Great Adventure

Cocooning in an African Safari Tent in the Texas Hill Country

by Darlene Fiske
Sinya Relaxing is easier when it's done in a hammock. All photos courtesy of Sinya on Lone Man Creek.

Safari at home? Why not? When burnout struck, one Austin woman sought refuge in an Africa-style tent safari close to home in Texas Hill Country. Ready, set, recharge.

Call it a midlife crisis. Call it empty nest syndrome. Burnout. Better yet, an “I can’t watch the news one minute more” moment. Everything seemed to be closing in all around me, and I felt claustrophobic, helpless, sad. So I decided to do something I’d never done before.

“What do you mean you’re going on a vacation all by yourself?”


“Where’s my invite?”

My friends had questions, but I was in search of answers – for me, not for them. I had needed to do some soul searching and decided to do it on a two-night a sojourn in the quiet boroughs of Texas Hill Country.

Since my journey would be a short one-hour drive from Austin to Wimberley, I decided to go see a play before checking in (or checking out – perspective is everything, right?). I caught The Importance of Being Earnest at the local theatre, hit a few boutiques on the town square. Feeling culturally enriched, I drove out to my destination: Sinya on Lone Man Creek, a secluded, uber-luxe African safari tent experience situated on five acres in Texas Hill Country. The one-bedroom, custom-designed tent was imported from South Africa and named for an orphaned baby elephant rescued by a wildlife trust in southeastern Kenya, and the elephant motif is abundant throughout the tent.

The fire pit.
A view of the treetops.
A few elephant details. Photos by Darlene Fiske.

A friend had told me about this place, and at first I was nervous to go by myself, but the property is gated, surrounded by trees. Owner Susan Weems Smith also lives on site, in a house far enough away to ensure solitude but also peace of mind that I wasn’t totally alone out here.

I was immediately wowed by the tent’s interiors – thoughtful, plush, soothing. If this is what safaris are like, sign me up. The bedroom and living areas are one big space, with a sofa in front of a large window; comfy throws and pillows; a coffee cart stocked with tea, coffee pods, a frother, honey, cinnamon, creamers, and hot chocolate; and a welcome bottle of champagne which I immediately popped and took down to a chair on a waterfront deck overlooked the creek.

My biggest decision the first night was whether to start a fire in the outdoor pit or soak in the hot tub under the dark skies. Option two won, and the outdoor shower after my soak got me prepped for a great night’s sleep. The bed’s fluff-ometer is off the charts. Six pillows, a duvet that feels like a cloud, and the softest sheets and blankets.

The hot tub on the deck.
The bedroom.
The bathroom.
The living room.

Much of my time was spent sitting cross-legged on a sofa in front of a large window looking down the cliff to Lone Man Creek, a beautiful, small waterway that is home to birds and an unusual white tree whose branches captivated me. They looked pained, all sharp angles in shooting directions, arthritic looking. I took a photo, but photos never do nature justice, do they? Someone else might be taken by a different rock or curve in the creek, but this was my retreat. And I’ve needed this break from civilization.

It was easy to get sucked into the vortex of comfort here. During the day, I relished logging work hours in the comfort of my tent, fueled by endless cups of espresso and a bath between emails and cocooning.

My chrysalis had formed, but I already needed to break free. Nature was calling my name. And I was hungry. I had packed provisions from home — bananas for breakfast, leftovers for dinner the first night, cucumbers and hummus for snacks — but today I yearned for something more substantial. I drove six miles into town to hike around Blue Hole, a natural swimming area with the crystal-clear water. Hugely popular in the summer, there was not a soul here on this chilly spring day. Afterwards, I landed at Longleaf Craft Kitchen + Bar for fried olives, lamb pappardelle, and a glass of syrah. It was a quaint, quiet spot and one of the few places open on Monday. The locals seemed to know a good thing, and I was happy for the discovery.

Back on safari that night, I cherished the comfort and quiet of my tent, lounging under the covers, listening to meditations and music and books on Audible, including Enchantment by Katherine May, who seemed to be reading my mind about the importance of self-care in a raging world that can seem out of control and empty.

The deck.
An aerial view of the safari tent and the fire pit.

I had found a solitary sanctuary at Sinya, but this would be an ideal getaway for couples, too, whether they need to reconnect with each other or just escape from life. Sinya offers a two-night couple’s retreat with massages, gourmet meals, and a therapy session.

I had been anxious about going away by myself. I’m a social butterfly who takes great joy in being around my friends and family. But I learned that I also need these moments to rest and reflect and just do nothing. What do you do when you have nothing to do? That’s the beauty of a solo trip: You’re not responsible to anyone except for yourself, and that’s as selfish as it is marvelous. Re-entry? It was no big deal. Especially now that I know I can always make my cocoon in the woods anytime I need to.

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