When we talk about Adventure, most of us automatically think "extreme expeditions", with a survival kit and a pocket knife able to cut trees!

Well, I can tell you right now, that’s not what we are talking about here. At all! XO’s Adventures here are no less inspiring, no less extreme in the search for the extraordinary, but more accessible, and certainly truly unique. They are the stories of a life.

So many extraordinary superlatives, but still so far from the truth. Ageless natural phenomena, isolated sanctuaries, inner-experiences that can only be truly understood once accomplished.

You’ve heard about the extraordinary annual "Great Migration" of wildebeests and other grazing herbivores across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem which gathers more than 2 million herbivores including one-and-a-half million wildebeest! One of the greatest events in the natural world and a true life experience.

Not less incredible, even less known, the "Sardine Run", a unique and unexplained phenomenon of millions of sardines travelling up the east coast of South Africa. From May to July, the phenomena is causing a frenzy of excitement amongst everyone and everything that comes into contact with them. The shoals are often more than 7 km long, 1.5 km wide and 30 meters deep and are clearly visible from spotter planes or from the surface. But their appetite for plankton opens also the predators' appetite for sardines! Dolphins (estimated as being up to 18,000 in number), Sharks, Seals, Seagulls, Tuna, Cormorants… all take turns feeding from the shoal in a frenetic and humongous orgy.

Other extravagant ideas? Connecting Africa to Antarctica? Being Robinson Crusoe on a paradisiacal Mozambican Island? Crossing the astonishing white and red dry land of the Kalahari Desert? Strange ideas or real dreams? Life experiences with no other match!

That's what we call "Adventure".

S.C.

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From the eye of a pro. Our specialists, Veronique, Emilie, Shannon, Maelle, Fleur and Paul-Henri are sharing with you their stories about the utmost trips in Africa… and Antartica.

Antartica

THE WHITE DESERT  by Emilie de Carvalho

Emperors & Mountains in the White Desert: An eight-day experience that takes you into the heart of Antarctica in both luxury and style!

This is our “secret” trip for our Special travellers. Those who want to live the most exciting and invigorating experience of their lives –almost feeling as if they are going into “space”! Easily accessible from Cape Town, onboard a private jet crossing over a multitude of Icebergs this adventure to Antarctica is a mere five and a half hour flight away from Cape Town.

Spend 8 days on the ice with fantastic 4 x 4 day trips to the unexplored mountains and the ice barrier. From gentle treks to picnics overlooking the ice waves, you will have all the time in the world to truly explore this great wilderness. Then, for those seeking more adrenalin, rest assured that your guides - the 5 professional polar explorers - will push you as far as you want to go; from kite-skiing around camp to ice climbing up virgin peaks. Put simply: the landscape is as big as your imagination!!!

The main highlight of the trip is the visit to the Emperor Penguin Colony of over 6000 breeding pairs, one of the greatest thrills on earth to witness - such a rare and secluded wildlife spectacle!

You will be accommodated in a luxury safari camp, in the heart of this White desert. With a maximum of 12 people for each departure, contact us to be the next rare privileged one to join this expedition…but hurry as the space is limited!

Botswana

JACK'S CAMP  by Fleur Kimmich

The Kalahari Desert... For most, that doesn’t say much. It's as easy as putting Bangalore on the Map. But for those who have travelled the world, it is one of the last unspoilt sanctuaries, and it can be found in Botswana.

I have been fortunate enough to spend some time there, more precisely at the Makgadikgadi Pans (it is a salty dry lake... and I challenge you to pronounce it), and I must share my incredible memories with you. A 5-seater Cessna aircraft was waiting for us in Maun, the entrance hub of Botswana. About 40 minutes later, the landing track, a 4x4 vehicle, a man 1,9m x 110kg. This man with a name that does not only say a lot about his measurements, but also says much about his knowledge: "Super", our Guide... That's it, we’ve arrived!

A lodge, or rather a tented camp, a blend of a natural science museum and a luxury colonial camp, here, in the middle of nowhere, facing the wilderness. Only few palm trees, results of the elephants’ migration came to mark the limits of this endless landscapes. The Lodge is called “Jacks Camp”.

With “Super” on board (in the cover of our newsletter), we were all set to start our Adventure! The first stage took us around the pan, looking for flamingos (yes in the middle of the desert), resting and nesting here, the time for the pan to fill up with rains and to dry at the same pace is astonishing. Birds, but also rare animals like the Aardwolf… that you sure know. For those who forgot, a beautiful nocturnal hyena, with a gold and brown fur, feeding only on termites. Cute! And at last, our first sunset…

The second day sent us further afield. The wildebeests and zebras migration had just started, and “Super” was looking, tracking to finally find, stretching out of sight, the vast herd of animals. We followed the convoy for a big part of the day, without lassitude, only with contemplation. The colors, the sounds, the smells… and lunch under the welcomed shade of an Acacia Tree, the day was a slow motion movie and I was the main actress. And evidently, like the day before, no signs of car tracks, pollution or civilization... Only us! Even when “Super” got the car stuck in the mud… it was just us! ;-)

The following day was no less magical. The 4x4 was replaced with a quad bike. But nothing disturbed the long line of animals, not the noise from the Quad Bike nor our presence, as seen the day before. Nothing new? Actually yes, there was. Two intruders took part of the scene, Kalahari lions with their light fur and black manes... Waiting for the natural selection, to get a free lunch.

Across the white wide scenery, under a shiny blue sky, the quad drove us to the centre of the pan, for a unique 360º panoramic sight. And still no one to disturb this peace and tranquility. But tonight, we were in for a surprise… our beds! Setup for us in the middle of this white desert, with our roof being the Milky Way and the sense that we were the only people under the stars; it was there just for us. Yep…

Between the thrill and excitement, the evening around the fire, listening to “Super” tell us stories that you could not even believe, was just great. The sky, rinsed from any pollution never looked so wide and vast.At dawn after this incredible night, a sophisticated English breakfast, cooked by “Super” and his team, woke us up. The Sun was still trying to emerge, when “Super” asked us to follow him to a kind of elevation hundreds of meter away. Some holes, some tiny tracks, Super asked us to sit next to them and to stay quiet and to wait… We listened. And then, the first ray of light came to ring the wake up bell. A Meerkat, then 2, and 3 and 10 of these tiny creatures rose from their nest, facing the sun to get warm. Without too much fear, forgetting our existence, the day for these little creatures was well under way. After being warmed up, having a good stretch and clean, with the kids left to their babysitters, the gang, led by the “Queen Mum”, spread out in the wild to look for their breakfast. If Super was not 110kg of pure muscle, I would have probably tried to take a bunch of them back with me.

But, the day was just starting. We left a little later from the camp for a walk with 4 Bushmen to discover their environment. I was honestly impressed by the charisma of those guys, their confidence, their belief, their culture and their knowledge… I have to tell you the weirdest thing, we came across a scorpions nest and one of the Bushmen dug open the nest and then proceeded to remove one of the scorpions from the hole and place it in his mouth, all this so that he could clean it for me to see it better... Believe me or not, it’s true!

This newsletter is too short for me to finish my tails about the Makgadikgadi Pan. But, it’s also probably time for you to start writing yours, don’t you think?

Mozambique

REVIVAL SURVIVOR  by Shannon de Bruijn

An invitation, one flying ticket and a command: Come to play to Survivor on Bazaruto Island – Mozambique… See you there!

The invitation told us that we had to pack for 3 nights, bikini couldn’t be forgotten but that we had to bring an adventure gear….Me ? Excited?

Once in Vilanculos, situated north of Maputo, a charter flight is waiting for us to take us on our Island. The pilot is telling us that the SA survivor have been shot on this Island. Our flight of 10 min made me think that getting lost during my “adventure holidays » wouldn’t be a completely bad idea.

Arrived in Indigo Bay Island resort & SPA, it’s a 5star complex which is opening its doors. Cocktail, swimming pool and chalet with direct private access to the beach, it’s a real paradise! However, the evening adventure brief put us on place… A draw decided of 2 teams…I’m going to be in the red team and the yellow guys are now my enemies!

The following morning, they are taking us to another Island, more isolated. Here are the rules : Withdrawing is forbidden, we have to join some specific area. Only one instructor is with us in our long search. At that stage, you feel a bit alone and small, but its sounds fun! First step, we had to dig in the sands in order to find an amphora in which you have to find a piece of a weird puzzle…the pieces assembled together give us the GPS coordinates which indicates the next point to reach.

GPS situation in one hand and waterproof GPs in the other, we are ready to reach the next game by sea, in a Dhow. It’s a small traditionnal sailing boat used by the mozambican fishermen. I’ve got Breton origins, but sorry before jumping in it, my only feeling was that this cockleshell was going to drown us all. Ok, I tell you but shush ! We cheated a bit…the few dollars we had in hand convinced quite quickly our local fisherman to manage the navigation on his own and to sail us nicely to the next stop…

There, it was again another story….2 new activities are dressed up and we will have to fight against the yellow team to pass along a thick rope a couple of rings which is wind around a few sticks and wood constructions. The second challenge is to catapult some fresh coconuts (a real delicacy after challenge I have to admit). At the end of the day, the yellows won… But we all won the best reward ever…a big jump in the resort pool followed by a magnificent gala dinner on the beach, in exclusivity, at sun set…

Life isn’t that bad, isn’t it?

Namibia

4x4 NAMIB DESERT  by Paul-Henri Barbier

Cross the oldest desert in the world!!!

After an early landing in the capital of Namibia, we are drive through Windhoek in order to collect our 4x4, fully equipped for adventures, with comfortable tents on the roof! You already appreciate that Namibia is a special country with such a clean capital, dubbed as the 'Cleanest City in Africa'. Streets are dirt free; air is good, let’s pack the cars!!

Cars are jam-packed and ready to go, it’s time to move and take the direction to the south, « Spreetshoogate Pass » will be the first stop to have lunch and check that the GPS’s are fully operational! Panorama is stunning and that gives you an idea of what Namibia is about, vastness... Continue to Sossusvlei, the world’s highest sand dunes, doors of the famous Namib Desert.

Now, it’s time to test your ability to drive in the sand to reach Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei pans, good training is needed when you think you will have to cross sand dunes higher than a building! Sossusvlei is one of four pans in among the towering dunes, the others being Dead Vlei - so named because of the petrified camel thorn trees that survived for a few hundred years after the dunes blocked the river.

Tonight, you will appreciate a tasty dinner of local specialities under the stars. A good night is waiting for you, the adventure has just begun.

Indeed, you will wake up before sunrise in order to get to the site of the balloons. It’s still a little bit cold but you will feel warmer during the inflation of the balloons. Let’s go for a scenic flight over the Namib Desert, soar with winds for an hour over the ocean of sands and mountains, endless vistas of shadow and light.

The Namib Desert, which is the only desert, home to elephant, rhino, lion and giraffe and one of the world’s oldest living plants – the Welwitschia mirabilis. The Namib, at 80 million years, is the oldest desert in the world. The world’s highest sand dunes are at Sossusvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park

So far, you have walked in the desert, you have flown over it, therefore, it’s time to use your 4x4 and cross it!! A privilege that only few people will try in their life.

Crossing the desert is not an easy task, the temperature is high and the sand is very soft. Driving is technical, especially to ride dunes which can reach over 100m!

Living at the rhythm of the sun, by day, you enjoy the beautiful environment you are crossing with such a variation of colours and by night, around a fire, you can talk with your friends or just be silent and take pleasure in watching the stars in the clear sky.

If you drive well, and you better do! You will reach the famous wreck, “Edward Bohlen”. It’s unbelievable, a great opportunity to camp there, stuck between the sea of dunes and the waves of the cold Atlantic Ocean.

After a few days and nights in the desert, it’s time to go back to civilization in Walvis Bay. To spoil you a bit, you will spend the night at a hotel and you will enjoy a huge sea food platter. The next day, you will enjoy a cruise in the bay to get closer to dolphins, seals and a lot of birds. The bay supports over 40 species of bird and its population exceeds 150,000 - the greatest concentration of shorebirds and seabirds in Southern Africa. Half are intra-African migrants, just under half are Pale-arctic migrants and the remainder coastal residents.

After that, it’s time to drive back to Windhoek and the International airport. An exceptional trip for special people who like to be in nature and are keen for adventure.

Who’s next?

South Africa

THE SARDINE RUN  by Maëlle Colin

One thing to do before you die...

I’m not an experienced diver. A couple of crab fishing on the Breton cost, one dive every 2 years in Corsica and a small red sea trip a couple of years ago.

Absolutely in love with the ocean…and with Discovery channel! It’s thanks to one of their TV shows that I finally realized: “I needed to go there”, “I want to see, to feel … this incredible thing!”

I was a bit scared not to feel at ease, scared to be on a boat with 35 experienced show off divers and being unable to really enjoy the trip.

I was wrong…A light wetsuit and an underwater camera housing packed later…I was on my way to Durban where my operator was waiting for me.

I’ve been welcomed at the airport by a fisherman, obviously not shaved, bonnet on his head, in his forties. We headed directly to Port St Johns with the whole crew. They are doing this seasonal trip, the sardine Run, every year.

Here is what happen during those 10 days…There is so much to say that I find it hard to use only words.

Everything starts, thanks to a sardine. We all know that this little thing is rarely on its own, even in a tin. Nobody knows really why they migrate, but they travel for more than a thousand kilometers from the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean to the warmest one of the Indian Ocean. This phenomenon drives with it lots a predators, which makes it interesting for us…human!

Stuck between the East coast of Africa and the Indian ocean warm currents, Sardines are in trouble. The show starts with the dolphins. The only way for them to scare their aggressors is to form a big mass in order to try to deter the enemy. But Dolphins are quite ingenious and always succeed in the plan to separate them in smaller group. Here come the open bar!

Their first reflex is to swim back to the surface, which is a bad plan because gannets are on the surface waiting for the first silver glints, ready to dive and attack. Sharks are never really far and there is always enough food for the predators to cope with each other in nearly harmony.

At the same time, divers or simple observer are on the lookout of the first wriggling appear on the surfaces. Divers ready to jump for a shallow and quick time, to be part of the table of this feast. Observers, in the boat scanning the methodical aerial attack.

What’s the highpoint of the show ? When a Humpback whale comes to interrupt the hostilities and grab a thousand of sardines.

Yep…even now, talking about it gives me the goosebumps.

Tanzania

THE GREAT MIGRATION  by Véronique Verbeke

Rumbling hooves and clouds of dust; Come and witness Africa’s greatest Wildlife spectacle!

Don’t miss one of the most breathtaking events in the animal kingdom! Every world traveler should have this unique experience on their to visit/to do list. It is THE largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet! Yes, you have guessed right, we are talking about the Great Wildebeest Migration. We have all seen the National Geographic documentaries, but now it is time for you to discover it yourself!

The Great migration involves mostly wildebeest. These animals follow an annual circular route around the Serengeti Ecosystem in a never-ending search for fresh pastures and water.

This event has become a symbol of the Serengeti and thousands of tourists from all over the world come and gaze at this exceptional natural phenomena every year. The Great migration consists out of a 500km roundtrip from the Southern Serengeti to the Northern Edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. About 1.500.000 wildebeests, 500.000 gazelles, 200.000 zebras and 18.000 elands all struggle for their lives in this amazing race. They are facing wild rivers filled with hungry crocodiles and starving predators on the hunt. It is THE survival of the fittest at its best!

From December to March travelers can follow the mass calving of the wildebeests in the Southern Serengeti and from June to November there is full on action in the Northern Serengeti when the river crossings of the Mara River take place.

Contact us

FOR ANY QUESTION OR ENQUIRY ON THIS NEWSLETTER

First of all, Maria is Italian. That says a lot. After a stop in New Zealand where she was working for a Dmc there, Maria joined us early 2010 to take the responsibility of our Italian Market… Well, nobody wanted to take it anyway…
An interesting fact about Maria: she wears sunglasses until 11 o’clock every morning. That’s more or less the time you can start talking to her.

Your idea of ultimate luxury ?

A sabbatical, with an unlimited budget.

What calms your stress ?

Jogging with loud house music and/or some wine with a background soft harmony

If you win the roulette 9 times in a row, do you carry on because luck is on your side or do you stop playing because statistically you should now be losing ?

Of course I would stop: taking the risk is one (good) thing, but challenging luck is insane!

Is there a superstition that make you change your behaviour ?

Yes: "what you do, comes back to you". I wish it was true...

If you were sent to a deserted island what book, disc or movie would you take with?

The encyclopedia and I don't want to be rescued too soon

A small pleasure that you consider huge?

A walk on Sea Point promenade on a Monday morning

Your way to kill time?

Watching people if I am outdoor, watching movies when I am home

What are you totally incompetent in?

Shopping, my girlfriends do it for me

To what are you addicted?

The only two addictions I can mention here are dvd (7-10 per week) and Venice (first place I go when I am back in Italy)

Your new year’s resolutions?

I only do small weekly resolutions: it's easier to forgive me and it's also so much wiser

What have you not done yet, but that you will certainly do one day?

A long sailing journey

To which other part of the world would you move to without any hesitation?

I would chose Los Angeles or Paris, but with some hesitation: Cape Town has all I need now

A word or a phrase that you hate?

“I am what I am, I can't change anymore”. Not acceptable, whatever age you are

If you were to reincarnate into someone from real life who would it be?

Mata Hari