The bay of Villefranche, roughly 20 minutes from Nice on the French Riviera (Photographer: sjoeman/Getty Images)

Where Bankers Vacation, From Whistler to Kenya to the French Riviera

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  • (Bloomberg) -- Want to do a little networking on your next vacation? Pick your destination strategically. We’ve asked eight influential financiers to reveal their favorite places to unwind—and offered our own advice on how to recreate their trips. We can’t promise whether they’ll return season after season, but we can promise you’ll have an excellent trip … and plenty to chat about at the next cocktail party.

    An Epic Adventure in Kenya

    Whitney Tilson, founder of Kase Capital Management

    Source: Arijiju

    Arijiju, a private estate that you can rent for a safari in Kenya.

    "Every other December holiday, we go to Kenya to visit my parents and sister who live there," said Whitney Tilson. "Sometimes we go on safari; this year we climbed Mount Kenya. Every time we end up for a week at my parents’ beach house in the island paradise of Lamu.”

    Highlights: Tilson and his family spent beach days in Lamu tubing, sand-yachting, and watching dhow races from their boat. In Nairobi, they visited an elephant orphanage and a giraffe sanctuary. "The funniest thing was holding a food pellet in our mouths and letting the giraffe kiss us," said Tilson.

    Do it yourself: Stay at the Giraffe Manor, an iconic property in the Nairobi suburb of Karen, and you’ll get to feed the titular creatures from your breakfast table—they’re known to stick their long necks through the hotel’s dining room windows. Arijiju and Angama Mara are the plushest retreats if you want to go on safari in the Masai Mara; if you opt to trek Mount Kenya instead, book with African Ascents, the company Tilson used. And when you finally make it to the beach, book his family home for yourself. It’s available here.

    An Especially Remote Spot in the South Pacific

    James Vanasek, principal at VN Capital Management LLC

    Source: Starwood Hotels & Resorts

    The beautiful Le Meridien hotel in Isle of Pines, a tiny island in New Caledonia, west of Fiji.

    The little-known Isle of Pines, one of several islets roughly 800 miles west of Fiji in French-governed New Caledonia, feels "totally removed from everything," said James Vanasek, who traveled here a few weeks ago with his wife and two kids. "Think unspoiled white sand beaches that you pretty much have to yourself,” he said, explaining that there are only 2,000 inhabitants on the island—and very strict restrictions on development.

    Highlights: Besides sailing, snorkeling, diving, and hiking, the Vanaseks loved swimming in a pristine natural tidal pool in Oro Bay. It was surrounded by coral cliffs and chock-full of tropical fish, like "being in the tank at the National Aquarium,” said Vanasek.

    Do it yourself: Getting to the Isle of Pines isn’t easy. From New York, for instance, you’ll have to fly to Noumea, New Caledonia’s capital, which requires two connections—and a full 24 hours of flying. If you happen to be in Sydney, it's much quicker: Daily direct flights take just three hours. From Noumea, take the two-hour ferry ride to Isle of Pines, where you can check into a beautiful Le Meridien hotel: it has just 48 rooms and bungalows on the east side of the island, right near Oro Bay.

    Reconnecting in Israel

    Elisha Wiesel, chief information officer at Goldman Sachs

    Photographer: Reynold Mainse/Getty Images

    The ancient fortification of Masada in Israel.

    On his most recent trip to Israel, Elisha Wiesel said Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, for his father Elie Wiesel. (You may know the latter as the Nobel Prize for Peace winner who died in July.) "I always feel like I’m coming home," Wiesel said of his trips to the land of milk and honey. The family toured the country for 10 days, with the kids floating in the Dead Sea, going to the top of Masada, picking kumquats, and eating falafel. "You have a high-tech industry sitting footsteps from archaeological digs," said Wiesel of the country’s appeal.

    Highlights: Israeli food is taking over the U.S., but it was a French meal at Shiri Bistro near Tel Aviv that Wiesel recalls most fondly—that and seeing his son forge a deep connection with the country. As for the best souvenir? Wiesel’s wife brought home fragrant flowers she collected on the trip. "They’re still at the dinner table, filling the air with the scent of oranges," he said. 

    Do it yourself: The Wiesels stayed at the David Citadel in Jerusalem, the Dan Accadia in the beach town of Herzliya, the Royal Hotel Dead Sea, and then the Wadi Rosh Pina private house at Pina Parosh, outside Tel Aviv. They drove from place to place but found Waze’s directions to be glitchy—despite the app being headquartered in Israel. So if you’d prefer to arrange for a car and driver (or simply turn your itinerary over to a travel agent, for logistical purposes), reach out to local specialist Rachel Epstein.  

    A Whirlwind Trip to India

    Marc Rowan, co-founder of Apollo Global Management

    Photographer: Tetra Images - Bryan Mullennix/Getty Images

    A classic view of the Taj Mahal.

    Many assume a trip to India requires at least a full week on the ground. But Marc Rowan, co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and his family—including designer wife Carolyn Rowan and their three kids—did it in just five days with the help of a top-notch guide. They focused on the state of Rajasthan, where they visited Jaipur and Udaipur, and then visited the Taj Mahal  at Agra in the nearby state of Uttar Pradesh.

    Highlights: The Rowans witnessed the art of Jal Sanjhvi (drawing on water using colored powder), walked through markets, and took battery-powered tuk-tuks to local restaurants, where they stuffed themselves silly with naan. At their hotels—mostly Oberois—they were greeted with "namaste" and given dots on their foreheads. But seeing the Taj Mahal was the overwhelming standout. It was "awe-inspiring for its scale, symmetry, and gem-inlaid detail," said Carolyn.

    Do it yourself: Book with Indagare, the travel outfitter that helped Carolyn plan the trip, or stitch together an itinerary including their favorite hotels: the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and the Oberoi hotels in Agra and Udaipur. Their beloved guide, Sameer, can be found here.

    The Ultimate Golfing Vacation in Scotland

    Mike Jackson, executive vice president of capital markets at Supernova Companies

    Photographer: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, Scotland.

    Chicago-based Mike Jackson took a two-week golf trip to Scotland with three good buddies last summer. "All golfers have to make it there at least once," Jackson said. They planned their trip for July so they could make it to the Open championship at Royal Troon; a friend at Comcast hooked them up with seats in the Golf Channel tower, where they watched the final round in VIP style.

    Highlights: Aside from the exclusive access to the open, Jackson and his friends played five courses: St. Andrews, Royal Aberdeen, Trump Turnberry, Trump Aberdeen, and Cruden Bay. Cruden made the biggest impression. "We got everything we came for,” said Jackson. “It was bitter cold—in the 30s—and the rain was sideways, with over 40-mile-an-hour winds. The caddies never flinched. It was the worst time I’ve ever had on a golf course, as well as one of the best." One regret: not trying haggis.

    Do it yourself: Do as Jackson did, and split your stay among three places: Turnberry Resort, Macleod House, and Fairmont St. Andrews. Sleeping near the courses is the easiest way to secure guaranteed tee times, so it’s worth moving around.

    Schussing Down the Slopes in Whistler

    William Ettelson, portfolio manager of Wolfe Global Capital

    Photographer: Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

    Skiing in Whistler, where you can also go on excellent hikes, come summertime.

    This Canadian mountain town north of Vancouver has a low-key, international vibe that appeals to William Ettelson and his family. His wife, Adelina Wong Ettelson, head of residences marketing at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, told Bloomberg about their family trip there in December. "Christmas time at Whistler is magical," she said. But the family loves going in the summer, too, when they can have fun hiking, biking, zip-lining, and kayaking. "Summer is even better than the winter."

    Highlights: This winter, the Ettelsons loved such activities as Santa Skate at the Olympic Park rink and making maple syrup lollipops. Après ski: a round of Manhattans at the Fairmont’s Mallard Lounge or pints at the Dublin Gate.

    Do it yourself: The Ettelsons rave about the Whistler Sports Academy for both kids and adults, summer and winter. They contact Jamie Grant or Oliver Nixon there for summer sports camps and private ski lessons. Go for slope-side lunches at the Trattoria di Umberto in Whistler Village. For “the best ever” pizza, head to Creekbread. Date night is at Scandinave Spas after a day on the slopes. Then retreat to your own chalet, courtesy of Whistler Platinum.

    Lending a Hand in South Africa

    Andrew Klaber, an analyst at Paulson & Co.

    Source: Honeywood

    Honeywood in Port Shepstone, where Andrew Klaber likes to stay.

    Andrew Klaber said he loves to go to the coastal province of KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa, to explore the natural beauty and visit education programs funded by the nonprofit Even Ground, which he started in 2002. For additional R&R, he tacks on a few days in Durban. "The promenade along the Indian Ocean is beautiful," Klaber said of the under-appreciated South African city.

    Highlights: On a recent trip, Klaber joined Jackie Carter, a vice president at Goldman Sachs, and a few others, to see school lessons in progress; at another school, the students sang and danced in honor of their visit. Then they toured a monastery with Sister Priscilla Dlamini, whom Carter described as "a force of nature in old-school high heels."

    Do it yourself: Travelers interested in participating with Even Ground can reach out about opportunities. Stay at the six-room Honeywood in Port Shepstone, which Klaber personally recommends. It's an ideal base for great golf and abundant nature reserves, such as Oribi Gorge and Lake Eland. In Durban, stay at the Concierge, another little hotel with big style points.

    The French Riviera—but Not by Yacht

    Peter Nolan, head of loan syndication, sales, and trading at Antares Capital

    Photographer: sjoeman/Getty Images

    The bay of Villefranche, roughly 20 minutes from Nice on the French Riviera.

    "The coastline and countryside [of the French Riviera] are beautiful," said Peter Nolan, who likes to rent a villa there with family and friends for a few relaxing days. The terrorist attack in Nice in July "should not dissuade people from visiting," he added.

    Highlights: There’s nothing like a summer walk along the Promenade des Anglais, the main beachside thoroughfare in Nice, said Nolan. To mix it up, the family takes day-trips to Aix-en-Provence, Eze, and Grasse. Then, for more of a cosmopolitan feel, the family does day trips to Cannes and Monte Carlo, Monaco.

    Do it yourself: The key, said Nolan, is to make sure that your house rental includes the services of a dedicated chef. La Mediterranée and St. Paul de Vence, two homes listed by Villas of Distinction, would make great candidates for a trip this summer.

    Bloomberg