Saving Wildlife and the Wilderness

In the world of glamping — which inherently is a culture of excess out in the wild — it’s always nice to give back. Sure, you can donate money directly to conservation groups, but you could also support properties that already strive to preserve the animals and wilderness of the regions where they’re established.

save the rhino trustImage Credit: Save The Rhino Trust Namibia

For example, Desert Rhino Camp in the Palmweg concession of Namibia, is a collaboration of safari operator Wilderness Safaris and the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT). It’s the base of operations for rhino tracking tours, where guests are led in vehicles and on foot to encounter the elusive and endangered black rhinoceros — a species whose population has been decimated over the decades from illegal poaching. When the tours are over and you’re sipping a gin and tonic on the porch of your canvas cottage, the SRT continues to dedicate itself to the protection of the rhinos and their habitat.

africat cheetahImage Credit: AfriCat Foundation

With a customized safari through Namibia by outfitter CW Safaris, you can drive just a couple hundred miles away to Okonjima, home of AfriCat Foundation, which strives to work with local farming communities in their rehabilitation programs for misplaced cheetahs, leopards, and wild dogs. They also sponsor school trips to educate future generations on the importance of conservation. Guests can visit the big felines as they are reconditioned to their natural environment by day, while sleeping in camps with luxury amenities by night.

mustang monumentImage Credit: Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort

Meanwhile in Nevada, a similar effort is being done by the folks at the Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort, which is not just a place where you can camp in a tipi fitted with hardwood floors and cosy beds. Founder Madeleine Pickens and her team of cowboys are committed to the Saving America’s Mustangs foundation, which aims to protect the mere thousands of wild mustangs left in America with a permanent preserve for them to roam free.

Precious ecosystems are also being supported by glamping destinations. The folks at EcoCamp Patagonia, in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, are committed to sustainability with green energy practices in conjunction with their inventive design of sustainable — and comfortable — dome tents. They share their innovations with the Corporacion Fomento & Producción (CORFO), so that other local businesses can follow suit in this region increasingly affected by climate change.

maasai wilderness cons trustImage Credit: Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust

At Kenya’s Camp Ya Kanzi, in Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) works with Maasai leaders to educate the local communities on best practices to co-exist with wild animals, and to maintain their ecosystem wisely. While the MWCT USA office president and acclaimed actor Edward Norton may not be there during your stay, you can rest assured — in tented cottages so luxurious that they even have bidets — that part of the money you spend goes to their conservation efforts. After all, the environment, and the indigenous animals within, are the real celebrities in these parts.

Glamping Review: Patagonia Camp

Inside Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, there are many fabulous and transporting options for lodging, most of them highlighting the incredible natural riches of the area. But perhaps nothing will get you closer to the outdoors than a stay at Patagonia Camp and its collection of 18 luxury yurts on the edge of Lake Toro.


Patagonia Camp has an ecological mission to minimize its impact (as well as its guests’) on the environment. For example, instead of mowing down trees (like the lenga, a tree indigenous to Chile)) that surround the property to make space for your bedroom, all the camp architecture is placed on wooden stilts and platforms. Patagonia Camp also recycles its water through a waste treatment plant, which is why you’re discouraged from using your own bath amenities and should instead go to town on the ones already in yurt. And before visions of ho-hum shampoos and soaps clog your mind, know that the hotel collaborated with a company in Santiago to create products that are not only biodegradable but sweet-smelling, too. The travel-size bottles of body treats are packed with ingredients like aloe vera and lavender that will make you forget you ever brought your own stuff. I loved the shampoo so much I took it with me at check out.


The All-Inclusive option, which is what most guests go for when booking here, includes a variety of perks, from local transfers and the park’s entrance fee to an open bar, meals and a selection of excursions. More intrepid (read: fitter) travelers will definitely want to do the Torres Base Trek, one of the famed hikes in Patagonia that will inflict all sorts of physical demands such as the final 45-minute uphill climb to the foot of the Three Towers, one of the geographical icons of South America. Patagonia Camp’s location right by Lake Toro, however, affords its guests plenty of exclusive excursions, too, like fishing on the lake and a fairly easy hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. If you want to spring for activities not included in the program but well worth the added expense, kayaking on Lake Grey is one of those Bucket List experiences you never thought you had. An afternoon spent paddling around with floating glaciers close enough to touch is simply unforgettable. All of it is guided by kind (and thankfully patient) locals who have mastered this area and, more than likely, the English language. Patagonia Camp is constantly developing new excursions to give travelers truly immersive opportunities when they’re in Patagonia. Who knows what new-fangled itinerary they’ll come with next?

Front desk

After a day of adventure that will acquaint you to Patagonia’s natural majesty, you’ll retreat back to camp for a little R&R before that evening’s meal. The main house is essentially the one-stop shop at Patagonia Camp. It’s where you check in, there’s a lounge where you can hang out and perhaps meet other guests, there’s a small bar where you can try some Chilean vinos, and it also houses the main dining room where all meals are served. Almost everything that comes from the kitchen is local and sourced from Puerto Natales, a small town outside the park. One of the more spectacular meals at the camp is the traditional lamb BBQ, which is organized three nights a week. An entire lamb is slow-roasted for five hours leaving it deliciously tender. Its served with all sorts of sides and vegetables, filling enough to reclaim all the calories you would lose after a full day’s hike.


The yurts themselves aren’t particularly huge (each is about 300 square feet in total plus a terrace), but they are wonderfully decorated with locally handcrafted furniture like the pale wood desk and bed plus colorful woven textiles and plush animal hide area rugs. Each unit is simple, uncluttered and stylish. The bed is placed directly under a clear patch of the yurt’s roof allowing you to soak in star-lit skies before going to bed. It’s a fantastic inclusion that you may not think you want but given the low air pollution in Patagonia, you’ll (especially city dwellers who never see the star) be glad it’s there. And the large windows that look out to the lake will constantly remind you of just how gorgeous and unspoiled this pocket of the world is. Leaving the curtains open at night and letting the stream of sunlight to wake you up in the morning is the perfect start to a day in Patagonia. And the bright turquoise of Lake Toro will be the first thing you’ll see.

Glamping Review: Tierra Patagonia

As I turn the lights off in preparation for bed, I head to the window, in need of some fresh air. I crack it slightly, and the sound of the howling wind rushes in. Just across Lake Sarmiento, the snow on the surrounding peaks reflects the moonlight, even as low clouds roll in around it. Stars dot the sky, and there’s not a sound to be heard except for that of the breeze.

The breathtaking view from my room at Tierra Patagonia is a constant reminder of the hotel’s remoteness, enveloped by the vast landscape of Chilean Patagonia. An hour’s drive from the nearest town, and four hours from Punta Arenas Airport, getting there requires an abundance of commitment and time. Though the logistics may seem daunting, Tierra’s location ensures that you’re fully immersed into the magnificence of your surroundings, and only adds to the extraordinary nature of a trip to the end of the world.


The property itself is an architectural marvel. Built low into the landscape, it’s hardly visible until you drive right up to the front door. The wooden structure looks like the cross section of an airplane wing, sloped and curved. Massive wood and glass doors allow you into the reception area, and a wide hallway leads to common areas ahead. To the left, two flights of stairs lead to rooms and suites, and the formal dining room is to the right.


For me, speechlessness is a rare occurrence, but the design of Tierra Patagonia took my breath away. Plush chairs face the giant windows, with views of Torres del Paine National Park and the Cordillera del Paine, the park’s central mountain range. To the side, a more intimate sitting area surrounds a giant, hand-illustrated map of the park, with a scattering of reading lamps providing soft, ambient light. A round fireplace separates the living room from the bar and dining area.


Trinidad, the manager on duty, escorts me to my room, where my luggage is already waiting. The room design mirrors that of the rest of the hotel, with hardwood floors and plush rugs. A king bed faces the window, while comfy chair and hanging lamp occupy one corner. Back in the entryway, a closet (with polished rocks as knobs), has plenty of space for clothes, as well as a small chest of drawers and safe. The bathroom has dual sinks and a massive white bathtub, while two opaque glass doors separate the toilet and walk-in shower from the rest of the bathroom. Perhaps the neatest feature is the long, rectangular window above the bathtub, which allows for an uninhibited view of the mountain landscape through the room’s larger window. L’Occitane shower amenities are lined up on the counter, while a plush bathrobe and slippers sit next to the tub. A reusable metal water bottle, perfect for excursions, is a welcome gift from the hotel.


After settling into my room, I head back to the common area to chat with the guides about tomorrow’s excursions. Rosario, one of the many guides on property, sits down with me and explains the day’s various trips. Both full day and half day excursions are offered, though after hearing about my length of stay and interests, Rosario suggests two full day excursions. On Saturday, I will head out on a driving tour of Torres del Paine National Park, ending with a boat trip out to Grey Glacier, and on Sunday I’m to attempt an 18km (~11mi) hike to the base of the Torres del Paine, the park’s namesake granite peaks. These two trips would allow me to see most of the park’s important landmarks in the shortest amount of time, while providing incredible photo opportunities.


By the time I’m finished up with Rosario, dinner service has already begun. Served in the main dining room, the food focuses on Chilean-influenced modern fare, made with fresh, local ingredients. The choices were different each night, but typically consisted of three appetizer choices, three entree choices, and two dessert choices. Everything was delicious, from the beef tenderloin with potatoes to the Chilean-style lamb stew. Desserts hit all the right notes, be it key lime pie or chocolate fudge dollop served atop a fresh cookie. Those staying under the all-inclusive package also have their choice of drinks, with house wines and spirits included. It’s difficult to go wrong with a Chilean red wine, and the wines served on property were no exception.

Photo Apr 13, 7 24 15 AM

It’s Sunday morning, two days into my stay. The breakfast is impressive, with a huge variety of meats, cheeses, yogurt, juices, breads, and about six different kinds of jellies and jams. Huge, juicy squares of pineapple, honeydew, and cantaloupe are laid out, along with delicious grapes. Scrambled eggs and a french toast variant are also offered. It’s the perfect balanced breakfast, and good fuel for the body. I’m steeling myself for this morning’s eighteen kilometer hike.

It’s a relatively big group today; nine guests plus our guide, Catalina, a Ch. On the drive to the trailhead, she explains our route for the day. It’s a nine kilometer uphill hike to the base of Towers, some 2870 feet up, where we’ll eat lunch before heading back down. Eight hours of hiking are estimated.


So, we set off. The scenery is beautiful, with small streams and footbridges crisscrossing the path, and horses climbing a parallel route. The scenery is lovely and varied, ranging from lush forests to mountain overlooks. Roughly three hours in, Cata stops so we can take a break before heading into hour four, the immediate ascent to the lookout point.


It becomes immediately obvious that it will be a long, strenuous final kilometer. Dirt trail gives way to a wall of rock, taunting us with a quick glimpse of the peaks of the towers. At this point, Cata really shone, encouraging everyone and charting the best way to scale the last obstacle between us and lunch. After another forty-five minutes of climbing, we finally made it up to the base, where a turquoise glacial lake stood between us and a nearly unobscured view of the massive monoliths, reaching far into the sky.


It is a wonderful, fulfilling moment, not unlike the entirety of my stay at Tierra Patagonia. There is something inherently special about spending three nights at the end of the world, but the ambience at Tierra only adds to that remarkable feeling. The staff is second-to-none, and vibe is relaxing from the get-go. It’s a true immersion into the spirit of the land, an embrace that holds on tight and never lets go.