7 Top-Drawer Tent Camps
These days there are tented camps with spas, chefs, yoga classes and marble bathrooms. Africa is the home of the tented lodge – a natural adjunct to the safari business – but the breed has also taken root in India and within our own sea-girt shores, and canvas brings a new dimension to the business of the bedroom.
Grumeti River Camp Tanzania . The camp is sited on a bend in the Grumeti River in the western corridor of the Serengeti National Park, 50km east of Lake Victoria. The roll call of local wildlife includes lion, elephant, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, baboon, colobus monkeys, giraffe and some of the largest hippo in the world. Prime time is May to July, when thousands of zebra and wildebeest cross the river during their annual migration between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara – and the local crocodiles wait for lunch. At other times of the year, your sleep might be disturbed by the sound of hippos feeding on the sweet grass around your tent.
Rajvilas Jaipur. This tented complex is a touch of fantasy within the fantasy itself – a hint of the desert within a serene green garden. Inside each, beneath a ballooning ceiling of embroidered cotton, is a stylish enclave with teak flooring, formal furnishings and an Edwardian-style claw-foot bath, complete with a few accoutrements essential to the modern day nomad. Rajvilas is one of India’s finest hotels, from the domed pavilions by the swimming pool to the peacocks that strut around the lotus ponds.
Longitude 131, Uluru, Northern Territory arranged in a crescent on a sand dune that looks out toward Uluru, these are the most un tent-like of tents. Shutters glide across the floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can open your eyes in the morning, flick a switch and watch Uluru glowing in the morning sun. No other rooms at Ayers Rock Resort offer such a spectacle. Weather permitting, every second night there’s Table 131 – a grand, three-course dinner at a small clearing half a kilometre from the resort, which feels like a tiny island floating in a sea of darkness, beneath a canopy of stars.
Stanley’s Camp is located in Botswana’s legendary Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta region, the world’s largest river delta and one of the most staggeringly beautiful and bountiful parts of Africa. In the immediate vicinity there are elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog. When the delta is in flood between May and November, one of the highlights is a wildlife excursion by mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, which is poled through the reeds.
Oberoi Vanyavilas Ranthambore, a three-hour drive from Rajasthan, India brings a supersize style serving to India’s main tiger sanctuary. Set within a walled garden, each of the 25 tents has teak flooring, a king-size four-poster bed, air con and a free standing bath within the marble-plated bathroom. Service is really terrific. From the spa attendants to the men who waft the mosquito smokers around, all is accomplished with the sort of serenity that makes the Oberoi group the favourite label for visiting royals, rock megastars and ex-presidents.
Three Camel Lodge, on the edge of the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia offers the chance to ride camels and hone your throat singing harmonics with the semi-nomadic sheep herders of the Mongolian steppe. Guest accommodation is in gers, traditional circular felt tents. Gers are heated by wood stoves and furnished with painted timber beds. Days are spent exploring the local Gurvansaikhan National Park – hiking in the Gobi-Altai Mountains, camel trekking, horse riding and searching out dinosaur fossils with paleontologists.
Amanwana, Indonesia is located on Moyo Island, just to the east of Bali,where 20 tents are fringed by tropical forest on one side and beach on the other. Walls are solid timber and glass, and in Aman’s signature style, décor and furnishings are pared down almost to the austere elegance of a Japanese ryokan. Service is unobtrusive but surprising – another Aman hallmark. There’s also a dive centre, a Jungle Cove Massage area, snorkelling gear, windsurfers, kayaks, hobie cats and a music pavilion, a sanctuary within the forest.