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Black Tomato – Adrenaline Seeker

by Emily Paine

The Black Tomato website should probably come with a serious warning: If the chances of you taking a holiday any time soon are slim, do not enter, or you’re likely to fall into a major depression. Or if you have any tendency towards wander-lust or adrenaline-addiction, enter with serious caution, or you may find that you’ve uncontrollably quit your job and booked yourself a one-way flight to any of the unbelievable destinations on offer. If the goal of the founders was to create a site which sends your desire for extreme fun into overdrive, they’ve certainly succeeded – and from all reports, it’s clear they don’t make hollow promises.

Black Tomato was started in 2005 by three 26-year-old city boys, struck by the thought that, with their extensive business and leisure travel experience behind them, it might be an idea to side-step off the corporate conveyor belt and spend their days dealing with what they really loved, namely travel (largely of the action-packed variety). Between them, Tom Marchant, Matt Smith and James Merret had lived in Moscow, Johannesburg and a host of destinations in between. They were clear, though, that another company in a highly competitive market would have to have an original edge. Black Tomato has certainly found one, offering a range of personally tailored, off-the-wall travel packages, where the emphasis is on the experience as well as the destination.

They can whisk you off to far-flung places you’d never have dreamt it would be possible to go, for activities that are unlikely even to have occurred to people. Anyone fancy replicating the famous Goldeneye jump, where Bond hops with total composure off the edge of a thundering 220m dam? Or taking a trip to Antarctica and spending your days strolling amongst the penguins and climbing unchartered territory? Thought so. How about volcano surfing (yes, it is exactly what it sound like) in Nicaragua or cage diving with the great white sharks in South Africa? Black Tomato knows only too well that their clientele are cash-rich and time poor, and ever aware of the tricky situations that can arise when you’re 24/7 busy, have incorporated a pulsating panic button on their website that links straight to a ‘panic operator’. They’ll set in motion some emergency trip-planning when your week off is a mere few days away and you haven’t a clue where to go. Blind panic and self-directed rage need never set in again.

Never a company to sit on their laurels, Black Tomato are always coming up with fun and innovative activities: they’ve just launched the Amazing Face Race, a portrait competition that invites people to upload their people, animals or even statue portraits taken on their adventures abroad, for inclusion on the exhibition wall and the chance to win a travel prize that gets bigger and bigger the more people enter. The resulting online ‘exhibition’ is beautiful, with faces of every nationality and generation smiling side by side.

Oh and apparently Black Tomatoes do exist – they’re an extremely rare and delicious fruit found in few locations. It’s not difficult to see how the name applies.

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