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Where's the best place you've ever stayed?
The Sossus Dune Lodge on the edge of the Namib Desert, Namibia. This beautiful lodge is built on stilts overlooking a vast plain near Sossusvlei. As one of the only lodges inside the national park guests can venture in before the gates are open to the public, giving the opportunity to climb the sand dunes at first light for the incredible moment the sands burn blood red as the sun comes up over the dunes.
What's your oddest travel moment?
Visiting the ‘Kumsusan Palace of the Sun’ mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea, where the bodies of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are lying in state. We had to go through a “decontamination process” before entering, where the dirt was blown from our clothes and rolled off our shoes. Once inside the dark rooms we had to bow on 3 sides of the glass coffins before moving on to the next. The atmosphere was almost palpable with tension and it was quite a relief to get back outside in the fresh air.
Have you had a perfect travel moment?
I don’t know about a perfect moment but my time spent on safari in Etosha National Park, Namibia, was certainly very special. This was a number of years ago when Namibia was still fairly unknown and so the park was almost empty of tourists, allowing an almost private viewing of many of the animals. One afternoon I was sitting at an empty water hole when out of nowhere about 20 elephants plodded down to drink and bathe, the little babies squirting each other with their trunks. All of a sudden a rival herd thundered down to the hole as well, trumpeting and charging the others away, the ground almost shaking from the stampede - it was quite a sight to behold!
What are your suitcase essentials?
Firstly, a mobile phone with internet connection - not for calling people, but it is so valuable for use as a map and guide (especially where communication is difficult due to a language barrier) and not forgetting as a crucial lifeline in remote parts of Africa in case of difficulty. Secondly a good quality camera with zoom, because it’s such a shame to travel if you cannot save those special moments to remember and share with people for years to come.
Where's next on your wishlist?
Everywhere! I have such an extraordinary list of places I’m desperate to visit, from South America to New Zealand. I’d love to go back to Africa to go on safari in the Masai Mara; the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar, and to see the gorillas in Rwanda. As some of Kuoni’s most popular destinations I’d also love to see the beautiful little islands of the Maldives and Seychelles - they really are something very special.