STUNNING OUTDOOR LOCATIONS, A DEEP CONNECT WITH NATURE, A LIFE AWAY FROM THE ONSLAUGHT OF 24/7 TECHNOLOGY AND A SENSORY EXPERIENCE WHICH ENGAGES THE MIND, BODY AND THE ADVENTUROUS SOUL… WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT GLAMPING? BY NEETA LAL
Glamping – a portmanteau coined from `glamorous’ and `camping’ – is the latest buzzword in vacationing. The concept fuses luxury with nature in the most seamless way possible. The eco-friendly activity puts people in touch with nature without destroying it or building on it. An immersive experience that allows one to not just go to the destination, but also become part of it.
Glamping experiences can be unique and enchanting in all terrains – deserts, valleys, mountains, even on treetops. Accommodation options too can run a gamut from farmhouses, cabins, eco lodges, huts, tents and villas to tree houses. The holiday is perfect for those seeking al fresco experiences without getting their feet wet at a traditional camp site.
Glamping also allows you to dive into a welter of activities (some quite literally) including hiking, biking, rafting, swimming, animal interactions, scenic walks and wine tasting. With several upmarket hotels joining the glamping bandwagon, the traditional holiday under the canvas has also got a five-star twist.
To tempt your travel binge, here are a few interesting glamping destinations across India.
THE ULTIMATE TRAVELLING CAMP (TUTC), KOHIMA, NAGALAND
How about living in billowy luxury tents on the outskirts of Nagaland’s capital city Kohima with the craggy Japfu Range as the backdrop? This is the campsite of TUTC, the pioneers of tented luxury in India. Though the company also operates popular glamping sites in Ladakh (Thiksey and Nubra Valley), its Kohima offering has won rave reviews.
The capacious tents come outfitted with en-suite bathrooms, a private sit-out deck, four-poster beds, leather chairs and even a tiny study. There is also a living room with books and free Wifi. You can enjoy gourmet meals and the services of a private butler who will wake you up with bed tea and cookies.
Nagaland – known as the Switzerland of the East – is tucked away between Tibet and Myanmar. The Kohima camp coincides with The Hornbill Festival (November 29 to December 12), the largest celebration of the indigenous tribes of Nagaland when all of them come together to showcase the richness and diversity of their distinctive cultures. Guests can embark on a tribal exploration experience in the lap of luxury. Each day brings forth the tribes’ vibrant performances, crafts, sports like archery and wrestling, food fairs, games and religious ceremonies.
TUTC guests can also partake of local Naga cuisine, quaff the local rice beer called zutho and shop for beautiful bamboo baskets, beaded and bone jewellery and handwoven tribal shawls. The intrepid can participate in fun events like chilli eating contests or climb a greased bamboo pole. As the day winds down, you can return to the warmth of your sybaritic camp. Excursions can also be organized to the Kohima War Cemetery, the Khonoma village and the local Naga markets. If you are seeking a bigger adrenaline rush, try trekking up to the Japfu peak. Standing tall at 3,048 metres, Japfu is Nagaland’s second highest peak with breathtaking views across swathes of the Dzukou Valley.
BANJAAR TOLA LODGE, KANHA NATIONAL PARK, MADHYA PRADESH
Sprawling over a 90-acre private concession and overlooking the core zone of Kanha National Park, Banjaar Tola lodge hotel, a part of Taj Safaris, boasts two elegant camps of nine suites each, as well as a lavish tented guest area. Built in a chic, glamorous camping style, each tented suite features glass doors leading out onto a floating verandah overlooking a tranquil river. All tents have baths/ showers and a small library and interpretive space. Apart from a swimming pool, the lodges have dining decks with dramatic views of a waterbody. Naturalists fill you in on the region’s rich biodiversity, its exotic flora and fauna, especially barasinghas which are unique to Kanha. Experience the thrill of spotting tigers, great gaurs and the star birds of Kanha.
Adventurous souls can opt for elephant-back safaris. Open 4×4 jungle safaris are organised twice a day. Visit the nearby Pachdhaar village and experience local pottery-making. Bush dinners can be organized in the sal forest upon request. Pool deck dining, in-room or private deck dinners are the other options .
AMAN-I-KHAS, RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK, RAJASTHAN
Perched on the edge of prime tigerspotting territory in the Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, Aman-i-Khas showcases the opulent history of the Maharajas’ hunting parties with 10 luxe tents, butler service and the exciting chance to spot a Bengal tiger in its natural habitat.
With soaring six-metre-high canopies, elegant interiors, sunken marble bathtubs and custom-made teak furniture, the tents are seriously luxe. Creamy cotton curtains divide the spacious rooms and a private entrance area where tea is served every morning. All guests have their own ‘batman’ or private butler to take care of their every need. At the heart of the camp, the fireplace can also be the setting for informal meals or simply a place to bask in the serenity of nature and a starspangled sky.
Open-top jeep safaris transport one to the heart of Ranthambore National Park, home to over 50 tigers, crocodilefilled lakes, leopards, jungle cats, sloth bears, wild boar, sambar and more. Immerse yourself in local culture, history and legend by visiting local sights. Climb to the top of the 1000-year-old Ranthambore Fort, one of the oldest and most majestic fortifications in India. The fort still houses the remains of barracks used by defending garrisons, and there’s even a small armoury complete with swords, rifles and gunpowder.
The mighty Banas River flows near the campsite. Fringed by water grass and lilies, it is an excellent feeding ground for wading birds and waterfowl and is a bird lover’s paradise. Strolling along the banks of the river with a naturalist or enjoying a riverside camel ride is highly recommended. Get a picnic lunch packed for yourself. Brush up on your flora and fauna with a guided walk through the low hills, or bring out your binoculars on a trip to Surwal Lake where indigenous and migratory birds fill the skies. The lake side along Aman-i-Khas comes alive during evenings with chefs rustling up local authentic delicacies cooked on wood fire from the kitchens of farmers, shepherds, hunters and royals
DERA AMER, KUKAS, RAJASTHAN
Tucked away near the Pink City of Jaipur in Rajasthan, lies a unique glamping experience at Dera Amer, Kukas. Involving `luxury camping with elephants’, it is indeed one of the world’s most amazing glamping sites in the finest traditions of the bush. Situated behind the hills of the famous Amer Fort, it offers outdoor recreational and adventure activities. The elegant tent suites are located at the foothills of the Aravali Range surrounded by the wilderness of a reserved forest with just a few hamlets housing the local villagers, their fields bordering a pretty lake.
Dera Amer is an organisation run by a local Rajput family who have converted their 160-acre land into a wilderness camp, surrounded by the Nahargarh National Park. The forests are home to the leopard, caracal, jungle cat, jackal, fox and birds like the Siberian Ruby Throat, Paradise Flycatchers and Marshal’s Iora. The family’s love for nature, wildlife and animals, has led them to resist real estate developments in the region and instead protect the wilderness and their adopted animals. The Rajput family once brought some elephants out for a picnic to a particularly picturesque spot on the family estate. The grand experiment never ended; today the quietly elegant ‘Dera Amer’ has become synonymous with the great pachyderm.
From Living with the Elephants – True Glamping, Elephant Rides to Elephant Trails to Elephant Safaris, Elephant Bathing to Drinking Champagne-On-Elephant Back and Jeep Safari to Horse Safari and Camel Safari, the camp provides the most spectacular setting for vacationers to get to know; and indeed, to learn, from the gentle beast. Spend quality time with one of the adopted elephants, feed them, scrub them and camp with them in the bush jungles of Amer.