Exploration is a word that should not be used without purpose. It is not adapted to all-inclusive stays, weekends, express trips, although Instagrammers, agencies and the press abuse it. It refers, instead, to a profound experience, to the close encounter with other countries, other cultures and other humanities. Taking risks is not for everyone, but it is true that facing an expedition stimulates the imagination, and those who want to go from dreams to reality have the opportunity to do so. Gentleman has found Gianluca Rubino, CEO of Kel 12, a different travel operator, specialized in cultural tours and expeditions around the world under the motto of sustainability and outstanding quality of services.
A date and a place mark the beginning of the company: 1978 and the Sahara desert. “I have to thank the founder Sergio Scarpa, a Venetian, who introduced me to the sands of southwestern Algeria and the Tuareg tribes, the blue men. From the relationship with that culture, Kel was born, which in the Tamashek language means tribe. This is how an association of travel enthusiasts – a tribe – has emerged, the twelfth, which over time has been a precursor to new destinations,” Rubino tells us. “Today Kel 12 is the first National Geographic travel partner in Europe and, thanks to the merger with the operator I Viaggi of Maurizio Levi, the activity has expanded to the field of archaeological explorations: we are leaders in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan , Sokotra and other unusual destinations.” As of 2022, Kel 12 is also the first Benefit Corporation certified in the travel sector for high social and environmental performance.
How has the world of exploration changed? Is there still room for romance and adventure?
Much has changed, but the remote and difficult places to explore the world's history have not. Nowadays expeditions are much safer: in the past we trusted local guides, in the desert it was the Tuaregs themselves, now technology, or just GPS, guides us perfectly and tells us where a group is. In terms of experience, the desire to discover is the same, but with many more options, destinations and modalities. Interestingly, adult travelers are more willing to choose daring destinations, with a certain degree of inconvenience, while younger travelers want the experience in luxury accommodation in the savanna. Expeditions in many areas are in igloo tents and yurts, and in Botswana the animals have to be had and seen around you. However, this does not mean a lack of comfort.
So, one aspect that no tourist would give up is its main asset.
We are well tested: you travel with several jeeps, including those of the staff, including the cook, who also knows how to prepare an excellent eggplant parmigiana in perfect Italian style. Furthermore, the tour leader is an expert, he represents added value: depending on the destination, he is an anthropologist, a volcanologist, an Egyptologist, a biologist and even professional photographers. All this to allow you to take a trip that is a gift for yourself, where you can have time to reflect and observe life from another perspective, live emotions, detached from the mobile phone that, in any case, does not have a network.
Who are the new explorers and where do they want to go?
They are conscious and prepared people, with a high cultural level, managers, freelancers and, above all, women. Among the most popular destinations is the Sahara, seen as an initiation trip due to its historical importance, but also because of the comfort offered by camping in the dunes. Another, east of the Caspian Sea, is the Mangystau, in Kazakhstan: it was a branch of the Silk Road later abandoned, and the itinerary winds through a labyrinth of gorges and white chalk formations in the Jylshy canyon, touching the mysterious underground mosque of Shakpak Ata from the 10th century, then Torish (the Valley of the Spheres), among hundreds of gigantic stone balls. Or Lake Tuzbair, with dinosaur footprints and a heart-shaped pond. It lasts nine days and you sleep in both hotels and yurts, the circular wooden structures covered with fabrics.
G. Great rivers are also ideal places for adventure: culture, archeology, temples. A special navigation?
GR Yes, on the Nile the cruise is aboard a sailing boat and it goes slowly. From Luxor to Aswan, in fact, takes seven days, compared to three for motor boats. You can visit the lesser-known sites and, of course, Karnak, the most important site in the Egypt of the pharaohs. Another proposal is the Mekong River by sailboat: Luar Prabang, the ancient royal city of Laos, the Unesco site of Vat Phou, Angkor, traveling between temples, caves, waterfalls, with nights in cabins immersed in nature. And then, the Great North of the Svalbard Islands, in the kingdom of the polar bear, and the cruise to Antarctica with the Ponant ships, in the maximum comfort of the ship Le Commandant Charcot, designed as an icebreaker. You sail in the footsteps of Shackleton and the Endurance Odyssey towards the Weddel Sea, home to whales, seals and king penguins. Here you can disembark if the ice and winds allow it. You cannot control nature.
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