Henry Cookson made his name as a Polar explorer. He now runs the bespoke luxury travel firm Cookson Adventures.
How did you come up with the idea for the business?
I started by working in the City, but my banking career was very short-lived. A chance conversation with some friends sparked the idea to sign up for an adventure and we found ourselves taking on the Scott Dunn Polar Challenge in 2005, a race to the Magnetic North Pole. We won the race and then set our sights on a 1,100-mile expedition across Antarctica. This set a Guinness World Record for the first unaided trip to the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility. Afterwards, many of my friends were asking me how they could take on similar challenges. So, I started to organise trips for them, and this grew through word of mouth.
What business lessons did you learn from your travels?
One thing I’ve learned is that planning is crucial, particularly when travelling to remote locations. We prepare for the worst and ensure we’re self-sufficient. That’s true whether I’m planning my own expedition or a trip for guests. We are careful not to make the assumption that local infrastructure will help with managing a situation, as very often there isn’t any infrastructure in the destinations that Cookson is visiting. So we make sure we conduct all the necessary research and have contingencies in place.
What is special about what the firm offers its clients?
We custom-build every single element of each expedition to the requirements of each guest. No two trips are ever the same. We get to know each guest and their likes and dislikes to create and engineer an expedition that will be so memorable that they will tell all their friends about it, post about it on social media, and, most importantly, remember it for the rest of their lives. It may be a cliché but our business is based around creating memories.
Do you have a favourite view in the world?
Erta Ale, in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia is an amazing place. It’s one of the world’s constantly active lava lakes. I remember thinking I was staring into the soul of the earth as molten lava bubbled away beneath me. From a personal point of view, my family has a place on Corfu. There’s wisteria around the window and we’re not even a stone’s throw from the sea. We’re a stone’s drop! It’s absolute bliss.
What’s your favourite place to eat?
We use a lot of superyachts in our trips. One of the consistencies of these is that there’s usually an excellent chef on board. So whether you’re looking at glaciers in Svalbard, or the volcanoes of the Galapagos Islands, if you’re on a boat, you have that flexibility to enjoy wonderful food and incredible scenery.
If you could travel somewhere you’ve never been where would it be?
I’d like to visit Lake Baikal, in Siberia, in the spring. It’s the world’s largest and deepest fresh water lake and rich in biodiversity. Its name derives from the phrase for ‘Nature Lake’ in Mongolian and it certainly lives up to this reputation, with a plethora of nature and endemic wildlife.