For a designer known for exotic, super-luxurious resorts, designing Shinta Mani Wild is still as wild as it gets for Bill Bensley. “It’s nothing that I’ve ever done before. It’s everything I’ve dreamed about.”
For starters, it’ll be the first resort designed and owned by Bensley himself. Then, there’s his soaring ambition: building the resort (all luxuries included) to be completely self-sustaining, deep in the remote wilderness of Tmor Rung, Cambodia.
When it opens late this year, Shinta Mani Wild will become what Bensley describes as a “utopia of sustainability”. Think of the most splendid tented camps imaginable, yet making the lowest possible impact on the land. It’s an extreme exercise in ingenuity. Here, guests will feast on delicacies grown and rustled up from the surrounding land – Bensley is pioneering methods that will allow electricity and water to be completely self-generated, along with closed-circuit toilets being developed with Kohler.
All this to take you literally next door to some pretty spectacular nature. “In Southeast Asia, there’s still some very beautiful pockets of nature reserve,” he says.
Shinta Mani Wild is located between two national parks and along a beautiful river with three waterfalls; fortuitously, it’s also the migratory trail for abundant wildlife, which includes fishing cats, wild elephants, gibbons, gaurs, hornbills – you name it.
And, if Bensley’s reputation as the “king of luxury” is anything to go by, it’s defi nitely going to exceed your wildest expectations. Expect highmodernist tents “up on stilts” (so the animals can migrate safely below), with very minimalistic “solid, black interiors” set against the pristine beauty of Tmor Rung.
“You’ll have two butlers assigned to you, and your own vehicle to get to the most interesting places,” adds Bensley.
You’ll also be heartened to find a deeper cause at work. Shinta Mani, which means “good heart”, furthers Bensley’s existing eff orts to help the lives of the local people.
Case in point: He’s enabled local poachers to renounce their former life to become rangers on Shinta Mani Wild. Says Bensley: “I’m setting this up for the Cambodian people. I know this project is going to last a lot longer than me.”