Shash Dine’ Eco-Retreat: A Glamping B&B in Navajo Nation

Some 12 miles South of Lake Powell, deep into the red soil of Navajo Nation, lays an unassuming eco-retreat by the name of Shash Dine’. It is here that Baya, a native Dine’ (“the people” in Navajo), her husband Paul and their young daughter welcome you into the wild, desert beauty of northern Arizona, where simplicity rules by definition.

Born and raised on the land of the Bear People Clan whom she belongs to, as the property’s name derives from the Navajo language, Baya lives by her people’s traditions. The ranch on the premise – where sheep, goats, chickens and horses are roving about – is her home.

Photo Credit: Shash Dine Eco-Retreat
Photo Credit: Shash Dine Eco Retreat
Photo Credit: Shash Dine Eco-Retreat
Photo Credit: Shash Dine Eco Retreat

As natural building enthusiasts, Baya and Paul set out to welcome guests on site, in traditional Navajo log and earth hogans – the traditional dwelling of the Navajo people – canvas wall tents or tipis, providing an unique cultural experience, an appreciation for, and education as to how the Dine’ lived not so long ago.

It was pitch dark when we arrived. The only sign leading to our overnight stay was a bear claw sign leading up to the driveway, from which Baya picked us up. From then on, a dirt road eventually led to two secured, white canvas, wall tents shining in the night.

Tip: To avoid getting lost, it is highly recommended to arrive before dark. You should provide an approximate check in time. This is a remote location. It is imperative to let your hosts know as to your arrival time so you can be guided through.

In true off the grid nature, the only sound disturbing the silence came from the two watchdogs nearby. I can’t remember any other time when I felt more intertwined with nature. Sleeping under a bed full of stars, cowboy stories chanted by Navajos lingered in the air.

Tip: Be prepared with torches and headlights during the night, or ask the hosts for some. No other light exists.

Photo Credit: Monica Suma
Photo Credit: Monica Suma

Despite the vast wilderness, convenient items can be found inside the wall tents – a large canister of drinkable water, two comfortable camp beds, two sleeping bags, Navajo blankets, books and even theme board games. To set the décor, two large candlelights added the finishing touch. Outside each tent there was a large bucket filled with water, to make up for the lack of running water.

The morning after, we noticed a pastoral wooden veranda, which included a fireplace and basic tools to grill meat and vegetables. We skipped the Navajo porridge breakfast offered to us, but we were grateful for the quick breakfast to go – coffee and a generous basket with fresh fruit – that our host brought over.

Photo Credit: Monica Suma
Photo Credit: Monica Suma

Two nights later, we learnt more. More than a unique, off the grid glamping experience, Shash Dine’ hosts voluntourists and workawayers, in what has recently become an increasingly popular concept – the so-called working vacations. Volunteers from all over the world are welcome to stay on property, free of charge, as long as they pay for their own meals and transportation.

The self-sustaining ranch and bed & breakfast is in constant need of extra helping hands for farming, building earth structures and tending to animals, as well as assistance with projects such as teaching and language practice. While experiencing life on the Reservation, volunteers can also participate in the educational workshops provided, geared towards permaculture, natural building and Navajo culture.

We met one such volunteer the morning we left; she seemed content. And why wouldn’t she be? Free to explore nearby monumental sites nature created – Lake Powell, the jaw dropping Antelope Canyon and the awe inspiring Horseshoe Bend being some of the closest ones – Navajo Nation comes with many lessons to be learnt, and discovered.

Note: This April, Paul and Baya Meehan are starting construction on a cob Hogan to welcome guests in, in the hopes of educating visitors to northern Arizona, most of which are unfamiliar with Navajo culture. A crowd funding campaign has been set up for all those who wish to support.

5 Accessories to Take Any Camping Trip to Glamping

Whether it’s an overnight trip or a weekend in nature, these 5 items are sure to spruce up any old camping excursion into a glamping trip.

The Altair Tent is perfect for glamping, Anthropologie is selling this tent for $6,995. It’s a 10 and 1/2 feet high and 12 feet wide waterproof structure that is a great addition for any camping trip turned glamping.


The Airtek Deluxe Comfort Coil King-size Raised Pillowtop Air Bed, this king-size pillowtop air bed from Overstock is perfect for glamping excursions. The air bed features a comfort controller that allows you to control the firmness of the bed, and has a built-in air pump, making it easy to inflate.


A Cashmere Blanket, this handmade throw is the perfect thing to keep you cozy next to a campfire on a glamping excursion.


This chic camping stool is perfect for the glamping experience whether you are sitting around a fire or doing some fishing. It sits 17″ tall and 15 1/2″ front to back, 12 1/2″ wide.


Bose’s soundlink color bluetooth speaker is the perfect portable speaker to play your music while camping, it plays up to 8 hours of music with rechargable batteries and pairs easily with any smartphone, tablet or ipod. It’s compact and light enough (1.25 pounds) to take along on any glamping trip.


Sanctuary Swala: Peace in the Tanzania Wilderness

I awake just in time for sunrise, rub my eyes and remind myself where I am: Tanzania. I grab my camera and go out to my wrap-around deck, which sits right in the middle of the savanna. An orange glow is low on the horizon shining through the acacia trees. Monkeys and guinea fowl run around in front of me. I hear only nature – rustling in the bushes and the sounds of birds awakening all around me. I grab the yoga mat that is stocked inside my tent and do 20 minutes of chatarangas and sun salutations. Lovely French press coffee is brought right to me on a tray and I sit in wonder.


Sanctuary Swala
is about a four-hour drive from Arusha—the first two hours are paved, while the rest is on a dirt road through Tarangire National Park. It’s the first “hotel” at which I’ve stayed where on the way there, I pass zebras, giraffes, and lions.


Upon arrival, an attendant escorts me to my “permanent tent”. One of twelve canvas pavilions, each tent has a bleached hardwood floor, a canvas ceiling with ceiling fan, upholstered chairs in a sitting area, fluffy white duvets on comfy beds, a full en-suite bathroom complete with modern cement slab vanity, double sinks, and an indoor and outdoor shower. There is a wooden deck surrounding the tent and you can sit on your front “porch” and watch zebras and elephants walk right on by. It’s surreal. If this is glamping, I am hooked.


It is hot and dusty in Tanzania, so admittedly one of my favorite things is the complimentary laundry service. There’s nothing like clean clothes for the light packer. One interesting caveat, since they have an all male staff, they do not wash women’s underwear, but do give you detergent in your room so you can hand wash your delicates.

And just in case of any emergency, each tent is equipped with a handheld radio.


At night, I am told to give out a sort of “bat signal.” I simply shine the flashlight that I find charging in my tent up toward the treetops and an askaris (night watchman) comes over and escorts me to the dining room. Seem unnecessary? You have to remember we are just living on the grounds of a national park. There is no fence between us and the wild beasts, just the door of the tent, so at night it’s in our best interest to be careful and still be escorted on the lighted pathways.


Each day at camp, you can join a safari drive, take an early walking safari at dawn, or even go jogging with one of the staff just outside of the park at a local “football” field.

“Feeling adventurous?” asks Chris, the property manager. “Want to go for a little walk in the evening?”

“Sure!” I exclaim without even thinking.


We meet at 5:15pm in the open-air lounge and I sign some “you could die” waivers and get the briefing about safe distances between us and the animals and when we might have to freeze or flee. Oh yeah. This is not just a “walk in the park.” A hike in Tanzania is much different than a hike in any park I’ve ever been to. This is the bush. When on safari we are not allowed to get out of the car. But now we are walking away from our lodge—away from any vehicle or shelter—and are literally just on our own out in the wild with 15,000 pound African elephants (the largest land mammals on earth), dangerous buffalo (they are very unpredictable and kill more people in Africa than any other animal) and lions. The big difference? We are escorted by a park ranger carrying an AK-47 and Chris leads the way also carrying a rifle. Of course, I don’t want to die, but I also really don’t want to put any animal in danger. I started having doubts before we even set out. Why should I risk the life of an animal just so I could get closer? That’s the last reason I came to Tanzania. For better or worse, we only see the elephants that were already at the campsite watering hole (therefore distracted with their bathing and cooling off) and some waterbuck. The most dangerous thing we happen upon are some big termite mounds and huge piles of elephant dung.


Sanctuary Swala sits in a remote corner of Tarangire National Park. While it is one of the least visited in Tanzania, it is also teeming with wildlife—massive herds of elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, and lions abound. The park is situated in and around Masai tribe country, which makes for a great introduction to the diverse people and landscape of this amazing country.


Sanctuary Swala is run with the philosophy of “luxury, naturally.” This gives you a great combination of a comfortable stay, with a more natural kind of luxury in a place with a very strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The camp has been built with high eco-standards and is said to have a particularly low carbon footprint. Power is run by generator, which is turned off part of the day, and then there is some low battery charged power. The location was chosen to be close to wildlife without causing any harm or distress. Wastewater is carefully managed and they do not use locally made charcoal as it promotes deforestation, instead they use briquettes, which are made locally from agricultural waste for cooking and heating water. Only biodegradable cleaning products are used and waste is sorted and transported to the city of Arusha for recycling. I also really like that, unlike most other properties I’d stayed at so far, they provide water in glass bottles which they refill everyday instead of using plastic water bottles.


Since it’s a small place, dining at Sanctuary Swala is an intimate affair. The fixed menu rotates every six days and one day each week they have a communal barbecue around the campfire. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner are included and meals are served on the main dining deck, which is lifted on stilts around an enormous, ancient baobab tree. Breakfast is served before the morning game activity. Lunch can be enjoyed back in camp or picnic baskets can be arranged for guests going out on safari. As evening sets in, there are drinks and canapés around the campfire followed by a three course dinner. And to top it off, there is even an unexpected pizza oven. To be honest, after several days of safari, I loved my time just sitting still in the camp—watching the animals from the lounge and my deck on the edge of the wilderness of Tanzania.

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.