Published: May 01. 2012 6:23PM
By Ann Hicks
You may not be aware that you’ve been glamping if you can say you’ve woken to a lion roaring outside your cushy tent in Africa, or greeted a South Sea-island morning in a thatched-roof hut with a glass-floor view of a teeming lagoon underneath, or planned a yurt-side mani, pedi and yoga getaway with your best girlfriends. But trust me, you’ve been camping with attitude.
The cost can range from $150 to $4900 a day, and the higher the dollars go, the less stuff you need to pack other than your clothes and toiletries. The rest is left to the glamping industry’s efforts to fuss over you, the guest.
As winter’s chill morphs into balmy days and mellow nights, the tug to be outdoors becomes hard to resist. But here’s the thing. You need the right clothes for glamping. A visit to Half-Moon Outfitters for example can style the intrepid adventurer with Arc’teryx clothes: sun hats, rain hats, Gore-Tex jackets, quick-dry, light weight skirts and shirts, not to mention the “Ex officio” antimicrobial underwear (one pair will last through 17 countries in 6-weeks). While at it, add a SUUNTO Core – multifunction altimeter/compass/sunrise/sunset barometer ($300), and LED night headlamp to your glamping-with-the-right-stuff.
Heading outdoors can mean annoying insects, campfire smoke and a stiff back from sleeping on lumpy ground. For high-end adventurers with attitude – there are air conditioned canvas cabins, chef-tailored dining, hut-side butler service, use of a small skiff and a golf cart and other cool amenities. The glamping globetrotter is eagerly awaited by the pamperers from California’s coast to Kenya’s shores, and all places in between.
As for that lion roar, it awoke upstate resident, Natalie Putman, who with hubby, Jeff, were glamping in Kenya at a sheltered oasis clustered near a water hole in 1998. The couple, part of a small group of intrepid adventurers – all from Greenville – stayed at Sweetwaters Tented Camp. Putman describes the tents as “luxurious,” on a 22,000 acre rhino sanctuary where she had the rare chance to pet a near-extinct black rhino. Putman says the rhino came with his own well-armed human bodyguard.
The camp tents included comfy beds, a bathroom, electricity and an individual porch from where to observe the animals on their nightly visit at the floodlit water hole. Putman says a large and deep trench separated the campers from the wildlife. They were told it was safe and they trusted their source. “We watched the zebras and giraffes drink while we sipped cold beer from our porch, Putman laughs. A few days later, the group flew to the Masai Mara, in the Serengeti, Africa’s greatest wildlife preserve. Putman says the plane flew close to the ground with a view of a great variety of animals. The group was housed in luxurious tents built on raised, wooden platforms, surrounded by lush vegetation at the Sekenani Camp.
“To lie in your bed at night and listen to all the animal sounds was my idea of heaven,” Putman says. “It beats staying a in a hotel.” The trip’s epilogue was a scrumptious dinner at Nairobi’s Safari Park Hotel, where she sampled zebra and giraffe meat. Putman says, to her, eating local cuisine is an important way to experience the culture.
To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1994, the couple glamped on a small island in Fiji owned by publishing magnate, Malcom Forbes. “It was total luxury,” Putman says. It heralded the first of the couple’s glamping adventures. For their 40th anniversary they went glamping in Tahiti. Their thatched roof hut, positioned well into the turquoise lagoon, had a glass window in the floor of the bedroom, through which to view the island’s teeming aquatic tableau. Putman says they snorkeled daily right outside their hut.
Similarly to the Putmans, who once used to tent camp with their family, Greenvillians Denise and Terhune Sudderth began family camping in a pop-up camper. Today they glamp in total comfort in a 34-foot RV, which Denise Sudderth calls her “condo on wheels.” Before settling on an RV to purchase, the Sudderths rented one near where their adventure was to begin. “We like to stay in out-of-way places,” she says, which includes America’s national parks and a bit further, as in New Zealand.
One of those out-of-way places was in Africa, on safari at Camp Okavango in Botswana. At the time Sudderth’s group was walking into the jungle on their way to the camp, she was greeted by a woman, already in-camp, who said “I love hearing those wonderful southern voices.” Sudderth was floored. Soon she found out the speaker was a Pulitzer award-winning writer on leave from her newspaper. She was a North Carolina native and a Wake Forest University graduate as is Sudderths’ daughter. “Here you are in this remote part of Africa and you run into somebody with whom you immediately connect through knowing many of the same folks,” Sudderth laughs. “She and my daughter immediately bonded.”
Whether you bond with total strangers in the jungle, or lose yourself to the Zen of kiwi-land’s waterfalls, consider glamping the joy of camping.