(Updated by Janice Kei) The rugged wilderness has always been a natural calling to mankind – after all, mankind was shaped by it before by inventing agriculture, creating colonies and discovering civilisation. But the adventurer has found a way to escape the chaos of cities by going back to mankind’s roots by roughing it out and camping in nature.
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Luxury travellers have always prized accommodation that are at one with nature, but these have primarily been ensconced within Africa by way of safari lodges and tented camps. Tented camps, often referred to as glamping, typically offer all the modern comforts of hotel rooms, suites or villas, but in unique accommodation that offers a glimpse of the power of the wild.
Most of these luxury camps sprouted up in an effort to experience wildlife, but tented camps have a history dating back millennia to the nomadic tribes. However, a rise in the need for nature has resulted in a selection of tented camp resorts outside Africa, offering a mix of raw nature and cultural experiences with a touch of elegance.
Here are some of the most incredible luxury tented camp-only resorts outside of Africa…
In the harshness of the desert, it is best to describe Al Maha as an oasis. Only an hour’s drive from Dubai, Al Maha showcases the heritage and architecture of the Bedouins against the backdrop of the dunes, where gazelles and the Arabian onyx roam free, visible from your suites that each come replete with a private plunge pool.
Ten highly-exclusive identical tents sit on the outskirts of Ranthambore National Park, famous for housing one of India’s largest populations of tigers and other wildlife. While certainly the main draw, wildlife is not the only attraction in the vicinity, with a range of cultural excursions including a visit to the daunting Ranthambore Fort. The tents are luxurious (108 sqm/1,162sqft), the food is rustic yet refined, and the service is exemplary, with each tent provided a dedicated batman (or butler), who will even accompany you on your journey from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur, replete with refreshments for the arduous road ahead.
Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild, Cambodia
Set in Cambodia’s South Cardamom National Park are 15 exquisite Bill Bensley-designed (and run) tents that focus entirely on nature. Guests can choose to arrive by helicopter and a 380-metre zipline over the jungle and river, and activities include anti-poaching patrols and hikes, and dining by the waterfalls. The trip combines well with Bensley Collection Siem Reap, but be sure to look out for more Bill Bensley-designed tented camps like Capella Ubud in Bali, Indonesia (review here), Rosewood Luang Prabang in Laos, and and Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai, Thailand (featured later in this article).
At this crossroads of Southeast Asia that connects Burma, Laos and northern Thailand, the historic Golden Triangle region, Four Seasons’ Tented Camp Golden Triangle offers guests the chance to explore the region’s bamboo jungles and to interact with rescued elephants in their natural habitat. The elevated tents are luxuriously appointed, some with hot tubs on the outdoor deck.
The Serai, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
One of the very first Relais&Chateaux-accredited properties in India, this tented camp site set on the outskirts of Jaisalmer draws inspiration from the royal caravan sites of the Rajputana. Away from the chaos of Jaisalmer, the retreat is a throwback to a colonial age. Aside from excursions to Jaisalmer and Jaisalmer Fort, one of the key highlights here are the evenings, where the silence of the calm night is punctuated by haunting folk songs by the local Rajasthani Manganiyar singers.
Staring stark at one of the wonders of the world, Longitude 131°, another Baille Lodges property, features 15 tented structures built at the edge of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia, each with a view of the outback icon, Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, a large plateaued sandstone formation in an otherwise flat landscape. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the red rock, perfect for waking up to see the sun soaring, or camp at night gazing at an array of glittering stars in the balcony by a toasty roaring fire.
NORTH, CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA
Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge, Vancouver Island, Canada
In Clayoquot Sound Biosphere reserve on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, the heart of bear country and whale inhabited waters, 25 white canvas tents are dotted around the region’s pristine temperate rainforest. Exploration is at the core of the resort’s raison d’etre, which starts off with arrival via seaplane or boat, and includes experiences like canyoning, and guided tours traversing the region’s vast ocean expanses and estuaries in search of bears and whales. The resort is now under the operation of the iconic Baillie Lodges that is famous for outstanding experiential resorts, and marks their first international property outside of Australia and New Zealand.
Camp Sarika is the (self sustained) mini-resort in and of itself extension to the back-to-the-wild world-renowned Amangiri, with 10 tents set at the foothills of the Mesas of Canyon Point at the border of Utah and Arizona. Guests can of course make use of the iconic main resort a short drive away, but Camp Sarika, with its own pool and facilities, can also be an isolated stay if you so wish, with experiences designed specifically around the Mesa.
Set in the jungles of Costa Rica, and featured in our article “Welcome to the jungle: 20 of the wildest rainforest resorts”, wake up to the hum of the jungle birdsong at Nayara Tented Camp, overlooking Arenal Volcano National Park.
Kachi Lodge, Bolivia
In one of the most remote corners of the world on the picturesque otherworldly landscape of the Uyuni Salt Flats is Kachi Lodge, a six domed lodge sat 3,660 metres above sea level on wooden platforms above the salar. The place is the experience – in the rainy season, the salar turns to a thin lake on which guests can paddle; at night, the circular pods double as a star-gazing observatory
Echo by White Desert, Antarctica
We might have saved arguably the best until last, taking the Kachi Lodge concept to the world’s most remote location. Not yet technically open (opening soon in November 2022), this is glamping from the future. Inspired by space travel, the 6 sleek Sky Pods at Echo by White Desert, Antarctica’s foremost luxury expedition group, sit in perfect solitude encircled by pitted rock formations deep in the interior of the continent, in relatively unexplored territory. As with all White Desert camps, Echo can be completely dismantled, leaving no permanent mark on the Antarctic landscape. A portion of each guest’s stay also goes towards conservation, community and sustainability initiatives.