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The Best Graduation Gift Is The Trip Of A Lifetime

Travel experts are in agreement about one thing—this year promises to be the year of the GOAT—Greatest of All Trips. The seniors of the world, and I mean college and high school-age kids, have lost a large part of their educational experience to this brutal pandemic so it seems fitting to celebrate their graduation with something so memorable it will dwarf the cancelled proms, homecomings and summers abroad. Think big—snorkel with whale sharks, cruise the Nile, see the solar eclipse at sea. The time to start planning is now; a recent report from Virtuoso Travel Advisors shows a 76% increase in ultra luxe travel with African safaris, Caribbean islands, international city destinations, and ocean cruises as the top preferred experiences. Here’s a list to get you started:

Ride the Dunes in Abu Dhabi: The capitol of the United Arab Emirates has cultivated a selection of unforgettable travel experiences that range from thrilling high-speed Ferrari roller coasters to fat bike tours of the largest uninterrupted sand mass on earth. Adrenaline junkies should seek out the Empty Quarter, where visitors can enjoy dune biking, bashing, sandboarding, and camel rides in the largest uninterrupted sand mass on earth. Ferrari World Abu Dhabi offers a few more speed-focused opportunities, especially Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller-coaster, Turbo Track, a zero-gravity experience, and The Flying Aces which features the world’s highest roller-coaster loop. Calmer days await at the Arabian Wildlife Park where 17,000 free-roaming animals live—book a three-hour tour and you’ll likely see Arabian oryx, gazelles, giraffe, hyenas and cheetahs.

Snorkel with Whale Sharks at Hurawalhi Maldives: This decadent resort is well-known for its undersea dining experience (5.8 Undersea Restaurant offers a seven-course culinary journey, featuring a selection of dishes carefully created by Executive Chef, Edouard Laurent Deplus) but your graduate will most appreciate the chance to snorkel along some of the rarest reefs of Lhaviyani, accompanied by the locals—whale sharks and manta rays. The resorts in-house marine biologist will guide and direct the experience and you can opt to end the day with a Champagne Sunset Cruise which can include a night dive—or enjoy the sunset with champagne and a 4-course dinner—all on the resort’s private yacht.

The Ultimate Graduate Caribbean De-Stress Experience: The Mandarin Oriental Canouan’s Overwater Bungalow Spa experience delivers a total immersion in wellness, spa and culinary. The journey begins with a guided hike led by the resort’s in-house naturalist to the highest point of Canouan: Mount Royal (located on resort property). Upon return to the hotel, you’ll be introduced to the Executive Chef, who will take you to pick out your own seafood at the resort dock, from one of the island’s top local fishermen. Next, a short boat transfer delivers guests to the overwater spa bungalow (complete with glass floor overlooking the sea) for a series of treatments including a foot ritual, Tibetan Bowl Chanting Guide and Grenadines Salt Scrub. The afternoon features a private guided snorkeling experience amongst one of the largest living coral reefs in the world followed by a lavish “Castaway” Picnic Lunch at Twin Bay. The day ends at the award-winning Tom Fazio Golf Course with a Sunset Cocktail Experience on the iconic 13th Hole, and a Private Dinner on resort’s Godahl Beach featuring the “catch of the day” from morning dock excursion.

Book a Safari with Go2Africa: South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana…the myriad destinations and experiences for an African safari are overwhelming, which is why it is essential to let the experts guide you. To be sure you orchestrate the trip that best suits your family’s desires, book a journey with a local travel company—ideally one with people living and working in Africa, such as the experienced award-winning experts at Go2Africa. They’ll arrange a journey that speaks to your family and the journey you want to have. If you want rustic luxury in a malaria-free outpost with a good wine list and an excellent chance of seeing rhinos, they know exactly where to go. They’ll also save your hours of research on everything from travel insurance and dining reservations to scheduling transfers and local charters.

View a Solar Eclipse at Sea: Ponant Cruises offer guests a rare opportunity to witness the spine-tingling splendor of a total solar eclipse while at sea. In April of 2023, the experience will be off the northwest coast of Australia – the only area of the world where the solar eclipse will be 100 percent visible. You’ll also have access a guest expert—Alex Young, solar astrophysicist who serves as an Associate Director of Science at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Houston Rockets Experience: Texas’ only Forbes Double Five Star hotel and spa, The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, (which is owned by Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta), brings the Houston Rockets front and center with a prime access experience. Guests will enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour of the Toyota Center before the game, coveted floor seats to watch the action, access to the exclusive Lexus Lounge, an ultra-premium VIP entertainment bar with fine cuisine and cocktails, and a personalized Houston Rockets jersey. If basketball isn’t your thing, consider one of the other eight “Uniquely Post Oak,” including a private experience at the Johnson Space Center.

Tour the Galapagos & Peru (June 28-July 10) with Abercrombie and Kent, experts in intimate, luxurious small group travel. This top-shelf 13-day charter kicks off with two nights in Quito where you’ll take the Teleferico up to the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano, visit the Intinan Solar Museum on the Equator and explore the city. Next, a four-night cruise in the eastern Galapagos Islands with twice-daily shore excursions that include nature walks led by a certified naturalist guide, and choose from activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, light trekking or relaxing on shore. The grand finale is a trek to Machu Picchu—option to hike the Inca Trail Trek or take the train to Aguas Calientes.

Surf the Seychelles/Visit the Pyramids with the Four Seasons: The Four Seasons Resort Seychelles has a special partnership with Tropicsurf, best known for designing ultra-luxury epic surfing experiences. You’ll have a dedicated instructor able to work all levels of surfer and take advantages of the island’s best waves each day or simply begin to find balance in a guided lesson on the Resort’s beach in Petite Anse bay. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence dishes up several bucket list experiences in Egypt. The property enjoys panoramic views of the Great Pyramids and is a short drive to the Grand Egyptian Museum. Dinner at the Pyramids is an extraordinary adventure that takes you into the desert where you’ll see the legendary Pyramids of Giza illuminated from the comfort of your own specially built tent, where you’ll dine privately in the local, diverse style at the Giza Plateau. A private Four Seasons chef and culinary team will deliver everything from an opulent oriental-themed menu to international cuisines. The night continues with a private Tanoura show to round up your extravagant evening in a truly Egyptian fashion. The hotel’s concierge will arrange virtually any tour/experience you wish, including flights and private tours of all the historic sites, even a Nile Cruises between Luxor and Aswan.

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