WITH more and more of our guests returning for second and third visits we are now offering holidays in selected lodges and homestays IN other unspoilt areas of RURAL India.
GOA - Olaulim backyardS
Our favourite Goan retreat is Olaulim Backyards in north Goa. PIrkko and Savio Fernandes have planted their four individually designed and nicely spaced out cottages in large lush gardens on the edge of a beautiful stretch of river. All the cottages face out to the river: some right on the bank; two higher up with tree top and bird's eye views.
Food is home cooked and utterly delicious, a healthy mix of Goan and Portuguese with vast quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Pirkko is one of kindest people on this earth, Savio has a knack of making sure his guests have a drink in their hand seconds before they knew they wanted one and their two children Manu and Sameena are a delight.
There are canoes and kayaks; you can safely paddle off on your own, down the backwaters, and if you are feeling intrepid right down to the Mandovi itself. Savio will accompany you if you feel wary but they are very good about letting one look after oneself. There is a large swimming pool, though swimming in the river is dreamier by far - look out for otters! Bicycles are on hand and there is much to see and do around and about.
Olaulim is a one hour drive from Dabaolim airport or half an hour from Thivim railway station (the overnight train from Bombay is a lovely way to reach Goa).
We are not particularly beach inclined, feeling inland Goa offers more in the way of peace and beauty as well as more easily monitored ethical tourism. We do however have one nice, and ethical, beach place up our sleeve so please ask if that is what you'd like. Swimming in the Arabian sea and watching dolphins from the steps of your cottage is hard to beat.
KARNATAKA - OFF THE GRID FARM
Just over the border into Karnataka is another wonderful bolt-hole. Sylvia Kerkar (a renowned potter) and her husband John Pollard (who runs a white water rafting school) have an organic farm Off the Grid where they host guests either in stream side cottages, spacious teepees or a rooftop room on the main house.
Food is largely homegrown, with fantastic pizzas emerging from the pizza oven and fresh salads from the farm.
There is swimming in both the waterfall fed natural pool minutes from the house, and in the wide river a short and beautiful trek away. Walking in the area is spectacular, the western Ghats rolling away seemingly forever. Wildlife is abundant (last Christmas one of our guests met a sloth bear on a walk!) and the birding is glorious - the Asian fairy bluebird and white-bellied blue flycatcher two especially beautiful and regular visitors.
If arranged in advance you can take a pottery class with Sylvia.
Off the Grid is a two and half hour drive from Dabaolim airport; 35km from Londa railway station and 10 km from Castle Rock railway station.
Wayanad, Northern Kerala - FRINGEFORD
Our newest addition, and the most exciting of finds, Fringeford is a former coffee estate which has been allowed to return to thick jungle, already surrounded by deep primary forest. Ahmed Chamanwalla, its inspired owner, has turned his five hundred and twenty acres into a private nature reserve. Breathtaking views, stunning walks with the engaging and highly informed in-house naturalist, delicious local food; your time here will be a mix of energetic treks and delightful inactivity. There are just four rooms, all simply and beautifully furnished. The atmosphere here is relaxed and friendly. The bird and animal life is truly remarkable: many endemic bird species including the Wayanad Laughing Thrush and Malabar Trogon as well as much larger creatures including tigers and elephants.
Fringeford is a beautiful three hour drive from Calicut.