By Tali Minor
Melissa Biggs Bradley is a travel industry legend. She founded Indagare, one of the first membership-based luxury travel companies. She’s just published her first book, Safari Style: Exceptional African Lodges and Camps (Vendome), with photography by Guido Taroni capturing the décor of Africa’s foremost luxury and eco-safari lodges. We caught up with Biggs Bradley for a look into the making of her new book, which is available now at Books & Books, Bal Harbour.
You’ve shifted the landscape of luxury travel through the founding of Indagare. What do you consider one of your greatest achievements in the field?
The Indagare tagline is How You Travel Matters. We have always believed that travel can and should be a positive force in people’s lives, but not just for the travelers. As we help our members realize their travel visions, we also need to be conscious of how we impact the places we visit and become ambassadors for their cultures, communities and environments. We share that message widely, and I am thrilled to be a member of the board of the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) and Reach the World, two organizations that promote this as well.
You’re getting ready to launch your first book, Safari Style: Exceptional African Lodges and Camps. With the extensive travel miles you have under your belt and stories that span the globe, why did you decide to focus your attention on this region?
I fell in love with Africa at a young age as I went on my first safari at 12 and, over my 25-plus years covering luxury travel, I have been able to witness an incredible evolution in safari lodges and experiences. I wanted to celebrate that—and design and conservation—but also the fact that safari tourism is an amazing example of how tourism can be a powerful tool in conservation and community empowerment. For instance, Rwanda’s endangered mountain gorillas have actually seen their numbers increase, thanks to the country’s commitment to wildlife tourism and conservation. There are a lot of visionaries at work in Africa, and I wanted to share their talents.
Can you share one of your own fondest memories that’s captured in this book?
My grandmother brought me to Kenya for a month-long safari when I was 12, and I have vivid memories of sharing a tent with her, but also of being exposed to completely different cultures. I remember our Masaai guide pitying my father because his daughters were all so skinny, saying that we wouldn’t have fetched many cattle for our dowries. One of the things I love about travel is how it opens your eyes to the world’s incredible multiplicity—of beliefs, customs, beauties and ways to thrive.
What’s your outlook on the future of travel?
I’m an optimist by nature and despite the ravages that Covid has wrought on many communities that count on tourism, I hope that this period of forced lockdown will foster a less consumptive and more considered approach to travel, so people will think more deeply about why, where and how they are traveling and treat it as the sacred privilege that it is, but also be more fully aware of how we all need to be stewards of our shared environment. So, I believe we will see individuals take fewer, longer, more immersive trips that are undertaken with greater consideration of their impact.
What’s one thing that should be packed in every safari-goer’s bag?
I cannot just keep it to one, but here are a few must-have items: a great sun hat, sunglasses and safari jacket.
Do you have a favorite luggage brand, or any advice when it comes to choosing luggage?
While on safari, you actually need to travel with a small soft sided duffel as no other type of suitcase is allowed on bush planes. However, when it comes to general travel, the recent Tumi X Missoni collection has caught my eye.
What are some of your personal travel essentials?
Great sun protection like Crème de la Mer’s tinted foundation; a wonderful shawl for the plane; comfortable but elegant shoes (I love Tod’s); a versatile crossbody bag (I love the Hermès Jypsière) and immune boosters like vitamin C, zinc and magnesium.