Iredescent Istanbul



Istanbul — The minute you set foot on this historic city you’ll notice it possesses an indescribable iridescence.  And, the more you peel away her layers you’ll begin to understand that there’s so much more to Istanbul than just her incomparable beauty.

After logging more than a million miles exploring the world’s most iconic destinations, Istanbul had always eluded me.  Well, I decided its time had come as it rose to the top of my 2013 ESCAPESEEKER GLOBAL ODYSSEY, and I arrived on September 17th, via the m/v Tere Moana, the final stop of my enriching 7-night voyage which began in Athens.  For those of you who might not know geographically where Istanbul is, please permit me to give you a quick briefing because its strategic location played such a major role in how and why it became the iconic metropolis that it is today, which also helped foster an eclectic populace.

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world’s busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.  Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.


Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory  around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople  in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire  (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last caliphate.  Although the Republic of Turkey established its capital in Ankara,  palaces and imperial mosques still line Istanbul’s hills as visible reminders of the city’s historic central role.


I chose the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul to be ESCAPESEEKER’s home base while exploring this majestic city.  Conveniently located on the Bosphorus – the Istanbul straight – in Istanbul City Centre, this luxury hotel offers a prime location and impressive amenities that will not disappoint even the most discerning globetrotter.  Indulge at The Ritz-Carlton Spa–it will instantly cure any jet lag or sea legs you may be experiencing–where the ancient water therapies of the Turkish Hamam inspire renewal. It was a first for this ESCAPESEEKER, and what a totally delightful, refreshing experience! No matter whether you’re traveling solo like yours truly, or bringing your entire bus of friends and family, you can count on the Ritz-Carlton to provide impeccable service no matter where your travels lead you!

The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul affords guests the most spectacular views of Istanbul, day or night.

The most difficult part of staying at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul is saying “Goodbye.”   I’m missing everything about you. THANK YOU for taking such great care of this ESCAPESEEKER.    My “2013 ESCAPESEEKER GLOBAL ODYSSEY” continues.  Next stop, “The City of Lights” ~ PARIS!  I love the ESCAPESEEKER LIFE…but even more so, I CHERISH ALL THE NEW FRIENDSHIPS I ESTABLISH THROUGHOUT OUR MAGNIFICENT PLANET!  The world is full of friends just waiting to be met…so take it from me and Henry David Thoreau,  “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams…Live the life you have imagined.”

DSC_0140We can’t wait to capture Executive Chef Andre Piednoir on film as he demonstrates his international repertoire of delectable dishes derived from his own global travels. By the way, his favorite mode of travel–the motorcycle!  Perhaps, he’ll give us another perspective on this amazing city as explored on two fast wheels?

Special Note to Oscar Abello, Vice President of Paul Gauguin Cruises:  How in the world will I ever thank you for pacifying my recent fears about all the media alerts I was receiving cautioning me about traveling to Istanbul in light of recent, highly televised demonstrations?  I would have missed out on one EXTRAORDINARY ESCAPESEEKER EXPERIENCE had I not listened to you! Not once, did I ever feel in any danger whatsoever. To the contrary–I felt more welcome than ever.  Friends, Please don’t hesitate to follow in my footsteps.  The Paul Gauguin Cruises and its m/v TERE MOANA believes in the absolute well-being and safety of all its passengers, and each destinations has been carefully “pre-approved” by seasoned travel experts.  I am living proof!



Everywhere you look,  you’ll find the vibrant hues of the rainbow calling out to you.


All that glitters is gold, I’m told.

                        The abundance of exotic scents, and its varied rare offerings in Istanbul’s markets will astound you.


Here are more samplings of varied images that will help you see why I’m totally enamored with INCOMPARABLE, INCREDIBLY IRRESISTIBLE ISTANBUL.  It has an inner beauty that knows no bounds.  Don’t take my word for it.  Come see for yourselves…for like me, you might just discover that you don’t know, what you don’t know! My entire film crew cannot wait to join me when we return in 2014 to capture this stunning city in all her glory!

Connecting Europe to Asia, Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents!

I have so much to learn and glean from this remarkable culture. How about you? Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you.  The world awaits with open arms.

These beautiful ladies ensure that all guests  of the Ritz Carlton, Istanbul’s Club Lounge enjoy their stay and feel right at home.

DSC_0147Ms. Deniz Guley leads a hard working team at the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul’s  Club Lounge!



Here are more of the friendly “Ladies and Gentlemen” of the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul who also strive to do their best “to serve Ladies and Gentlemen.”

73216_10152204628273032_489333498_nClub Lounge Concierge, Gokhan Turkoglu believes in going the extra mile(s) for the guests of the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul! When I told him I wanted to experience Istanbul like a true native, he gladly agreed to guide me through the city on foot!  Seven kilometeres later, I definitely had some exceptional first hand experiences to share, and more compelling content to fill a future ESCAPESEEKER ISTANBUL episode script. Nothing beats an up close look at this incredible city as seen through the eyes of a true native! Thank you Gokhan for an unforgettable day.



DSC_0207Where you stay can make a tremendous difference in your travel experience. There are those names like the Ritz-Carlton that have become synonymous with service and luxurious comfort, in great part due to the dedicated professionals who treat every guest with utmost care.


                  The sights, sounds, scents, and taste of Istanbul.  Prepare for the ultimate in “Sensory Overload”…



By the way, you haven’t tasted, or been presented ice cream quite like Istanbul’s! They’ve turned it into a unique form of delicious entertainment! The sheer anticipation will do you in.


2eef93730225cb07658bcae21867ad1d   Istanbul…there’s just no other place in the world quite like it!


                                                             If you smile, they’ll smile right back at you without hesitation!

aa432b07ac6a0a2e3d07c2ae83a9492bHere’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES, as ESCAPESEEKER continues to prove that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult or too irresistible to reach!

I hope you’ll follow in my ESCAPESEEKER footsteps and visit ISTANBUL…the JEWEL of TURKEY.  I promise you will MARVEL at what you’ll discover every step of the way.

And,  no matter where your travels lead you… Remember, Be the kindest person you know!





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The ESCAPESEEKER Big Birthday Escape…

With Select Images by Ariane Bañon





7nt_TahitiSocietyIsl_high_0French Polynesia – Upon learning of a sudden opening in my schedule due to a change in our ESCAPESEEKER Global Odyssey assignment just three days after my 60th birthday, I knew there was one place on earth guaranteed to restore my youth,  rejuvenate my body, recharge my spirit, and enrich my soul all at once – FRENCH POLYNESIA!  Sometimes, only we can determine the best birthday gift to give ourselves.  And, after covering four continents and thousands and thousands of miles in two short months, I absolutely deserved a “birthday escape” so I booked a 7-night passage on board the luxurious m/s Paul Gauguin—often described as the “The ship with a soul.”  After all, a big birthday deserves a big celebration of life, of health, and for this grateful globetrotting ESCAPESEEKER, a voyage to a place  novelist, poets, and artists, describe as “the most dramatically beautiful place on earth.”  In other words, Tahitian Paradise. Truth be known, I must confess my friends are right. My love for Tahiti is nearing addiction status as they remind me, “Mel, you were just there at the beginning of 2013!” If you take a close look at the photograph below captured of me with my new friends I met on the Paul Gauguin’s January 2013 sailing– Lucy Miller and Sylvia Cheek jet-skiing at Bora Bora’s crystal clear, turquoise lagoon –it’s easier to understand why I’m so enraptured with the beauty of these Tahitian Islands and desire to return as often as I can! It’s even more reason why I’m qualified to guide you as you prepare your own VOYAGE TO PARADISE.


Yes, as the TV Travel Series Journalist of ESCAPESEEKER and logging in countless miles each month,  French Polynesia is where I go when I find myself needing a life’s transfusion. Thank goodness, I was able to book the last available seat on Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete.  Tahiti’s gateway to her heavenly islands is a mere 8-hour nap from LAX! And, I’m happy to discover that many have taken my ESCAPESEEKER advice to fly Air Tahiti Nui so they can be guaranteed that their vacation can begin the minute they board their Tahiti flight and begin their  journey to paradise.

Jetting to Paradise...

After a delicious dinner, I closed my eyes to begin dreaming about my return to paradise, and before I knew it, we were already landing, 30 minutes earlier than scheduled, which meant we would be able to witness our first sunrise in Papeete!

 Papeete awakens…the sea is like glass…I could not wait for the first sign of dawn breaking…it’s like poetry in motion.

My personal formula for eliminating any signs of jet lag before it even begins to set in—walk it out!

After collecting my luggage I am whisked away by my favorite native driver, Greg who immediately delivers me to the InterContinental Tahiti located in Pepeete, a mere five-minute drive from the airport.  I always arrange a half-day hotel stay to give me and my body time to acclimate before I embark on the Paul Gauguin later in the afternoon.  This guarantees I’ll be refreshed and ready for the 7-night voyage to the Society Islands:  Raiatea, Taha’a Bora Bora, Moorea and back to Tahiti’s capital of Papeete. What’s my secret for combating jet lag and fatigue?  I walk the beautiful tropical grounds of the resort; I swim in its beautiful sand-bottom pool; and, sometimes, I top it off with a Spa treatment which definitely erases any last remaining symptoms of jet lag!

The ms/ Paul Gauguin’s retractable, on board water sports marina brings guests down to sea level, where they can hop aboard a windsurfer, enjoy SUP—Stand Up Paddle Board, launch a kayak, or embark on a Zodiac® for optional diving adventures.

Why choose the m/s Paul Gauguin? Ships are not created equal…

These days there are many cruise companies to choose from, and they all offer a buffet of itineraries to some of the most beautiful places on earth.  So, one has to ask, why choose the m/s Paul Gauguin?

  The m/s Paul Gauguin

For this seasoned cruiser and  ESCAPESEEKER,
“A Room with a View” is a major incentive to choose the m/s Paul Gauguin…


The m/s Paul Gauguin was designed specifically to sail the shallow seas of French Polynesia, visiting smaller ports that larger mega ships can’t reach.  The spacious suites and staterooms all offer ocean views, of which 70% have private balconies.  After all, with endless awe-inspiring vistas throughout its voyage, it would be a shame not to wake up to Tahiti’s glorious sunrise, or miss its mesmerizing sunsets because of a windowless “inside cabin.”  Rather, the m/s Paul Gauguin guarantees each guest, no matter what category of accommodation they book, access to borrowed landscape, in other words, “A room with a view.”


This MAGNIFICENT SUNRISE was captured while standing on my Stateroom balcony as we made our way towards the island of Raiatea!

For sea explorers, it just doesn’t get any easier…nor any more mesmerizing!

Personally, as an active water sports’ enthusiasts, I love that the m/s Paul Gauguin has an onboard watersports marina—yes, the ship’s team of expert dive masters departs right from the marina. I can go from my cabin straight to the waiting zodiac fully equipped for underwater exploration!  For scuba divers, it just doesn’t get any easier or more convenient.

Here are a few main reasons we love diving with the m/s Paul Gauguin Cruises' Diving Team on Moorea: 1) We know we're in great hands 2) The water temperature is well, perfect. 3) We get to say hello to our underwater friends. and 4) Because we can!

Paul Gauguin’s best kept secret…

Paul Gauguin's Best Kept Secret

After an active day of play and island exploration, those of us who have sailed with the Paul Gauguin before, quickly learn that its on board SPA maybe its best kept secret.  May I suggest you book early before everyone else on board discovers its team of “velvet healing hands” therapists, salon hairstylist and colorist are all better or equal to those 5-star Spas you frequent on land!

Exquisite dining combined with Polynesian hospitality…

Exquisite DiningLess I forget, there’s a choice of three open-seating dining venues with an expert culinary team ready to meet the expectations of even the most discerning palate. After all, you have to remember, you’re cruising the FRENCH Polynesian Islands.  Thus, you can expect a meñu offering of the highest caliber.

As a writer, my inspirations like my hunger may be triggered at all hours of the day and night.  But no worries.  The Paul Gauguin provides 24-hour room service.

There’s also always someone on duty to assist at all times, especially appreciated on those occasions when you run out of your stateroom without your key!

And, should you find yourself in need of one more swimsuit, or need to spruce up and accessorize that beautiful basic black dress for the evening, the Paul Gauguin’s own Boutique Stylists are skilled and ready to add glamour to your day or evening event.

Incomparable POLYNESIAN Hospitality…

The atmosphere aboard the entire ship exudes warmth, informality, and Polynesian hospitality for which the m/s Paul Gauguin has become world-renowned.  And with its beloved troupe of Gauguines—local Tahitians who serve as cruise staff, entertainers, and storytellers eager to share their native culture—add the special Polynesian incomparable spirit of Tahiti to every sailing. Other cruise vessels try to replicate what the Paul Gauguin has learned to do so well–establish a floating, caring community, thus earning its reputation of “The ship with a soul.”  It’s difficult to explain in words…but you’ll feel it the minute you step aboard.  With one crew member for every 1.5 guests, you’re assured the highest level of personal attention. I’ve never met a staff more dedicated to my comfort and well-being as gracefully expressed in countless thoughtful acts throughout the cruise. The way the maitre d’, Ivan Bolalin remembers  my name or how much I love their mushroom risotto! And, in the kind attention extended by Edward on the top deck where I like to enjoy my breakfast. This is his first cruise, but already he made special note that I only drink water with ice for breakfast, and has a full glass already waiting at my favorite breezy table, where I am able to take in the beautiful vistas as I dine, as well as apply Mother Nature’s technique of air drying my freshly shampooed hair!  You may be surprised to know that this extremely hard-working staff, who continually exude a joyful smile expects no gratuities!  Gratuities are included in the cruise fare, leaving you worry-free to just accept all the special tailor-made treatment a VIP like you deserves.

Gauguines love to share their culture...

Don’t just take my word for it.  Please permit me to share some of the heartfelt sentiments shared by several of the first time guests I met on my “birthday sailing.”  One thing you’ll discover about the Paul Gauguin—it’s so easy to find yourselves, like I did, making new friends with people from around the world, whom like you may also be celebrating monumental events in their lives, and have dreamt of one day setting foot on these heavenly islands! The world is full of friends just waiting to be met.  Perhaps I should rephrase that—there’s a ship full of new fun-loving, engaging friends just waiting to meet you!  Like and you and me, they’re all eager to celebrate what life has to offer!

CELEBRATE Life-long best friends, Kim Friedman and Tara Turner celebrate their premiere visit to French Polynesia with Cruise Director, Michael Shapiro.

In their own words…

“The service on board the m/s Paul Gauguin is out of this world.  It’s not easy getting up early in the morning and delivering the same superb service at noon and at dinner too.  They really get it!” ~ John and Kristen Kennedy, Brisbane, Australia

“The real thing is so much better than I ever envisioned.  On Bora Bora, the turquoise lagoon is more turquoise than any picture I’ve seen prior.  This reality needs no air-brushing!” ~ Carol Horner, Virginia Beach, USA

“The Aqua Safari excursion blew me away! The Paul Gauguin experience exceeded my expectations and left me in awe!”  ~ Kim Friedman,  Manhattan Beach, California.

“As a seasoned cruiser, I set my expectations high right from the start. And, the Paul Gauguin definitely met my expectations.” ~ Tara Turner, Orange County, California.

Personal Service to the max“Mel, I can’t believe the tremendous welcome we received at the St. Regis Bora Bora! Not only did the GM, Mike Schoonewagen greet us at the dock after sending his own personal boat to pick us up, but he also took time from his very full schedule to spend time with us.  I shall never forget our beautiful day at the St. Regis Beach.  It was the highlight of our trip! We’re definitely coming back!” ~ Lance Turner, Orange County, California



Best Beach Day Ever!

Pearly-White Beaches of St. Regis Bora Bora


St. Regis Bora Bora’s Lagoonarium

Follow us to ParadiseIf you wish to follow in our footsteps, simply click below, and before you know it, you’ll be sinking your toes in the pearly white, soft sands of French Polynesia too!   No matter your age, Tahiti appeals to everyone–both the youth and the youthful!

Perhaps you may wish to join our ESCAPESEEKER team on the m/s Paul Gauguin’s November 13th sailing to the Society Islands and the Tuamotus?  Oh yes, the only way I could escape solo was to promise my film crew they would get their turn at experiencing Paradise also.  My love and passion for French Polynesia is undeniably contagious! For more info, please feel free to contact me at:



And, remember, no matter where you travel, BE THE KINDEST PERSON YOU KNOW.

With love,

The ESCAPESEEKER My passion for Tahiti is never-ending!


Creator, Journalist Host, Executive Producer


The natives’ melodic harmony will remain with you…as if you’re still in their midst.  A very special “MAURURU” to all of the wonderful, enthusiastic, beautiful guests who participated in this ESCAPESEEKER story.  May you all be blessed with more unforgettable adventures…Until we meet again…

I wish you all SAFE TRAVELS!




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 2013 Theme:  Mission Possible…Conquering the Unexpected

When an unfortunate accident turned my size six right foot into size 7.5 complete with 10 screws and 2 plates, and with its accompanying recovery period that subsequently  derailed our 2012 filming season, I was determined to get back on track in 2013, no matter what it took! Once my newly renamed, “Robofoot” could travel, black/gray mega boot, crutches and all, I knew there was one place that would assist in my healing, both physically and spiritually:  French Polynesia! So, I embarked on a series of voyages on board the m/s Paul Gauguin, serving as a “Guest Speaker” and sharing our TAHITI: OH HEAVEN’S HEAVEN series with the enthusiastic guests.  After all, how can you not love watching a film about the breathtaking places you know you’re about to experience first hand?  The entire experience of being amongst such joyful passengers and crew who shared my insatiable passion for the islands, and swimming daily in those healing French Polynesian turquoise waters was exactly what my foot (and my soul) needed to bring me back to full ESCAPESEEKER form!

Fast forward, April 15, 2013 and I’m absolutely ready to tackle not one continent, but four continents in just three months. I began in Asia [Hong Kong], followed by South America [Peru], and continuing on to Europe [France], with a quick return to North America [Utah] so I can orchestrate a beautiful wedding for my daughter, Joanna, and then returning to Europe to begin an extensive exploration of Greece, Italy [including The Vatican], Croatia, and back to Italy. The journey wasn’t pain-free, but I quickly discovered that I was tougher than I ever imagined.  More importantly, I found the continuous blessing of seeing one breathtaking vista after another, and meeting so many, many engaging inspiring, talented individuals at every turn only fueled my resolve that 2013 will be the very best ESCAPESEEKER season yet! Perhaps, in part, it may be because I have a far greater appreciation for restored health…for the opportunity to travel…to explore the world on two feet, something I will never ever take fore granted again.

With God’s tender mercy, and with the tireless assistance of my ESCAPESEEKER team as well as the continued, generous support of tremendous entities from around the world, we will continue to seek out the greatest destinations, and prove again and again that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult, or too SPECTACULAR to reach!  I feel it a tremendous privilege, albeit also a great responsibility to correctly represent each country I write about, and subsequently film for our PBS SoCal TV Series. For the next few weeks, I will be devoting a segment on each of the destinations we researched, so I can properly do them justice. I hope you’ll continue to visit my ESCAPESEEKER blog as I share the incredible images and story after story of some of the world’s most interesting, unique places…some of which are still barely known…hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventure-seeking, travel enthusiasts  just like you! We will be returning to film these destinations in the coming weeks, and I have no doubt my avid cinematographers upon seeing these awe-inspiring places will once again refer to me as their “Fairy Godmother.”

Here’s to ENDLESS, BLISSFUL ESCAPES…and Remember, No Matter Where You Travel, BE THE KINDEST PERSON YOU KNOW!

With love,

Mel Gee Henderson aka ESCAPESEEKER










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For those of us who hunger for the ultimate island luxury escape--the unveiling of THE BRANDO on the island of TETIAROA will be one highly-awaited (even coveted) welcome invitation!

For those of us who hunger for the ultimate island luxury escape–the unveiling of THE BRANDO on the island of TETIAROA will be one highly-awaited (even coveted) welcome invitation! With its ROYAL roots, THE BRANDO promises to deliver the kind of impeccable experience fit for a king!


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.

Portrait of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti by Charles Giraud, 1851, Musée de Tahiti et des Îles

Portrait of Queen Pomare IV of Tahiti by Charles Giraud, 1851, Musée de Tahiti et des Îles


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.


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.

Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipia, who played his love interest in Mutiny on the Bounty, became Brando's third wife on August 10, 1962.

Tahitian actress Tarita Teriipia, who played his love interest in Mutiny on the Bounty, became Brando’s third wife on August 10, 1962.



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.

Richard Bailey, 57, is chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, the $140 million hospitality group that owns such properties as the InterContinental Tahiti and InterContinental Bora Bora resorts. A 20-year-plus resident of Papeete, Tahiti,  Bailey was a close personal friend of the actor.

Richard Bailey, 57, is chairman and CEO of Pacific Beachcomber, the $140 million hospitality group that owns such properties as the InterContinental Tahiti and InterContinental Bora Bora resorts. A 20-year-plus resident of Papeete, Tahiti, Bailey was a close personal friend of the actor.



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!


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!”

Although I was still recovering from a foot injury, I wasn't about to let that get in the way of seeing first hand what the "The Brando" buzz was all about!  I'm so glad I did. Let me give you advance notice:  This is one "island escape" you'll definitely want to experience in 2014!

Although I was still recovering from a foot injury, I wasn’t about to let that get in the way of seeing first hand what the “The Brando” buzz was all about! I’m so glad I did. Let me give you advance notice: This is one “island escape” you’ll definitely want to experience in 2014! [Image captured by Richard Bailey…thank you for helping me document my visit]

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!


Like other French Polynesian islands, the atoll of Tetiaroa is focused on environmental sustainability and plans to be 100% energy independent. In order to minimize the use of fossil fuels, this project will include a mix of the following renewable energy sources:
In principle, the system is simple. A pipeline is installed in seawater at a depth at which the water is ice-cold year-round. This water is then distributed through the air-conditioning system by means of an exchanger. The first SWAC installation at InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort and Spa was a spectacular success, demonstrating that it is possible to air condition a luxury hotel at a very competitive cost and without the use of fossil fuels or CO2 emissions. Based on this success, Pacific Beachcomber decided to implement the same SWAC system on Tetiaroa. The company was proud to announce that the pipes were effectively laid and flooded in October 2011.

In principle, the system is simple. A pipeline is installed in seawater at a depth at which the water is ice-cold year-round. This water is then distributed through the air-conditioning system by means of an exchanger.
The first SWAC installation at InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso Resort and Spa was a spectacular success, demonstrating that it is possible to air condition a luxury hotel at a very competitive cost and without the use of fossil fuels or CO2 emissions. Based on this success, Pacific Beachcomber decided to implement the same SWAC system on Tetiaroa. The company was proud to announce that the pipes were effectively laid and flooded in October 2011.

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.

After I   learned about the “technical” side of the resort, Mr. Bailey gave me a tour of one of the finished villas.  After all, for my discerning, luxury-escapeseeking followers, this would be an immediate draw.
Villa-2-400x300The craftsmanship, design, and attention to even the most minute detail of its beautiful interiors will amaze you! Mr. Bailey, who originated from Louisiana, requested that each of the bungalows be furnished with a comfortable rocking chair on the front porch. I tried it. All you need is a good book, and a nice tropical breeze, and you’ll be planted there for hours! Finally… A GUILT-FREE LUXURY ESCAPE BUILT TO BE IN HARMONY WITH OUR PLANET EARTH!
Speaking of HARMONY–great care is also taken to ensure that the ecology of the island remains as undisturbed as possible.

Great care is continually taken to protect the island's natural habitat.  The Tetiaroa Society, a non-profit organization is dedicated to research, conversation, and education related to the delicate ecology of the atoll. The goal of this organization is to create a scientific and educational window into the biodiversity of Tetiaroa, with the possibility of developing controlled eco-tourism and raising public awareness regarding the fragility of our biodiversity.

Great care is continually taken to protect the island’s natural habitat. The Tetiaroa Society, a non-profit organization is dedicated to research, conversation, and education related to the delicate ecology of the atoll.
The goal of this organization is to create a scientific and educational window into the biodiversity of Tetiaroa, with the possibility of developing controlled eco-tourism and raising public awareness regarding the fragility of our biodiversity.

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!





I cannot wait to return to Tetiaroa in 2014...but next time, properly attired to do this flawless beach justice!

I cannot wait to return to Tetiaroa in 2014…but next time, properly attired to do this flawless beach justice! [Image captured by Richard Bailey]


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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?




PAUL-GAUGUIN-9Just 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…


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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!

Grammy-award Winning Violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker Joins Kurt Bestor Concert

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:]


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!





Kurt Bestor testing out the new Steinway at Montage Deer Valley


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! HELI-SKIING COMPOSER, KURT BESTOR


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.”




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.




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!

With love,


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?”

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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!


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Scott Simper chosen Director of Photography for



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:


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.


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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:



Creator/Journalist Host/Executive Producer


“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

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The ESCAPESEEKER ART -Advance Research Team doing what we do best -experiencing first hand the world's most fascinating travel destinations!


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.”

Who knew this little girl from humble beginnings would someday become the globetrotting "ESCAPESEEKER"?

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.


DOUBLE RAINBOWS gently illuminating the stunning beauty and thunderous impact of the majestic VICTORIA FALLS--one of the SEVEN WONDERS of the WORLD!

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.”

Sunset on the Zambezi took our breath away! Captured by Jim Jones


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.

There's no other place in this world like it!

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!

This is my version of ESCAPESEEKER CAMPING!


Uncharted Africa Safari Co. has pioneered and passionately supported cultural tourism in Botswana since the company’s inception 13 years ago. It has long been Unchartered Africa's belief that it is a vitally important tool in terms of preserving this unique, but sadly fast-vanishing, culture. Unchartered Africa has been working closely with the Zu/’hoasi people of the Western Kalahari for many years and are privileged to have a small group of these extraordinary men to guide us on an afternoon walking safari. Offering a window into the past, they teach us how they have survived in this harshest of environments, using their vast and ancient knowledge of plants, animal behaviour and survival skills. By the way, the combined ages of these Bushmen will astound you. Clearly, their healthy desert lifestyle promotes longevity!

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!

There's nothing like an AFRICAN SAFARI to turn a novice photographer into a REAL PRO! This stunning image, captured up close and personal by our own Advance Research Team member, Jim Jones. Great work Jim!


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:


  1. Cape Grace,


  1. La Residence,


  1. Birkenhead House and Villa,


  1. Grootbos Nature Reserve,


  1. Rosenhof Country House,


  1. The Plettenberg,


  1. Phinda Private Game Reserve, The Homestead,


  1. Lion Sands Game Reserve, “1933” –


  1. Royal Maliwane,


  1. Tintswalo at Waterfall,


  1. Forum at Homini,


  1. Sanctuary Retreats: Sussi & Chuma,


  1. Sanctuary Retreats: Chief’s Camp,


  1. Sanctuary Retreats: Stanley’s Camp,


  1. Jack’s Camp,



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!







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