By: Katie Roberts
Ah, Mother Nature. In air-conditioned, sanitised, concreted cities it can sometimes be hard to feel in touch with the natural environment. Camping is one way to reconnect with the smells, sounds and sights of the great outdoors, and it doesn’t always have to mean roughing it. We’ve rounded up some interesting options across Asia and Australia.
See all the photos of the below camps in the gorgeous gallery above
Where: Northwest of Bangkok in Kanchanaburi, an area well known for the notorious WWII Thai-Burma railway. It’s a three-hour drive from Bangkok Airport (or go by train).
What: The air-conditioned tents have local teakwood furniture, en-suite bathrooms and hot water. There is Wi-Fi, a pool, campfires and mountain bikes, all in a gorgeous riverside location.
Activities: Most people stay here for its close proximity to the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum and for the historical trail along the Death Railway. You can also do mountain-biking trips and elephant-riding into the bamboo forest and to Mon Village.
What’s nearby: Visit Lawa Cave to see natural stalactite and stalagmite formations; it’s home to the world’s smallest bat. There are waterfalls, bamboo rafting, boat rides and canoeing on the River Kwai Noi.
Cost: Three-day, two-night packages including transfers from Bangkok start from $320 per person. Check the website for advance booking deals.
Where: The two camps are located in Khao Sok National Park, in Southern Thailand’s largest rainforest. Two hours’ drive from Phuket Airport.
What: Elephant Hills has 30 tents with running water, electricity and king-size beds. There’s a pool at the resort, too. Rainforest Floating Camp has 10 tents situated in the centre of Cheow Larn Lake. Accessible by longboat, the tents are powered by solar and wind energy and have en-suite bathrooms.
Activities: Enjoy nature tours through the rainforest, or canoe trips and trekking for different skill levels. Try Thai cooking classes or the Elephant Experience for close interaction with the animals, including daily bathing. At the Rainforest Camp there are night safaris in inflatable boats, wildlife-spotting and swimming.
What’s nearby: Sri Phang Nga National Park, beautiful waterfalls, Buddhist temples and a fresh market at Takuapa.
Cost: Elephant Hills offers a range of packages. The three-day Jungle Lake Safari costs S$684 per adult and $342 per child. Packages include accommodation, all meals, activities, and transfers from Phuket Airport. Look out for half-price specials for kids.
Where: Named after the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Burma and Laos meet, the camp is 65km from Chiang Rai International Airport or a four-hour drive from Chiang Mai.
What: This is a high-end glamping experience complete with elephants. The luxury tents have everything you’d expect from a hotel room and more, even a hand-hammered copper bathtub, an outdoor rain-shower, air conditioning, Wi-Fi and a complimentary minibar.
Activities: Spend a day with the elephants, enjoy a spa in the bamboo jungle, or just lie by the pool overlooking the Ruak River. There’s also elephant polo for the adventurous.
What’s nearby: Nose around Chiang Rai, head over to Myanmar, float down the mighty Mekong River or visit the local hill tribes.
Cost: Expect to pay about $3,000 per night for two people. Guests must be 12 years of age or older.
Where: Located on the Mekong River in an isolated mountainous area, it’s three hours north of Luang Prabang by boat. Get there quickly, because the road that’s under construction will no doubt bring big changes. It’s also accessible by boat (down river) from Thailand.
What: This decade-old venture was established by a French hospitality company in partnership with the adjacent village of 450 people, providing employment and a unique experience for visitors. Rustic accommodation in canvas tents with en-suite bathrooms and hot water is located amongst the trees along the Mekong. There’s no TV and no phone coverage; electricity is generated by solar power and the village is largely self-sufficient. Simple buffet meals are served in the communal restaurant.
Activities: Discover traditional village life: plant rice seedlings in the paddies, check out the village school, try your hand at archery or fishing; explore the surrounding hills and the riverbank or experience a vigorous massage.
What’s nearby: Call in at the Pak Ou caves on the banks of the Mekong on the way back to Luang Prabang.
Cost: A two-night package is US$190 per person, including all meals, activities, boat transfers and accommodation.
What: The campsite is set on an acre of land beside the Kundalika River in the village of Kolad in Maharashtra state, a three- to four-hour drive from Mumbai and Pune.
What: Tents and sleeping kit are provided. There are common toilets and showers, picnic tables, lanterns and games and puzzles in the common area. Barbecues are available for self-catering, and food is available.
Activities: Four-hour white-water rafting (children must be over 14), boat rides and quad biking.
What’s nearby: Mumbai, Pune and Goa are within a few hours’ reach.
Cost: Prices start at $27 for adults and $17 for children under eight, depending on the time of year. There are two more Big Red Tent facilities at Vashind and Karnal.
What: A true Indian desert experience in Puskhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan. It’s 140km from Jaipur Airport, or accessible by regular trains to nearby Ajmer station.
What: Fully furnished Swiss-style tents with bathrooms. Rajasthani and Western food is included; ask for transfers to the airport or station.
Activities: Night desert safaris, puppet shows, Kalbeliya dance shows, camel and horse rides, hot-air balloon safaris.
What’s nearby: The fascinating sights, smells and sounds of ancient Pushkar.
Cost: $50 per night including meals.
Where: The village of Tatai is in Koh Kong on the Cambodian side of the Thai border, halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The Lodge is only accessible by boat. When booking accommodation, land transfers can be organised to numerous destinations in Thailand and Cambodia, including nearby airports.
What: Situated on a riverside platform, each tent has quality furnishings, TV and a mini-bar, a sun-lounger balcony and an en-suite bathroom. There is a restaurant too.
Activities: Jungle-trekking in the Cardamon Mountains, kayaking through mangrove-lined waterways, night kayaking with fireflies, walking to the Tatai Waterfalls, swimming and fishing.
Cost: US$239 for two adults per night
Koh Ta Kiev is an island off Sihanoukville in Cambodia’s south. Fly from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville airport, or do the four-hour drive. Take the 30-minute daily ferry to the island from Otres Beach.
What: Tents, mattresses and pillows are all supplied and you can choose from a conventional or Cambodian-style tent. There is a restaurant and bar.
Activities: Island-trekking, fishing, cooking classes, swimming
What’s nearby: On the mainland, explore Sihanoukville and nearby Kep.
Cost: Camping costs $6 per night and includes a tent, a mattress, pillows and camping permits for two people. Bungalows cost between $15 and $35 per night.
Australia has thousands of campsites in some incredible locations. Buy your own supplies at one of the numerous camping stores, then go bush and do your own thing. Or, for campsites with facilities, check out Big 4. Here are two very different places that took our breath away for very different reasons.
Where: This small island in the middle of Sydney Harbour is a former naval base, now a public island for recreational use. Other than backpacker joints, this is probably some of the cheapest accommodation in the city. It’s a 10-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay in Sydney’s CBD.
What: There are basic camping sites for hire, but if you need gear, the Mini Glamping package is useful – it includes tent, camping bed, sheets and bedding, towels and chairs.
Activities: Explore the island on foot with self-guided walks. Grab an audio tour to discover the convict prison and the island’s maritime past. There are several restaurants and bars, or you can bring your own food and use the camp kitchens. The tennis courts have one of the best views in Sydney. Kayaking, swimming and fishing are available, too.
Cost: From $125 for two people, cheaper if you take your own gear.
Where: Ningaloo Reef, 1,300km north of Perth, Western Australia. The nearest airport is 90 minutes away, near the town of Exmouth.
What: Nine wilderness tents situated just 50 metres back from the beach. All structures are built on platforms above the ground, minimising their environmental impact. The luxury tents have en-suite bathrooms; solar power is used and water usage is carefully managed. There are no mini-bars, TVs or telephones, but delicious food and great hosts.
Activities: Snorkelling equipment, including wetsuits and sea-kayaks for guided kayak-snorkelling adventures, is included. You can also watch migrating humpback whales, swim with whale sharks, fish, learn about Aboriginal history, star gaze, or take guided gorge walks and wildlife-viewing walks.
What’s nearby: Two kilometres behind the camp lies the limestone range of the Cape Range National Park. The World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef visited seasonally by whale sharks and humpback whales.
Cost: Three-night packages start from $820, including all meals, beverages and guided activities for small groups.
If you’re not adventurous enough to throw your tent up on any old deserted beach, then take a look at the Malaysia Tourism website. There are camping sites across many parts of Malaysia, including in National Parks. In Sri Lanka, one company that specialises in camping safaris and can reach many of the National Parks is Mahoora.
Some of these options offer luxury glamping experiences and others are fairly rustic and rough around the edges. So, it’s always good to arrive prepared. Here are a few items we suggest throwing in your luggage:
- Lightweight pullover and trousers for cooler evenings and mornings
- Sunscreen and hat
- Swimsuit and rash vest to avoid sunburn
- Sturdy footwear
- Mosquito repellent
- Personal medication and a small first-aid kit