Dr. Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University once said: “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while.” True story. Memories and experiences bring so much more to our lives, and while you’re still young and able, travel while you still can. Thing is, with great travel comes plenty of responsibility and planning. So if you hate to plan, here’s where Lightfoot Travel comes in, a luxury tour operator that curates holidays to a tee. Nico Heath, the co-founder and director, tells us more.
What is the Lightfoot Travel experience?
It is all about personalisation and service. Everything’s different and it is all completely tailored to our clients’ requirements, whether they want to explore Sulawesi on an Indonesian Pinisi boat or quad biking in the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Everyone’s different, and not everyone would like the same hotel or activity. Some want to spend an entire day doing something. Others prefer to sit by the pool and chill.
So we don’t sell off-the-shelf packages. We offer a highly personalised service that’s not found with local travel agents. We only use properties we have experienced and would wish to stay in ourselves, so you can be sure that when we recommend something, it is absolutely first rate.
Who are your travel designers?
Twice a year for two weeks, they go on familiarisation trips to the far ends of the globe. They seek out the best activities for our clients, keeping up to date with the latest travel trends and latest hotel openings.
Horseback riding in Patagonia
This is great for people who hate to plan.
Especially if you’re travelling to an exotic destination like South America. You got to plan the visas, vaccinations… everything. For example, it’s a nightmare for families experiencing South Africa. There are these huge child immigration laws so you got to be prepared with birth certificates and all. So we make sure everything runs smoothly so you can enjoy a holiday without stress.
What was the most complicated trip Lightfoot ever organised?
We helped a family return to the UK from Singapore. This was about four years ago and they wanted to go back by train, all the way with two little children. They passed through Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mongolia and Russia. With two young kids, that’s even braver. I can’t even deal with a 14-hour flight with my own children.
I guess it’s all about experiences, isn’t it.
Yes, and of course, with the added luxury and comfort. Again, everyone’s different. For Africa, what I would deem a luxury would be to camp in the middle of nowhere without a single tourist. Travel is changing. The appetite for experiential travel is growing. People want to go to Africa, the Arctic Circle and even Colombia, which is another massive trend at the moment.
Can I travel solo with Lightfoot?
Absolutely! It takes courage to go somewhere as far as Africa or South America on your own, which is why people come to us. They get what they want and they feel secure as they will be looked after by excellent people on the ground.
Even if you’re away for business and all you have is the weekend, you can travel with us instead of figuring out what to do.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Tell me about your small group journeys.
We understand that some trips can work better as a small group. Not only do they allow access to unique, behind the scenes experiences that may not be available to the individual traveller (costs are split between the group), they also give clients the opportunity to meet and travel with like-minded people.
With a maximum group size of 14, they remain the intimacy and personalisation that Lightfoot holidays are renowned for, and as with all Lightfoot holidays, there is still an element of flexibility and we can tailor certain aspects of the trip. In fact, we have an trip to Peru this June. You will experience Machu Picchu with an archaeologist and Lima’s cuisine specially cooked by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.
Are you guys big on sustainable tourism?
Absolutely. The lodges and camps that we send people to put money aside for their communities. Nihiwatu, which is in Sumba, Indonesia, has a Sumba Foundation that takes care of the community, providing humanitarian aid while preserving culture and tradition. Our partners in Africa also play a large part in their communities, finding a happy balance between the locals and tourism; their cattle and the wildlife people fly there for.
Fishermen in Galle, Sri Lanka
What’s your idea of the perfect holiday?
I’m a big wildlife fan. That, culture and a bit of beach. Sri Lanka is great, for example. You’ve got the culture, tea trails, safari, leopard sightings and Yala National Park. Go down to Galle and you get to see the different periods of the Galle fort, from the Portuguese to the British. It’s quite intense, but from Colombo, it’s a quick flight to Maldives. Nothing better than finishing off a trip with five nights on an island and some amazing scuba diving.