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Australia's New Bubble Tents Provide the Ultimate Skygazing Experience

Date:2018-01-26 14:03       Source:edition.cnn.com       By:Natasha Dragun / CNN       View: 3214
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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.


Bubbletent Australia

(Photo by Natasha Dragun / CNN)

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

6 Saeed Sourati.jpg

No need to leave your bed for stargazing

(Photo by Saeed Sourati)

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

A certified International Dark Sky Reserve, the wilderness around Lake Tekapo on New Zealand's South Island is regarded as one of the world's top stargazing spots.

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


Private and spacious

(Photo by 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.

5 Natasha Dragun, CNN.jpg

The area

(Photo by Mayumi Iwasaki)

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

4 Mayumi Iwasaki.jpg

The tents are comfortable and well-equipped

(Photo by Natasha Dragun/CNN)

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.

3 Mayumi Iwasaki.jpg

The tents

(Photo by Mayumi Iwasaki)

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

1 Natasha Dragun, CNN.jpg

Bathe under the stars

Photo by Natasha Dragun / CNN

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.


Constellation-themed: Each of the transparent, inflatable, air-locked domes is named after a different constellation: Leo, Cancer and Virgo. Pictured is Cancer.

(Photo by Mayumi Iwasaki)

You can also visit the Astronomical Society of New South Wales, based in the nearby town of Illford. Meanwhile, sunshine-seekers can lace up hiking boots and explore tracks that lead straight down from the campsites.



(Source: edition.cnn.com)

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