Private adventure tours

Taking Adventure To The Extreme – The Shift From Luxury Products To Luxury Experiences

Can you tell us a little about how Untold Story came about?

We launched the business two years ago. We come from a long background in luxury hospitality and the travel industry, so between us there’s probably 60-70 years of experience.

We didn’t want to arrive in the travel industry as just another cookie cutter agency. We knew that among high net worth individuals there was a shift from the consumption of luxury goods to the consumption of luxury experiences. And we felt that was the space we wanted to address.

We hoped to create holidays and private tours that were much more life enhancing than 10 nights in the Maldives. Sometimes even life changing.

I think we’ve been very successful in doing that.

In particular, we have helped our clients build a much closer connection with the destinations to which they travel. A large part of that is through our storytellers that we have scattered around the globe. A storyteller is someone who introduces our clients to an amazing experiences, such as providing access to a venue or place of interest places that would be otherwise off-limits. Or they may have a particular skill that can be taught. For example, they may be a renowned truffle hunter in Northern Italy, who takes our clients digging for truffles before a chef demonstrates how to cook with the truffles they’ve collected. Or another storyteller might be an expedition leader showing our clients how to track polar bears in Svalbard.

That’s what we wanted to bring to the table. Life enhancing experiential travel.


Can you give some further examples of the things people pay to do?

They really vary. Part of our unique approach is to get to know our clients intimately so that we understand what would work specifically for them.

For some clients that might be something really adventurous. So heading up into the wilds of Scotland with former SAS members for mobility exercises but retreating to a lovely exclusive Scottish castle in the evening with a famous Gaelic singer, whilst having rare whiskies delivered from an exclusive distillery.

It’s about finding the next frontier. What’s the limit? And the answer is, there isn’t one. We’re just about to send one lucky individual soaring 9000 metres over the Himalayas in a glider. There’s no carbon footprint. And they’ll be doing it with a famous glider pilot – a guy called Klaus Ohlmann. That 4-5 hour journey will take them over 11 mountain peaks including Everest. You need to be physically very fit and mentally very strong. You’ve got to wear some pretty strong thermals at that sort of altitude. Supplementary oxygen is often required. It’s a gruelling but ultimately very rewarding experience.

That’s the roof of the world and then we take them to the depths of the world, swimming with Sperm whales in the Dominican, for example.

Or it might be something more cultural or historical. So for instance we’ve arranged private access to the Vatican and private mass with a high ranking cardinal.

For families we’ve got this incredible Caribbean treasure hunt, whereby the family is approached by a mysterious stranger in the morning with a treasure map and then they embark on a treasure hunt in the Grenadines. They visit the island where Johnny Depp was marooned with Kiera Knightly and it culminates in finding the treasure itself.

We can be very playful with the ideas. It all depends on what’s going to work for the client.

And just as importantly, we also always make sure we can find ways to give back to the planet in terms of sustainability and conservation. We often put back a percentage of the experience directly into the local communities.

Luxury island travel


And the most extreme experience of all?

I think it’s the survival experience in British Columbia. They are air dropped from a helicopter into the wilderness with grizzly bears and very temperamental weather conditions. The topography is very challenging; it’s temperate rainforest but also quite mountainous and hilly. They’re given a set of coordinates that they have to reach each evening. We even introduce actors to throw curveballs into the mix.

They are literally left there – Tom Hanks style – to survive and thrive over a period of 6 or 7 days. That includes building their own shelter, sourcing their own water, fishing for reef fish using traditional spear hunting techniques, and everything else you can imagine. So a real back to basics castaway experience.

I can’t stress enough, however, the safety element. Everything is tracked and monitored by a team in the background with sat phones and emergency distress beacons. We always have people on the ground even if they’re not seen.

The title we give that trip is Lost and Found. The team we work with is headed up by an ex member of the special forces who’s one of the best expedition leaders on the planet and an expert in wilderness first aid and survival, so we always feel we’re in control. A lot of it comes down to briefing the client and setting expectations. We wouldn’t just send anyone out into the wilderness if we didn’t think they’d be be physically and mentally able to cope. It’s a process that lasts many months and there’s a lot of collaboration to build up to that point. So with all of those factors we feel like we’re mitigating the risk as much as we possibly can.

At the end of the experience we have a life coach wrap it up and provide key lessons that they can take back into their day to day lives. But in terms of when they’re out there for those 5 days in the wilderness – finding those way points, reaching the shelters each evening, navigating their way through the terrain, dodging the curveballs thrown by the actors – it really is as challenging as it gets.


Posted in The Fitness Network.