Where the experts holiday: Sophia Constant, director at Sophia Rose Travel

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Sophia Constant, together with her twin sister Rosanna, runs Sophia Rose Travel which specialises in organising luxury adventure travel in Africa and Latin America. The team shares a passion for exploration, deep local knowledge and planning expertise, creating tailor-made journeys for every client. Sophia is also a freelance travel writer, always enthusiastically planning her next escape.

What do you like to do on holiday?
Working at a fast pace in a city, holidays have to provide a real sense of escape. I personally crave wide-open landscapes and complete silence (birds aside) to let the mind wander and to gain perspective over all the daily worries that most people spend too much time focussing on while in a working routine. 

I am incapable of sitting still on a beach, so being active outdoors or going on adventures makes me feel like I’m making the most of precious time off. There has to be an element of discovery, whether that’s a new place, culture, history etc. I love the sense of freedom to be found while exploring wilderness regions, be it hiking in the Scottish highlands, riding in the Andes, or a 4×4 safari in remote corners of Africa, camping under the stars and dining around a campfire. 

I also love culture-heavy weekend-breaks –  just following my feet around a new city, and, having studied languages, I love trying to communicate and engage with locals wherever I go, which so often allows you to better understand the way of life in countries so different from our own. 

Latin America is my favourite place for both practising Spanish and devouring the continent’s treasure trove of distinct cultures and extraordinary history, particularly learning about the ancient Inca and Maya civilisations. But most importantly, every holiday should allow for total indulgence in food and wine. It’s not a time to hold back! Which is why Argentina is always at the top of my list…!  

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

Where did you last go?
A spectacular road trip through South Africa’s northern and western capes on a press trip writing for Country Life Digital. We were exploring really remote communities in the country’s most breathtaking and pristine far reaches, where few tourists ever go, simply because so little of its beauty is known beyond its borders.

It was the perfect balance of adventure and culture: kayaking the Orange River, wildlife safari, learning about herbal medicine from nomadic San Bushmen, cooking over a fire with the Nama People, and sleeping in original diamond diver huts on the beach, miles from civilisation on the Atlantic coast.

I’d highly recommend it for the curious, intrepid explorer who’s willing to forgo the luxuries of a more developed tourist trail to enjoy a truly offbeat adventure. 

Do you know where you’re going this year?
Back to Kenya in November. My father lived there for many years and would take us on incredible safaris through really wild, uninhabited regions, which whetted my appetite for offbeat exploration, and inspired my career in travel. 

Through Sophia Rose Travel, we try to arrange experiences that widen the perspective, build bridges and understanding between distinct cultures and promote sustainable tourism that will positively impact local communities. My November trip is with travel videographers, Matthew Williams-Ellis and John Alexander, putting together a short film on the experiences Sophia Rose Travel arrange in Kenya. 

We’re highlighting lesser known regions and experiences to show just how diverse a journey through Kenya can be. We’ll be taking a camel safari in Laikipia, spending a night under the stars in the bush, interviewing the founder of ForRangers about developing anti-poaching units, learning about the delicate harmony of ranching alongside wildlife on unfenced ranches, such as Sosian in Kenya’s high-country, visiting the beautiful Aberdares mountain range, home to buffalo and elephant, meeting with women’s beading co-operatives in Samburu, and learning how to deep sea fish on the coast. It should be an incredibly varied and fun trip with so many new experiences –) I can’t wait! 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?Argentina holds a special place in my heart. I went there to learn Spanish and have been nurturing my love affair with the country ever since.

I worked in a hotel near Iguazu Falls, taking guests on adventures into the jungle to spot endemic wildlife and birdlife. The following year, I went on a mesmerising road trip through the puna, the high-altitude plains of the Andes in North-West Argentina, which is one of the most extraordinary regions on earth. 

A single day can take you through desert dunes, salt-flats, copper-coloured mountains, cactus-covered valleys, turquoise lagoons scattered with flamingos, a labyrinth of house-sized pumice stones, and into bucolic fields sewn with high-altitude vineyards that produce the most delicious wines. And you’ll hardly see another car. 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

There is nowhere more dramatic or breathtaking than Patagonia, where I would highly recommend a riding safari with Jakotango across the Andes, one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in the country. 

And every time I explore a new region of Argentina, I love book-ending it with a few days in Buenos Aires, whose sultry streets I could wander endlessly. I’d move there tomorrow!

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
My list just seems to get longer and longer. I long to sail the icy shores of Antarctica and observe the uninhibited wildlife of the Galapagos Archipelago. 

Having spent years organising tailor-made journeys through Latin America for clients, and having had the privilege of enjoying incredible African safaris, I had never given much thought to Asia until I went island hopping in Bali last year. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing and just loved the openness of the people we met, all the exotic foods we tasted, the celebration of craftsmanship, and the spirituality that I encountered in certain parts. 

I realise I have only scratched the surface and every region will have such a different cultural identity! Japan is top of my list – a country with such a fascinating history and ancient culture that is so far removed from our own. I’d love to stay in a traditional Ryokan for a restorative, nature-focussed experience, and see the contrast between Japan’s modern metropolises and its most pristine countryside. 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
In the UK, the big cities and the south coast seem to receive the most visitors. Rural England, Scotland and Wales, deep in the countryside, is where I feel most inspired by natural beauty. 

I’m from Yorkshire and think the Dales and Moors are completely breathtaking! These wild, remote and unspoilt landscapes are home to the most down to earth, hard-working people, traditional country pubs with a wonderful warm atmosphere, castles, abbeys, stately-homes, pretty fishing villages, a heart-melting coastline, the best fish and chips hands down, and you’re only a couple of hours from London on the train! I’d really recommend visiting to get a more rounded and genuine experience of life in the UK. 

How do you plan your holiday?
A combination of all of these. I love having a hard-copy guidebook, starring intriguing places and circling restaurants or museums that sound unmissable. 

While we have so much information at our fingertips via the internet, it can be hard knowing what and who to trust. There’s such value in booking holidays through travel companies that give advice from first-hand experience, with in-depth knowledge of a region, as well as building a personal relationship with the client so that each recommendation is tailored to their interests. 

This is what we pride ourselves in at Sophia Rose Travel and it’s where we really ensure that we add value to an exploration. We particularly love providing specialist guides who will bring a place to life. I always make sure I leave some time completely unplanned to just wander and see what I find. That makes it all the more exciting when you stumble upon somewhere particularly beautiful or special. 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

How often do you go away?
Working in travel, even though I absolutely love it, I sometimes feel a bit too nomadic. For Sophia Rose Travel, I’m often away on reccies in Latin America or Africa to ensure my knowledge and advice is both fresh and imaginative. 

I am also a freelance travel writer and love embarking on journeys of discovery to new destinations. I’m trying to make sure that every few months I spend at least two weeks solidly at home to decompress.

I think it’s essential to have at least one week’s holiday a year that is completely dedicated to R&R, recharging the batteries and disengaging from your busy schedule. In July I spent a week on a river in Scotland: fishing, reading, walking and sleeping. It was just what I needed to take on the rest of the year with positive energy and to give my work my all. 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

Who do you travel with?
My twin sister and I share our travel business together – she lives in Kenya and I live in London. We often travel together, both for work and holiday, which gives us time to catch up and reconnect. If you are able to find time to travel as a family, it’s incredibly special to share new experiences together and enjoy each other’s company outside of your usual home environment. 

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
It’s hard to say with the UK – I imagine we’ll see a strong revival of ‘slow-travel’ as life seems to be too fast-paced! Whizzing around ticking off a bucket-list or guidebook highlights has lost its appeal, and more often people are keen to get under the skin of a destination, to really try to understand and engage in different cultures, and take journeys at a leisurely pace. It’s so important to slow down every now and then to actually appreciate what’s around you. 

Credit: Sophia Rose Travel

In the regions where we arrange holidays, Africa and Latin America, in recent years we have seen a major shift towards sustainable tourism, with a rise in travel companies promoting eco-friendly accommodation and cultural experiences that positively impact local communities. 

Among our clients, we’ve noticed that now almost everyone is conscious to incorporate an element of their trip that is about giving back to whichever part of the world they are exploring. It’s been really uplifting to see this greater awareness and respect amongst travellers and indeed the travel industry. 

Thanks Sophia! For the low-down on Sophia Rose Travel, please visit sophiarosetravel.com. Follow Sophia Rose Travel on Instagram.

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