Back in April 2008 when Anawangin Island were not yet as popular as it is today, my friends and I decided to go on a two-night camping trip in the island. It took us nearly 4 hours and three different modes of public transportation, including a short boat ride, to get us to Anawangin. There was no electricity in the whole island and no indigenous huts or cottages either, so we had to pitch tents for our sleeping arrangements.
There was only one toilet enclosed in a roughly assembled box enclosure made of nipa leaves and tree branches and all of us campers had to form a queue to be able to use it. The only water source for rinsing after a day of swimming in the azure waters or trekking in the low mountain or for washing dishes and preparing food to cook over wood fire is the water pump. That was the closest I have ever come to roughing it and I totally enjoyed every single moment of it because I rarely get a chance to commune with Mother Nature in that way, given that my life is pretty much entrenched deep in the urban jungle.
And then I learned recently that there is another type of roughing it, and this one is done in style. They call it glamor camping or glamping. Said to have been first introduced in Europe in 2007, this luxury camping has long since became popular in the United States and other famous glamping destinations in other countries. In glamping, the last thing that you will have to experience is to live like a villager or an aborigine. In fact, due to the mounting popularity of this glamorous camping expeditions, some outdoors companies and retailers have decided to capitalize on the glampers’ deep pockets by offering products such as air mattresses with built-in alarm clocks or MP3 players and night lights or tents outfitted with integrated lighting systems and auto-roll windows. There is even internet connection and satellite TV for those who do not want to feel disconnected from the world!
Although some hardcore roughriders scoff at the idea of ultra-comfortable camping by maintaining that such ostentatious amenities violate the true outdoors spirit, retailers are quick to respond by saying that it is the new reality of the market. They say that these days, people have expectations of a certain level of comfort or they won’t go outdoors. While a clean tent was enough for some, others expect entertainment, comfort and wide array of amenities.
Here are some highly-recommended places to go glamping:
1. Aman-i-Khas, India. Aman-i-Khás is a luxury tented wilderness camp near Ranthambhore National Park, India. Its name means peace (“aman” in Sanskrit) and special (“khas” in Hindi). Set in an incredible natural setting, remote and secluded, Aman-i-Khas is a true haven of tranquility, offering its guests exceptional comfort in a pristine wilderness setting. The camp is open between October and April, which is the best time to visit the park.
There are luxurious and comfortable 13 tents, of which10 are for guests. The remaining 3 are a tent each for lounging, spa treatments and dining, which serves Indian and Western cuisine made from ingredients grown in the resort’s organic gardens. Laundry, doctor on call, foreign exchange, and travel desk are some of the other services that are provided by the resor Aman-i-Khás offers morning and afternoon safaris in open top jeeps within Ranthambhore as well as camel treks and nature walks in the surrounding villages and countryside.
2. Nduara Liliondo in Tanzania. Nduara Liliondo in Tanzania, a Safari Camp with Mongolian links, an entirely different brand of accommodation and way to enjoy Africa’s wildlife.
It’s an unforgettable sight, the twice-annual ebb and flow of animals—zebras, blue wildebeests and gazelles among them—across the vast, primeval-seemingSerengeti Plain, in northern Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. Visitors head to East Africa from all over to witness this, one of the largest such migrations in the world.
3. Galapagos Island. Galápagos Island – an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean – is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With wildlife as its most notable feature, the island ranks among the most coveted places in the world to see nature at its best. Galápagos Safari Camp is a new hotel breed, boasting of a 55-hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island bordering the national park, 30 minutes from the sea. The farm is rich in birdlife and offers many local species of trees. The camp has 8 luxury safari tents perched on a hill, providing comfort and privacy in the wilderness. All tents have a balcony with views of the park and the ocean — they are spacious, attractively decorated, and each has a private bathroom, with hot shower and toilet. Personally, this will be my choice for my honeymoon trip if I were to get married. If being the operative word.
4. Longitude 131°, Ayers Rock, Australia. The name Longitude 131° refers to the precise east-west location of Uluru, the rust-colored monolith formerly known as Ayers Rock. Longitude 131° is by far the most luxurious, and offers the best view — each of the tent-like guest cabins looks through full-length windows across six miles of desert at the thousand-foot-high Uluru.
Guest rooms are built on steel stilts, elevated a foot or so above the fragile brush, and guests are asked to keep to the paths, to minimize environmental impact. Inside the décor is a bit British Africa, of all things, each room themed after a different Australian pioneer, featuring a bit of memorabilia, perhaps a letter or some photos from the settlers’ time. Luxury carries the day, with vast plush beds and futuristic bathrooms, featuring views even from the shower and the bathroom mirror.
5. Paws Up, Montana, USA. The Resort at Paws Up in Montana offers the ultimate glamping experience. Paws Up, provides equal part glamor and equal part camping for a truly unique travel experience. At Paws Up, you will see luxurious tents equipped with king-sized feather bed, fine linens, spacious deck, electricity, private bath with heated floor and plush towels, gourmet cuisine and wine, housekeeping, and butler service.
Meanwhile here in the Philippines, the Department of Tourism (DoT) is looking at developing the Cordillera Region in the Northern Luzon highlands to attract glampers who are constantly on the look out for luxurious adventures. The Cordillera, as you know, hosts the world famous Banaue Rice Terraces and the hanging graves in Sagada. Although glamping has yet to take-off in this country, we can expect it to gain ground in the near future when glamping tourism is given more focus and promoted aggressively to local and foreign tourists.
***Photos by Clyde Manzano.
Disclaimer: I just want to emphasize that above photos were taken back in 2008 when I was 10 to 15lbs heavier. I swear, my waistline is now only 23 inches! Before meals, of course. hahaha.