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It’s possible to balance a love of bunking in the great outdoors with an appreciation of the finer things (such as running water and a fully stocked wine cellar) thanks to grown-up camp-like stays. The boutique hotel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith set out with compass in hand to discover safari tents and luxurious desert retreats around the world that will bring out the scout (glam scout, that is) in everyone.
Note: Hotel rates reflect the lowest available at press time and are subject to change.
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The Wild West is certainly tamer these days, but there’s still a spot for wannabe cowboys and cowgirls: The Ranch at Rock Creek (rooms from $1,600). Surrounded by mountains and set blissfully miles from city life, this 6,000-acre working ranch has everything from stables and a saloon to a spa and bowling alley to keep all entertained.
Room to book: Listen to the mellow murmur of Rock Creek as you soak in the cedar tub on your private patio off of the Sweet Grass tented cabin. This sprawling setup has a claw-foot tub, wood-burning stove, and kitchenette—not exactly roughing it.
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Perched seemingly on the edge of the world, Sal Salis (rooms from $890) is a remote beachside bush camp just a sandy stroll to the Indian Ocean in Western Australia. Explore the marine-rich Ningaloo Reef, home to dolphins, turtles, whale sharks, and a Technicolor array of fish. The accommodations may seem simple (solar-generated power, no WiFi), but there’s no lack of sophistication (luxe linens, fine dining beneath the stars), either.
Room to book: There are just nine spacious tents, all raised on platforms above the powder-soft sandy dunes and open to the elements (hello there, kangaroos). Tents one to five are the most secluded. They all have a private ensuite bathroom and handmade beds with 500 thread-count linens.
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Tucked within the 33,000-acre Kruger National Park is an intimate, eco-conscious lodge on the banks of the Sweni River. Styled in camouflaging shades of leafy green and khaki, Singita Sweni (rooms from $1,453) is very much at ease in its natural surroundings (home to lions, leopards, crocodiles, and zebras). The swimming pool, spa treatments, knockout wine cellar, and the game-focused African cuisine will have you feeling quite comfortable, too.
Room to book: Shaded beneath thatched roof coverings are six, one-bedroom river-facing rooms. Each is decked out with a fireplace, indoor/outdoor shower, and soaking tub, and opens up to a private outdoor game-viewing porch.
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Settle in on the edge of Rajasthan Ranthambore National Park—India’s tiger territory—in the spirit of opulent Maharajas’ safari parties at Aman-i-Khás (rooms from $1,000). Your personal batman (butler) will help you gear up for an open-jeep safari, walking tour, or camel ride, and then greet you post-adventure with an expertly mixed cocktail.
Room to book: There are just ten tents, but splash out for number one (Katy Perry and Russell Brand’s wedding night suite) for the most privacy. All of the sumptuous tents have soaring ceilings, sunken marble tubs, and furnishings fit for royalty.
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An 1880s mining camp encircled by the rugged Rockies, Dunton Hot Springs (rooms from $600) has struck gold in its latest incarnation as a luxury log-cabin colony. There are restorative hot springs, a yoga studio, a dance hall, and the original saloon. Of course, there are miles of wide-open space for fly-fishing, horseback riding, rafting, rock climbing, and, in the winter, skiing.
Room to book: Peek out at the towering Aspen trees and the rushing Dolores River from one of the canvas River Camp Mountain Tents. Simple yet elegant, there’s a giant raft of a bed with Pendleton throws, a wood-burning stove, animal-hide rugs and an ensuite bathroom (there are no middle-of-the-night trips to the outhouse at this campground!).
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Marakele National Park is a malaria-free home to diverse wildlife—black rhino, elephants, antelope, lions—and Marataba hotel (rooms from $792), an exotic and upscale bush camp four hours from Johannesburg. Sink into one of the deep leather couches in front of the fireplace in the airy lodge or snag a sunlounger beside the pool as you flip through your birding and safari field guides.
Room to book: All of the canvas and stone suites have romantic, billowy-tented ceilings, a stone soaking tub, and dressing room where you can transform into your safari-chic look. The tents nearest the river are your best bet for spying animals right from your private deck.
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Crowd-free beaches, all-to-yourself reefs for snorkeling and diving, and supreme seclusion can be found at Amanwana hotel—the only resort (rooms from $750) on Bali’s Moyo Island. Wander the tropical gardens, take to the water in one of the 11 at-the-ready boats, or relax with an Indonesian milk bath in the hidden Spa Tent. Eco-friendly at heart, the resort has also established a wildlife sanctuary and conservation fund for nearby villages.
Room to book: For the speediest bed-to-boat dashes, go for an Ocean Tent just steps from the turquoise sea. Inside these tents with soaring canvas ceilings, you’ll find a four-poster bed draped in white netting, massive white divans, and walls adorned with Indonesian artwork.
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Nighttime elephant safaris or guided hikes to commune with gibbons and Asiatic bears by day aren’t the only fun to be had at Kirimaya hotel (rooms from $151) in Khao Yai National Park. Sporty types will also be drawn to the Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course. No matter the adventure, spend some quality time lounging beside the mountain-gazing infinity pool or at the wellness spa—your butler can arrange everything from a safari to a massage, of course.
Room to book: Don’t be fooled by the simple exterior of the Tented Villas. These sprawling, airy suites have an indoor spa, full living room area, and private outdoor balcony for taking in the endless grassland and evergreen mountain views.
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Kasbah Tamadot, Morocco
Hidden away in the High Atlas Mountains behind an ancient wall you’ll find manicured gardens, a hammam spa, tennis courts, a pristine pool, and seriously sumptuous suites (from $515). The nothing-is-too-much service, impressive architecture, and impeccable interior design at Kasbah Tamadot hotel isn’t surprising given that the source behind this Moroccan retreat is Sir Richard Branson. Fezzes doffed to this enchanting stay.
Room to book: Secluded and romantic, the luxe Berber Tents are set on a hillside overlooking the Atlas Mountains. Styled with rich fabrics, local artwork, and handwoven rugs, each canopied suite has a rolltop bathtub, Jacuzzi, and outdoor terrace for sunning or stargazing.
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Pacuare Lodge, Costa Rica
Indiana Jones himself couldn’t make an entrance much more dramatic than yours will be—via a jungle ride in a 4x4 or a river-rafting trip—at Pacuare Lodge (rooms from $474), a riverfront retreat deep in the Costa Rican rainforest. Once you settle in, you can arrange for more heart-skipping activities, such as zip-line tours, canyon treks, or river-rafting escapades—all capped by time spent in the healing spa, naturally.
Room to book: Nothing says decadent seclusion quite like bounding across a private suspension bridge to the Canopy Honeymoon Suite. This open-air, thatched roof treehouse-style love nest has a private terrace with spring-fed plunge pool. There’s no electricity, so candles add a romantic glow at night.