Some may seek raw and rugged Africa, where they sleep in tents, take bucket showers and eat scorpions. Others might want to be settled among gorgeous South African vineyards and attend black tie dinners on the Rovos Rail. Then there are those adventurous souls who may be combining safari with a specific goal—summiting Mount Kilimanjaro or fishing the Seychelles. Still others may prefer a “sofa safari” where the migration of the wildebeests, elephants cavorting in a salt lick or a lion out on a kill could happen right outside of their room and they don’t have to go anywhere. To help travelers find their perfect trip, Bedford, NY, resident Claudia Church created travel company &Three with partners and friends Stephanie Capuano, who lives in London, England, and Lanné Tucker, an Afrikaaner living in Sydney, Australia. The trio’s shared passion inspired a business that bridges the gap between like-minded travelers and Africa in original and thoughtful ways. “I dare you to travel to Africa and not feel the tug to return,” says Church.
Over lunch at the Inn at Pound Ridge, we spoke with Claudia about African travel trends, starting a business with girlfriends, and their all-time, best safari advice.
How did you decide to create your business?
Once upon a time, we were three expats living in London. Stephanie asked Lanné and I to join her in working for a small safari outfit out of Kenya. We are each ‘those people’—those trusted friends who are great resources for all things travel. In a single year, we grew the business exponentially and realized that there was something special and dynamic about the working chemistry between the three of us. At the same time, we regularly saw people traveling all the way to Africa, spending a ton of money on their bucket list trip—but getting it wrong. So we set off on our own to realize our shared vision for travelers. We have something that nobody else offers: a niche Africa brand that offers three times the perspective and three times the insider knowledge.
Describe your company.
For starters, we are not travel agents! We are travel advisors who curate high-end journeys
throughout Africa and her islands. What sets us seriously apart from the others is that we are Africa-specific—we eat, drink and breathe Africa. It is our passion. The second differentiator is our unique connection to the people on the continent—the true experts—and our collaborative process with them. Things change in Africa quite rapidly—our partners on the ground serve as our eyes and ears to keeping current in terms of camps, wildlife, management, the political climate. In addition, a private guide can really make or break a trip. We handpick all of our guides and take pride in matching them with our travelers. They live in the bush, on the beach, in the winelands. When you travel with our guides you really are welcomed and treated not as just another tourist but as a friend.
How do you make it work with you all living on different continents?
The three of us work around the clock—literally! We Skype at all hours of the day and night … our preferred system is crack of dawn New York and late night in Oz. Claudia is in a bathrobe, Steph is in a cab and Lanné is pouring a glass of wine. We have very different styles which we see as a real asset. The value to the client is our combined perspective. As women, collaboration is in our DNA. As a team, Africa is in our blood. As mothers to a combined eight children, we are sympathetic to each other’s balance. And we laugh a lot.