Omar Chérif: Secret Agent

Those who want to venture off the beaten path call on this jetsetter


When Omar Chérif tells you that he grew up traveling a lot, he doesn’t mean that he climbed the Eiffel Tower. By the age of 7, he’d already flown on the Concorde from Paris to Rio for New Year’s Eve and walked the beaches of Phuket, Thailand. “Even today, I meet people in hotels who knew me when I was a kid,” says Chérif, 33, who was raised in Casablanca, where his father ran a fine-food exporting business and his mother launched La Pomme Verte, Morocco’s first luxury retail store. Now, as the owner of the bespoke travel firm OC Special + Travel, Chérif sees to it that designers, royals, and billionaires have the time of their lives in the world’s most amazing places—however impossible the assignment. A case in point is the party he helped Naomi Campbell (who happens to be one of his business partners) throw last October in Jodhpur, India, for her then boyfriend Vladimir Doronin’s 50th birthday. “It’s the most challenging city in Rajasthan because it’s closest to the Pakistani border,” he says. The airport is adjacent to a military base, and Chérif had to coordinate 217 guests arriving on 23 private jets. He planned events at four locations over three days, relying on a staff of 800. “There’s a very fine line between incredible and too much,” he says. For those seeking the former, Chérif lets us in on a few of his don’t-miss destinations.

Cherif’s Favorite Places

Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai, Thailand

“Located near the borders of Laos and Burma, this is the best elephant safari in the world. The tents are luxuriously comfortable, and the elephants are always close by. Each of them has a distinct personality.”

Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai, Thailand

“Built like a Burmese village, it’s a place to see at least once in a lifetime. I fell in love with the villa by the spa, which has a deck that opens onto the rice fields.”

Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Patagonia, Chile

“The scenery and the treks you can take are full of surprises. I especially like the view of the snowy peaked Torres del Paine mountain range.”

Matakauri, Queenstown, New Zealand

“I dream of this beautiful lodge situated on the crystal- clear Lake Wakatipu and surrounded by multicolored mountains. It’s so sensual. I hope to take my last breath there.”

Uxua Casa Hotel, Trancoso, Brazil

“This hotel has a lot of spirit and great vibes. Every bungalow is different and hidden in lush gardens. You get the feeling you’re part of a very happy tribe.”

Soneva Fushi, Maldives

“A very special place to travel Robinson Crusoe–style with kids. The bar boasts a never- ending juice selection, and there is an outdoor cinema on the beach.”

Six Senses con Dao, con son Island, Vietnam

“This hotel is one of the first eco-resorts to have a modern design. There are four great restaurants—guests ride bikes between them—and the spa offers local specialties like a honey locust pod hair wash.”

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, hermanus, South Africa

“At this amazing villa with a private chef, a butler, and guides, you can have a picnic breakfast along the water and go whale watching. Be sure to experience the flower safari and the colorful sunsets.”

North Island, Seychelles

“Staff outnumber guests at this hotel, where Will and Kate honeymooned. Just whisper your wish and your host will make it happen. Villa 7 is the most desirable.”

Eagles Nest, Russell, New Zealand

“This cliffside resort, made up of five villas, has stunning views over the Bay of Islands. Swim in the infinity pool while watching the dolphins below, or take a boat to some of the little islands, where you can finish the day with a private beachside dinner.”

Vamizi Island, Mozambique

“Getting here is not easy, but this small privately owned island is so magical that you forget the journey as soon as you arrive. The attention to detail is second-to-none, and the pristine waters make for one of the best fishing experiences in the world.”

Song Saa Private Island, koh rong archipelago, Cambodia

“A perfect place for travelers who want some beach time after visiting the famous Temple of Angkor Wat.”


Photo: courtesy of Cherif; resorts: courtesy of the locations