MARLON BRANDO’S VISION FOR TETIAROA ATOLL NEARS COMPLETION AS PACIFIC BEACHCOMBER SETS THE NEW GLOBAL STANDARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
REMARKABLE DOESN’T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE “THE BRANDO” ON THE ISLAND OF TETIAROA, THE HISTORIC FORMER RETREAT OF TAHITIAN ROYALS…
A LOOK BACK AT TETIAROA’S HISTORY…
I discovered from my research that the atoll of Tetiaroa holds a special place in the hearts of the people of French Polynesia. It has become an almost a “sacred spot” for the people. In historic times, Tetiaroa belonged to the Pomare family, rulers of Tahiti. The royal family placed Tetiaroa in the care of faithful retainers who managed it and lived on the island.
Members of the royal family spent time on Tetiaroa when they needed quiet time and relaxation. The female members of the family are said to have gone there to eat (gain weight) and stay out of the sun (have their skin lighten up) “for the purposes of beautifying their person.” According to legend, in times of trouble the King placed his treasures there for safekeeping. In 1789, William Bligh is said to have been the first European to visit the atoll while looking for the Bounty mutineers.
In 1904, the royal family gave Tetiaroa to Dr. Johnston Walter Williams, the only dentist in Tahiti. Mr Williams later became Consul of England from 1916 to 1935. Dr. Williams managed Tetiaroa as a residence and a copra plantation.
HOW BRANDO AND TETIAROA CAME TO BE…
In 1960, Marlon Brando “discovered” Tetiaroa while scouting filming locations for Mutiny on the Bounty, which was shot on Tahiti and neighboring island of Moorea. After filming was completed, Brando hired a local fisherman to ferry him to Tetiaroa. It was “more gorgeous than anything I had anticipated,” he marveled in his 1994 autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me.
Brando eventually purchased Tetiaroa’s islets (motus) from one of Dr. Williams’ direct descendants, Mrs. Duran. The reef and lagoon belong to French Polynesia. Brando purchased most of the atoll in 1966 for $200,000 and the other part in 1967 for $70,000. He had to overcome political interference and local resistance to purchase the atoll. Many, many important archaeological sites have been located, identified, and studied on Tetiaroa.
Wanting to live on the atoll, Brando built a small village on Motu Onetahi in 1970. It consisted of an airstrip to get there without breaching the reef, 12 simple bungalows, a kitchen hut, dining hall and bar, all built from local materials – coconut wood, thatch roofs and even large sea shells for sinks. The village became a hospice for friends, family and scientists studying the atoll’s ecology and archeology.
A SPECIAL FRIENDSHIP IS FORGED BETWEEN TWO AMERICANS…
What happens when two Americans who share a passion and reverence for Tahiti and her islands come together? Enter, Mr. Richard Bailey, a youthful, forward-thinking, fearless visionary, who would soon team up with the Hollywood legend to find a revolutionary solution to Tahiti’s ever-increasing demand (and very expensive) energy needs.
After falling deeply in love with the South Pacific and its people, Brando’s life was affected in a profound way. Brando who had earned a “bad boy” reputation for his public outbursts and antics or as noted by the Los Angeles magazine–“Brando was rock and roll before anybody knew what rock and roll was”–found a new way to escape the Hollywood limelight at the 12-island atoll which he intended to make partly an environmental laboratory and partly a resort. He vowed to preserve it. “If I have my way,” he said, “Tetiaroa will remain forever a place that reminds Tahitians of who they are and what they were centuries ago.” It was during his time on Tetiaroa that Brando began researching other forms of sustainable energy utilizing what was most available and abundant throughout Tahiti: SEAWATER! And, in 1999, it would be this common quest that would introduce Brando, a transformed, passionately “green-focused” Hollywood star, to a young hospitality industry entrepreneur with a proven record of achieving luxury in a remote, authentic and well-preserved environment in the South Pacific, while weaving in the genuine Polynesian way of life. For the next 5 years, a lasting friendship was forged, as their revolutionary ideas for sustainable energy were brought to full fruition, and it should be no surprise that after Marlon Brando’s passing, the Brando family comprised of his eight surviving children would turn to Mr. Bailey to lead the way to make their father’s dream for Tetiaroa come true!
AN INVITATION I COULDN’T REFUSE…
How does one script an incredible ending to my 2013, amazing French Polynesian Odyssey? Well, if you’re the ESCAPESEEKER you would receive one incredibly rare invitation to get a first hand look at THE BRANDO–the most revolutionary, most eco-friendly, sustainable luxury resort, currently under construction on the atoll of TETIAROA. Yes, on February 15, 2013, at approximately 11:00 a.m., I found myself in the co-pilot’s seat of a TBM850 private aircraft, piloted by none other than the courageously daring CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, RICHARD BAILEY, the man entrusted by Brando and his family to meticulously carry out Brando’s requests for his beloved TETIAROA: to preserve its cultural richness, its natural beauty, and the incredible biodiversity of this beautiful atoll.
After our 20-minute, smooth flight from Papeete, we begin to make our approach towards the runway. Viewing the island from above, it finally hits me just how complex this huge undertaking is from the start–the difficulty of building on a remote atoll with no infrastructure – no power, gas, water, anything. For starters, they’ve reconstructed an airstrip, to make it meet strict regulations. After Mr. Bailey’s flawless landing, I turned to him and remarked, “What you have set before you feels so much like your own quest to land on the moon!” He smiled, and replied, “Mel, in my business, how often does an opportunity like this come along in one’s lifetime? I am so very lucky…very, very lucky to be given this amazing challenge!”At that moment, as we exited his beautiful aircraft, I, too felt extremely lucky to be given this very special first-hand look at THE BRANDO, guided by the youthful and energetic visionary himself, equipped with an unwavering positive attitude who believes nothing is IMPOSSIBLE!
IN 2014, THE CALIBER OF TRUE, SUSTAINABLE, ECO-FRIENDLY LUXURY ESCAPES WILL BE TRANSFORMED WITH THE UNVEILING OF “THE BRANDO” ON THE TETIAROA ATOLL…
Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC), which will distribute air conditioning to all of the project’s buildings and infrastructures. Having pioneered this system in the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa in 2006, Pacific Beachcomber is the leader in the development of this technology. The SWAC is estimated to produce 45% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
Solar energy, produced from photovoltaic solar panels, will be installed along the airstrip on the north side of the islet of Onetahi. Solar energy is estimated to produce 35% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
A biofuel thermal power station that uses coconut oil will be used to offset any decrease in energy outputs from the solar installations. Coconut oil is estimated to produce 20% of the energy requirement on Tetiaroa.
Additionally, hot water for the resort will be produced using solar energy instead of traditional water heaters that burn fossil fuels, and an innovative wastewater management system will filter liquid wastewater into water that will be used for irrigation.
I have to admit, as THE ESCAPESEEKER, I’ve been granted some very unique opportunities, but my private tour or TETIAROA has to be amongst the coolest of them all! Wait, let me rephrase that…in light of the perfect, noon day sun that shone brightly through the natural vegetation, it is better described as ONE BRILLIANT DAY…one I can’t wait to replicate and capture on film when THE BRANDO officially opens its doors in 2014.
Thank you Richard for a most inspiring day…and thank you Mireille Bailey for kindly suggesting I see THE BRANDO up close. I would not have missed this rare experience for the world. While standing on the beach and looking out at an endless horizon of turquoise blue and every shade thereof, I had an overwhelming sense… the special feeling the natives call, “mana”…that this atoll is more than just another luxurious island escape. Mr. Brando would be very, very proud!
ESCAPESEEKER fans…yes, please feel free to ask me the question: “If Heaven has a heaven, is it found in Tahiti and her islands?” Watch this clip of Tetiaroa, and you’ll begin to understand why ESCAPESEEKER has become such a strong proponent of Mr. Bailey and his Pacific Beachcomber organization!
Taha’a, French Polynesia – It all began when I awoke at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 20, 2013 on Day 8 of our Cook Islands and Society Islands 11-night cruise. I looked out of my stateroom balcony and the turquoise waters of the m/s Paul Gauguin’s private motu (island) glistened in the distance. I realized the ship would be setting its anchor shortly in the deep waters off the tiny island of Taha’a, the smallest of the Society Islands, which would enable passengers to be tendered to the private motu for the Paul Gauguin’s legendary Motu Barbecue. This is definitely an all-day beach barbecue/watersports filled festivity that I was looking forward to experiencing again. But since we were lucky enough to be anchored in Taha’a on a Sunday—I wanted to begin this Sabbath morning by giving our ESCAPESEEKER team a Sunday experience they will not soon forget. If you ever find yourself on any of the Society Islands on a Sunday, and you love A CAPPELLA CHORUS, please make note: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU ATTEND THE LOCAL VILLAGE PROTESTANT CHURCH if you want to hear the most harmonious voices on earth! I kid you not!
Well, that was my plan. But I knew it would not be the simplest plan to achieve. It’s not like we’re just dock-side and could go on the island anytime we wish. It definitely would require some extraordinary assistance. So, I picked up the phone—by this time it’s only 6:00 a.m.—still quite early for both passengers and crew, and dialed “0” and immediately, the night duty staff answered the phone. I explained what I wished to do…not just for me…but for my team…a total of 8. He explained that he would try to reach his top superiors who could “possibly make it happen.”
Enter NELSON TRINDADE, Paul Gauguin’s Hotel Director. His attitude, “CAN DO!”
At 7 a.m. I received a call from Nelson Trindade, Paul Gauguin’s Director of Hotel Operations. He not only explained how he was going to get our team to the Protestant Church on Taha’a in time to attend their 9:00 a.m. service, but he informed me that after the church service, he would personally pick us up at the church and guide us back to a waiting zodiac that would then transport us directly to the private island so we could experience “Motu Mahana” –their legendary barbecue and beach day as well. Talk about MISSION POSSIBLE!
OUR TAHA’A SUNDAY…What an absolutely music infused, soul-enriching day…
We arrived at the church just as the services were about to begin and were directed towards the front of the chapel. Immediately, the congregation began to sing, and the walls seemed to vibrate with the strength of their majestic a cappella voices—pure God endowed melodic vocal instruments as each section of the congregation took turns singing various hymns. It was immediately clear to my ESCAPESEEKER team why I wanted them to have this extraordinary experience! The only thing that would have improved our experience is if we could have accessed copies of their hymns in English so we could read along while they sang in their native Tahitian. But then again, the spirit was felt so strongly as they sang with fervor and gusto, that it transcended any language barrier we might have felt.
Well, to our surprise, at the end of the service, several women were beckoned to collect the beautiful fresh floral garlands that hung at the podium and began to present one to each of us as they thanked us for attending their Sunday Service. We entered as strangers, and left as friends. These are the kinds of unexpected, spontaneous, mind-expanding native experiences, which make traveling thousands of miles by land and sea absolutely worth it!
As we made our way down the street, who did we see approaching us? Yes, you guessed it—Nelson Trindade!
As promised, he was there to guide us back to the waiting zodiac.
Nelson Trinidade, (center) even provided freshly cut coconut drinks to quench our thirst!
MOTU MAHANA…It’s Playtime, Island Paradise Style!
Paul Gauguin’s MOTU MAHANA is quickly becoming a tradition we strive to repeat year after year. Where else can we safely play in the water like children again?
GOODBYE TAHA’A…THANK YOU FOR A MOST MEMORABLE SUNDAY!
Just when we think our day couldn’t get any more exciting, we receive an invitation to join Captain Ericksen and Nelson Trindade for a “Sail Away from Taha’a” as viewed from the Bridge! We were also joined by passengers, Champion Freediver, Herbet Nitsch and his father, along with a film crew who is documenting Herbet’s return to free diving in French Polynesian waters. Herbet, like myself, is also a guest speaker and is sharing his incredible free diving adventures as documented on film. His unwavering passion for his extremely difficult sport is most inspiring.
Jim and Peg Jones enjoying a photo op with Herbet Nitsch.
Herbet isn’t the only one passionate about what he does as demonstrated by m/s Paul Gauguin’s Captain Ericksen.
Dining with Captain Ericksen and Hotel Director, Nelson Trindade was the perfect ending to our extraordinary day. Who knew that when I picked up the phone at 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning, our ESCAPESEEKER day would evolve into such an event-filled unforgettable experience. But then again, when you’re cruising under the m/s Paul Gauguin banner, nothing is ordinary, and no request is too big to fill! As Trindade explained, “What sets us apart from all the other cruise lines has always been our crew, and how we go above and beyond to insure our guests are made to feel special, and have the best vacation they have ever experienced.”
“Can Do attitude is the key to our success,” he proudly adds.
Our team’s experience throughout our 11-night journey, whether on land or at sea, is definitely a testament to the first class luxury cruise experience we were afforded!
Thank you m/s Paul Gauguin!
Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES…
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
ABRAVANEL HALL WILL ONCE AGAIN BE FILLED WITH KURT BESTOR MUSIC ENTHUSIASTS…
SERIOUS DECADES-LONG FANS WHO HAVE EARNED THE NICKNAME…BESTORITES
Select Images by Weston Hall
On December 13-15, 2012, Utah’s famed Abravanel Hall will be brimming with avid music lovers. These are not your ordinary music lovers–but loyal followers of Utah’s versatile and beloved composer, Kurt Bestor–thus the nickname “Bestorites”–who have made it their Christmas tradition to attend his concert year after year!
As in Christmas past, Bestor is joined on stage by SPECIAL GUEST musicians–and this year, to help him celebrate his 25th year–he is joined by Grammy-Award Winning Violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker! [For more ticket info go to: http://www.kurtbestor.com/]
OUR PAST HAS A WAY OF CONNECTING US TO OUR PRESENT…
In 1998, I was asked to write and produce a special film tribute for the worldwide humanitarian relief organization known as C.A.R.E. –made famous by the CARE stamped brown boxes filled with basic foods which were air-dropped to survivors of war-torn Europe post World War 2. The film, entitled Womens’ Voices specifically highlights CARE’s tremendous relief efforts in assisting and changing the lives of impoverished women in Central America. While researching to find the appropriate musical score for the film I came across the most moving song that was a perfect fit to set the tone and convey the message that was at the heart of this tribute. The song was Prayer of the Children, with lyrics and music composed by Kurt Bestor.
I was fortunate enough to discover that my longtime friend, filmmaker and Sundance Film Festival Co-Founder, Sterling Van Wagenen, personally knew this renowned Utah composer. Sterling kindly connected the dots for me, and Kurt Bestor permitted me to use the song, free of charge, stating, “I’m honored to assist in CARE’s efforts to help the less fortunate.” I have never forgotten his kind spirit and generosity. In 2010, in Salt Lake City, before his annual Abravanel Concert Hall performance was to begin, we finally met in person!
ESCAPESEEKER SEEKS OUT KURT BESTOR AGAIN…
THIS TIME TO SHOWCASE HIS TALENTS IN THE STUDIO AND ON THE SKI SLOPES TOO!
The selection process that I undertook in deciding to seek out KURT BESTOR as the Utah based musical artist to feature as part of our ESCAPESEEKER Deer Valley/Park City winter episode was quite simple. Knowing that the episode will be anchored around the luxuriously classy Montage Deer Valley resort—I wanted to find a talented artist who was equally at home in such a luxurious environment as well as being out in the elements—the winter’s chilly elements. Well, I quickly learned that not only is Kurt Bestor a gifted composer, but he’s an avid heli-skier as well! What a beautiful match for a resort that caters to skiers of all levels—from novices like myself, to ultimate thrill seekers like Kurt!
But, ultimately, what won me over is the enormous praise that not only Kurt’s loyal fans have shared about this generously gifted individual—but the honest words expressed by those who work closely with Kurt, like Sam Cardon, fellow Utah composer with whom he released a CD entitled “Innovators” in 1995 followed by its sequel in 2001: “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen as many gifts given to one individual. He’s a first-rate composer, a terrific public speaker, a pretty good actor, a great athlete, a bit of a poet and sculptor and artist. An artistic nature just fills him up. And he’s exceptionally bright. He could have chosen to do anything.”
LOYAL LIFELONG FOLLOWERS…HIS MUSIC APPEALS TO EVERY GENERATION
Kurt has an incredible following in Utah, but particularly during the holidays. For the last 25 years, Kurt has produced his annual Christmas concert, complete with a full orchestra, which as I’ve witnessed, are always a packed house, (so best to buy your tickets early). Bestor’s music can be heard throughout the entire State of Utah, and beyond—whether it’s Provo’s Stadium of Fire on the Fourth of July; or European concert halls for the LDS Sea Trek; or LDS Church movies or the dozens of special charity appearances he makes annually on local TV and radio ads.
Yes, Bestor’s accomplishments exceed Utah’s borders: His compositions include the Calgary Olympic TV theme (which earned him an Emmy); music for the Salt Lake Olympic closing ceremonies; scores for more than 30 films; material for more than 40 TV shows, including “Good Morning America,” “Monday Night Football,” “National Geographic,” Fox TV news, ABC’s college basketball, ABC’s “Movie of the Week,” NBC’s 1988 Super Bowl, ABC’s baseball playoff coverage, NBC’s 1992 Barcelona Olympic coverage. The list goes on and on.
Yes, there’s definitely more to add to his credits: Bestor has conducted his own classical compositions with the Utah Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, The Prague Festival Orchestra and The Estonian National Symphony. He has performed for Jane Goodall, Madeleine Albright and Mikhail Gorbachev at the World Summit in New York. He has conducted his own ballet. He has collaborated with Lou Rawls, Kenny Loggins, Dolly Parton, Dick Van Dyke and Vanessa Williams.
You name it, Kurt has done just about everything that involves music — scores for Sony PlayStation, beauty pageants, Muzak, marching bands—he even composed the school song for the local Utah Timpanogos High School.
KURT BESTOR NEEDS MUSIC LIKE HE NEEDS AIR…
After spending some quality time with Kurt—I quickly realized that here is a man who needs music like he needs air! No, let me rephrase that: Kurt needs to create music in order to breathe, in order to survive. And, like other artists who are passion driven by their art—Kurt has had to make some big sacrifices to practice his art the only way he can…with the same gusto and unyielding grace with which he navigates unchartered steep, fresh white powdered mountains.
Here is an artist whose story of triumphs outnumber the losses, and whose music reflects the journey he has traveled…you may even discover that you’ve traveled some similar roads with this gifted artists…maybe even dreamed the same dream…perhaps it is the reason his music strikes such a familiar chord with so many? What I noticed most about this talented man is the JOY and sparkle in his eyes when he is performing…KURT BESTOR needs to share his passion for music…it is what fuels his soul. And, you and I become the blessed recipients.
“My favorite feeling is to stand in front of a symphony, and when I lower the baton, out of 80 or 90 musicians comes something that was in my head,” he says. “I don’t even totally understand how that works. It’s magical almost. I can put it down on paper out of my head, and the musicians combine their talents and the audience receives what I felt when I was in my room by myself creating it. Music is pure communication. It makes me feel like I have a mission or purpose in life. I take people on a little journey in concerts. It feels right.” ~ Kurt Bestor
It feels so very right to us too Kurt. Thank you for sharing your music and touching our souls. It was an absolute pleasure to capture you in full-blown action…whether it’s via your keyboard, your trumpet, or on your trusted Rossignol skis jumping out of a Diamond heli-ski chopper. ESCAPESEEKER audiences loved every daring second of it…from the first note to the last!
In the meantime, BESTORITES…You can get a sneak peak of PBS SoCal’s highly popular episode featuring our favorite Utah composer!
Kurt, on behalf of our entire ESCAPESEEKER team, we wish you a TREMENDOUS 25th Anniversary Christmas Concert!
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
ESCAPESEEKER and KURT BESTOR TESTING THE QUALITY OF UTAH’S FRESHLY FALLEN SNOW! Our assignment: To prove Utah’s claim… Does Utah have “The Greatest Snow on Earth?”
This photo and sentiment by Commander Neil Armstrong expresses exactly how ESCAPESEEKER feels towards TRAVEL too, and about being fully ENGAGED in LIFE versus being a mere OBSERVER.
May we all take to heart the message from the family of Neil Armstrong:
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
Goodbye Mr. Armstrong. Thank you for a lifetime of inspiring courage and sheer briliance!
You taught me that it’s not enough to just shoot for the stars when you can land on the moon!
EMMY AWARD WINNING ADVENTURE AND NATURAL HISTORY DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, SCOTT SIMPER TO LEAD ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA SHOOT
Scott Simper chosen Director of Photography for
EPIC AFRICA: WILD AND WONDROUS
Award winning and multi-facetted documentary film maker, Scott Simper began his adventurous life as a cowboy. Life in the saddle led to film studies at the University of Utah. Scott’s initial background in stage management, sound engineering and theatrical lighting led to camera operating and he has spent the past 15 years honing his craft, much of it in far flung and exotic locations with equally exotic diseases — many of which Scott has sampled and survived!
In addition to his all-round production expertise, Scott’s skills as a mountaineer, rock climber, skier, kayaker and adventure racer have made him a highly sought after team member in locations ranging from the jungles of the Congo to the Arctic to the summit of Mt Everest.
Scott’s work is distinguished not only for its beauty and his technical expertise but also for his willingness to take on the challenges of any situation or location with a smile. From rigging shots in difficult, tight locations to building and fixing equipment in inhospitable places, Scott is known as the essential cameraman to have on those difficult gigs.
His creative aerial work using a gyro-stabilization system, breath-taking time lapses and exceptional hand-held shooting have earned him Emmy awards and nominations for camera work.
In addition to his skills as a camera operator, Scott has a knack for connecting with his subjects, putting them at ease and getting the most from them as he visually captures their lives. A true team player, Scott’s natural enthusiasm and unflagging energy are valuable on any production — and invaluable on the tough ones!
Scott will be assisted by ESCAPESEEKER AFRICA team members, including Sara Mayer and Producer, Roger Gunn as well as Royal African Safaris’ partner and expert guide, Phil West.
2010: Scott summits Mt Everest for a corporate production: http://gearjunkie.com/interview-photographer-scott-simper
Breaking News 2012: Scott wins an Emmy for outstanding camera work for the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship and a National award for Museum Media for his work at the Utah Natural History Museum.
It’s been over two weeks since our return from our ESCAPESEEKER EPIC AFRICA Advance Research assignment, and still the memories remain imbedded deep in our hearts and minds! Our ESCAPESEEKER Team totally embraced the nomadic life as we explored the EPIC SOUTHERN AFRICAN region and experienced the very best LUXURY SAFARIS found anywhere in the world. As we departed ROYAL MALEWANE on January 29th, JUAN PINTO the Head Ranger & Reserve Manager gave each of us a parting gift, a CD, and it is only now that I’ve been able to view its contents. WOW, Juan is not only a Master Guide–a category that truly deserves to have a higher class category to even begin to describe Juan’s extraordinary kaleidoscope of abilities–I suggest “Renaissance Man” since there isn’t a topic or skill related to the great outdoors that Juan has not yet conquered–including NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY! Take a look at this precious gift–a collection of the images Juan captured of ROYAL MALEWANE and our ESCAPESEEKER team doing what we do best: ESCAPING TO THE GREATEST DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD ONE LUXURY ESCAPE AT A TIME. WE MISS YOU ROYAL MALEWANE. We cannot wait to take the next step–PHASE TWO–returning to film ROYAL MALEWANE and the other remarkable Southern Africa destinations in all its WILD AND WONDROUS grandeur!
Until then, we are happy to share this beautiful slide show which reminds us of why we continually long to return. All you have to do is click on the following link:
Here’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
Creator/Journalist Host/Executive Producer
PBS SoCal ESCAPESEEKER
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“Remember, Be the kindest person you know!” ~ Mel Gee Henderson
Stanley’s Camp, Botswana, AFRICA — Who would have ever venture to guess that a once-upon-a-time Philippine born, American raised, barefoot little girl from a small seaside town in Southern California, would be leading an Advance Research Team expedition throughout the southern region of Africa for her own popular PBS SoCal Travel Series, ESCAPESEEKER, Season 2012! Yes, that would be me. Even from a very early age, my dear Mother, Eppie who passed away last month, made me believe there wasn’t anything I can’t do. And, today, I continue to believe all dreams are possible as also expressed by Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
I’ve now earned the title, “seasoned journalist”—not sure if that refers to my age or my experience—but no matter, it’s a description I’ll gladly accept. After all, it took a great chunk of my first five decades to produce six incredibly beautiful children and 10 of the sweetest grandchildren on earth! And now, here I am blessedly exploring our marvelous planet with a child-like wonder as the “ESCAPESEEKER!”
ESCAPESEEKER, a nickname I derived while working for Asia’s premiere high-end global luxury magazine, ESCAPE. My fascinating cover stories became the impetus which led me to create the inspiring PBS travel series that bears my nickname, ESCAPESEEKER! My family and friends will be the first to tell you, my insatiable wanderlust knows no bounds, as I circle the earth with my talented film crew, often to its most remote corners, seeking out the greatest destinations in the world, one stunning LUXURY ESCAPE at a time.
If I may offer a word of warning: my passion for travel is highly contagious. Wherever I go, whomever I meet, it doesn’t take long before I have entire groups mesmerized with remarkable, often humorous travel stories, utilizing the images and footage captured by my photography team of the most dramatically jaw-dropping beautiful places on earth! As my PBS advisors have explained, “Mel, your job each week is to deliver 27 minutes of pure joy!” Well, you know what—you can’t fake ‘pure joy’—so thankfully, our program succeeds because JOY is exactly what my team and I feel time and time again, as we are given this incredible opportunity to capture the very best our world has to offer!” I am proud to add, we keep it honest and we keep it real. I want my travel-loving, loyal audience to know that anything I can do, they can do. It is not always easy to reach the destinations we feature on ESCAPESEEKER—but I’ll guarantee that they will always be unforgettable and sometimes even life-changing.”
Since January 8, 2012, my Advance Research Team aka ART and I have been criss-crossing the magnificent, diverse expanse of the southern region of Africa and today I am reporting from the remote Okavango Delta of Botswana. The Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world. It is here that the exclusive Chief’s Island in the Mombo Concession, that Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, as well as the Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp is located.
From Stanley’s Camp with flew via a chartered single engine Cessna to the Kalahari Desert, home of the famous salt flats known as the Makgadikgadi Pans.
It was here that a legend of a man by the name of Jack Bousfield stumbled upon a site during a trapping expedition in the Makgadikgadi Pans during the 60’s, that so captured his imagination, he set up camp under an acacia with the unshakeable expectation that others would feel the same. To describe Jack Bousfield as a “legend” would be an understatement. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the dubious achievement of hunting 53,000 crocodiles, survivor of seven plane crashes, gored by elephants, stung by African killer bees, Jack did it all! Ralph Bousfield, along with Catherine Raphaely founded Uncharted Africa Safari co. in 1993 and captures the undying spirit of Ralph’s adventurer father in what I found to be an almost indescribable place in the middle of Botswana’s Kalahari Desert aptly called, Jack’s Camp.
The choice of such a striking locale, owed much to his original taste for the savage beauty of a forgotten Africa where he lived until his tragic death in an aircraft accident in 1992.
The minute I stepped onto Jack’s Camp, I felt I had just been casts in my own “Out of Africa” feature film…except this time, it was being shot in IMAX format. Yes, the endless landscape is majestically panoramic, further magnified by the infinite blue, blue skies. Add to the movie-set, the meticulously designed interiors of our tents–you honestly just have to experience it for yourselves. It looks like something out of a novel…a novel I am now inspired to write. It’s that kind of place. I promise, it will bring out the adventure/romance writer in you!
Our team is continually blown away by the pristine, natural beauty and abundant wildlife we have found throughout our African journey. More importantly, we are so moved by the genuine warmth and welcoming hospitality of the natives we meet. Their eyes just sparkle as they proudly educate us about their beautiful country, wildlife treasures and unique culture. It’s crucially important that if you really want to get to know a place, you have to see it, experience it, through the eyes of the locals. You have to peel away the layers, and be in the moment…their moment…their world. I promise you, it will change you from a mere tourist to a bonafide explorer! And, as an additional reward, I guarantee you’ll make life-long friends wherever you go as your enriching travel experiences result in greater understanding and appreciation of your fellow-beings.
It is this heart-warming and important discovery that we made during our entire African journey that truly moved us. All the various properties we visited strive to build long-lasting relationships with their local communities by identifying and sponsoring self-sustaining projects that have the support of the owners, their staff, and often guests like us who are given the opportunity to visit these philanthropic programs. We met entire staffs working closely with the local schools—building, repairing, providing them with necessary school supplies to improve the general well-being and education of the children.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to take the leap! There’s no better time like the present to dust off that passport and fearlessly follow in my ESCAPESEEKER footsteps. The hotels, lodges, and camps that my team and I have experienced are located in some of the most beautiful pristine, best preserved areas of Africa. There’s nothing stopping even Grandma’s like me from experiencing all that our majestic world provides. You just have to take that first step—make the necessary preparations and everything else will fall into place. I’ll be more than happy to personally give you any guidance you may need to get you started on the right footing.
In the meantime, please stay tuned for ESCAPESEEKER Fall Season 2012, when my film crew and I will joyfully present, two in-depth, inspiring hours featuring EPIC AFRICA: WILD and WONDROUS! Honestly, you won’t believe it until you see it. And, if you can’t see it first hand, watching ESCAPESEEKER is the next best thing!
We’d like to express our sincere gratitude to the entire ROYAL AFRICAN SAFARIS team for your unwavering support and brilliant expertise. You have proven to our team that one knows AFRICA like you do. You’ve made navigating our way through Africa’s massive landscape seem effortless. We could not have engaged in such an extensive effort without your guidance. Thank you! Visit their website if you’re craving a tailor-made African Safari Adventure of your own! http://www.royalafricansafaris.com/
Our heartfelt thanks also goes out to all of the destinations and their superb staff, seasoned game trackers and guides who have welcomed us with open arms and provided us with more mind-expanding, enriching WOW wildlife experiences than we ever dreamed possible! We had no idea just how tremendous and unforgettable our African experiences would be. That is until we met you. I’ve listed all of our amazing destinations below in the order that we first set eyes upon you:
- Cape Grace, www.capegrace.com/
- La Residence, www.laresidence.co.za/
- Birkenhead House and Villa, www.birkenheadhouse.com/
- Grootbos Nature Reserve, www.grootbos.com
- Rosenhof Country House, www.rosenhof.co.za
- The Plettenberg, www.plettenberg.com/
- Phinda Private Game Reserve, The Homestead, www.phinda.com/
- Lion Sands Game Reserve, “1933” – www.lionsands.com
- Royal Maliwane, www.royalmalewane.com/
- Tintswalo at Waterfall, www.tintswalo.com/
- Forum at Homini, http://www.forumhomini.com/
- Sanctuary Retreats: Sussi & Chuma, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/zambia/sussi-and-chuma.cfm
- Sanctuary Retreats: Chief’s Camp, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/botswana/chiefs-camp.cfm
- Sanctuary Retreats: Stanley’s Camp, http://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/lodges/botswana/stanleys-camp.cfm
- Jack’s Camp, www.africansafaris.com/JacksCamp
I am forever grateful to my indefatigable Advance Research Team: Jim Jones, Peg Whisler Jones, Carol Borghi, Ozzie Jack Clarke, Roy Henderson, Marion Ellis, Peter Moody, and Royal African Safaris’ own, Phil West. You are all amazing…thank you for being an outstanding dream team!
Here’s to BLISSFUL, NEVER-ENDING ESCAPES!
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER
Banks of the Brazos River, TEXAS — Being based in a State as BIG as TEXAS, ESCAPESEEKER can’t help but think BIG in 2012, as we continue to film BIG and EPIC destinations around the world, featuring the kinds of inspiring individuals you and I would love to hang out with, even if the cameras weren’t rolling–no let me rephrase that–especially if the cameras weren’t rolling!
As promised, 2012 will find us continuing our on-going series on the South Pacific. Of course how can we not continue to bask in the jaw-dropping beauty of Bora Bora and Moorea, or immerse ourselves ever deeper in pursuit of the world’s “diver’s mecca” in the atolls of Rangiroa?
From there, we’ll continue across the oceans to the most remote, mystical island on earth–Rapa Nui–where we begin our extensive exploration of South America’s best kept secret– “Chile: Long, Lean, and Simply Spectacular!” Here’s a sneak peak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swJVnzdM9FA
Whether we’re filming in far, distant lands or capturing the magic of our own native homeland–the USA–we never waiver from our ESCAPESEEKER mantra of “Seeking the Greatest Destinations in the World, one Luxury Escape at a time”…and “Living the Life We’ve Imagined as we “Go Confidently in the Direction of our Dreams!” And this is definitely applicable in 2012 as we share two of our dreamiest distinctive destinations in the U.S.– “The Art of Living” as captured at Montage Laguna Beach and “Winter’s Bliss” amidst Utah’s newest, most luxurious winter ESCAPE–Montage Deer Valley! By the time, this hour of ESCAPESEEKER is over, you’ll begin to understand why “Montage” has become synonymous with impeccable service and experiences that you’ll want to share again and again with family and friends. Montage Deer Valley boasts one million square feet of luxury–yes, you can definitely invite every favorite friend and that rich uncle of yours too–there’s something for everyone no matter the season!
In 2012, we’ll continue to fuel our ever growing fascination with South America, as we return once again. But this time, it’s to the northern Andes–“ENTICING, ENGAGING ECUADOR”–includes venturing across the Pacific in the rich nature reserves of the Galapagos Islands!
While we’re exploring the Southern Hemisphere–we’re just going to keep heading south–but across another EPIC CONTINENT–“AFRICA: WILD AND WONDROUS!” We’ll have more details on that later, but for now, here’s to proving again and again, that there’s NO DESTINATION ON EARTH too FAR, too DIFFICULT or too EPIC and WONDROUS for ESCAPESEEKER to REACH! Take a look: http://smilebox.com/playBlog/4d6a6b774e546b354e7a493d0d0a&blogview=true
HAPPY NEW YEAR and HERE’S TO A MOST EXCITING, FULFILLING YEAR EVER!
Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER