The Humbug’s Guide To Luxury Escapism

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

The never-ending rainbow of red, green and gold; the chaos of rampant commercialism; the same twenty songs repeated everywhere from Selfridges to Barneys; the elves(!)… The winter festivities can be a little overwhelming, and sometimes it’s better to just pack a bag and escape. With that in mind, this is our humbug’s guide to escapism — a little inspiration to help to replace the everyday repetition of a cold and crowded tinsel-covered winter with something a touch more extraordinary.

The Fjords of Oman

An abundance of natural beauty awaits in Oman, from spectacular wind-blown deserts and oases periodically punctuating the landscape with a burst of green, to mountains speckled with mud-brick houses, and a striking coastline of rugged white sand beaches and mangrove coves. But perhaps the most striking of all Oman’s natural assets are the surprising and idyllic fjords of the Musandam Peninsula — home to vast walls of dramatic cliffs that plunge deep down into heavenly pools of turquoise water, themselves home to thriving pods of dolphins.

A number of options are available for exploring the fjords but the best way is to take a traditional Omani dhow from the beachside Six Senses Zighy Bay (just two hours from Dubai), for a day of sailing with stops in secluded fishing villages and swimming in deliriously pretty bays.

Oman Fjords Khor Ash Sham

Credit: Robert Haandrikman

Safari In Kenya

There is nowhere on earth better for game viewing than Kenya, and with a thriving indigenous tribe culture, it’s entirely possible to combine a responsible safari with a sustainable cultural experience. Perhaps the most popular place for this is Maasai Mara, renowned for its evocative populations of lions, leopards, cheetah, buffalos, elephants and the elusive black rhino. And though the Maasai Mara can be busy, there are plenty of private, more experiential options for those who know where to look.

Of all those options, the newly opened (August 2019) Mara Nyika retreat in the breathtaking Naboisho Conservancy is the most alluring. The freestanding tent accommodations are snuggled under a canopy of umbrella thorn trees on the Nyika plains, straddling the rugged border of the Massai Mara. The camp is disarming and romantic to the extreme, with beautiful brass bathtubs, large dining areas and luxurious, elegantly appointed living areas. Activities include early morning, late afternoon and night game drives in an open, 4×4 vehicle, as well as optional excursions to the local Maasai Community, and balloon flights across the plains. And through conservation fees, a stay at Mara Nyika supports around 500 Masai families with a sustainable livelihood.

The Mara Nyika Retreat

Credit: Great Plains

Cruise the Irrawaddy In Myanmar

It’s possible to sail almost the entire breathtaking length of Myanmar along the legendary Irrawaddy River, but the most accessible route is between the former royal capital of Mandalay and the endlessly alluring stupa-studded landscape of Bagan.

The most obvious choice of cruise is aboard Belmond’s exquisite Road to Mandalay (with open deck dining, a top-deck swimming pool, onboard spa and a lavish collection of cabins), but there are numerous options, spanning anywhere between a day and two week’s worth of travel. Whatever one decides, the journey should always include Mandalay — a Buddhist spiritual centre, home to thousands of monks draped in paprika-coloured robes, several lively markets and streets filled with local artisans producing marble carvings and gold leaf — used by the devout in temples and on images of the Buddha to help them gain merit.

But the highlight will always be the 3000 pagodas of Bagan. Buddhas — including the biggest reclining Buddha in the world — and temples are spread across one of the most romantic landscapes in all of Asia.

The Irrawaddy River

Credit: Belmond

Flinders Island, Australia

With 120 beaches and less than 900 residents, Flinders Island offers some of the wildest, untamed and emptiest beaches in Australia, with dreamy crescent-shaped bays, warm white sands, and translucent turquoise-coloured coves perfect for kayaking, fishing and diving — historic, though mostly ignored wrecks have been reported off the eastern coast. Take a stroll inland and there’s yet more to discover, with miles of bushwalking including Mount Strzelecki and the odd named though view-laden Trousers Point Road, Killiecrankie diamond fossicking, mountain biking tracks, wombat-spotting (better than elves!) and vast empty vistas spread across every inch of the 528 square mile island.

Accommodation on Flinders Island is a little slow going, with private villas the best option to properly take advantage of the isolation. The best way to travel to the island remains via charter from either Melbourne or Launceston… which only adds to the overall sensation of escape.

Finders Island

Credit: Derek Rogers

Indulge The Senses With A Retreat In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a country that stimulates every single sense, with atmospheric ruins, lush jungles, deeply flavoured regional cuisines and a seemingly endless supply of beaches. It’s a fabulous option for spa and yoga retreats, with an enviable itinerary of award-winning options that cover terrains as varied as the rugged southern beaches of Palatupana to the uncommonly attractive inland wilds of Kandy.

A favourite is beautiful Santani with its minimalist, glass-fronted villas, inspired by Sri Lanka’s meditation caves and each set into 48 acres of swoon-inducing tea plantations. Everything at Santani is about harmony (indeed, Santani is Sanskrit for harmony) — with restorative Ayurvedic spa treatments, yoga sessions tailored to each participant's needs, and immersive scenery as standard from the balcony of each of the luxuriously, though thoughtfully appointed villas. The resort goes all out in terms of escapism, with little in the way of unnatural light and a room-only rule for phones and tablets.

Santani Wellness Resort

Credit: Santani

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