The trouble with trying to arrange a memorable vacation isn’t the lack of choice but too much of it. With so many options available on the Internet, it’s hard to know what offers the best experience. You might find yourself on a cookie-cutter tour and miss a destination’s hidden treasures.
Last year, I worked with the team at Frank Design Strategy in Calgary to help create a website for travel agent Natasha Rhodes. Her company, Rhodes Less Travelled, offers active and experiential vacations that enable clients to explore other cultures, get up close and personal with wildlife and immerse themselves in natural wonders, ranging from kayaking in the stillness of the High Arctic to exploring the lush jungles and wine lands of South Africa.
Natasha brings to the table professional expertise, a worldwide network of insider contacts and her own avid travel agenda, guaranteeing that she can deliver a unique experience that discerning travellers couldn’t arrange for themselves online or even find through another agent.
She spends a lot of time getting to know her clients, so she can tailor the experience to their requirements and personalities, and sometimes open their eyes to possibilities they hadn’t even considered yet.
Since customized itineraries and experiences lie at the heart of what Natasha does, she and Rita Sasges’s design team at Frank decided that the site must highlight memorable client adventures through a blog.
For the “Robert Redford and the Law of the Jungle” post, I interviewed Garry and Gail Paulsson, a retired Saskatoon couple who wanted to celebrate their 50th anniversary by taking three generations of their family on a once-in-lifetime journey.
“We thought of Europe, but some us had been before. Castles, churches and museums can become a blur. A trip there wouldn’t be nearly as memorable as one to Africa,” says Garry. “So we worked with Natasha a year to put together a trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. She did a wonderful job. We’d get to one spot on our itinerary and think that we would never beat it. But the next destination would.”
Their experiences ranged from boating among crocodiles on the Zambezi Queen, near Victoria Falls, to riding elephants at Camp Jubulani, to following a young cheetah as she made her kill – graphically illustrating the law of the jungle.
The journey also had many civilized pleasures. In Cape Town, Natasha booked the family into Ellerman House, as a base to explore the city and enjoy some of its best restaurants. However, the Paulssons found the experience of being catered to by a staff in their own private three-story villa overlooking the Atlantic so compelling that they cancelled all reservations and didn’t leave the premises for the four nights they were in the city.
If the family felt like they were being treated as royalty, it’s because the Ellerman House staff had plenty of experience in hosting Hollywood royalty. A quick glance through its guestbook revealed names such as Meryl Streep, Meg Ryan, the Kardashians and the person who had Garry and Gail’s room just before their arrival – Robert Redford.
Their story is highlighted in a site as good-looking as the actor, with easy navigation, clean design and liberal use of photography, making the magic of travel come alive.