Ker & Downey Staff Profiles: Cheri Whately

At Ker & Downey, we believe that people matter. It’s the people who make up this incredible company who work to make your journey truly memorable. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be introducing you to the people that make up Ker & Downey. You can also read more about us here.

Cheri, better known as “CJ” around the office, is a native Texan with over 23 years of experience in the travel industry. She joined the Ker & Downey team seven years ago and heads up our Air Department. She has traveled to South Africa, Europe, Central America, the Bahamas, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.

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Favorite place you’ve traveled: I love exploring destinations and each one is unique. It is not only seeing the location and experiencing the culture, the people and the food, but being lucky enough to share with someone special in my life. The places are amazing. How do you chose just one? Can they all be my favorite?

What is the best thing about traveling: Broadening my perspective and experiencing new cultures, people, places and food. Continue reading

The Itinerary: A Week in Myanmar

Long closed off to the rest of the world, the one-time colonial outpost of Burma (now known as Myanmar) is back on the international jet-set agenda. Now is the perfect time to visit its untold cultural riches before the rest of the world rediscovers this untouched Southeast Asian jewel. By Eric Rosen

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Day 1-2 | Yangon | Strand Hotel

Your first destination in this fascinating country will be its largest city and former capital, Yangon (you might also recognize it by its colonial name of Rangoon). This is a bustling metropolis, but operates at a more sedate pace than Southeast Asia’s other urban centers. Spend the afternoon relaxing in colonial-era splendor at the venerable Strand Hotel (their afternoon tea is practically a local institution), and pop around the corner to Monsoon for some traditional Burmese dishes before turning in for the night.

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The Sands of Time

Tapping into memories of her eclectic, global upbringing, Lesley McKenzie revisits the romance of her childhood playground on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, beautiful Oman

You don’t have to spend much time in the Sultanate of Oman before realizing you’ve come upon the jewel in the crown of the Middle East—a serene and tolerant country where the abundance of natural beauty is matched by the overwhelming displays of hospitality. My family came to this conclusion more than 30 years ago, when my father’s work brought us to this corner of the world from 1983 to 1989, relocating from Europe. My brother and I spent our formative years of an idyllic, carefree childhood here, with a house on the beach, family weekend adventures in the desert and an all-around priceless education in food, culture and travel. 25 years later, I returned to rediscover the charm of this coastal kingdom that has permeated my mind and formed the backdrop of almost-dreamlike memories. From the charming seaward capital of Muscat to the towering desert dunes and the blossoming Jabal Akhdar Mountain, complete with its first luxury resort, here’s how I fell in love with Oman once again.

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Ker & Downey Staff Profiles: Nicole Porto

At Ker & Downey, we believe that people matter. It’s the people who make up this incredible company who work to make your journey truly memorable. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be introducing you to the people that make up Ker & Downey. You can also read more about us here.

Nicole’s love of travel began with her father’s family educational “road trips” across America. The bug for travel only intensified, and Nicole answered the call with her explorations to Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Nicole says her most remarkable memories have been the views from atop Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Uluru in Australia.

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How many years have you been at Ker & Downey? 7 years

Favorite place you’ve traveled: Egypt and Italy

Favorite city and why: Istanbul. It is the perfect mix of Europe and the Middle East, fabulous food and architecture, amazing history, and the best shopping. Continue reading

An Exploration of South Africa’s Winelands by Private Helicopter

The Winelands of South Africa offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the country and excellent wineries that have received awards and accolades throughout their history. They are a quick drive from Cape Town, but we think the best way to see them is by air in a private helicopter!

There are dozens of reasons to visit South Africa: stunning five-star luxury lodges, incredible game viewing year-round in malaria-free game reserves, rich history, beautiful cities, and world-class restaurants serving innovative dishes. The Cape Winelands produce superior wines, in addition to its strikingly beautiful scenery. And with the Cape vineyards beginning just thirty minutes outside of Cape Town, a day trip to several vineyards for tastings and tours is an easy excursion.

Franschhoek-Valley

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Ker & Downey Staff Profiles: Anne Johnston

At Ker & Downey, we believe that people matter. It’s the people who make up this incredible company who work to make your journey truly memorable. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be introducing you to the people that make up Ker & Downey. You can also read more about us here.

Anne joined the Ker & Downey team seven years ago. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Anne set out to see the world, spending nine weeks in Asia followed by several weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. A year later, she returned to Africa for five months to travel throughout southern Africa. Her list of countries she’s traveled to is extensive and it just keeps growing.

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Favorite place you’ve traveled: AFRICA! I can’t break it down to one country. I love them all.

Favorite city and why: I love Cape Town as it’s just fresh and vibrant. I lived in San Francisco which I loved, and it’s like San Francisco on steroids… absolutely gorgeous.

What is the best thing about traveling: Meeting amazing new friends from different cultures and backgrounds, then finding the similarities you have with them.

Travel accessory you can’t live without?  iPad… I love reading several books on each trip, then remembering that trip when I refer back to the books I read on the trip.

Favorite plane ride activity: Reading my book.

Two weeks + and unlimited budget, where are you going? Tanzania then Seychelles on a private plane!  

How do you take your coffee? With milk and brown sugar.

If they could bottle your personality what would the label read? Adventurous

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My theme song is: “Where Are You Going?” by Dave Matthews

Any pets? A rescued lab – Charlie, and a rescued cat – Bosley

If I were a super hero, I would be: Any superhero who can fly so I get to my travel destinations faster and on my own schedule.

Something I said I’d never do but did anyway was: Microlight over Victoria Falls.

Two things I can’t live without are: My passport and my pets.

It’s Sunday morning at 10 a.m. If I’m not sleeping, I’m: I don’t sleep late so I’m likely watching bad TV.

My favorite physical activity is: Bikram Yoga

One thing I love that everyone else dislikes is: Airports….I just don’t mind them.

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The first thing I do when I wake up is: make my bed, after hearing General McRaven’s speech to the UT Austin grads this year.

One thing people are surprised to find out about me is: I hate public speaking.

The last concert I went to was: Elton John

My favorite TV show to watch as a kid was: The Jeffersons for comedy; Hart to Hart for drama.

If I could instantly learn a new language, I would learn: Swahili

Guilty TV pleasure: Marathon watching seasons…The Wire, Breaking Bad, Homeland.

On my nightstand: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Favorite quote: “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Anne

Check back next week to learn more about another Ker & Downey team member! Stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.

Gifts that Give Back

After Thanksgiving, the Christmas shopping frenzy kicks off (or for some, picks up) with Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. This time of year can leave shoppers stressed and wondering about the true value of a gift. In 2012 New York’s 92nd Street Y partnered with the United Nations Foundation to create Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to giving back. At Ker & Downey, we’re committed to giving back at home and abroad to the communities in which we travel. You can read more about our efforts on our Philanthropy page. In the meantime, we’ve rounded up some gift ideas that give back to make your holiday gift buying a little easier this year.

J.Crew and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The David Sheldrick Wildlife trust was founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E in honor of her late husband David, founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park. The trust’s main conservation activity is the Orphan’s Project, an elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation program aimed at combating the threat of poaching and loss of habitat in Kenya. To date, the trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and reintegrated orphans back into the wild herds of Tsavo. J.Crew teamed up with Brooklyn-based illustrator Hugo Guinness to create limited edition t-shirts and sweatshirts. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the sale of these select garments will be donated to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

daphne sheldrick jcrew sweatshirt and tshirt

Sweatshirt | Boys T-Shirt | All available items

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Celebrate Thanksgiving with Hendrick’s Gin Recipes from Around the World

In the United States, we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend. Traditionally, it’s a holiday characterized by a table full of rich food, time spent with family and friends, and maybe a cocktail or two. To celebrate, we’re sharing some of our favorite Hendrick’s Gin cocktails from around the world. Drink up and have a happy Thanksgiving!

The following article by Ryan Crosby first appeared in Ker & Downey’s Spring 2014 Quest Magazine

Hendrick’s gin arrived on the scene ten years ago with a vibrant twist to the Juniper-dominated spirit our grandparents loved. Mashed cucumber and pressed rose petal infusions create a distinctive and exciting flavor that caters to modern gin enthusiasts as well as the recent mixology trend in bar tending. Emerging to the forefront of the “New American-Style Gin” movement, this Scotland-produced spirit uses a very small batch distillation process to allow more control when infusing the 11 unique botanicals they have introduced to the classic formula. These include coriander seed, sweet angelica root and the flavor-binding orris root, which complement the exotic flavor of juniper berry. While innovating to invigorate the spirit, Hendrick’s tips its hat to the past with an old-timey, apothecary-style bottle.

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The Itinerary: The Royal Treatment

Ker & Downey takes you on an unforgettable, luxurious journey through the sweeping landscapes and opulent properties of India.

From the moment you step off the plane in India, you know you’re someplace special. Its vibrant markets, opulently carved temples and colorful festivals breathe life into the large country, while its soul lies in the diverse culture and long religious history evident by the many sacred sites and rituals. Its landscapes are as diverse as its people. From bustling cities to quiet desert terrain, sun-drenched beaches to snow-covered mountains, India is a place to be explored again and again. With so much to see and do, where does one begin? We’ve crafted a journey that draws upon India’s history, brings out the sweet aromas of the country’s best coffee and relishes in the cool dew of the rainforest over ten incredible days.

Vivanta-by-Taj-Bekal

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Ker & Downey Staff Profiles: Gana Marek

At Ker & Downey, we believe that people matter. It’s the people who make up this incredible company who work to make your journey truly memorable. Over the course of the next year, we’ll be introducing you to the people that make up Ker & Downey. You can also read more about us here.

Gana has officially been with Ker & Downey for ten years, but you could say she’s been here just as long as David Marek, her husband. She’s traveled all over the world, tested the spa in just about every property she’s been to, and has a deep passion for protecting the people in rural Uganda from malaria with our Nets for Africa program.

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Favorite city and why: Istanbul. I love the history of the city and its beauty.

What is the best thing about traveling: Learning about new cultures.

Travel accessory you can’t live without? Converter

Favorite plane ride activity: Sleeping

Top of my travel bucket list: Eastern Europe

Two weeks + and unlimited budget, where are you going? Italy, France, and Switzerland.

Beach or mountains: Mountains

How do you take your coffee? With Splenda and cream.

If they could bottle your personality what would the label read? Extreme Introvert

My theme song is: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Any pets? Two pups

If I were a super hero, I would be: Wonder Woman

Something I said I’d never do but did anyway was: Get married at 19

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Two things I can’t live without are: My Bible and toothbrush

It’s Sunday morning at 10 a.m. If I’m not sleeping, I’m: In church

My favorite physical activity is: I don’t really like to exert myself.

One thing I love that everyone else dislikes is: Butter and sugar sandwiches

The first thing I do when I wake up is: Brush my teeth.

One thing people are surprised to find out about me is: My real name.

The last concert I went to was: Michael Buble

My favorite TV show to watch as a kid was: The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights.

If I could instantly learn a new language, I would learn: French

Guilty TV pleasure: Eating while I watch it.

On my nightstand: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What’s inspiring you lately? Having two new grand babies.

Life mantra in four words: Be kind to everyone.

Favorite quote: “If you met my family, you would understand.”

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Check back next week to learn more about another Ker & Downey team member! Stay up to date on all of Ker & Downey’s online content by “liking” our Facebook page.