Five Star India can be found even in the desert of Rajasthan. My travel partner and I experienced this at Reggie’s Camel Camp, a luxury tent resort near the small village of Osian. Located in the Thar Desert, within the Indian state of Rajasthan, the tent hotel of Osian is surrounded by a massive fort wall set on a sand dune overlooking the region below.
Guests enter past an intimidating set of doors fit for an ancient fort. A gravel drive bumps along the terrain where it ends in front of a open air reception hall. From here drivers help to unload any luggage before being quickly waved off. Their destination is the driver room for the duration of the guest’s stay. Weary travelers are welcomed by the owner, Reggie, as his staff bring fresh damp clothes and cool lime soda refreshments served on trays. The customary check-in process takes place with Reggie under the thatched roof shade and a gentle breeze thanks to overhead ceiling fans.
Our luggage had been moved by the numerous staff members as we chatted with Reggie about the history, success and inspiration for what seemed an oddly located luxury resort in Rajasthan. Concluding our conversation, a short walk and tour of the property was given to head off any disorientation later. On the night we stayed, just 3 of the 40+ tents were occupied leaving the camel camp feeling eerily cold. Reggie’s Camel Camp is set up with rows of tents on each side of the reflecting pool and a few private guests homes. We were placed on the left tent row with just one other couple on our side, yet far enough away to ensure privacy.
I had hesitations regarding this planned stay in the desert for one reason: toilets. Since this was my first tour of India, I was naive to the lengths Indian hotel owners go to accommodate western tourists. And once inside the tent, all my cares were gone. I was quietly laughing on the inside as I looked around the tent…here were two beds, a nightstand, a dresser, a small wicker love-seat, and a luggage rack crammed into this space, leaving ample room for two to move about. The bathroom was in the rear hidden by a wall of fabric with a zipper down the middle. With great surprise we found indoor plumbing. And not just plumbing; A stone floor with a sunken shower area complete with hot water, a sink and a Western toilet. Tent perfection.
Dinner was served in the common area near the swimming pool. In front of the mess hall is a rather large floored courtyard with tables and chairs set around. This proved to be the entertainment area pre-dinner. Wine and appetizers were offered at the table by Reggie where he suggested, and I accepted, my first glass of Indian wine. Delicious. Entertainment consisted of traditional Rajasthani dancing accompanied by a band. As with many buffet dinners in India, spices are used at a minimum to please the palette of the majority. That said, the Indian food was not great but it certainly was not bad; it just didn’t suit my need for more spices.
After dinner, back in our quarters, my travel partner and I could hear the staff rustling behind the row of tents as if they were trying to anticipate our needs. Eventually any staff movement ceased.
The next morning we were woken early to enjoy the pre-sunrise camel safari arranged and managed by the camel camp. Chai brought to the tent helped energize the early hour. After the safari, we were brought back to enjoy a late breakfast/early lunch. We decided to take this meal on the lawn near the mess hall where a small table was nicely set for two. Surprisingly we were offered a made to order meal given the main breakfast service was completed hours earlier.
Our preplanned, prepaid travel agency voucher was reserved for two nights at Reggie’s Camel Camp, a time period the restless hearts in both me and my travel partner didn’t care to sit through. We wanted to get on to our next adventure, see some more forts and experience more “authentic” venues. We informed Reggie of our decision which I felt he took as a black mark toward his character. It was hard to explain to him we were actually turning down 5 star India in search of more pollution, crowded markets, blaring horns and hawkers desperately trying to sell us unwanted product.
Should my travels in India ever take me back near Reggie’s Camel Camp, I would definitely stay again. A good book and some wine after a few hectic weeks on the road would make this property the ultimate destination. For anyone that is more attuned to R & R by the pool for a lengthy period, this would be a great alternative to the usual Rajasthan hustle and bustle itineraries. Reggie Singh, Camel Camp owner, is a soft spoken yet authoritative person. His passion for his property and the happiness of his guests is apparent in a smooth, understated manner. The Camel Camp was and is a unique option for lodging in India.