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Paris may be a moveable feast, as Ernest Hemingway once said, but Cox & Kings has introduced the concept of the moveable luxury camp to the travel landscape of India.
The company, which was founded in India in 1758, has announced that it will introduce a duo of luxury mobile camps this summer. Both camps are built around traditional festivals.
The first camp, named Chamba Camp Thiksey, will be stationed in Ladakh from June 15 to Sept. 30. From July 3-14, during the annual Kalachakra festival, His Holiness the Dali Lama will appear to perform initiation rituals for new monks.
The second camp, the Kohima Camp in Nagaland, begins on Dec. 4 and runs for a week. It coincides with another traditional local festival, the Hornbill Festival, which is a cultural celebration by the local Naga people and named after the bird that is symbolically displayed on traditional tribal headgear worn during festivities. The event features a mix of activities including a motor rally, chili-eating contests, wrestling matches and more. Both camps will be located in northern India.
“There really were no great accommodations in those areas due to their seasonal appeal,” said Scott Wiseman, president of the Americas for Cox & Kings. “For example, Ladakh is in the Himalayas, and it’s cold in the winter. The summer is better, and we’ll be there in the middle of the summer.”
The idea of a mobile tented camp simply made sense to Wiseman.
“We’ve long been sending people to Africa to experience the quintessential tented safari. Now that same luxury accommodation is available in destinations throughout India,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of response. There’s a lot of excitement from people who think it’s cool and interesting.”
Wiseman attributes the availability of this kind of luxury tented tourism in India to improvements in the country’s infrastructure, including the modernization of smaller airports.
“Even airlines such as Ethiad are flying into new cities in India — providing alternatives to the major ones everyone has flown to up until now,” he said.
Ethiad recently announced plans to start nonstop service from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, on June 1, with connections to more than 10 destinations in India.
The camps, known as The Ultimate Traveling Camp, or TUTC, are entirely mobile, picking up from one location and moving to another as the seasons change.
“Locally grown food is used to prepare meals and the company aims to leave zero footprint when we pack up,” said Wiseman.
The canvas tents, which Wiseman described as “colonial luxury, Hemingway-style,” come with en-suite bathrooms, private decks, polished silverware and fresh linens, and the service of a staff that includes a chef, a butler and a chauffeur.
“Northern India is saturated when it comes to tourism,” said Seema Prakash, India destination manager for Cox & Kings. “You can book it with your eyes closed. People are looking for something off the beaten path, so we are branching into regions that are not yet popular with the American or Canadian market.”
In both Ladakh and Nagaland, the weeklong trips are organized around visits to local monasteries and old palaces once inhabited by local royalty. In some instances, the descendents of the maharaja and other rulers still live on the property and are available to meet with visitors.
In Ladakh, Cox & Kings suggests that clients make a side trip to the village of Saboo for a seance session with a local oracle. But the company’s brochure warns that “this optional excursion will be confirmed a day prior, subject to the oracle willing to give an audience.”
There are plans to open two additional TUTC camps at some point in the future: Kotwara Camp at Terai and Suheri Camp at Dudhwa.