I am not a fan of luxury for luxury’s sake. Luxury, by definition, is excessive. Promoting luxury over and above the idea of sustainable tourism is, in my opinion, extremely short sighted. It suggests a thinking that is all about the now, with no thought as to the impact such thinking has on the future.
All of which is true. However, it is just as true that Journeys by Design promotes destinations – lodges, camps and private houses – that offer, in themselves, a real element of luxury. Examples? Any one of the Singita collection. Tswalu Kalahari’s The Motse and Tarkuni. The Royal African Safaris private canvas operation. Double standards?
No, I don’t think so. For while there is no doubt that each of these, in different ways, appear to support the idea of the luxurious, and maintain – in terms of materials used, the food and beverages on offer, the level of comforts and services made available – a standard of accommodation that one is as likely to associate with the world’s finest hotels, the difference here is one of intent: these lodges, camps and mobile safaris are designed to preserve some of the world’s last remaining wildernesses.
To be clear. The luxury here on offer is not, whatever the finery, status-associated. It is not excessive. Rather, it is a draw, and as such is put to the service of the modern world’s only real luxury: space. Which when speaking of Africa’s wildernesses, means helping ensure the survival of some of the most delicately balanced ecosystems you are ever likely to come across. Such space is beyond priceless. It is, as Pete Silvester – guide and co-founder of Royal African Safaris, very much a lead thinker on this – rightly says, one of Africa’s greatest assets, and needs to be valued as such.
And if we’re to do this, then we need to pay for it. If necessary, through the nose. Singita Grumeti is a hugely expensive stay, but that’s because its ratio of 46 beds to 350, 000 acres is quite exceptional (similarly sized Maasai Mara is, at 5000 beds, comparatively over-populated). The result? Three of the world’s most exclusive hotels, sure, but ones that guarantee the survival of the western corridor of the world’s largest land migration – the preservation, in other words, of something that, if lost, cannot be grown, remade, brought back. It’s worth it. It’s the one luxury we must afford.