame is its outstanding haggis.
3. Sub-arctic exploration, Explora Patagonia, Chile — There is something exhilarating and even liberating about riding a horse across a snowfield … or trekking on a glacier in complete and utter silence … or hiking through forests and gorges to the base of a primeval rock formation. It’s a physical pursuit, no doubt. But just being in Patagonia, which may well be the last unspoiled place on earth, is worth the visit alone. The guides of Explora are among the best in the business.
4. The Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco — For me, this is the granddaddy of car racing (no disrespect to Indy 500 fans). The biggest reason is tradition. This race, which is held on the narrow, winding streets of Monte Carlo, was first staged in 1929 and has quite the racing pedigree. As history has proven on too many occasions, Monegasque roads are treacherous; this, of course, adds to the excitement. And the people watching (a dressed-to-the-nines mix of royals, celebrities and idle rich) is not bad, either.
5. La Bastide de Moustiers, Provence, France — “In 1994, while riding my motorcycle at random on the roads of Provence, I discovered a house standing amidst lavender and olive trees. I made it my anchoring harbour, my home, before deciding to open it to others. It has always had this very special place in my heart, and it still has today…” So says famed chef Alain Ducasse about La Bastide de Moustier, his place in the Provençal sun. This is not simply an inn or a restaurant; it is a microcosm of the South of France. Nature surrounds the estate. Ah, the woods, the lavender fields, the mountain backdrops, the trilling cicadas … It’s almost as captivating as the seasonal, earthy Provençal cuisine at the Bastide’s restaurant. Almost.
6. Hot air ballooning above the Sossusvlei, Namibia — The red desert landscape of the Sossusvlei, in the southwestern African nation of Namibia, is so otherworldly that it merits a visit at least once in a lifetime. I’ve been on hot air balloons in various parts of the world, but nothing like this. You soar above massive red dunes and unreal rock formations as the sun rises above the ancient, silent land. You can do this as part of a safari (I traveled with Wilderness Safaris) or on its own. Better yet: combine it with a trip to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, a sandy coastline where you wouldn’t expect to see wild game (such as elephants), but do.
7. The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, India — In the heart of tiger country sits an amazing tented camp that redefines the way we think about camping. This is an ideal base to explore Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, and possibly catch a glimpse of the elusive tiger. But even if you don’t, the experience of being in the lap of luxury in the midst of the jungle is pretty priceless.
Now, your turn. Click on the link below to submit your suggestions by Sept. 9, 2010, and you will be entered to win the $200 gift card to MiraMare Ristorante. The best suggestions will appear on this blog during the week of Sept. 13. Thanks for participating and good luck!