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India’s Unique Eco Resorts

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Food & Hospitality World checks out some of the country’s eco sensitive resorts known for their commitment to the environment and respect for local communities and their cultures

The Dune Eco Village & Spa, Puducherry

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The Dune Eco Village & Spa is an eco-friendly beach hotel located on 35 acres of untouched nature by the beach. Just a short drive away from Puducherry and Auroville, the property offers 55 uniquely designed bungalows fusing traditional and modern architecture.

No two bungalows are alike, and each one is uniquely designed and created by various artists, designers and architects from all around the world. Many of the bungalows are reclaimed from colonial houses, Chettinad palaces and Kerala planter’s mansions. The focus is on bringing together luxury, and pure natural living. The bungalows are fully equipped with solar water systems, low consumption bulbs and organic linen. Nature cooled rooms are eco friendly accommodation built with locally available materials. It is well ventilated for air circulation. For instance, located in the forest area are the Bamboo Houses with long palm tree leaf and casuarina wood roofs, open terraces and private gardens.

The property is based on the philosophy of organic living, nature and purity of mind, body and soul. The two restaurants serve healthy gourmet fusion food, prepared using organically farmed vegetables.

The spa offers Ayurvedic treatments, yoga and meditation as well as many alternative therapies including Watsu. In its endeavour to promote art, culture and education The Dune offers an Artist in Residence Programme providing work studios for artists from all around the world. It provides a peaceful studio and living space, set in nature, for artists to nurture their creative spirit. It is a meeting point for artists to live, meet, work and to explore the rich culture of south India. The management encourages the use of local resources and working with local craftsmen. Residences are available for one to three months in December, January and February and from June to August. The property also supports the activities of ‘Artyzan by Children Of The World India’, a charitable trust offering free tuition to underprivileged young adults.


SwaSwara, Gokarna

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SwaSwara by CGH Earth is located near Gokarna in Karnataka. ‘Swa’ in Sanskrit means ‘the self’, ‘Swara’ refers to sound. The 24 villas in the property nestled amidst rolling hills and lined by coconut palms are inspired by the homesteads, tradition and craft of the Uttara Karnataka region.

SwaSwara propounds the philosophy of preservation and reinvention. The property prides itself on being an active participant in the community and cultures that surround it. A third of the team members that manage the resort are drawn from the local community in and around Gokarna. The property raises awareness about the importance of keeping Om Beach clean and free from refuse and works with other businesses in the area, to maintain the fresh clean environs. Waste water is treated, recycled and used for the greens, flowers beds and farm at SwaSwara. Kitchen and solid wastes are cultured into bio gas that is used for cooking and also for creating organic fertilisers for the farm.

The property requests all guests to participate in preservation and careful use of resources, when using facilities. SwaSwara holidays offer nature trails, visits to other beaches, the village and its Thursday market. Guests can immerse themselves in yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, naturopathy and holistic cuisine inspired by Indian and global flavours. The kitchen chooses to borrow recipes from the local community, using locally grown ingredients and innovating on them, so guests enjoy earthy, wholesome food which is unique to the region.

The environment at SwaSwara is designed for holistic pursuits and experiences; hence offerings do not include leisure options for children. As a policy the guest profile is only adults. However, the property also welcomes young adults who have attained the age of 15 and want to join on a SwaSwara holiday.


Barefoot at Havelock, Havelock

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Set exclusively on the world famous Radhanagar Beach, amidst pristine tropical forests, Barefoot at Havelock is the flagship resort of the Barefoot Group. Chosen for its ‘back to nature’ connotations, the name ‘Barefoot’ reflects Barefoot at Havelock as an environment-friendly resort. The name also seeks to give a message of assurance to the guests: That they can ‘kick off their shoes’ and ‘go Barefoot’ at the resort.

The eco resort features 25 thatched tents, cottages and villas, with spacious interiors, modern amenities and ensuite bathrooms. Constructed using environmentally sensitive indigenous materials, Barefoot at Havelock boasts of being the first and only ecologically friendly resort in the Andaman Islands.

The Barefoot Group aims to promote responsible eco-tourism in greenfield areas in India by creating a network of ecologically and socially sustainable, low impact and high value resorts of international quality. The Andaman Islands have the potential to rank among the world’s top holiday destinations for beach holidays as well as for adventure tourism and eco tourism. The resort identifies that this potential must be fulfilled ensuring minimal disturbance to indigenous tribes and the environment and in a manner that provides opportunities to the residents of the islands to participate in planned development. The group has also established an environmental education centre on Havelock Island, which aims at educating the islanders on the ecology and importance of the marine environment and seeks their co-operation in upholding all environmental laws applicable to the area.

In an effort to reduce the number of plastic bottles, Barefoot has set up a reverse osmosis plant at the resort. The resort provides each guest with a fresh bottle of packaged mineral water and informs them that they can use the same bottle to take re-fills of the drinking water. Guests at the resort can also enroll for the Beach Clean-up Programme, an event that takes place every morning at Radhanager Beach. In conjunction with the staff, resort guests partake in this initiative and help keep the beach litter free.


Khem Villas, Ranthambore

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Khem Villas is a wilderness camp situated on the outskirts of Ranthambore, 13 km from Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. The jungle camp in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is designed to provide peace and tranquility within its luxurious and personal atmosphere. Efforts were made to plant indigenous trees and create small water bodies, which has converted the vast, open grassland into a natural habitat. Today, it is not uncommon to see jackals, jungle cats, hyenas, desert fox and crocodiles, within the grasslands and around the luxury campstead. It has also become a bird watcher’s paradise.

Accommodation options include cottages, rooms and tents. The accommodation here is environmentally sensitive and sound. Great pains have been taken to use locally sourced materials and skills. In F&B also, most ingredients are sourced from organic farms at the hotel. Even the milk is from the local farm where the cows are fed organic feed. The property offers vegetarian fare – a selection of Indian, Western and Oriental cuisine.

The activities include two jungle rides in the park every day, organised and run by the Forest Department. Another popular activity for guests is nature walks with trained guides. The resort has also started the Chambal River Safari. Khem Villas supports a seedling nursery that distributes tree saplings to local farmers to grow on their land so that they can have their own renewable supply of timber and fuel wood. The property also supports a small enterprise called ‘Dhok’ in an effort to encourage local women mainly belonging to Mogiya tribes. The owner of the property is Goverdhan Singh Rathore, the son of India’s famous Tiger Man, Fateh Singh Rathore. Goverdhan Singh Rathore is involved with NGOs like Prakratik, Ranthambhore Foundation and Tiger Watch providing healthcare, education, afforestation, dairy development, employment generation, monitoring of tigers and more importantly sustainable livelihoods.


Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga

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Located on the banks of the Diphlu River and overlooking the Kaziranga National Park, Diphlu River Lodge offers an exciting wilderness experience. It is an ideal destination for those seeking a unique communion with nature.

The property can accommodate 24 guests at a time. There are eight individual cottages and four semi-detached cottages. Special care has been taken to make use of local materials and artefacts. Diphlu River Lodge believes in responsible tourism and in giving back to the environment. This commitment is a real and visible part of the structure and functioning of Diphlu River Lodge. While the cottages and common areas are built with natural materials like bamboo and wood and the lodge is designed to blend seamlessly with its green surroundings. It is staffed mostly by local, tribal people and the interiors abound in local handicrafts and materials. The in-house team of weavers are responsible for all the woven objects in the lodge.

The property also grows its own organic rice, vegetables and mustard; guests will be able to see the crops growing within the lodge. Diphlu River Lodge recycles grey water and subscribes to a low light and noise policy.

Diphlu River Lodge is associated with the Ecotourism Society of India and is part of Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT). TOFT is a unique international campaign advocating and supporting responsible tourism as a way to save the tiger, India’s wildlife and its wilderness areas. The management also educates local communities on conservation of the environment and the preservation of endangered species.

The property has plenty to offer beyond wildlife viewing, with itineraries which can be customised to suit individual needs and interests. These activities range from Brahmaputra day cruise to dolphin boat safari, elephant bathing, rubber plantation walks and tea garden visit. Guests can also get an opportunity to get a glimpse into the homes and lives of the tribal peoples who inhabit the land. The lodge organises engaging trips to the homesteads of three different tribes in the area – Bodo, Mising and Karbi.


Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort, Kutch

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Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort is a unique resort, situated in Banni in the Hodka village of Kutch in Gujarat, surrounded by an area of impressive natural beauty, an ideal location to discover the captivating lands of Kutch. The resort is not just eco-friendly, but is recognised for its association with endogenous tourism. Designed in local style, and exquisitely decorated with mirror work, textiles and other local crafts, the Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort is a gateway to an authentic travel experience. The concept of the resort promotes local handicrafts, music, traditional food and lifestyle through endogenous tourism. It also gives an opportunity to the local people to control the process of tourism in their region. Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in India have partnered for the promotion of 31 such rural locations, under the Endogenous Tourism Project/ Rural Tourism Scheme, which aims to enable local communities introduce visitors to their art, craft, cultural and natural heritage. Shaam-e-Sarhad is built, owned, and managed by the Hodka community. Tourism could enable the community to improve the quality of their life by creating more livelihood options while also enabling them to conserve and further develop their unique culture.

Accommodation at Shaam-e-Sarhad is comfortable, simple and clean. The rooms are set up in local style and decorated with crafts of the area, providing an authentic atmosphere. The different accommodation options include: eco-friendly mud tents, family cottages, suite Bhungas and a standard Bhunga. The Bhungas are circular mud huts with sloping roofs, typical of the Banni region.

Banni boasts of rich and diverse faunal elements. While the seasonal wetlands have a large number of migratory waterfowls, the grasslands are home to many other wild animal species including the chinkara, wolf, houbara bustard and common cranes.


Banasura Hill Resort, Wayanad

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Banasura Hill Resort in Wayanad sprawls across a 35-acre eco-friendly farm, in the middle of a tropical forest blessed with exotic flora and fauna. Built using mud excavated from the site that it stands on, the resort is an example of rammed earth architecture, and a tribute to vernacular construction methods. Tribals from the nearby Kurichiya village played a significant role during the construction of the resort. Accommodation at this eco resort features earth rooms, suites, log hut, family suites and twin villas.

At Banasura, making optimal use of environmental resources, maintaining the ecological balance and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity is considered crucial. Thousands of Guadua bamboo saplings planted around the resort create a bio-fencing while improving the already pristine air quality. Vetiver grass planted in critical areas prevents soil erosion. The resort is involved in socially responsible operations. Socio-cultural identity of the local community is respected, with an aim to culturally sensitise guests through interaction with the local community. Guests are also encouraged to visit the nearby tribal villages, which helps in the exchange of knowledge and wisdom between visitors and local residents and in inculcating in the host community a sense of pride.

Banasura offers a variety of wildlife, nature, adventure and tribal experiences. Guests can wander through tea gardens situated within the property and explore the myriad forms of life in the lush tropical forests around the resort. A ten minute trek from the resort leads to scenic Banasura falls. Visitors can enjoy the nature while trekking up the Chembra Peak, one of the most famous trekking trails in Wayanad. Whereas, bird watchers can head to Pakshipathalam. Guide services are offered by the local community to help visitors discover the place to the optimum.


Kanha Village Eco Resort, Mandla

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Situated amidst serene and peaceful surroundings of the Boda Chhapri village near Khatia Kisli entrance gate in the buffer zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve, Kanha Village Eco Resort is a unique eco-friendly, semi luxury wildlife lodging facility. The property has been developed in ethnic style, with locally available bio degradable materials, keeping in mind the philosophy of sustainable and socially responsible tourism. The resort provides modern amenities in well furnished semi luxury mud cottages to cater to guests’ needs.

Kanha Village Eco Resort features mud cottages and rooms, designed to resemble local tribal homes, with facial designs on the walls giving the resort the look of a village as the name suggests. The resort consists of four separate and two twin cottages, Royal Kanha Eco Cottage; two Super Deluxe rooms; and eight standard air-cooled rooms.

The property employs and follows techniques that enable sustainable use of natural resource to minimise the impact on the fragile ecosystem by using recyclable materials. The resort also has an installed solar powered pathway lighting system, organic composting, rainwater harvesting and recycling of water. Local culture and traditions are seen with respect and by employing local youth, support is extended to them. The resort is adjacent to dense forest close to core area boundary, providing guests feel of a tribal village stay in the heart of Kanha forest landscape.

Sustainable use of resources is considered important here and the management ensures following of eco-friendly principles in the running of the resort. In this quest, guests are requested to try activities which can reduce pressure on the national park along with giving them a better experience of Kanha forest. These activities include bird watching in buffer zone, jungle walk, medicinal plantation conservation area visits, tribal village visits, trying local cuisines at villagers’ houses, yoga and meditation.

The resort has a filter plant and all water from kitchen, bath areas and splash pool is passed through it and re-used for plantations. It also has two separate sewage systems. Most of the trees at the accommodation are of ethnic species found in Kanha landscape.


Rainforest Retreat at Mojo Plantation, Kodagu

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Situated on a certified organic farm in the tropical montane rainforests of the Western Ghats of Kodagu district in Karnataka, The Rainforest Retreat at Mojo Plantation is an eco-lodge which combines eco-tourism with sustainable agriculture and environmental education. The property is surrounded by rolling hills and densely forested valleys.

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The eco-lodge consists of two deluxe cottages, set in a rustic surrounding of bamboo, banana, coffee, and orange plants and surrounded by a crystal clear stream; a Plantation Cottage, nestled 200 m inside the plantation; and two tents, set up near the Plantation Cottage overlooking a valley with fruit and cardamom plants. The property caters to environmentally conscious travellers who want to experience nature. Guests can experience biodiversity as they explore remote idyllic valleys and tropical forests or learn how coffee, cardamom, pepper, vanilla are sustainably cultivated under the shade of rainforest trees.

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The cottages are of eco-friendly design and construction and run on solar energy and meals are prepared using bio-gas from the property’s own bio-gas plant. The property aims to promote organic farming through revival of traditional practices such as panchkavya, biodynamic farming, permaculture or natural farming. Fallow spaces and tanks/ ponds within the cultivated areas have been incorporated, allowing creation of habitats that promote populations of a wide range of predatory species which keep the pest population under control. As a result, there is a good population of ants, spiders, wasps, dragonflies, frogs, lizards, snakes, and birds, all of which contribute to a diverse and healthy ecosystem. Animal husbandry is also done to provide manure to make compost for plants. Cow dung is also put through a biogas plant and the digested slurry is liquified and mixed with cow urine to make a liquid manure which is distributed through pipes, saving on manual labour.

Eco-tourism activities conducted here include Mojo Plantation tour, trekking, birdwatching and Dubare Elephant Camp.


Kalmatia Sangam Himalaya Resort, Almora

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Kalmatia Sangam Himalaya Resort is among the most unusual accommodations in Uttarakhand. Located on a 14 acre private estate, the resort is perched on a hilltop with spectacular mountain views. Kalmatia Sangam is home to diverse flora and fauna – cedars, cypresses, Himalayan oak, mimosa, wild cherry, rhododendron, pines, cactus, Himalayan herbs and wild flowers. The area is popular with a variety of indigenous and migratory birds with occasional visits from pine martens, foxes, porcupines, wild hares, jackals and the elusive leopard.

The resort has ten tastefully decorated stone cottages from where guests can enjoy mountain views. Built in British colonial style with Kumaoni influences, the cottages are named after birds found in the vicinity. Sangam Restaurant provides an elegant and comfortable dining experience – just a short distance from the cottages. Guests can soak in the breathtaking views from the sunny breakfast terrace, accompanied by the gentle sound of bird song, while enjoying freshly baked breads, cakes and muffins along with locally harvested fruit preserves and honey. Fresh herbs from the garden produce a number of exotic and indigenous flavours while organic vegetables are used from nearby villages, wherever possible.

Responsible tourism is one of the foundations of the resort. Many of the staff at Kalmatia Sangam worked on the site during construction and even today maintain and manage the resort. Provided with additional education and training, they take enormous pride in their work. The aim is to support the local community by providing employment and additional income, utilising services and produce from the local villages. The resort’s English speaking guides are from these villages and are well trained. With good knowledge of the local traditions, history, flora and fauna they introduce guests to their culture.

One of the major problems in the hills is acute water scarcity. Rain water harvesting takes care of the entire annual requirements of the resort. Recycling is strictly followed. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable garbage is separated, while all organic waste is composted.

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