After a floating weekend on Allepey’s waters thanks to Spice Routes Luxury Houseboats, we set off for our next destination ,the eco resort Carmelia Haven in Thekkady. The drive from Alleppey took us about 4 hours through winding roads flanked by swaying coconut trees and rubber plantations.
Established in 1995, the resort stands about 23 km from Thekkady, a 45-minute drive along the Thekkady-Munnar road.This environment friendly resort offers distinct stay experiences and several activities to add adventure and variety to your memories.
Carmelia Haven spans across 55 acres of tea and cardamom plantations. Restful and spacious, we started to feel at home before we had even begun to unpack. Walking to our villa we passed by the pool, every bit as inviting as a pool after a long drive can possibly be.
OUR (NOT SO) HUMBLE ABODE!
We woke up the first morning to the sounds of some cheerful whistling right outside the door of our cottage. Turns out it was the Malabar Whistling Thrush, a native bird of the area with beautiful plumage. I could’ve sworn it was some happy morning person whistling on their morning walk.
The restaurant, Kolumban was a short walk from our villa, and serves local Kerala cuisine and limited north-Indian and continental fare.
We were treated to an elaborate lunch known as Saadya (Malayalam for banquet), which is the cornerstone of traditional Kerala dining experience. 28 different dishes are served as part of the Saadya, all vegetarian of course, so bring your biggest appetite to this one!
In the evening, we were accompanied by a local botanist as we took a stroll through the resort to familiarise ourselves with the local flora and some of the resort’s special features. One of which really stood out to me – the Treehouse.
An abode crafted out of trees and nestled high among them, the tree house has an ambience as snug as a blanket. Having treetops and parrots as neighbours is a one-of-kind experience. No wonder this was my favourite part of the resort. A wrap-around balcony provides guests in the treehouse an opportunity to experience every shade of green that one could possible imagine!
A short distance from the treehouse were located the villas with the Jacuzzis. With a private Jacuzzi, lawn and veranda, these villas offer the right mix of luxury and seclusion.
To make the experience eventful the resort offers a bunch of activities that centre on the uniqueness of the place.
Guided walks through plantations of cardamom, coffee and pepper gave me a first-hand experience of planting and plucking these crops.
A walk through their cardamom factory showed us the journey of the cardamom from being plucked at the plantation to being processed and packed for consumption.
The endless shades of green host several kinds of birds. Eagles, hornbills, owls, the Malabar Whistling Thrush, the Wayanad Laughing Thrush and the Large-billed Warbler are some of the locals out here.
On our second day, we drove to a sprawling cardamom plantation to meet the lovely owner and his family. After a warm welcome and a crash course on cardamom farming we were given a grand tour of the cardamom factory.
Soon we were inside a jeep, off-roading through a narrow dirt path and watching the plants pass by in a blur, sometimes dipping inside the jeep for a brief second. The uphill jeep drive was an unforgettable highlight of our stay and made for a great afternoon. A good number of thuds and turns later we parked on the rocks that cap the Kailasappura hill. From up here the views encompassed the 1,500 acres of plantations that the region is known for. One look at the views all around and it seemed well worth the trouble.
After all that off-roading, a spa session back at the resort seemed just the ticket. At Rithgeham, the resort’s Ayurvedic spa, personal attention and individualized treatments for guests are paramount. A detailed consultation with their Ayurveda expert precedes the sessions. Looking through the various Ayurvedic treatments on offer, I picked the foot massage. Shyamala, the masseuse, made sure my tired feet felt good as new within half an hour. If you have a few days here, the spa offers detailed packages customized to your requirements.
Organic vegetable gardens
This was one of the most impressive aspects of our Carmelia experience. About half of the resort’s grocery needs are met by the vegetable gardens on its premises. The chef and his assistants took us on a tour of these gardens and explained to us the intricacies and challenges of organic farming.
An alfresco dinner on our last night at Carmelia Haven was a great way to wrap up our stay at this beautiful place. A bonfire and many shared laughs later, it was time to leave. Next time you’re in Kerala, let a stay at Carmelia Haven refresh your senses and remind you of your connection with nature.
It came as no surprise to me when I later learnt that Carmelia Haven was the winner of the South Asian Travel Award for being South Asia’s leading hill resort.
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