Is Shinta Mani Wild Asia’s wackiest luxury hotel?

Auriole Potter

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Auriole Potter has the ride of her life at Bill Bensley’s latest hotel in Cambodia

It’s not every hotel that offers its guests a choice of how to arrive. But at Shinta Mani Wild Cambodia, the choice is yours – from flying across the jungle canopy on the lodge’s zip wire or travelling on terra firma, in a 1960s army jeep, this unusual opening to a stay at the hotel gives new arrivals a hint of the unique experience that awaits. 

1960s army jeep, bespoke holidays cambodia

Timor river in Cambodia

Located deep in the jungle of the Cardamom National Park, Southeast Asia’s largest surviving rainforest, Shinta Mani Wild spreads out for 1.5km along the banks of the Timor River, ensuring that the sound of rushing water (a veritable torrent in rainy season), is a constant presence.  

Whichever arrival method you opt for, you’ll soon find yourself at Headquarters – the lodge’s central space where meals are held, and guests gather before heading off on the day’s activities. First up, you’ll be handed a signature margarita and encouraged to settle into the appropriately named Landing Bar, to learn more about what’s to come from General Manager, David Steyn. 

Shinta Mani Wild Cambodia
Shinta Mani Wild central space

On either side of HQ, 15 elaborate, extremely private ‘tents’ are situated at a safe distance from each other, following the course of the river. Each tent has the distinctive hallmarks of renowned architect Bill Bensley’s inimitable style – bold textiles, retro décor and quirky artistic touches. Claw-footed rolltop bathtubs are placed on the vast outdoor decks, minibars are clad in cowhide and the king size four-posters are surrounded by decadent furnishings. All individually themed and decorated, each tent bears the name of a famous birder, botanist or significant figure from Cambodia’s history

Dining is first class – in a league of its own – with a daily changing menu of three courses and two options for each. There’s never a dud choice, especially when you’re enjoying a private set-up above a waterfall or on the veranda of your tent.  

Dining is first class – in a league of its own – with a daily changing menu of three courses and two options for each. There’s never a dud choice, especially when you’re enjoying a private set-up above a waterfall or on the veranda of your tent.  

Breakfast, luxury hotels Cambodia
Breakfast, private set up, luxury holidays in Cambodia

The ‘all-you-can-eat’ concept applies here, not just to meals but in every other aspect of your trip, which goes a long way to explaining the not insignificant price tag. Once you’ve been back for your third spa treatment of the day, your bank balance is somehow a less pressing issue. 

The minimum three-night stay is just about enough to get a sense of what Wild is all about – but we suggest a night or two more. Activities and excursions here are nature and adventure focused. Delve deeper into the jungle with the anti-poaching patrol team, collecting snares and deterring potential miscreants. Float downstream on a custom-built expedition boat, traversing secret backwaters by kayak before enjoying a riverbank picnic. Forage the jungle with a reformed logger and learn how to live off Cambodia’s natural larder, bringing back your findings for use in the Chef’s 25km radius tasting dinner. The lodge itself is exceptional but what lies beyond is just as enticing. 

Days end with sundowners in a scenic spot – a dry, boulder-strewn riverbed or a hilltop with a sunset view. Here, delectable drinks are served from the side of a converted jeep and guests congregate to share stories of the day’s adventures and plot tomorrow’s itinerary. 

Ben Bensley and the Wild team have anchored the experience around their vision of sustainability and the lodge’s conservation and community ethos runs deep. To date, the team has released 165 animals, confiscated over 10,000 pieces of logging equipment and removed over 15,000 poaching snares and other apparatus. As a guest you are welcome to join in with their conservation efforts but if you’d prefer a more relaxing stay, you’ll be expertly catered for. This is a radical addition to Cambodia’s hospitality scene, which provides second-to-none luxury and makes a real difference.