The Great Camp – Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Canada
With an eye for design, culinary daring and a clear adventurous streak, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort shows just how wild luxury can get
I’d been told bears could venture close to the tents so, hoping to spy one on its early morning wander, I rose before the sun, wrapped myself in blankets and nervously waited on my balcony turned hide. Having seen the damage one hirsute prowler had wreaked on the kitchen’s hardwood door, I knew an encounter could be interesting to say the least.
The dawning day was entrancing. Birdsong echoed from the green canopy above and eaglets called to soaring mothers. A nut-clutching chipmunk scurried past, huge eyes darting as it paused to protect its hoard. When hot drinks arrived at our tent-doors, human voices joined the gentle symphony as guests started their day, some heading to yoga, others simply lost in the setting. Nature was on the move but the bears remained elusive, presumably seeking berries high in the surrounding mountains. It could have been disappointing, but instead I felt profoundly content, my senses filled with the sights and sounds of this unspoilt area.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on the west coast of Vancouver Island is indeed a pristine hideaway. Open from May to September and reached by seaplane from Vancouver or nearby Tofino, it’s a tranquil place where comfort, indulgence and adventure meet. Nature here is all- encompassing and the environment is conserved and celebrated in style. This luxury eco-safari destination embraces the aesthetics of the ‘great camps’ of old where travel was glamorous, no matter the surroundings, with ornate decorations accompanying their stylish owners into the wild. Through innovative attention to detail Clayoquot has recreated this ambience. Silver cutlery and crystal glasses festoon tables covered in white linen, velvet sofas are gently lit by kerosene lanterns and travel chests tell tales of romantic journeys past. Even the chic, light- filled lounge, found in a converted shipping container, shares these flourishes. Perched over the Bedwell River, it is adorned with vintage furnishings and historical artefacts gathered from a decommissioned tug that once towed the Queen Mary. From the vessel’s wheel to the replica ship’s flooring, the feel is nautical yet homely. All the while its full-length windows vie for attention as life plays through them like a film, the location the obvious star. Crystal water laps below, the blue hue changing as the day progresses, eagles swoop and mountains flit in and out of shrouding clouds – mist, sun, wind and ram proving equally beautiful.
This love of design and detailing continues in the prospector-style accommodation tents which boast impossibly soft bedding, fluffy duvets and cedar dressing tables that are ideal repositories for travel essentials. This is glamping on a whole new level. 16 luxury ensuite tents have king beds, daybeds and full bathrooms complete with outdoor showers where steam swirls into the overhanging forest, making your morning ritual all the more magical. Nine deluxe and family tents offer queen or single beds and daybeds, with adjacent private showers and toilets. All come with views across the water (be it creek or sound) and into the forest that envelops you on all sides.
Guests’ needs are met in a meticulous yet unfussy manner and when surrounded by such effortless grandeur it is easy to forget you’re actually in the wild. There’s no pretence though and active wear and a child-like sense of discovery are wholeheartedly encouraged. Whether on the three, four or seven night package, knowledgeable guides lead you on the plethora of activities offered, their enthusiasm contagious as they talk of flora and fauna and the history of local First Nations people. Here environmental and cultural sensitivity is incredibly important.