AMEERH NARAN CEO OF VIMANA PRIVATE JETS GIVES HIS TOP 5
Like many entrepreneurs heading up a large portfolio of businesses, I work 7-days a week with an average of 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Taking time out to both enjoy time with friends and to retreat to the most tranquil places to rest and refuel, is incredibly important to me. As my time is so precious, my holidays are not spontaneous but chosen very purposefully at specific periods each year when I know I can get away. I have some favourite travel destinations that never fail to deliver the best experiences for my travel goals, and then I seek out truly once in a lifetime experiences where I can really connect with the world and support the preservation of our habitats and species.
1. Velaa Private Island, Maldives
When I need a complete, uninterrupted break to retreat from the world, I travel to Velaa Private Island. Velaa was built by a like-minded businessman as the ultimate retreat and it lives up to its intention. It has 47 villas with four private residences that are amongst the largest in the Maldivian islands. For me, it is the ultimate blend of natural beauty, top level luxury and state of the art technology which is rare to find. The food is extraordinary, possibly the best food I have eaten anywhere in the word. Unsuprisingly, last year it was named World’s Top Luxury Private Island Resort by the World Luxury Hotel Awards and its gastronomy team have won numerous awards including at the World Culinary Olympics.
One of my favourite features is its proximity to a newly opened airport for discrete arrival by private jet. This means you can be off the plane and relaxing with champagne on their Princess yacht in minutes. As for activities, I am a serious water sports enthusiast and Velaa has the best facilities I have come across – they have every imaginable toy, from jet skis to flyboarding, with instructors coaching up to a professional standard which is exactly what I look for. You really join a world of true beauty and luxury at this resort. They have thought of every aspect of your stay and you just cannot leave disappointed; this is a very special destination.
2. Life changing travel experiences - Jaguar Safari Brazil
I love adventure and seeking out new and unique experiences. I am passionate about conservation so top of my list is Jaguar spotting in Brazil. After vigorous research, I found Dehouche Luxury Travel, a specialist agency that offer extraordinary experiences off the beaten track and organize one of the world’s most sought after wildlife experiences that is also an emblem for conservation efforts in the Americas. Dehouche Luxury Travel takes its guests to the Brazilian Pantanal, a 55,000 square mile biome, the largest wetland in the world, and the only place on the planet where, with patience and the right guide, you have a chance of seeing one of these magnificent animals.
Guests are flown in by light aircraft, deep into the Pantanal (a great way to get a sense of the vastness of the ecosystem from the air), landing on a grass runway. The airstrip is run by a guy with a hut, a dog and two chickens. From here you are taken to board a private speedboat which will be your main means of transport for the next few days on the river.
Accommodation is in fishing lodges, private ranches and eco lodges – comfortable, but remote and rustic for a truly authentic experience. You are transported to one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, so even in a short visit you have a very good chance of also seeing tapirs, howler monkeys, giant otters, anacondas, caiman, capybaras, giant anteaters as well as hundreds of bird species.
Days are spent gently cruising the rivers by speedboat with one of their expert local trackers who combine an understanding of modern conservation and the latest research on the jaguars with their traditional knowledge of the land, using tracking skills and indigenous techniques such the wooden “esturrador” which imitates the jaguar’s roar. Every evening the guide moors the boat in a different spot on the riverbank, to pull up for gin and tonics or ice-cold beers as you watch the sun dropping over the horizon and listen to the night sounds of the Pantanal come alive around you. This is a life changing experience.
3. Greece, Mykonos and Amanzoe
I holiday in Mykonos every year, at the end of July. Although, in 2020, Mykonos may be less busy due to COVID-19, it usually is a place where I get the chance to reconnect with great friends from all over the world – we travel from the UK, USA, India, Zimbabwe and beyond. I tend to mix my stay between time in a villa with friends, and a week at the Cavo Tagoo Hotel.
Mykonos, for me, is still the ultimate destination to let loose. Usually (before COVID-19) it hosts unrivalled, spectacular beach parties. Whilst there, I will meet the most interesting people. It’s typically an international destination and there is an energy that is infectious. However, after holidaying in Mykonos, I like to head straight to Amanzoe for a unique getaway retreat.
Amanzoe encapsulates the Aman experience in a legendary Mediterranean destination – Greece’s Peloponnese Peninsula. It seamlessly delivers impeccable levels of service, privacy and discretion in its sensational setting amidst the olive groves on the lavender-scented hilltop. It is near the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and just next to the beautiful islands of Spetses and Hydra. To me, this is the ideal summer destination for discerning travellers. You can sail from the Beach Club to discover neighbouring islands, venture inland to explore the countryside, take a helicopter ride to the Cyclades or the Greek mountains, or just enjoy the pampering at their spectacular spa. The villas at Amanzoe also offer a very private, calm experience with the highest echelons of service in the region. This is where I can truly relax, unwind and explore. They have thought of every aspect of your stay and you just cannot leave disappointed; this is a very special destination.
4. Matetsi, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
This is home. Born and raised in Zimbabwe I was blessed to travel my country, which offers spectacular mostly undisturbed natural beauty, flora and fauna. Victoria falls is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. It’s the largest waterfall on Earth and deserving of its inclusion on many a wander list. Matetsi Victoria Falls is simply the best place to stay in the area, a luxury lodge located on the banks of the Zambezi, and the realisation of one family’s dream to showcase everything exceptional about their home country, Zimbabwe.
The property offers exclusive safari and tranquil river experiences, as well as access to the best activities in Victoria Falls (think helicopter flights to catch an aerial view of the Falls, bungee jumping from the iconic Victoria Falls bridge and some of best white-water rafting in the world), all wrapped up in incredible Zimbabwean hospitality. The property also affords guests privacy and the freedom of time and space, allowing them to explore the 55,000-hectare Matetsi Private Game Reserve and 15km private section of the Zambezi River with game drives and walking safaris, along with boat cruises and canoeing. A genuine connection with nature, faultless accommodation, excellent cuisine, and a team that look after you with such authentic hospitality that you leave feeling like family, make Matetsi Victoria Falls one of the most special places in the world.
5. Beirut, Lebanon
When I can get away for a short break, my first choice is Beirut and I often go with my family. I am an incredibly positive person with a real can-do attitude, so Beirut mirrors what I love in a place and its people. Each time I visit I am captivated by the attitude of the Lebanese people – they live for today and love life, so the city has a very special energy. And I can enjoy so many different experiences whilst I am there. In the mornings I swim or flyboard, enjoy the beach and then I can drive to the mountains to ski in the evening. If you like hiking the Lebanon Mountain Trail has reopened (since the pandemic). Updated safety guidelines for hikers include bringing your own gear, packing your own food and avoiding routes that have become crowded, even if they are officially open to the public.
The food is delicious and centred on their love of family and community. My family is very important to me, and one of our favourite haunts is Hamra Street, a well-known alley in the centre of Beirut famous for its shisha bars and restaurants where everyone comes together; it is bustling and noisy and I love the rhythm of this district. During Covid-19, people are being more cautious with social-distancing guidelines in place in public area with limited gatherings.
I like to stay at Mövenpick Hotel or Four Seasons Hotel. Both have sensational views of the water and easy access to the array of water sports on offer, which is a must for anywhere I stay. The nightlife in Beirut is also world class. Usually, this city never sleeps, evidenced by the daily rush hour at 6:00 am from people returning home from their night out, mixed with those going out to work!