Bubbletent Australia, the ultimate skygazing experience

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(CNN) — Australia has its fair share of memorable glamping experiences, but none quite as illuminating as the new Bubbletent retreat in New South Wales’ Capertee Valley.

Each of the three transparent, inflatable, air-locked dome tents is named after a different constellation: Leo, Cancer and Virgo. When the sun fades over the clifftop setting — 800 meters above the canyon floor and surrounded by wild, national parkland — you’ll understand why.

Nothing quite prepares you for the dazzling blanket of stars that unfolds here after dusk.

At first, there’s only Jupiter and Mars, but when complete darkness descends, it’s like someone has thrown glitter across the sky.

Coming from Sydney, Australia’s largest city, one or two stars in the night sky is an occasion to be celebrated.

But in the Capertee, you’re miles from anywhere. There’s no haze on the horizon — the result of fluorescent skyscrapers and buzzing streetlights. In fact, the only man-made light you’ll see is the occasional car headlight on a remote stretch of highway.

You won’t want the view to end when you go to bed — and fortunately it doesn’t have to. The nature of these tents means that the best outlook is, in fact, enjoyed when you pull on your pajamas, plump the pillows and lie back on the mattress.

The concept

No need to leave your bed for stargazing.

courtesy Saeed Sourati

Inspiration for the Bubbletent project was actually born in New Zealand.

It was here, completely dazzled by the Milky Way, that thirty-something actors Sonny Vrebac and Mayu Iwasaki dreamed up the concept for their Aussie Bubbletents.

“Other glamping experiences cover up your view — the stars essentially go to bed when you do. But what if you could be shielded from the elements and warm, and the stars stay with you all through the night?” asks Sonny, who came up with the catchy phrase, “Get out of your bubble and get into ours,” when launching the tents in October (Leo) and December (Cancer and Virgo) last year.

Looking to Europe, where a handful of similar back-to-nature camping experiences have popped up from Spain to Iceland, the duo began importing tents and searching for light-free settings for their Australian project.

The setting

The remote and secret location ensures privacy around each tent.

courtesy Mayumi Iwasaki

The exact location of your home for the night — near the tiny town of Running Creek, around 200 kilometers from Sydney — is not revealed until you pay your deposit. This keeps away the curious passersby who might ogle at you through the transparent “walls” of your tent.

That said, even if everyone knew the address they’d have trouble finding you. The forested cliff on a 1,000-acre working farm is just that far-flung.

“The property is remote, and there is so much space and privacy around each tent […] you could spend your whole stay walking around naked if you wanted to,” says Sonny.

From Sydney, the three-hour drive northwest takes you through the Blue Mountains, a dramatic union of steep cliffs and ancient eucalypt forest, waterfalls and historic villages. On the other side of the range is Running Creek, population 463, and from there you’re on unpaved roads through the privately owned cattle farm, home to curious sheep, cows and horses — don’t be surprised if you see ewes and lambs, aka “local lawnmowers,” filling up on the grass around your tent at sunrise.

Each tent has a different outlook, but all have views over the Capertee Valley — the second-largest canyon in the world, where sheer sandstone cliffs drop to a deep chasm carved into the environment over millions of years.

It’s also an Important Bird Area (IBA) and one of the top 50 birdwatching areas in the world, which means you may well spot an endangered regent honeyeater or peregrine falcon, or one of the 240 other species that come here to breed.

You’ll definitely be woken by a chorus of rainbow lorikeets — thankfully, binoculars are provided.

The facilities

Perched on platforms made from reclaimed wood sourced across the farm, the 3.5-square-meter tents are extremely comfortable. The double beds are just the right mix of soft-and-firm, there are plenty of pillows, throws are made from local wool and there are slippers and gowns for when you pad to the ensuite bathroom, which is in a self-contained pod and replete with a nifty sawdust-composting toilet and sink with pump water.

A few steps outside there’s also a shower fashioned from a watering can, set under a canopy of eucalypts.

Although the site is completely off-grid — which means anything plugged in runs on batteries or solar power, rainwater is harvested and biodegradable washing and cleaning products are used — it is also completely decked out with camping essentials.

Beside the patio with its own couches and chairs there’s a kitchenette neatly folded into Jenga-like boxes. You’ll find a gas stove, cups and crockery, plus a mini-fridge beneath the floorboards. There are also a few provisions, including hot chocolate and marshmallows to roast on sticks over the fire pit. All you need to do is BYO cheese, charcuterie and wine.

The latest tent to open was Virgo, the only bubble where you can bathe under the stars.

Set on the edge of the escarpment, the wood-fired tub is filled with fresh rainwater daily.

There’s nothing quite like taking an alfresco soak in the dark, the smell of a campfire smoke in the air, the hum of cicadas all around. Over at Cancer, there’s a broad day bed hanging from a tree, giving the illusion it’s floating over the valley below.

And at Leo, a couple of hammocks are strung between ancient eucalypt trees.

The experience

Sleeping past sunrise in a Bubbletent is a bit like setting your alarm clock to “sauna.”

As soon as the first rays of the day hit the transparent skin, you’re awake, even if you have made the most of the provided eye masks. As there’s not a lot of shade on site, the best thing to do is rise early and hit the road and explore this dreamy pocket of the state.

There’s plenty to keep you entertained nearby, from vineyard hopping in the Mudgee wine region, around 80 kilometers west, to scenic helicopter tours over the valley.

But be back at your tent by mid-afternoon, because the last few minutes of the day are a highlight of any stay.

As soon as the sun disappears, temperatures in the tents drop dramatically. It’s the perfect time to make the most of your dome’s incredible acoustics. Sonny and Mayu supply each site with UE Wonderboom Bluetooth speakers and iPads loaded with curated Spotify playlists.

Select “Ziggy Stardust” and turn up the volume.

The iPad should also be your first point of inspiration for stargazing, with the insightful Luminos app providing a wealth of information on the constellations overhead and tips on where to point your bubble’s telescope.

The future

“There are 88 constellations in the solar system,” says Sonny, hinting that there’s definitely scope for expanding the Bubbletent portfolio.

As the current trio of accommodations is adults only, there’s talk of adding small Bubbletent clusters to house families.

Mayu also mentions moving the concept to New Zealand: “Why not take it back to where it all started?”

2018-01-26 01:18:50

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