Nets for Africa: An Update from David Marek in Uganda

Ker & Downey President David Marek and his wife Gana are in Uganda this week handing out medications and insecticide-treated nets with the Nets for Africa Program. Check out his update below and continue to check back for updates throughout the week.

Today we completed our first two-day program at our first church just down from Sipi Falls. I don’t know if it’s rumor or fact that Sipi Falls got its name when Stanley and Livingstone were exploring the Nile and found the falls.  Stanley, finding the waters of the falls looking so enticing said to Livingstone, “I’ve just got to take a sipi of that water.”  The rest is history.

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Wellness: Healing Elements

This is the season for renewal, and what better way to feel good, enliven the spirit and the senses than with a visit to a spa that embraces the basics. By Mary Bemis

Bathing rituals are as old as civilization. The Egyptians practiced water therapies, the Greeks introduced cold-water baths, the Persians were busy creating steam and mud baths, the Turks followed with lavish baths built during the Ottoman Empire and in 1326, a curative spring was found in a little town in Belgium. As it turns out, this was the very spring frequented by the Romans before 100 A.D. and named “Sulsu Par Aqua.” Hence the name of the little town: Spa.

All ancient cultures recognized and paid homage to these basic elements—water, earth and fire—and spas are where those elements have always come together for healing, for relaxation, for rejuvenation. Here’s a quick list of places where these elements reign to add to your bucket list.

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The Experience: Maharaja for a Day

Our turbans trailed from the 1946 open-air Buick 8 Roadmaster as we made our way up Jodhpur’s Chittar Hill and to the palace gates. There she was, Umaid Bhawan Palace, the world’s largest private residence, and today, her 28 acres of majestic Indo-deco splendor was mine. By Scott Goetz

Cue: fanfare of pounding drums. Sound the trumpeting narsingha horns. 

It’s my royal entrance. As we make our way around the drive, an army of Rajasthani guards raises the silk canopy. Before I can “Bravo!” the guards for taking their handlebar mustaches to a literal level, I am ushered up the stairs, showered in a downpour of rose petals, greeted with a red-thumb stamp to the forehead (a holy aarti welcome), draped in tuberoses, presented with champagne in one hand and a chilled, rose-scented towel in the other, and attended by twenty-strong staff, smiling. I’m left high and floating in my head, and only come to when the general manager, who is shaking my hand, squeezes it harder. Then, he says to me—in that does-he-mean-yes-or-does-he-mean-no, only-in-India way—“We … have no plans set for you. Enjoy the hotel.”

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Cue: Bollywood whoopee cushion and loser horn.

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World Traveler: Barbara Berger

The impeccably stylish Barbara Berger has been called a lot of things—power collector, free spirit and fashion icon. Catching up with her on the heels of the of the release of the book Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger and a smash exhibition of her sparkling trove of baubles at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design last summer, we realize it wouldn’t be right to put a label on her anyhow. Growing up the daughter of a diamond dealer in New York, Berger developed an expert ability for identifying the exquisite and extravagant in everything around her. Which has made the Mexico City-based muse one of the world’s foremost collectors of fine jewelry, with an over 4,000-piece-strong collection (some dating back to the 1920s) that includes the handiworks of Coco Chanel, Miriam Haskell and Iradj Moini. An admitted flea market addict, she spends one-third of the year traveling the globe, hunting for treasure and discovering emerging talents in the jewelry and artisan worlds.  By Martine Bury

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The Destination Guru: China Off the Beaten Path

From where to go to what’s in store, Ker & Downey VP and intrepid traveler David Jones scouts the globe and answers burning questions for those who live to go there. Have a question for our destination guru? Email it to us at or ask us on our Facebook page. 

We are planning a return trip to China and are looking to see something off the beaten path – we’ve done the Great Wall and the big cities. Where can we go? J. Elliott, Evanston, Ill.

China is one of those destinations that, just by virtue of its size, can be explored on a return visit several times over. Beyond being huge, it’s a country with a history so rich and diverse, there is always plenty to discover aside from the usual big, bucket-list items. Along the Silk Road are the historic grottoes of Yungang (in Datong) and Longmen (in Luoyang)—both places are UNESCO protected and display some stunning Buddhist cave carvings and beautiful frescoes. The statues number in the thousands, carved directly into the limestone rock and towering overhead.

You can also consider the village of Pingyao. This town was the ancient financial capital of China and its grid-style city planning exists now, just as it did in its heyday. The architecture of the buildings and the well-preserved city walls are very unique.

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Unique Water Adventures from Ker & Downey

Journey beyond the land to experience exciting and unique adventures in the some of the most beautiful waters of our world. Snorkel, dive, and paddle your way through the waters to uncover treasures deep below the surface and discover remote islands. Contact us today to begin planning your water adventure.

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Heart of Egypt

Staff writer Haley Beham and Vice President David Jones break through the news cycle of the day to discover the soul of an immense country that spans from Africa to Asia. Two perspectives on two profound journeys reveal new ways to see an ancient land. 

River of Dreams

A cruise on the Nile seamlessly combines luxury with the mystery of glorious, storied ruins. By Haley Beham

With a spirit of adventure and a soul longing to see the world, there isn’t a place I don’t want to experience. Even after the Arab Spring, Egypt is no exception; and so, with a feeling of excitement and curiosity, I happily pack my bags for the eight-day journey through Egypt and down the Nile River. As the gateway to Egyptian civilization, the Nile River is a link to the past, a flowing and vital life-giving source, and the route of Cleopatra’s fabled royal barge. For me, it is where the world of Agatha Christie’s “Death on the Nile” comes to life, and where I truly begin to understand everything I learned about the ancient civilization in school years ago.

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Africa’s Most Unique

Ker & Downey Recommends: The 5 most unique African experiences. By Katy Heerssen

Anyone who’s been there can tell you that Africa by itself is an adventure. You expect the unexpected, the exotic, and your journey delivers generously. For fearless explorers who want to push boundaries of the usual on the continent, the following five, matchless experiences are sure to blow your mind. 


The Experience

Climbing Kilimanjaro is a popular bucket-list item for all levels of adventurers, but for those who prefer to do things with a touch more panache and exclusivity, climbing Kilimanjaro via the Machame route is what really needs to be the goal. The Kili climb is a multi-day trek, and it’s usually a mad dash of swollen packs of climbers jockeying for position on the mountain’s designated camp sites. The trek is no secret; but when it comes to encountering throngs of hiking groups, the Machame route is definitely the road less traveled. Aside from being less crowded, it’s also much more scenic than alternative routes, passing through areas of Afromontane forest, glacial valleys and alpine desert. The ascent is made via Stella Point, and you descend on a separate trail—instead of simply about-facing on the same path you just traversed. You’ll have a day pack as you are led along the trail, but your tent and other belongings will be completely cared for by porters who scout ahead and stake their claim for the choice views at campsites. 


Ultimate Tanzania: A New Journey from Ker & Downey

Spend 13 days exploring private conservancies within the Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks in pure African luxury. Authentic cultural experiences with the Kurya and Maasai tribes, stunning wildlife viewing, and luxury boutique lodges with exceptional fresh cuisine make this journey truly unforgettable.

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