A zipline passing rivers, waterfalls and verdant jungle will bring you to Cambodia’s newest luxury camp, writes Kate Powell.
Hidden deep within the wilderness of Cambodia’s South Cardamom National Park, 15 exclusive luxury tents (if you can call them that) represent the latest endeavor of Hospitality Design’s Platinum Circle hall of fame member, Bill Bensley: Bensley Collection – Shinta Mani Wild. And this is no ordinary camp; Bensley’s ambition is manifest in this adventure of a lifetime that will surely revolutionise the luxury tented camp experience.
Guests arrive first at the gate lounge, approximately three hours south of Phnom Penh by road, or considerably less time by helicopter. From here, a zipline stretches for 380 metres, over waterfalls and pristine wilderness, before arriving at the camp’s Landing Zone Bar; an Indiana-Jones-esque adrenaline hit is promptly softened by the welcoming smile of staff from the local village, accompanied by cool refreshments. Alternatively, guests can arrive from the landing gate and continue by road to the property.
Experiences and adventure
Artfully crafted six-metre luxury boats, ‘treasure hunts’ for indigenous plants and herbs with the resident chef and guided motorcycle tours with the Park Rangers are among activities on offer at Shinta Mani Wild; although guests may be content to alternate this with some lower-key schedules such as one of the camp’s private picnic offers, which can be arranged beside cascading waterfalls, aboard a Bensley Boat, atop a mountain or on your tent’s own deck.
Following such daring adventures, it is advisable to stop by the Boulder Spa, whose chemical-free treatments are made from native plants foraged from the rainforest and bottled on site – a rather sweet detail that you might easily overlook thanks to the treatment rooms themselves, which are set amid natural boulders, a flowing river and waterfall pool being the pièce de résistance.
There is no official menu at Waterfall Restaurant; wild edible plants sustainably foraged each day from the forest provide key inspiration, and accompany the best quality meat and seafood available (mud crabs, in particular, are a local delicacy). The Executive Chef invites guests to accompany them on these forages to learn the secrets of his expertise.
Sustainability as paramount
The grandeur of the camp is achieved in partnership with the Wildlife Alliance, a non-profit organisation whose work includes catching poachers and illegal loggers. The concept endeavours not only to conserve and protect threatened wildlands, but also to create new and sustainable opportunities for the people that traditionally call these lands home.
“A proportion of the daily room rate from all Shinta Mani Hotels is donated to the non-profit Shinta Mani Foundation, who work tirelessly to support health, education and development programs for the less fortunate in the community,” General Manager, Sangjay Choegyal explained. “For Shinta Mani Wild – Bensley Collection, the Foundation will be spearheading the conservation and community outreach programs, including the provision of long-term employment opportunity to the local inhabitants where there is minimal infrastructure and fewer work opportunities.”
If you go…
Rates start from US1,900 per night and are inclusive of all food and beverage, activities, spa treatments and land transfers from Phnom Penh or Sihanoukville airports. There is a three-night minimum stay requirement and an age limit of no younger than 13 years.