Much of our time is spent exploring the hidden corners of Asia researching new expeditions and imaginative trip ideas. Needless to say, we discover a few hidden gems along the way. So over the years, clients have regularly called on us to access that unique insight to design exclusive, experiential adventures for both their families, and private groups of friends (often for example from the comfort of their own custom built 'basecamps'). And while such custom adventures are typically 'hosted' by our trusted local guides, for more exploratory, and challenging, private client adventures, I (Adrian) am also personally available to accompany clients, even, as has been the case in the past, on a discreet one-on-one basis.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, we also understand that many of you will be keen to seek out these small, private group experiences, ensuring that their fellow travelers are people they know well, see often, and feel safe around. And so, in addition to our custom trip designs, we have also developed a singular selection of private 10 to 12 day trip templates (in Bhutan, Kamchatka, Mongolia and Tibet among others), that are available upon request, and ready to launch as soon as the relevant borders re-open. These curated adventures were designed in particular with our Hong Kong (and Singapore) based clients in mind; who, given their lack of domestic travel alternatives, may be more inclined to explore regional adventure options as soon as it is practical to do so.
We also love nothing more than a challenging trip brief. So, whether you want to discover rare rhododendrons in the wilds of China, trek to sacred lakes in Bhutan, photograph esoteric Buddhist festivals in Tibet, or live (and even migrate) alongside a nomadic family of eagle hunters in Mongolia, please do get in touch and give us a try.
* Please note that in the event that any booked custom trip is ultimately not able to run due to COVID-19 related factors, we will credit your booking deposit towards any alternative future trip, in perpetuity. *
Custom Cultural Immersion: The Eagle Hunters
The fabled eagle hunters of western Mongolia have captured the imagination of travellers for years. To this day, the close relationship between man and raptor seems to touch a deep desire in many of us for a closer connection with nature. Their nomadic home range, in the large glacial valleys and snowy peaks of the Altai mountains, also remains one of the last untouched frontiers of Asia, and the perfect location in which to design unique family adventures in particular.
So, every summer, from June to September, we arrange a small number of uniquely private homestays with our friends of many years - one renowned eagle hunter and one noted horsebreeder - who live in the wilds of western Mongolia. Our guests typically spend 3 or 4 days living alongside (in their own private ger) each warm-hearted family, immersing themselves in their way of life, riding horses and fat bikes, hiking, attending local festivals and experiencing daily demonstrations as the eagle hunters train their magnificent birds for winter: Truly amazing trips and proven to workfantastically well for more adventurous families.
* We have also designed many other culturally immersive trips for private clients in Bhutan, Nepal - and this particular example in Tibet. *
Custom Hiking: Bhutan, Mongolia, Tibet & More
Let's start with eastern Tibet. It seems to us, that this hidden corner of Asia, where unique opportunities for immersive farmhouse treks and expeditionary wilderness adventures are almost endless, is mostly overlooked. Yet, this land of soaring peaks, dramatic gorges and esoteric minority cultures, is truly spectacular, and unlike many other destinations in Asia, you will likely have every trekking 'trail' that we design to yourself. The same applies to the sacred lakes and secluded ancient trade routes, that we typically explore with clients in the far-west, and east, of Bhutan.
Similarly in the spectacular Altai mountains of western Mongolia, we have discovered a number of un-trekked areas along the border of China, that offer some of the best expeditionary-style treks in Asia. Guided by eagle hunters, and supported by Bactrian camels, these adventures offer our guests an adventure of a lifetime. As in Tibet and Bhutan, there are other 'softer' options that can also be tailored specifically to the requirements of your family, or any other pre-arranged groups.
* We also design unique, custom treks in many other of our favourite destinations, including Kamchatka, Ladakh, Nepal and Sikkim. *
There have been many enthusiastic comments from the group; truly our trekking adventure was above all our expectations. Thank you for making it possible and for all your patience, organization, fun and pure good humour. We are all agreed - it was absolutely the best trip we have ever done!
Custom Curiosities: Flowers, Birds & Leopards
After years of trekking through some of the Himalayas most pristine epicenters of plant endemism, we are now expert at designing unique botanically-themed trips throughout Arunachal Pradesh, Bhutan, and western China. In May 2015 for example, in partnership with the N.Z. Rhododendron Society, we designed, and lead a pioneering expedition into the wild borderlands of Burma and Tibet to hunt for new hybrid species of rhododendron, ultimately classifying over 100 varieties of flowers.
So, if primulas, blue poppies or arisaema are indeed your thing, the high mountains, valleys and grasslands of the region are unrivalled in terms of the sheer number and variety of flowers. Likewise, if your passion is more elusive, such as the fabled 'ghost of the himalayas', then we know exactly where best to spot (excuse the pun) them. The same applies to many of their avian counterparts, including one of our favourites, the rare and majestic black-necked crane.
* We also know of two remote locations that would be just perfect for an intrepid foraging and wild dining adventure! *
I embarked on one of Whistling Arrow's botanical adventures in June 2015 and found it to be extremely well organised and managed. We discovered very remote areas probably not explored since the great plant explorers were in the area in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The pristine plants were just fantastic! Whistling Arrow prepared an exceptionally well laid plan for our adventure with everything you could think of - good tents, good food, good people and good times.
Custom Experiences: Festivals, Migrations & More
The eastern Tibetan region of Kham, historically renowned for its fierce warriors and enlightened sages, has for centuries been more accessible to intrepid travellers than the holy city of Lhasa which lies further to the west. Since the 18th century, the monasteries of Kham have been the epicenter of Tibetan cultural and religious customs and, if you know where and when to visit, still offer a fascinating window into a world of esoteric tantric festivals and age old nomadic traditions.
Perhaps our most challenging experiential adventure however, involves embedding more intrepid guests with a family of nomadic Khazaks, as they embark on their visually stunning annual journeys to migrate with their livestock back to the spring pastures at the foot of the Altai Mountains. In particular, we have longstanding personal relationships with two individual families; one renowned throughout the region for their horsebreeding, and the other, for their age-old skills in the ancient tradition of eagle hunting.