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Gear Check 2023

A ‘Gear Check’ is a time for us to crunch the numbers and look back at what worked, what didn't work and what's ahead..

Gear Check 2023

Before you climb any mountain, rappel into any canyon or head off on any travel, it’s best to do a gear check. That way you know exactly what you are dealing with and ensure there are no nasty (or fatal) surprises.

We do the same with The Explorer Society as a whole. We check our current position, review our ascents and descents, and look at what lay on the horizon. It also gives us a chance to work out some stats about our travellers, and who doesn’t love an interesting stat?

The Good

Reviews in Review (and a humble brag)

It’s been a great year for us and our society. We have been organising trips for travellers all over the world, from sandy deserts to Antarctica (also a desert) and of course, lots of Africa. The biggest point of pride for us? Although we don’t promote reviews, and we definitely don’t (and won’t) incentivise them, we have a 5-star average from all our travellers. The best comment we received is that “no one else listened, and we are so happy we found you.”

Many thanks to all of you.

A shiny new home

Nothing with us is ‘off the shelf’. Being a fully remote company, we originally created our entire system, processes and business from scratch. We even made our own website when we first started, often through tears of frustration! It has served us well over the past few years, but this year we dedicated time to debating colour shades (for far too long) and rewriting outdated content, but as a result, we have a new fancier website that is faster and far more functional.


We love working from home or on the road, but it can be a little isolating at times. Because of that, it has been great to be welcomed into your world. Not only have we heard your dreams for the future, but we have also heard your stories when you come home. We’ve had some laughs in your homes, traded travel stories in coffee shops, worked out tiny details on Zoom calls and chatted over ideas on the phone while waiting to pick up our kids from school. Your support continues to allow us to do this for a living and, as cliched as this sounds, it has been lovely to have been invited into your lives this year.

The Bad

The Arabian Communication Gulf

Quick backstory: When we launched our Saudi Arabia product, we were introduced to a very well-known operator in the region. Eventually though, with consistent bad excuses and delays from the operator and no other viable options, we were discussing pausing travel to the entire destination. With amazing timing, it was at this exact point we got our first enquiries from travellers. We mentioned these problems in passing conversation to an old colleague visiting Sydney and he mentioned he had just recently vetted some excellent operators. Introductions were made, we did our usual checks and then within the week, we had a new local operator in Saudi Arabia and new options to offer.

Missing groups and guides

We previously mentioned the escorted group tours we planned for early 2024. As you might have realised by the silence since then, they haven’t materialised. Tours to unique places like the Congo take time to organise correctly, and time was something we had in short supply this year. We made the decision to do them properly or not at all, and they have been shifted back a year.

Similarly, we have had thousands of people download our Ultimate Guides this year. We mentioned a few months ago that we had an Antarctic guide on the way imminently. A few months later, it is still sitting in the final stages. Again, a victim of our success. As of today, it still sits there next to our Jordan guide and our Kilimanjaro guide, each fully written and in the final stages of production, waiting to be released into the world.

What’s next?

New Guides! Really!

If you haven’t read any of our guides before, they are designed to give you all you need to know in a fun and clarifying read. They are then made available on our website, for free, for all.

As mentioned above, we have a new Antarctic, Jordan and Kilimanjaro guide all in the final stages of production. And so help us God, they will be finished. Of course, we will let you know as soon as they are released, but this quieter Christmas period gives us a chance to finally finish them off.

See our faces

Next year will see the launch of our new video series. There is a lack of unbiased and good quality videos about our destinations, without them merely being ads for companies. As part of our future plans, we have been building a new studio to film our new videos about the places we go, the stories we have heard and people and things you need to know of.

New destinations ahead

We have a three-year plan for areas and things we’d like to offer. Our newest destination is something we have been working on since the beginning.

In 2024, we will be adding the Arctic to our offered destinations.

We have amazing itineraries on offer, from Northwest passages trips to even the Arctic in winter and trips to the North Pole itself. That also now means you can travel to both the North and South Pole with The Explorer Society. There’s a lot more to come with this, but we’ll let you know as soon as it is released.

And yes, a guide will be coming for that too, but we aren’t promising when. We’ve learned our lesson.

The Stats

Most popular region – Southern Africa

(Last year - Middle East)

From 3rd most popular last year to the most popular this year, it was a resurgence for Southern Africa. And not just one particular country either, we had people travelling in every country here, at all times of the year. South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and even Malawi, you couldn’t get enough. But with the riches on offer here, it isn’t really too surprising.

Most popular country - A tie between South Africa and Zimbabwe

(Last year - Egypt)

South Africa had a good return this year, offering good value for money and lots of options for safaris. And, whilst Victoria Falls remains the primary reason people visit Zimbabwe, lots of our travellers have used the opportunity to visit its amazing game parks like Hwange or Mana Pools.

Most popular city/town – Victoria Falls

(Last year - A dead heat between Cairo and Victoria Falls)

Victoria Falls is probably the most popular attraction in Africa, so the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe being included on this list isn’t much of a surprise. Whilst it only just tipped Cape Town for the top spot, it did have to share some visitors with Livingstone in Zambia, so that’s something.

Most deferred destination - Middle East

(Last year - Namibia)

With inflation and the rising cost of living it looked like Antarctica was going to be the winner here, but with ongoing tension in Israel early in the year and the war breaking out in October, lots of our travellers moved their Egypt and Jordan planning down the road.

The most requested destination that we don’t visit – The Arctic

(Last year - India & Sri Lanka.)

As above, that’s changing.

The best destination we think is overlooked

Argentina. The whole money situation (hyperinflation) is a real pain and it is a very big country to get around, but it remains an incredible place to visit. From tropical Iguazu Falls to frigid Fin del Mundo (’end of the world’), there is so much to see. And that’s not even including brilliant Buenos Aires. It also combines well with Antarctica and other places like Brazil or Chile, but it is well worth a visit all on its own.

Projects we supported

Hwange Rhino Conservation

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

UK Antarctic Heritage Trust

Оur Best Reads of ‘23

One consistent thing we hear, from both our travellers and our partners, is how much our writing is enjoyed. It’s something that we work hard on, so the feedback makes it all worthwhile. The world is a fascinating place, and we think sharing its wonders is important.

Here are the winners, as judged by your feedback.

Most Popular Pieces

  1. The Gorilla Experience
  2. The Roof Mower
  3. Getting more for your money
  4. We need to talk about Kenya
  5. David Livingstone

You can read all our old Dispatches via our Journal, including ones not listed here.

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Why travel with us?

Travel isn’t what is used to be. It used to be undertaken with a sense of adventure and discovery. As the world shrunk, so did our imaginations and over time, manufactured experiences, sponsored travel lists and mass tourism have slowly extinguished that magic. Amazing destinations, catering to the crowds, have become overwhelmed shadows of their former selves.

And so, we established The Explorer Society to be a travel company for like‑minded travellers. It’s for those who travel for the destination and the incredible experiences to be found within, not just for the bragging rights. We are passionate about avoiding the crowds and providing real and revelatory experiences.

Illustration of a contract with a lock in front

We always try to maintain as open and honest a conversation with you as we can throughout the entire process. We are happy to chat about what we recommend, why, and why we do what we do.

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Do good, be good

The destinations we visit should be around for future generations to enjoy. We want the benefits of your visit go to those in the local area you visited, not some big corporation elsewhere.

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Value ≠ Cost

What something costs isn’t the same as what something is worth. We always try to get the best value for your trip, irrespective of how you choose to travel and what budget you have.

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Experience first

The experience always comes first. This might mean five‑star luxury, three‑star simplicity or a camp out under millions of stars, whatever ultimately best suits the experience you’re after.

Don’t just take our word for it

“I would recommend The Explorer Society every time.”

Derelle B

“I would not hesitate to recommend them for your African getaway.  I will certainly use them again.”

Poppy M

“Cannot recommend highly enough!”

Gemma G

“Seamless and perfectly executed, I would recommend The Explorer Society to anyone.”

Angela T

“I would recommend The Explorer Society and will be definitely using them in the future.”

Rowena F

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