By Shoba Mohan

Recently, I flew to the top of the world {read 13000 ft} to Ladakh for my first experience of glamping or glam camping, at that height. I’ve stayed in luxury camps before, but this was different. This was a concept where the camp was on a schedule, and would move to various destinations to cover important events and festivals in India, and soon the subcontinent. Quite simply, here was a chance to stay in luxury at places where premium accommodation, and sometimes even basic accommodation, was hitherto unavailable. Now, to the concept of glamcamping or glamping. The immediate imagery of camping is that of basic canvas canopies with common sand-pit or chemical toilets and baths from buckets, or, like a super-efficient camp improvised, a large canister with a perforated funnel at the end, manipulated from the outside to facilitate a shower. But that was many years ago, and that too where camping was a necessity – rafting camps by the rivers where anything permanent was not permitted, and the fragile river bank had to be protected; trekking camps to allow for flexibility, space and time constraints. It was very early in the 21st century that camps became a concept – and glamping arrived in India! Jungles were the first choice as a venue, set close to the buffer zone forests, and camps emphasized keeping the outdoors in and just enough cover to keep the elements out, and attached bathrooms with running water and plumbing was an unprecedented luxury. Slowly, amenities improved, and camp sites became destinations, making camping more of a design concept.



Chamba Camp2

{Chamba Camp, Leh}

What is it about camping that is so romantic, even though glam camping stuck to its venue year after year? For me, the slight uncertainty and unexpectedness of a campsite, along with the amount of improvisation in terms of furniture and décor, made it very intriguing – and what is travel without a bit of mystery! The first camp I stayed at was Chhatra Sagar – exquisite and personal, set atop a dam overlooking a large reservoir; every tent set on the embankment given impartial space and a view of the lake. Picture windows opening to magnificent views as you lie in bed, and exploring the rural countryside as per the activity of your choosing… else a book and a drink are all you need. Bathrooms are slate enclosed, with perfect plumbing and powerful showers. This was even better than many of the star hotels I had stayed at! Then Churat Kothi, a jungle camp in the very heart of central India, on a large acreage filled with Mahua trees, sal and teak and other indigenous flora, offered accomodation in large canvas tents. The linen was in flaming colours, and a straw mat made the carpet – a lone peacock feather was the singular decorative feature on your bed side table. This was glamcamping in the forests. We heard a bit of the outdoors inside – langurs feeding on mahua flowers in March and their drunken leaps on tent tops, and deer staggering on fermented mahua flowers. Each tent had a small high sit-out, and one could hear and see more of the outdoors. All these now make for beautiful memories! When The Aman arrived in India, camping standards hit a new high. And then the Oberoi camps – Vanya Vilas in Ranthambhor was the new bench mark. Still no camp, however glamorous and luxurious, can afford to lose sight of the campsite, for spectacular location is the basic foundation of glamcamping.

Glamcamping  has been steadily evolving – The Serai, Jaislamer brought Zen to camping – large clean lines, space, sky, light and water reflecting the desert. I am promised more and more concepts and further innovations; Indian hospitality looks up to the camping concepts in Africa; they are, I’m told and have seen in photographs that speak volumes, something else. A camp that moves and provides world class service and luxury is a first for travel lovers and glampers in India. For me, it began at 13000 ft!

About Shoba Mohan | A traveler by passion, Shoba Mohan is one of those lucky people who is in love with her work. Having spent over a decade in the industry, she is the founder of RARE- Destinations & Experiences, a company that promotes experiential travel, and will be sharing her Travel Diaries with LBBD.