Explorer Henry Cookson has made it his life’s mission to help adventure seekers pursue their wildest passions. He encourages his clients to “venture beyond the extraordinary,” curating exclusive luxury expeditions like riding with cowboys in Colombia and exploring the largest cave on earth. We chatted with him about how curiosity fuels his brand, why incredible experiences like these are so important and how we can all be a little more adventurous.
What prompted you to start Cookson Adventures?
My parents run a small travel business, so that inquisitive nature was with me from an early age. But my love of travel really began after I left school and traveled to Kenya to work as a guide on a riding safari. Although I embraced the experience, I don’t think I realised the lasting impression it left on me.
I went back to the normality of living in the UK and started to go down the expected path; I attended university then fell into a banking job in the city. But it was as if there was an itch that needed scratching. I longed to be back riding around the plains of Africa, interacting with the wildlife — including some of the world’s most endangered species — and learning from Maasai elders about their tribal ancestry.
Not one to do things by halves, I trekked to the magnetic North Pole with friends, and we then set our sights on Antarctica. Our mission to the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility (the most central point of the Antarctic landmass) set a world record and gave me a certain expertise in planning such adventures. It was then that I knew what I wanted to do: take people to the most remote places on the planet and do it with style.
Curiosity is one of the driving forces behind your brand. Why is this important to you?
Curiosity is central to all our experiences. It’s what unites all our guests, and it’s fueled by a prevalent and growing trend among travelers, particularly successful individuals. They’re no longer happy with the idea of sunning themselves onboard a super yacht in the Mediterranean. Rather, they want to come away from their experiences feeling enriched, feeling like they have broadened their horizons and experienced something new.
That’s why the concept of “world firsts” is so important; it’s the unique nature of doing something that has never been done before that appeals to our clients’ curious side. We help guests push the boundaries of travel, exploring the most remote corners of the earth in the process.
What are some of the most memorable expeditions you’ve curated for your clients?
That is a very hard question to answer because of the nature of our business. “Memorable” is different for every individual, so we approach each trip with a blank canvas and pride ourselves on engineering every trip to be something our guests will remember for the rest of their lives. Our business is based around creating memories, and no two trips are ever the same.
That said, one recent trip that we are incredibly proud of combined a luxury experience in Antarctica with groundbreaking scientific research. We arranged for a client to undertake a cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula, enjoying stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and memorable activities that included sailing into the caldera of volcano, diving beneath the waves in a submersible and hiking on the ice.
As part of the expedition, the client funded important scientific research into the discovery of a new species of killer whale. A project 15 years in the making, the donation allowed for a dedicated research vessel to be chartered off the southern tip of South America and skin samples to be taken from this killer whale previously unknown to science. The team of scientists met up with the client at the end of the expedition to go through the findings and the secrets of type D killer whales.
Why are these kinds of experiences important in today’s world?
We’re perched on an interesting precipice in today’s society in that we’re driven by a fascination with social media and the visual content that fuels this. As such, people want to visit stunning, remote and wild places, and their motivation is being able to say they have been there.
Conversely, we want to take people to these places so they can discover the joy of exploring them and reconnecting with nature. Yes, they may post about it on Instagram while they’re there, but that isn’t the sole purpose of visiting.
Of course, the reasoning differs from person to person. A family may wish to pass a passion from generation to generation; an entrepreneur might want to develop in areas outside the boardroom. Whatever the reason, we want our guests to be inspired and surprised. And we want to leave a legacy that can’t be captured in a social media post.
What advice do you have for someone looking to be more adventurous?
You are limited only by your imagination.