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Point of View

Exclusive Resorts and National Geographic Expeditions have announced a new global strategic partnership celebrating immersive travel experiences. As such, acclaimed photographer Michael Melford curates the indelible stops experienced on the first Members-only, Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey Around the World by Private Jet for 2020.

As a National Geographic photographer, I get to see the world firsthand. Traveling almost everywhere—from Yemen to Yosemite, from Antarctica to the Arctic—I experience multiple cultures and the immense beauty of mother nature. Included in my ever-expanding world view is the Around the World by Private Jet with National Geographic Expeditions. With every Around the World trip I've photographed, I experience something that astounds me and leaves me wanting to share what I have witnessed. I'll join a team of National Geographic experts accompanying this exclusive Member Journey in 2020.

What takes my breath away on these unforgettable private jet expeditions? Not just the beauty at each stop—the Moai of Tongariki on Easter Island, sunrise at Angkor Wat, and the most romantic building in the world, the Taj Mahal—but the cultural experiences as well. We meet women of Peru who use organic dyes and weave beautiful tapestries, the Rapa Nui dancers of Easter Island, and the Maasai of the Serengeti plains of Africa, among others. There are many unique, bucket-list experiences on this trip as we visit the cultures, architecture, and natural beauty of the world from the luxury of our private jet.

I love every stop we visited on this trip, but one of my favorites is wild Africa. Here we see zebras, giraffes, lions, elephants, antelope, hippos, exotic birds, and more on the open plains of the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Crater. At night, you can hear the sounds of Africa under the star-filled sky. A trip of a lifetime? Count on it.

It Takes Two
Experiential Travel, Redefined.

“National Geographic has been synonymous with exploration since 1888, and is not only respected, but trusted,” says VP of the Experience Collection, Gina Bach. As such, the first Members-only Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey for 2020 is offered through National Geographic Expeditions: Around the World by Private Jet†. With a special departure for Club Members, this all-exclusive trip will visit 11 countries and 14 UNESCO World Heritage sites in 24 days, including the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, and the Taj Mahal.

“Our families grew up with National Geographic on their tables,” Ross adds. “It’s been a staple in the media industry. They’ve touched so many people’s lives through experiential travel, and their legacy is being the best of the best and a household name.”

Exclusive Resorts Members will also have access to National Geographic’s custom travel desk, whereby travel specialists are available to help Club Members plan curated vacations which fall outside The Club’s core Collection. In addition, National Geographic Student Expeditions are offered to Members’ middle school- and high school-aged children beginning in the summer of 2019.

"While on our stop at the Great Barrier Reef, we visited a wildlife habitat park and met the flightless cassowary bird, which is native to northwestern Australia."
"Sadhu—one of the holy men who have left all materialistic pleasures behind to live a life devoted to God—can be seen on the streets of Kathmandu, Nepal."

On the Itinerary

Peru, India, Easter Island, and Australia? Check! Experience the Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey, Around the World by Private Jet in 2020, and prepare to be wowed.

Day 1: Washington, D.C.

See:  Meet experts, staff, and fellow travelers for a reception at National Geographic headquarters, followed by a welcome dinner at our historic hotel overlooking the White House.

Stay: The Hay-Adams, Washington, D.C.

Days 2-4: Cusco, Sacred Valley of the Inca, and Machu Picchu or Amazon Rain Forest, Peru

See:  Fly by private jet to Lima and continue by local flight to Cusco. Discover this charming city, then explore the Inca ruins of Moray and Maras. Meet National Geographic grantee and master Andean weaver Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, as well as archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Peter Frost. Travel to Machu Picchu, which was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and excavated with support from the National Geographic Society. Instead of visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu, you have the option to venture deep into the Amazon rainforest.

Stay: Belmond Palacio Nazarenas or Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción

Days 5-6: Easter Island, Chile

See: Fly to incomparable Easter Island, located 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile. Explore the island’s ancient ruins with resident archaeologists Edmundo Edwards, Patricia Vargas Cassanova, and Claudio Cristino, delving into the mystery surrounding its colossal Moai statues. Visit the stone village of Orongo, the ceremonial center of the island’s intriguing Birdman cult, and enjoy a splendid performance by the Kari Kari dance troupe.

Stay: Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa

Day 7: Cross the International Date Line 

From Easter Island continue your journey across the Pacific, crossing the international date line. You’ll lose a day en route and arrive in Samoa the following evening.

Day 8: Apia, Samoa

See: The idyllic island world of Samoa, known as “the heart of Polynesia,” is one of the few places where Polynesian culture remains little changed from ancient times. Experience Samoa’s deep reverence for hospitality, tradition, and community (known as fa’a Samoa, or “the Samoan way”). Enjoy a memorable fiafia—a lively performance of Samoan dance and song. Opt to spend time at a local women’s cooperative or visit the former homestead of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Stay: Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort

Days 9-10: Great Barrier Reef or Daintree Rainforest, Australia

See: Explore the Great Barrier Reef—one of the most biologically rich places on the planet, spanning more than 1,200 miles of islands, submerged reefs, and vast expanses of coral. Experience this UNESCO World Heritage site aboard a privately chartered vessel, accompanied by marine biologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Jamie Seymour. Alternatively, discover the natural wonders and Aboriginal culture of the Daintree Rainforest—the oldest rainforest on Earth.

Stay: Pullman Port Douglas Sea Temple Resort & Spa

Days 11-12: Angkor or Beng Mealea, Cambodia

See: Fly by private jet to Siem Reap and venture to Angkor, once the capital of the Khmer Empire. Explore Angkor’s vast temple complex, then choose to cruise to nearby floating villages, visit an artisan market, or enjoy a Cambodian cooking class. Alternatively, explore the lost jungle temple of Beng Mealea, one of the largest Khmer temples. In the evening, enjoy traditional Cambodian music and dance during a private dinner on the grounds of a magnificent temple.

Stay: Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor

Day 13: Kathmandu, Nepal   

See: Continue by private jet to Kathmandu and visit the iconic Bodhnath, the largest stupa in Nepal. Gather for a talk with Ben Ayres, a climber, writer, filmmaker, and humanitarian based in Kathmandu who documents isolated and threatened cultures across the Himalaya and has been featured in National Geographic magazine. Then enjoy dinner in the ancient city of Patan, known for its spectacular palaces and temples.  

Stay: Dwarika's Hotel  

Days 14-15: Paro, Bhutan   

See: Fly by local charter to Bhutan and explore Paro's highlights. Meet local monks and learn about their daily lives. Don traditional Bhutanese clothing and join locals for a religious festival, attended by masked dancers and a high-ranking lama. Then hike up to the legendary Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger's Nest Temple—the most famous pilgrimage site in the country. Alternatively, spend a day exploring Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan, known for its mix of Himalayan and Western cultures.  

Stay: Zhiwa Ling Hotel  

Days 16-17: Taj Mahal, Agra, India   

See: Return to Kathmandu by local flight and fly by private jet to Agra. Visit the majestic Taj Mahal, the most iconic site in all of India, and explore the palace's exquisite construction and serene garden. Venture to the impressive Agra Fort or join local youth on a walk to the city's lesser known monuments. Instead of the Taj Mahal, you may choose to visit the red-sandstone city of Fatepuhr Sikri and the exquisite tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, also referred to as the "baby Taj." 

Stay: The Oberoi Amarvilas

Days 18-19: Serengeti Plain or Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania    

See: Fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport and choose from two options: head deep into the savanna on game drives in Serengeti National Park, one of the world’s greatest wildlife destinations and home to the “big five.” Or descend into Ngorongoro Crater, which harbors some 25,000 animals including endangered black rhinos. National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Louise Leakey joins us to discuss her family’s historic fossil finds.   

Stay: Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti or and Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge   

Days 20-21: Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan    

See: Explore Petra, the once-thriving capital of the Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans. Half-built, half-carved into rose-red sandstone cliffs, the city was mysteriously abandoned in the seventh century and rediscovered in 1812. Discover many intriguing structures including the famed Treasury, royal tombs, houses, and a monastery. Gather for a festive dinner and Bedouin folklore performance, and travel to Wadi Rum the next morning. Explore this otherworldly desert landscape in 4x4s and enjoy tea with Bedouin villagers.   

Stay: Mövenpick Resort Petra   

Days 22-23: Marrakech or the Atlas Mountains, Morocco    

See: Examine historic Moroccan architecture on a bucket-list tour of Marrakech and explore the city’s medina. Visit the Museum of Perfume and create your own scent with a perfume maker, or enjoy a food tour of Djemaa el Fna square. Stroll through the lush Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint Laurent. Instead of Marrakech, venture into the Atlas Mountains and experience Berber traditions during lunch at a local home. Tonight, gather for a farewell dinner celebrating our adventure.   

Stay: La Mamounia   

Day 24: Marrakech/Washington, D.C.    

Following breakfast, board our private jet and fly to Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, connect with your commercial flight home; or, if you wish, we will provide complimentary accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Dulles for the night.

*Sample itinerary. Stops and accommodations are subject to change. †The Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey, Around the World by Private Jet, will be operated by National Geographic Partners Chicago, the tour operations branch of National Geographic, on flights operated by Icelandair.