The word ‘glamping’ may have had its day, but the idea of an upgraded camping experience is still hugely appealing. The novelty of sleeping under canvas with additional creature comforts - such as proper beds with snug mattresses, en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets, and even air-conditioning - is not waning, and there are several uber-luxurious tented camps opening in the next six months in Asia. So, we thought it timely to share a selection of Asia resorts that take sleeping under canvas to a new level... with not a flutter of bunting in sight.
Glamping, noun: ‘a form of camping involving accommodation and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping’. According to the Oxford dictionary, no less...
We’ve all become familiar with this hybrid of words (glamourous+camping, in case you weren’t sure), which has slotted into our vocabulary as smoothly as other fused phrases, such as chillax, staycation and Brexit (although perhaps that’s not a very chillaxing example!). The term is tagged onto anything even vaguely swish and outdoorsy: from grossly overpriced tepees to pimped up yurts and twee treehouses. Glamp-sites have been pitching up all over the place, both at home and abroad. Dare we suggest that the phrase is now seriously overused?!
There are several top-quality tented camps on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s national parks, where pimped up African style safari tents provide plush accommodation for wildlife-spotting travellers. However, the unique lodgings of Wild Coast Tented Lodge stand apart from the rest. The hand-stitched, canvas cocoon tents look other-worldly, while the design-led interiors - complete with teak floors and free-standing copper bathtubs - are reminiscent of Colonial expeditions. Air-conditioning and Sonos sound systems come as standard, and some even boast their own small private pool. If we tell you that Wild Coast Tented Lodge is one of only three Relais & Chateaux resorts in Sri Lanka, you’ll understand this is not an average campsite!
Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge sits perched above row upon row of tea bushes, surrounded by rolling hills in Sri Lanka’s mountainous interior. Tented accommodation seems more fitting amongst the tea plantations, and the eighteen canvas lodges blend unobtrusively into the landscape. Achingly beautiful panoramic views can be enjoyed whilst sipping a cocktail on the private veranda, soaking in your free-standing bathtub, or even from the comfort of your king-size bed. There’s no escaping these views (not that you’d want to!): the infinity pool, spa and dining room have all been carefully positioned to maximise the vista.
A collection of Asia’s finest tented camps wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of the Four Seasons Tented Camp in northern Thailand. These Bill Bensley designed canvas suites exude a 19th century explorer vibe: think claw-foot bathtubs, hurricane lamps and handcrafted leather furniture. Modern creature comforts come in the form of air-conditioning and a (complimentary) fully stocked minibar; the views over the mountains of Laos and Myanmar from the private outdoor deck more than makes up for the lack of TV. If you can drag yourself away from your elegant boudoir, a morning spent interacting with the camp’s resident elephants will be a memorable holiday highlight.
If James Bond were to spend time under canvas, his campsite of choice would surely be Amanwana. Set on a private Indonesian island north of Sumbawa, this luxury tented resort is accessible only by seaplane, luxury boat, or helicopter. Days at Amanwana are spent diving in the surrounding marine reserve, and trekking through the island’s pristine jungle, punctuated by leisurely alfresco lunches and sunset martinis (shaken, naturally). And then there are the twenty uber-spacious tents. We use the term ‘tent’ loosely: yes, they have canvas roofs, but they're more akin to 5-star hotel suites than tents, kitted out with air-conditioning, hardwood flooring, electricity and wi-fi. The suave décor is sleek and unfussy, and the net-draped, king-size beds add a touch of romance.
Shinta Mani Wild will take the experience of camping amongst nature to another level when it opens in December in the jungles of southwest Cambodia. These luxury tents been designed by renowned hotel designer Bill Bensley, who actually owns the camp, and has been instrumental in the positioning of each of the sixteen tents, which are perched on the edge of rivers and waterfalls to maximise the back-to-nature experience. The campsite itself was carefully chosen, in a corridor between three of Cambodia’s oldest national parks, in order to offer protection from poaching in what is one of the few remaining habitats in the country for wild elephants, bears and gibbons, amongst other species. Besides wildlife conservation, Shinta Mani Wild is focused on generating employment opportunities for the local people. So, while you’re sipping cocktails on the decking of your stylish tent, exploring the wilderness aboard a Bensley-designed expedition boat, or checking camera traps with the in-house naturalists, you can be happy in the knowledge that you are doing your bit to protect this pristine corner of Cambodia.
The SA team is eagerly awaiting the opening of Samadhi Belum Retreat, at the beginning of 2019; it's Malaysia’s first luxury tented camp. We’re huge fans of Samadhi’s existing Malaysia properties (Villa Samadhi in KL, and Japamala Resort on Tioman Island) and are expecting the same attention to detail and personalised service in the latest addition to their boutique portfolio. Exact details are being kept under wraps, but we know the resort is tucked away in the heart of the Belum-Temengor rainforest, one of the oldest rainforests in the world, known for its rich biodiversity. There will be 55 custom-designed tents, 20 of which will be floating over water. Activities will, naturally, revolve around exploring one of the least explored regions of Malaysia, spotting for Asian Tapirs, Asian Elephants, Sunbear and the illusive Malay Tiger. Watch this space…