In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, you the wizards pitch tents as they settle in to watch the sporting spectacle that is the Quidditch World Cup. But much like everything in the wizarding world, these are no ordinary tents — from the outside, they look ordinary enough, but the interiors resemble (depending on the owner’s taste) anything from a homely apartment to a three-storeyed palace. Sounds fantastical? Well, not really. Not since the muggle world has gotten hooked on to a certain travel phenomenon called “glamping”.
The idea of camping might have been always been associated with a rustic, simpler existence sans modern conveniences, a way to connect with the great outdoors relying purely on your survival skills and “toughing it out”. But glamping — glamorous camping if you will —has provided an alternative that has proven very popular among travellers.
From tents that might cost up to $1,000 a night, and include everything from a king-sized bed to a spectacular view of nature at its untamed best as well as the chance to tuck into a five-course meal, to luxury trailers and portable “pods” — all of this is available to the glamper who’s willing to shell out the moolah.
Add to this that the best locations in India —including Gulmarg, Rajasthan, many wildlife sanctuaries, the foothills of the Aravallis, Goa and Kerala — are offering irresistible options for glamping, and you can see why so many have succumbed to the trend’s lure happily.
“One of the reasons why glamping has become so popular in India is that people now have money to spend,” says Rishad Saam Mehta, travel writer and photographer, who authored the book Hot Tea Across India. “Glamping lets you enjoy the romance of camping and the ease of luxury and India is matching the global popularity of glamping 100 per cent. ”
And several properties across India are going all out to cater to the growing need. Angus Young, who owns the popular glamping resort, The Mandala, in Goa, created ‘Yantra tents’ for the discerning glamper. Set next to a river, amid a lush coconut grove, these tents have hand-carved wooden beds and a communal bathroom area with five-star fittings. In peak season, the tents are available for Rs 3,500 a night, in the off-season, for Rs 2,500.
“Our guests are mostly nature lovers — this is not for the squeamish as there’s a chance a frog may get into your room!”
Of course, that’s one way in which glamping is the same as camping — one is not removed from nature. That principle is epitomised in Taj Safaris’ Banjaar Tola property, in the heart of the Kanha National Park. The air-conditioned tents are made of pressed bamboo wall panels, natural bamboo floors and house locally-crafted Bastar artwork. Depending on the plan chosen (safari game drives, house wines, laundry services etc. are on offer) the experience costs between Rs 8,000 to RS 20,500, says Raka Chakrawarti of the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces group.
Newer glamping properties are also finding plenty of takers. Sarah Fatemi and Munbir Chawla, founders of The Wild City, have introduced camping options at the Magnetic Fields music festival in Rajastan. “Hot showers, bonfires and a beautiful sky full of stars”, are what Sarah and Munbir promise.
For travellers like 26-year-old banking professional, Seema Moorthy, the range of glamping options available has meant that she and gal pals can enjoy the notion of roughing it out but in complete safety. Seema recently glamped at the Della Adventures property in the hill station of Lonavla, Maharashtra, and says the Rs 12,000 per night experience was just right. “As much as I like the idea of being in the great outdoors, I want to feel safe. Glamping gives you that outdoorsy feeling but you also feel secure. Our tent looked quite regular on the outside, but had a creaking wooden floor and resembled a five-star hotel room — just a really cosy one.”
Staunch campers, however, think glamping is antithetical to the idea of camping. Abhijeet Mhatre, founder of Mumbai-based Letscampout, is among those who think that glamping cannot match the camping experience”.
“People don’t want to get out of their comfort zone,” he rues. “I think in glamping — especially when the experience allows you to stay connected with gadgets — the essence of camping is lost. Camping is as much about bonfires and bonding with fellow campers as it is about roughing it out.” He also adds that the camping experience needn’t be devoid of certain necessities. Lets campout guests have access to chemical toilets and prices range from Rs 1,199 to Rs 2,500.
But there are those who defend glamping. Rishad Saam Mehta, who has camped and glamped, says both kinds of experiences have their allure. “It’s not a competition. You’re going to relax, so why does it matter how you choose to do so?” he asks.
Angus Young agrees. “People have this romantic idea about camping — that it should be about eating out of a can of beans and waking up with aches and pains,” he says. “But glamping is about camping — without getting your hands dirty. It’s about bringing two very unlikely worlds together.”