TUTC (The Ultimate Travelling Camp) Chamba Camp, Thiksey, Ladakh
This nomadic, super luxury camp is the best way to explore Ladakh’s snow-covered peaks, frozen lakes, white deserts, lush valleys and serene monasteries. The camp is located in the shadows of the famed Thiksey Monastery, and reverberates with the chanting of prayers. The tents are super luxurious, with period furniture like the Kipling stool, Roorkee chair, wheeler cot, etc. Walk among ancient stupas and beautiful, gnarled trees, or just sit back and enjoy the birdsong that the campsite is blessed with. It’s a soul-stirring experience! If you’re in the mood for some adventure, hop on a bicycle to explore nearby villages.
Musts: Drive down to Turtuk, the last village before the Pakistan border, and dine with Kajukhan, the king of Turtuk, in his beautiful 15th century wooden house, which has an intriguing history. Adrenaline junkies can ride the exciting rapids and hurl down the Grand Canyon of Asia. Last, but not the least, spend a few hours at Yarab Tso, the ‘enchanted lake’, on the Indo-China border.
Cost: Rs 1.86 lakh/3 nights
Where: Ki Ki Naga, Near Government High School Thiksey, Leh /Manali Road, Thiksey, Leh; +91-1982-267144
Aman-i-Khas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Discovering the thrill of sleeping in a rugged brushwood forest on the edge of a national park, with only a layer of canvas between you and the starlit night, is a dream come true for the inner child that lives in our hearts. Perched on a secluded slope at the edge of the Rajasthan desert, the 10 handcrafted, air-conditioned tents of Aman-i-Khas are quirky and romantic. There are cotton drapes separating sleeping, dressing and bathing sections, a luxurious bathtub, etc. There is also an outdoor yoga area, library and gift shop. At the heart of the camp is the fireplace, which is perfect to down a few cocktails, which could be followed by a romantic bush dinner in the wilderness, with a personal chef and local musicians. Meals are cooked with vegetables and herbs grown in the camp’s organic garden, and you can fall asleep to the lull of the forest. The tents are integrated with the natural environment and that’s why you won’t find manicured lawns and perfect paths, but a whole world of untouched nature to explore.
Musts: Walk gently around the wilderness surrounding the camp and listen attentively to the million sounds and chirps the forest plays for you. No matter how hectic your life feels, here there is only soothing peace. Safari enthusiasts can experience Ranthambore National Park with ace wildlife conservationist Daulat Singh, who is an expert in animal behaviour and in tracking tigers. The safari jeeps are upgraded with mahogany snacking tables in front and state-of-the art optics for birding. Don’t miss the scenic river cruise on Chambal, where you can spot river dolphins, 20 different varieties of freshwater turtles and many bird species. This is followed by a dinner at the riverbank.
Cost: Rs 1.12 lakh for two nights, inclusive of all meals, a visit to the Rathambore Fort and spa therapy.
Where: Sherpur-Khiljipur, Ranthambhore Road, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan +91 7462 252 052
Dera Amer, Jaipur, Rajasthan
This camp is one of those remote, path-less-chosen destinations with mystique, lofty hills and stunning forests. But the magic of this place is the unfiltered, unforgettable access to the gentle and glorious Laxmi, the in-house elephant. It starts right at the arrival, when I am greeted by Laxmi, who takes bananas from my hand with her trunk and stuffs them in her mouth. Elephants seem to love nothing more than bananas. But it’s not just the elephants. The camp is enveloped by a forest that had many hyenas and wolves. Antelopes and jackals are also common. The chic, low-lit outdoors is where you congregate before sunset to sip a glass of wine as the sky lights up in oranges and golden yellows against the Aravalli hills. It’s as memorable as the highly Instagram-able tents with old world furniture and luxurious bath amenities. Taking a cue from rustic, luxe African safari tents, Dera Amer has added village flourishes with local art in wood and metal.
Musts: Soak in the Dera experience by hosing down Laxmi to help her beat the heat, and letting her drink from the nozzle. She shows her gratitude by raising her trunk and spraying you with water. The sunset elephant trek is also a magical experience. At the end of the day, I fell asleep to sounds of crickets drowned out by an oscillating fan. In the morning, I was awakened by birds to a magnificent sunrise.
Cost: Rs 24,000 per night, inclusive of all meals and activities.
Where: Village Khurad, Kukas, Tehsil Amer, Jaipur; +91- 90015 12512
TUTC Kohima Camp, Nagaland
Nestled in a secluded, forested area surrounded by rolling hills, this camp coincides with The Hornbill Festival, the largest celebration of the indigenous warrior tribes of Nagaland. The adventure starts at Dimapur, where a bright red chopper is waiting to transport you to Kohima for a unique tribal exploration in the lap of luxury. The tents are fitted with leather-strapped wooden furniture and are fringed with geraniums, poinsettia and French marigolds. Bonfire-led dinners at the camp are truly mesmerising affairs, with the tribals performing their ceremonial songs and dances under a mystical moon. Sit back and relish the camp and its spellbinding views of Mount Japfu and the lush forest.
Musts: The best way to experience Nagaland is to join the frenzy of song and dance, with chilli eating and greased-pole climbing competitions, accompanied by large swigs of local rice beer. Visit the Dimapur night market for travel souvenirs like local handicrafts, toys and clothes, while enjoying the live music, DJ and dance. Don’t miss the Kohima World War II Cemetery.
Cost: Rs 4 lakh approx (double occupancy)/3 nights
Where:Tekweuju, Above Japfu Christian College, Kigwema, Kohima, Nagaland; 080109 02222
NIVEDITA JAYARAM PAWAR