(Bloomberg) -- At Bloomberg Pursuits, we love to travel. And we always want to make sure we’re doing it right. So we’re talking to globe-trotters in all of our luxury fields—food, wine, fashion, cars, real estate—to learn about their high-end hacks, tips, and off-the-wall experiences. These are the Distinguished Travel Hackers.
Between the family jewelry business, his own passion project, Mavros Safaris—which focuses on high-net-worth journeys around sub-Saharan Africa—and ambassadorial duties for conservation nonprofit African Parks, Alex Mavros, 40, flies at least once every two weeks—a minimum 100,000 miles per year. His airline of choice is Ethiopian.
“The best thing about Ethiopian, for a start, is it’s got new, amazing airplanes. If you fly any decently long-haul flight in Ethiopian, you are on an A350 or a 787—and they’re all spanking new,” Mavros says, comparing them unfavorably to the aging fleet British Airways operates around the region. “It also has an astonishing diversity of destinations. So, anywhere that I want to go, whether it is Dubai or Rome or New York, you can get to on Ethiopian, as well as basically every capital in Africa.”
Mavros lives just outside the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare, in Mashonaland with his wife, three kids, and an assortment of animals. Here are his travel tips.
He guarantees that these are the best eye masks and earplugs you can buy.
A good night’s sleep is crucial to travel, and I’ve done lots of research. The two key items are a Bucky sleep mask and earplugs by Hearos. The sleep mask is a complete blackout, but the most important thing is that it’s molded, so there’s a space where your eyelashes don’t touch anything. Few things keep you awake longer than being uncomfortable, like when you’re blinking against something. It’s this tiny little thing that makes a massive difference.
The difference between Hearos and other earplugs is that they’re amazingly absorbent and comfortable. Other earplugs, you stick them in and they’re kind of hard. That guy just goes in into your ear canal and slowly expands. It’s actually a journey every time you put one in—it expands, expands, expands, and the noise just goes quieter and quieter and quieter. It’s this wonderful kind of thing. These guys go with me everywhere, they get quite addictive.
This African city is the place he likes to party with friends.
The Royal Mansour Marrakech is an absolutely mind-boggling hotel. The level of detail—that it’s been decorated by local artisans and craftsman—that’s what I love. It feels like you’re staying in the most spectacular royal palace. Marrakech for me is a place to travel with friends. I don’t think it’s a couples thing. It’s a team sport kind of place. There are epic local restaurants—I’m not talking local, like everyone’s roasting camel neck, but really fun and hip. I love Le Palace.
Rule No. 1, if you don’t want to be rude while traveling in Africa.
Remember that community values amongst African people run very deep, and across all African cultures, something that is tremendously important is to always greet people. In the Western world, if someone brings us a coffee or something in the morning, or you walk past someone, you just don’t acknowledge them. But in Africa, in many local languages, the way that you greet someone in the morning is you say, “How did you sleep?” That’s the first. And then you say, “I slept well, thank you. How did you sleep?”
The acknowledgement of somebody else and looking them in the eye and really connecting with them in a greeting is a very, very important cultural part of the African peoples. And I just think Europeans and travelers always get that wrong. And it really annoys me, because it takes nothing to acknowledge somebody and to have manners. And I do that wherever I am: I greet people no matter what, looking them in the eye.
Forget Dubai, this Gulf country has it all.
The new airport in Bahrain is mesmerizing. You can eat off the floor. It’s got to be the best airport in the world. It’s so clean. It’s so efficient. Its architecture is spellbinding. I mean, it’s unreal: It makes every other airport in the world look like a pigsty. I go there because I have clients in Bahrain, which is the hidden jewel of the Gulf. The people are wonderful; the restaurant scene in Manama is outrageous. It’s much smaller than Dubai, but Dubai’s all for show. Bahrain has been open and alive so much longer, I think it’s a much more stylish place. It’s got real class to it. The population doubles every Friday and Saturday night, with people coming over from Saudi Arabia. You can have a really good time in Bahrain.
True adventure travelers always use a soft duffel—here’s why.
I’m obsessed with a Tumi duffle bag. It’s got wheels. And it’s amazing, because it’s got its own separate bottom pouch: If you’ve been hiking or on safari, you can stick in your dirty muddy boots and your clothes that have got wet and keep them apart from your clean stuff above it. It’s one of the best suitcases ever. Also the key is, it has a nice, soft top. If you are going to be traveling in small airplanes or in boats or in canoes, you can sneak it into the last corners in the last bits of space, so you need a soft top. Space is such a premium when you’re traveling off grid; if you’ve got a hard case, it’s uncompromising, so you need to find something that molds into a space directly.
Packing a sentimental item when you travel is the easiest way to stay grounded.
I travel with a shawl my mother gave me, which is from Pakistan. As a kid, I always remember that my mom’s clothes smelled of lavender. She always used to put these fresh lavender pouches inside her clothes drawers. She found me this beautiful shawl and gave it to me in a Ziploc bag and put a lavender pouch inside it. And every time I open it up, it just makes me just feel that I’m in a good place—it has that childhood connotation of comfort and security. Smell is a great trigger for emotion.
The next great adventure destination is …
Madagascar is the next frontier for safari. It’s unexpected. It’s out of the way. It’s a sensory overload and should be on the list for anyone who loves adventure. And it’s not a Loro Piana-type adventure. It’s the real deal, a raw experience, with this incredibly rich biodiversity of species. Miavana is the only real luxury accommodation offering there, which is an incredible oasis in the north. And you can go on a catamaran to the islands along the northern part. There are thousands of astonishingly beautiful ones, with coconut trees coming out of these big granite rocks, and white sand beaches. There’s incredible diving and snorkeling there.
Heard you should start a visit to new city with a run? That’s a rookie error.
Running, I don’t feel that you are absorbing as much of a place as you are when you are walking. Walking is an education, and it allows you to be more grateful as well, and more present, and you are easier able to observe what is going on around you. You see so much more when you walk. I was stuck in London at the start of the pandemic for four months, and I walked in Hyde Park and Finsbury Park early in the morning. I watched three cygnets grow up and basically become swans at the time that I walked to see them. I literally watched these guys from when they were tiny little gray balls of fluff to them leaving the nest. It was pretty awesome.
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