If you've been fascinated by the idea of camping but are deterred by the thought of stuffy sleeping bags, creepy bugs, leaky tents and selfcooked fare, take heart. You can now resort to glamping, a concept that will sate your camping cravings without cramping your style. Luxury camping may sound like an oxymoron, but it gives you what you want: nature in all its feral finery, but wrapped in regal comfort. Imagine a basic, 8 ft by 8 ft, portable tent replaced by a doublestoreyed wonder, akin to the tent set up by the Weasleys in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but a lot more lavish. Imagine a camp with a swimming pool, a full-fledged spa and a butler to run a rose petal bath for you. Imagine gourmet, five-course meals.
For a concept that first raised its sybaritic head in 2005, India has been slow to adopt the model. Though the Aman-i-Khas and the Oberoi Vanyavilas, both in Ranthambore, Rajasthan, have been around for long, they were set up more along the lines of a Mughal hunting encampment. Of late, a slew of luxury tented resorts has sprung up across the country, giving the Indians a taste of glamping.
The Banjaar Tola Kanha Tented Camp, Madhya Pradesh, is among the latest glamping sites in India.
Take Taj Safaris, the country's first wildlife circuit that puts the spotlight on the wildlife reserves in Madhya Pradesh. While all the four lodges under the banner guarantee the ultimate safari experience, it is the Banjaar Tola Camp that is in line with this concept. Overlooking the Kanha National Park, the camp consists of 18 air-conditioned tented suits, each featuring an attached bathroom with a bathtub, a canvas roof and walls, and a private verandah. And don't let the Taj tag scare you off. While the nightly rate ranges from Rs 19,000-32,000 per person, you can stay at any of the four lodges for much less with the unlimited jungle plan of Rs 15,000 per person, per night (valid till 15 April 2010). You can even save up to 33 per cent a night by staying at a combination of these lodges in one trip.
Another glamping option in Madhya Pradesh is the Tuli Tiger Corridor, which is far lighter on the wallet. The air-conditioned tents at Kanha and Pench National Parks cost around Rs 17,500 per couple, per night, with all meals.
Then there is The Mandala resort in Goa, which has recently coined the word 'touses'. These are unique two-storied, hybrid tents, boasting an upper deck tent with a double bed, a large balcony with loungers and a lower living area with beds for children and a spacious bathroom. Though prices range from Euro 75-90 (Rs 5,000-6,000) a night, a family of four can grab a touse for Euro 450 a week (Rs 29,590 or just over Rs 1,000 per head a night) during April and May.
If it's destination Rajasthan for you, take your pick from Welcom-Heritage Royal Camp at Pushkar, the Camel Camp Osian, Jodhpur, or the Manvar Tented Camp off Jaisalmer. The per night rates vary from Rs 11,000-20,000 per couple.
As with all things 'luxury', the recession has forced most resorts into a corner. So you can bargain your way into a better deal, in terms of value additions, if not a lower rate. Try your luck before booking that tent.