Luxury and our love of the great outdoors. Katie Truman goes glamping.
DO you want to get up-close and personal with nature, follow its rhythms rather than Apps and go native somewhere remote and beautiful? Of course you can’t bear to forsake all of life’s little luxuries and creature comforts . . . which is why God created glamping, a growing eco-tourism trend that combines the best of both worlds – glamour and camping. Our “Great Escape” features prime examples of super-pampering, yet eco-friendly, tented experiences.
Glamping It Up
Just three-kilometres from central Ubud, Sandat Glamping Tents found itself the perfect spot to emerge as Bali’s first-ever Glamping resort. Part of the exclusive Secret Retreat series, Sandat (named after a flower used in Balinese Hindu ceremonies) is the brainchild of an inspired Italian couple, who also serendipitously created Italy’s first Glamping experience.
“Like others, we wanted to return to nature and slow down our hectic pace of life,” confesses owner, Emanuela Podon. “The need to escape urban spaces and take refuge in the wilds is increasingly a decisive factor in holiday choices; glamping’s charm is the opportunity to live in harmony with nature, while enjoying the benefits of five star!”
The couple’s desire to “enjoy nature” resulted in the purchase of a verdant paddy field overlooking the rainforest close to the island’s cultural heartland – and then the design of a luxury camp retreat. The duo worked with the topography, keeping the terrain intact, while carefully camouflaging Sandat’s structures using natural, local materials with little environmental impact – including bamboo, coconut and bangkiray woods and stone. However, with Italians at the helm, expect elegant touches and Italian flair throughout: typically their striking bamboo restaurant houses a grand dining table crafted from an eight-metre-long tree trunk surrounded by a wall of glam mounted mirrors.
There are only eight accommodations for good reason, guaranteeing tranquility and personalized service for a limited number of happy glampers. Their five eco-designed, three luxury Tents and two, safari-style tented Suites offer close contact with nature, without forsaking any comforts and style.
Pitched securely on stilts amid gardens heady with native flowers, these top-notch, spacious tents are imported from South Africa, and besides canvas walls with mesh windows, feature built-in glass and wooden doors, ceiling fans and solid timbered floor, extending out to a veranda made for sundowners and siestas. Each tent provides a private plunge pool overlooking the jungle.
All the tents are named after a Balinese icon and individually furnished and themed according to a given colour, with guests choosing their tent based on different ambiance and preferences. Emanuela’s passion for interior design and meticulous detail is evident, with interiors running from refined and lavish to boho rustic chic.
Practically all furnishings and décor are hand-crafted by Balinese artisans, either bespoke pieces or everyday island objects transformed into functional yet gorgeous objects. Think “Made in Bali” bamboo cabinets, lamps decorated with glistening white shells and canopied beds propped-up by inlaid woods, besides Euro-style Damask velvet armchairs, and Venetian-style mirrors. Options range from the “Ogoh Ogoh orange” safari tent, for boho informality and sunshine hues, to the exclusive, “’Suite Penjor chocolate brown,” an elegantly decorated safari tent adorned with antique furnishings, glittering chandelier and more, for those unable to forgo lavishness.
If preferences run to something more permanent, still in the same eco-friendly, aesthetically charming vein, the three converted lumbungs should suffice; again, each revealing distinct individuality throughout the upper-level air-conditioned bedroom and ground-floor outdoor bathroom and living space – and engulfed by a trademark alang alang thatched roof stretching almost down to the ground. All three encircle a communal pool. Sandat’s accommodations provide a camper’s reward of mini-fridge and iPod docking station, but sorry, no TVs; instead, listen to nocturnal sounds of rustling palms and jungle animals and gaze-up at starry skies.
Isle Be Back
One of fabulous Karma Royal Group’s latest additions, Karma Reef, has also jumped onto the glamping bandwagon, again in utterly compatible surrounds – Gili Meno, the tiniest, most tranquil of the three Gili islands clustered off Lombok’s north-western coast.
Like the other Gili atolls, Gili Meno is a tropical, traffic-free paradise, perfect to flee life’s tedious demands for its brochure-perfect, powdery white sand beaches lapped by sparkling turquoise water and some of Asia Pacific’s most stunning coral reefs and marine life.
Launched 2013, The Reef operates under Karma’s Chakra Resorts brand, geared to a “sophisticated leisure traveller” and with a portfolio of boutique resorts combining affordable laidback luxury with idyllic locations, distinctly reflecting indigenous cultural traits.
“The Reef embodies the fulfilment of everyone’s Robinson Crusoe fantasy of being stranded on an exotic tropical island,” declares John Spence, Karma Royal Group, Chairman and CEO:
Survival island mode, check, albeit with Karma’s trademark barefoot luxury concept and further, an adventure island hideaway for couples, families and free spirits, offering ultimate seclusion, astounding beauty and sheer good taste. Karma Reef covers four hectares of land but with only one hectare developed it seamlessly mirrors its tropical island surrounds, constructed from bamboo and other locally sourced, ethnic-inclined materials. Karma Reef’s first rustic yet upscale accommodations, two-storey lumbungs, have since been joined by a collection of sumptuous safari tents, providing the creature comforts and thoughtful extras and standards you’d expect from a five-star Karma resort. These spacious tents come fully air-conditioned with king-size bed, boutique kitchenette and ample-sized timbered porch with sprawling daybed, all facing Meno’s crystal clear sea. Mere flip-flop steps away, on dazzling white sands, a shaded sun bed with your name on it. Life under canvas (or bamboo) makes for a highly suitable and fun base camp for a demanding island schedule: feasting on freshly-caught seafood and knocking back cocktails at Karma’s Beach Club, watching spectacular sunsets behind Mount Agung or indulging in blissful spa treatments down on the secluded beach, or perhaps snorkelling with the native turtles and watching teems of multi-coloured fish from Karma’s own glass-bottomed boat. Phew.
A Camp Way Of Life
Escape Nomade offers a completely different angle to our other glamping lovelies; with a “simplicity is the new luxury” mantra, this Bali-based company puts forward luxury tents as a new, eco-friendly personal lifestyle. Created by Dutch designer Anneke van Waesberghe, Escape Nomade epitomizes the spirit of a refined nomadic lifestyle, freed-up from living with solid walls, in harmony with nature and being environmentally and socially responsible yet with all luxurious comforts intact.
Escape Nomade’s luxury tents are not camping per se, rather a semi-permanent canvas structure for lifetime use, be it private homes or luxury resorts – from an entire house to a spa and resort rooms and with individual room functions – kitchen, dining, etc – in separate tented areas. These are all manufactured at their HQ in Ubud, with Anneke personally designing and testing out the bespoke orders for her far-flung clientele. Superior in-house designed fold-down furniture, fine linens and accessories can be ordered additionally as a complete package.
Escape Nomade delivers the tented structure and interiors anywhere in the world and can help with the installation in a day (independent energy and water supply systems can be provided separately). Displaying a classic-oriented design, these luxury tents exude romance and colonial-era decadence, and made with earthy tone high quality fabrics, perfectly blend-in with the natural surrounds it eventually calls “home.” Rest assured, these safe and secure structures weigh more than a ton and can withstand extreme loads, humidity, sun, torrential rains and winds of up to 175km per hour. Recyclable premium materials include galvanized and powder-coated metal frames and four protective layers, all water, insect and fire-resistant. A bioclimatic design ensures maximum comfort and low energy use; textile panels generate solar power, while an integrated cooling system makes air-conditioning obsolete. Energy and water can be generated directly from nature, so go off-the-grid in style!
Escape Nomade may not offer overnight glamping and you may not be fortunate enough to purchase their tents, but you are able to enjoy a series of unique experiences at The Sanctuary, entering into the spirit of this exclusive lifestyle. The Sanctuary is actually Anneke’s own private tent compound, originally set-up to house her designs; now like some up-market showroom, affording first-hand encounters of the refined tented high-life, utterly secluded amongst terraced rice fields, high up on an Ubud river gorge.
The four niche “Experiences” are akin to stepping onto an Out of Africa film set, back into a bygone era of gentility, impeccable service and sumptuous comforts under canvas and out in the wilds. It begins with a chilled rosewater towel, lemon water and floral foot bath, while add-on options cover gentle strolls through the bucolic splendour and soothing massages in a riverside tented pavilion. Royal High Tea serves a veritable feast of hors d’oeuvres and sweet goodies washed down with natural Ayurvedic teas, with the afternoon rounded-off with a yoga or Balinese dance session; Picnic Lunch Bali Style offers Balinese delicacies wrapped in banana leaves in a choice of natural settings (including a floating tent), while Exclusive Dining (IDR1,500,000), is a decadent example of fine-dining (for 20 diners maximum), but still keeping it environmentally sustainable amid natural beauty. Within the air-cooled main tent, decorated with exquisite furnishings and illuminated by lanterns, a sophisticated evening ensues of cocktails, fine coffees and four-course dinner created by Anneke and chef Diana von Cranach, highlighting natural, local flavours and served naturally, on fine linens and delicate china.