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I’m passionate about travel and unique experiences; interested in meeting local people,studying architecture, discovering and learning as much as possible about every city I visit. I adore Paris, yearn to see more of Africa, a recent visit to Istanbul reminds me that there is much more to see in Turkey. A passage to India allowed me to explore the rich and diverse culture, and I barely scratched the surface of this amazing country.
Love to sail, discover music and indigenous food of each region, seek out the best markets and design, and of course dine at the local restaurants. I particularly love roaming Africa, recently explored Argentina and India, which deserve another visit. A devoted Francophile, love all things Parisian, world music, excellent wines & champagne.
The Four Seasons Maldives properties offer the highest level of Luxury, it’s time to begin plotting your winter and spring escapes! Consisting of two hotel properties, which I love and if you need an exclusive Private Island amid the indigo seas, the Four Seasons also has a scrumptious private island home. A heavenly hideaway, a sublime sanctuary offering the utmost in privacy and iconic Four Seasons pampering at the world’s first exclusive-use UNESCO hideaway, Voavah. A seven-bedroom private island Maldives home, the sojourn includes a 62-foot luxury yacht: Voavah Summer and a marine territory that’s utterly your own! Voavah, private island is a welcome addition to the two luxurious Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives.
Our mantra on the art of the opening act, your arrival sets the stage: with a personal VIP Seaplane, alighting on the pristine pure white sand, your private beach! Tip toe over the scuttling white shelled hermit crabs and the delicious dilemma develops, what shall you do first: laps in the pool, a discovery afternoon of diving or casting, or snooze until sunset? Decisions, decisions!
Sneak peek: accommodating up to 22 guests in seven bedrooms, with its own chefs, staff, private spa, and a 65-foot-long PADIequipped motor yacht with a dedicated dive master. This extraordinary five-acre, island paradise is your private playground – retreat or indulge in the total privacy as a castaway!
Explore the outstanding wonders of the sea with incomparable diving – an overflowing menu of possibilities including snorkeling with manta rays, scuba diving, fishing, paddle boarding, hunting for brilliant turtles and afternoon dolphin safaris on your private motor yacht. As the day ebbs, prepare for a shimmering canvas of five-star sunsets or stargazing under a midnight blue sky illuminated with a necklace of sparkling stars. Nighttime skyglow is magical in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives hover just above the equator.
Privacy is everything at Voavah. Let us whisk you away on arrival in Malé with CIP services for immigration clearing and access to a VIP seaplane for the 40-minute onward flight to Voavah. Privacy and protection certain due to Voavah’s 24-hour on-site security, night-vision cameras, CCTV and regular patrols, guests can indulge and begin checking off the long list of pleasurable activities from the moment they arrive. Voavah’s single entry point means no one arrives without staff knowledge. Medical Services – All of the guests have access to a 24-hour doctor on call, as well as access to Landaa Clinic (20 minutes away).
This incredible location in the remote Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, Voavah offers the freedom of a castaway in a luxurious setting, a private paradise. A blissful over-water spa, the yacht Summer, a staff of more than 20, including a team or personal butlers and an epicurean chef. Three stunning villas accommodate the guests. Cleverly configured to host extended family and friends or your fashionable entourage in a three-bedroom beach front villa, a two-bedroom over-water bungalow and a crucial beach house containing a suite and a bunk room for up to four children, perfect for the nanny.
Just steps from the powder sands, the Three-Bedroom Beach Villa at Voavah is a sight to behold. With a massive sunbathing pool, al fresco living room and master bedroom with ocean views on three sides, the vast beach-chic interiors ooze effortless style and an undeniable at-home vibe. The master bedroom has an attached study/children’s room, while the two additional bedrooms are each housed in their own separate pavilion.
Divide your time around the two-story Beach House and the broad expanse of sugar white sand, gin clear seas and the rich reef teeming with marine life, the ultimate castaway lifestyle! The Beach House living room merges outside with inside, a library and loft lounge, a dining room, gourmet kitchen, an expansive pool deck, and a rock star gym. The seven bedrooms span three separate venues over the lagoon, on the beach, or in the Mezzanine Suites. The most elevated position on the island, the two Mezzanine Suites at Voavah overlook the vast beach, turquoise lagoon and Biosphere Reserve beyond. Located at either end of the Beach House upper floor, each suite’s ocean-view outdoor sea-view shower and panoramic balcony deliver the height of residential chic. The Mezzanine Suites flank the Loft Lounge, a lovely in-the-eaves chill zone complete with comfy seating, pool table and views that stretch forever. Just off the Lounge, the Bunk Room has beds for up to four children, creating a great kids’ floor for larger groups.
The Voavah Vibe is all about satisfying and spoiling the guests, providing the ultimate in bespoke experiences. Last minute plea for sundowners as an exceptional sunset signals the closure of another perfect day, the chef will oblige! Kiddos dying for a pizza class, yes, of course! Sunrise on the sandbar, consider it done! Heard your friends are dining at Blu at Landaa Giraavaru, it’s a 25-minute cruise to the Four Seasons resort under a black sky twinkling with diamonds.
Expanding horizons, The Oceans of Consciousness Spa offers bespoke over-water spa therapies and rituals; yoga, meditation and pranayama classes; high-end beauty treatments; and Rossano Ferretti hair consultant on call. Private and perched over the glistening lagoon, the Spa offers bespoke treatments by ila inspired by the five pathways to consciousness: Truth, Wise Choices, Love, Peace and Compassion. Sink into your inner bliss with tailored treatments attributed to a specific pathway.
Devote delightful days discovering the undisturbed UNESCO paradise, Voavah Summer will introduce you to snorkeling or diving with whale sharks, year around manta rays; surfing on unknown breaks, casting for a sea banquet, exploring local islands, basking in sensational sunsets on the Baa Atoll, pleasurable moments are never-ending.
Gather your entourage and we will help plan your Exclusive Escape!
May 28 The Marquesas are farther from any continental landmass than any other islands in existence. They’re so remote that some are untouched since the era of European explorers. Moving onward toward Fatu Hiva. This morning, pilot whales staged our welcome formalities as we entered the protected harbor of Fatu Hiva. Baby whales joined the adults in circling the Orion, a hydrophone was dropped into the water to hear their communicating clicks. The pilot whales were joined by an oceanic whitetip shark who seemed to advise us to continue on. Adventure awaits every minute of the day!
Fatu Hiva translates as “Bay of the Virgins”. Zodiacs at the ready to ferry intrepid hikers and birders to land for strenuous hikes and a waterfall dip. Local villagers warmly greeted our arrival with enchanting songs. Some of us hiked through the hills of the quiet town and visited a craft event. I had hoped to produce a photo journal of indigenous tribal tattoo art; however, the locals weren’t as decorated as I had hoped. Women crouched by the worn trails peddling vanilla beans and fresh fruit, the ship galley staff hustled through the village buying up provisions for the ship: root vegetables, honey and fruit. Stray dogs, stray chickens and drying coconuts covered the grassy hillsides. There didn’t seem to be a bare patch of earth in this emerald paradise.
Fatu Hiva is the southernmost island of the Marquesas Islands and has one of the most striking rock formations of the islands, an incredibly lush volcanic island. The eastern coastline of Fatu-Hiva is characterized by a number of narrow valleys, carved by streams that lead to the interior of the massive mountains. Between these valleys are headlands which end in cliffs that plummet directly into the sea, making travel between them possible only by travelling over the high mountain ridges between them or by boat. With only 650 residents, they survive on fishing and growing nono, a fruit with medicinal values.
There are also a variety of vegetable fibers, the island continues to produce tapa or bark-cloth, decorated with traditional designs – it is a forgotten art on many other islands. It’s here where Tua Pittman, our cultural specialist, introduced local craftswomen who showed us the painstaking steps to breakdown the bark to produce the wafer-thin fabric. Hiva is the island of tapa, a magnificent cloth which is made using the bark of the Banyan, Breadfruit and Paper Mulberry trees. The large sheets of fabric, laboriously made by a constant beating the layer of bark, were traditionally used for privacy as curtains and eventually costumes. Large lengths of cloth were worn during significant rituals and tribal war, the length and quality of the cloth was a sign of wealth and status. Today, smaller pieces are typically decorated with geometric or natural designs in colorful inks and dyes.
The villagers performed rhythmic tribal dances and serenaded us – many of the young children joined in the presentation. Tua also performed with the native women, it was abundantly clear they appreciated his style! The ship staff were never shy about enthusiastically joining in the festivities.
Sharing their history, their dances and song, we felt an intimate bond with the locals. Imagine their isolated lives on these remote islands, visuals provide evidence of their modest lives. The juxtaposition of a still functional old pay phone booth adjacent to an oval transmittal antenna tower was an irresistible photo.
Massive banyan trees screen steep slopes and obscure the oldest tikis in French Polynesia, long-preceding their larger relatives on Easter Island. Also hidden beneath the thick overgrowth are stone fragments of houses built on high platforms, stone temples and ceremonial grounds where games were played and sacrifices made. Melville described these secret ceremonies and the mysterious taboo customs.
Divers took to the caves of sleeping sharks and a rare octopus. Afternoon outings included some calm snorkel sites and an extraordinary performance of spinner dolphins on the bow of our zodiacs – we raced the seas to keep up with the high-spirited creatures. A finale to our afternoon on the water – sea creatures providing surprises and delights.
Of course, every day, included sumptuous meals – breakfast, lunch on deck, afternoon ice cream snacks; icy Tahitian beer and salty potato chips were my after-snorkel indulgence! And then cocktails and ship briefings followed by convivial dinners. The menu was varied and delicious, I discovered a waiter who seemed to be the only one who knew they had coconut ice cream on board he also seemed to have a supply of Chablis for my dinner wine. After a few evenings, other guests discovered my top-secret coconut ice cream resource and joined in!
Under an infinite inky sky blanketed with sparkling stars, we moseyed up to the sun deck for a star gazing tutorial by Tua Pittman. Tua, our personal star navigator, has sailed the oceans solely by sun, stars and currents – a Master Navigator and an enchanting story teller. With a laser pointer, he expertly provided a mesmerizing celestial tour – making it sound so logical to navigate by the stars. I asked him to point out the Southern Cross, my favorite sighting whenever I am in the southern latitude. Tua provided the perfect ending to a brilliant day.
May 29 Hiva Oa and Tahuata, Marquesas Islands
An early morning arrival to the island of Hiva Oa, the largest and most lush of the southern Marquesas Islands. From my dawn balcony perch, I observe a fleet of NG Orion Zodiacs departing to explore the coastline and the main bay entrance to the chief town of Atuona, located on the southern side of Hiva Oa Island. A soaring peak, Temetiu rises up close to 4000 feet above the village. A lack of coral barrier, typical among all Marquesas islands, makes the coastlines vulnerable to erosion from heavy swells and waves. At Hiva Oa, a small break in the main bay provides a sheltered cove for landing and great snorkeling.
Atuona was the final home and resting place of Paul Gauguin, who died here, his last resting place enjoys marvelous sea views and overlooks the town. A short hike up the narrow over grown roads with Tua as our guide, ended up on the steep hillside where Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel are buried at the Cavalry Cemetery. The two deceased men lie side by side, graves decorated with traveler’s mementos, painted rocks and shells, they have one of the most breathtaking views of the island and the sea. Gauguin died here, a pauper, on May 8, 1903, and was buried the next day.
The main town square has a large complex resembling an ancient ceremonial pavilion lined with stone statues. Behind the Tohua Pepeu, there is a small arts and crafts market with authentic hand-crafted souvenirs including jewelry, wood products and exquisite tapa cloth. A small cultural center hosts a museum devoted to Gauguin, without any of his paintings, there are original letters he wrote to family and friends, behind the museum in a garden is a replica of his simple wood home.
Small resident shops are always interesting to me – I peek into little grocery and hardware shops and chat with locals. A few of us sat out the heat on the sidewalk curb, licking ice cream pops, whiling away the leisurely afternoon in the village. People watching and observing local life – a perfect pastime for me when I travel.
In late afternoon, the Orion repositioned to the near island of Tahuata, which is about 2.5 miles from Hiva Oa. Discovered in 1595 by Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana de Neira, Tahuata (“sunrise” in Marqusan) is the smallest island of the archipelago. For me, this was the most welcoming and authentic arrival ceremonies. Approaching in a Zodiac, we were greeted by small children blowing huge horns carved from bone. The main dock had a small religious grotto at the base of the towering rocks. At first one can’t look away from the towering 1000-foot mountains that disappear into the clouds, but here my eye was drawn back to the local singers and dancers. The welcome chants and guttural tribal songs were accompanied by striking dancers.
The friendly animated villagers swarmed around us and lead us on a musical procession along the ancient paved royal walkway shaded by fragrant tamanu trees, we danced under the trees through the village to an open air cultural center. Offering a stunning array of delicious snacks, tables piled with gorgeous beads, carved wooden handcrafts, objects carved from bone. The genuine welcome was infectious. Small children mouthed the words to the songs, music passed down from generation to generation. They knew the dance movements and often slid into the adult performance, lovingly encouraged by the adults. It was hard to tear myself away, but we had free time to walk around the Hapatoni Village and I didn’t want to miss anything in this paradise. Ambling down the deserted royal road, the little village is built atop a raised dike, the paved walkway was ordained by the queen and lined with ancient tamanu trees and is fragrant with the scents of tiare and frangipani blossoms. Following the shoreline to the top of a promontory, where you enjoy sweeping vistas. In the middle of the village, there is a beautiful stone church with stained glass windows and elaborate local carvings. The large Catholic church was built by order of the Vatican. Adjoining the extensive expanse of lawn is a small cemetery.
I reluctantly hopped aboard the last Zodiac, hating to depart back to ship. Later that afternoon a group of guests joined staff on a Citizen Science project known as Planet or Plastic, which for the first time, conducted a plankton tow survey to be further analyzed and determined the amount of micro-plastic contents in it. This is a revolutionary way to integrate Orion guests into real science conducted onboard.
May 30 Nuku Hiva Last on our island stops in the Marquesas was Nuku Hiva, some guests were sailing on to Hawaii, but this was my last port. This island has important archeological sites, vivid landscapes and fierce warriors. Another brilliant welcoming committee of locals playing drums and chanting fierce tribal songs. Some of us sadly loaded our bags into trucks piloted by locals, a rainy drizzly afternoon was my farewell. I was heartened to discover that he small airport was 2 hours away on the other side of the island, wanting to see what was ‘on the other side’ of this massive vine tangled islands, the airport transfer provided the perfect opportunity to discover the topography. Wet grassy, towering swaying palm trees, enormous banana trees, wild horses roaming the side of the road, stray cows, small brightly colored homes were tucked into the greenery – when we crested the top of the mountain, the stark desert terrain was quite a surprise.
Overall, this expedition was so amazing, the ship staff and educators are beyond beyond – so helpful, fun and welcoming! The Marquesas Islands need to be seen to be truly appreciated, the geographic distance from civilization is daunting – learning the history of Polynesia, and seeing how these small communities have developed and survived while maintaining their culture is a phenomenal experience.
Lindblad National Geographic offers an array of expeditions all over the world, we have clients who thoroughly enjoyed an Alaska/Russia expedition and have signed up for an Amazon Journey! Are you ready for an Expedition?