COCONUT LAGOON, Kumarakom Backwaters
Coconut Lagoon IS an authentic experience of Kerala and its backwaters.
Coconut Lagoon Resort, Kumarakam is an attempt to capture the essence of the Kerala experience and then offer it in a unique setting. Nothing has been added that does not already belong. And if the comforts of life enter, they do so in a way that leaves the harmony around them undisturbed.
This is the reason why Condé Nast Traveller rated Coconut Lagoon among the 25 best getaways in the world. Do you have a moment? Then come with us. Lie in a hammock on this lakeshore, and allow your senses to posses you.
Before you is the great Vembanad lake, rippling under the vault of an impossibly large sky. Sunlight sparkles on her waters, tearing the reflection of a passing houseboat into crystal shards. Darter birds go about their fishy business. Your nostrils fill with scent- laden ozone. Peace? Of course there is peace here, but not silence. Silence is not nature’s way. And the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary next door is full of raucous neighbours. You sway a little, and the image changes
To a timber and tile mansion that seems to belong to this earth, but to another time. If you left the comfort of your hammock for a closer look, you’d see that it is an authentic reconstruction. Some of its timbers are 200 years old. They were moved here piece by piece, a legacy of the tharavads of old Kerala.
Notice the brass detail on the doors? The fretted woodwork on the verandah ceilings? This is the finesse of another age, brought back to life by the masters of a dying art. It shall be your home tonight.
The resort is reachable only over the water. It nestles along one shore of the Vembanad lake, a 175 square km. expanse stretching between the backwaters of Kerala and the sea. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you’ll arrive at dusk. When reds and golds and purples colour the sleepy waters and the only sounds are of gently lapping waves, mingled with your own rising breath. Lazily, the red roofs of Coconut Lagoon emerge from the palm shadows and, going a little way up a river mouth, you make a sharp turn that brings you right into our reception.
The reception area too, like the homes we mentioned earlier, is a living piece of Kerala history. It dates from 1860, the four-cornered open courtyard design an echo of times past. The entire mansion was painstakingly transplanted from the nearby village of Vaikom in 1993. Relax on the wooden swing before you check in, or wander about, sipping on a fresh coconut and soaking in the atmosphere.
You can choose from three kinds of accommodation at Coconut lagoon. The Heritage Bungalows are compact independent cottages, set in lush lawns along the canals.
The Heritage Mansions are larger, with an upper story defined by distinctive wooden ribs that resemble the sides of a boat. Most of these afford fine views of the lake. Beyond, on their own quiet section of lake front, are the Pool Villas. Peace and privacy combine here, with private pools, distinctive interiors and even your own little hammock, tied up front.
Take a closer look at any of the accommodations, and you’ll see the minute architectural details that make each of them distinctive. A trellis pattern here, a row of tiny brass knobs there, a rampant diety on a 200 year old columnno two houses are exactly the same. Of course, these old-world touches betray little of the conveniences that are found within. Air-conditioning, telephones, hot and cold water. All the comforts of a modern resort are yours to relish.
With one exception-television. Noisy channel surfing and nature just don’t belong together, as you’ll soon discover. (However, for die-hard CNN addicts, there is a set in the recreation room. May we impose on you to keep the volume low?).
We cannot pass on without mentioning the bathrooms. This crucial aspect of hotel living has been given a fresh twist at Coconut Lagoon. The bathrooms are open-roofed, echoing the outdoor facilities of traditional Kerala, but of course, incorporating every mod con.
So you can shower under the sheltering sky, yet in complete privacy. A true experience is something that must include the body, the mind and the spirit. At Coconut Lagoon, leisure involves all the three. If you’re the active type, you can take a canoe out into the backwaters and explore this fascinating world just like the locals do. Or go fishing with one of the simple bamboo poles the staff usually have. You can even take a crack at water skiing. Or the Ayurvada centre with the expert ayurvedic masseurs on hand to bring all aching muscles back into shape!
But perhaps you’d just like to slow your mental clock down a bit. May we suggest the free form pool? For all its size, it wasn’t created for potential Olympians! Rather, a relaxed game with a beach ball, followed by a leisurely backstroke, as you listen to the music wafting in from the classical concert on the lawns
Else, you could get a book from the library, only to let it slip from your hands as the languid afternoon settles on your eyelids
Later in the day, don’t miss the sunset cruise, in our own restored ‘kettuvallom’. These traditional barge boats of the backwaters have now been given a new life and luxury. So, adrift to the accompaniment of a flute, you can watch the sun descend into the shadows of the great Vembanad lake.
Would it be immodest to say that the cuisine at Coconut Lagoon is justly famous?
Paul McCartney (and Heather!) described the food as ‘perfect’. Of course, international restaurant guides have raved about it for years, so it’s always been a badly kept secret
Fort Cochin is the speciality seafood restaurant, where, among other delights is the ‘karimeen’, or pearl spot fish. Sample it curried or fried, and try to discover why it has such fanatical devotees.
Besides, a variety of shellfish, sea and river fish are served in local and international styles. As in all good food, freshness is the first rule. Fish jumps practically straight from the lagoon to the frying pan. Paddy is local and the same goes for the poultry, raised in neighboring farms
The aromas in the restaurant give you a preview of what’s to come. Steamed cinnamon leaf mingles with roast jaggery. Pumpkin leaves provide the top notes to a melody of grilling crayfish. The extensive buffet includes delicious vegetarian spreads, ranging from local classics (avial and kottu) to the exotic (drumstick and basil soup). You’ll find they combine splendidly with the red rice we always serve. It’s organically grown in our own paddy fields, and it’s really, really good for you.
Speaking of goodness, the menu also features Ayurvedic drinks and foods that have specific restorative, digestive or cooling effects. Give them a try, especially if you’ve overindulged a little at your previous meal!.
The restaurant building is built in the old ‘ettukettu’ style, two roomy courtyards with dozens of slender supporting pillars The space has been designed such that a constant, playful breeze dances attendance on diners. This is the oldest structure at Coconut lagoon.
To be in the midst of nature at Coconut Lagoon, you have to do nothing more than leave your room. Yet, for the more environmentally inclined, there are some fascinating distractions.
The Kumarakom Sanctuary is a bird-call away, across the Kavanar river. Numerous species include bitterns, brahminy kites, marsh harriers, several varieties of lake herons and of course, the darter, which seems to be everywhere at once.
THINGS TO DO :
Sunset cruise, Back water cruise, Visit Kumarakom bird sanctuary, Farm visit, ‘Learn to cook with spices’
The resort grounds are home to a profusion of tree species, including many ayurvedic and medicinal plants. Most of these are labelled, and taking children along for a walk on the grounds is a fine way to introduce them to the bounties of nature. Set back between the ayurveda centre and the paddy fields beyond is a little experiment of ours. A butterfly garden that on a sunny morning, becomes a tableau of flitting, floating, dancing colours.
The world of Coconut Lagoon is beautiful, yet fragile. Everywhere, you’ll see efforts at composting, recycling and waste management. The water treatment plant at the resort may not be as pretty as the tharavad bungalows, but it emerges from the same philosophy. Respect for the environment as well as the society and culture it has given birth to. Join us in a more sensitive approach to tourism, and see for yourself how your experiences are immeasurably enriched.
Private pool villa
Multi cuisine restaurant
Theyam – Bar
Regular doctors on call
Jan – Mar – cool, dry
April – May – Summer
June – August – Monsoon
Sept – Dec – pleasant, dry
NEAREST AIRPORT :
Cochin (Kochi) international airport
travel time – 120 mins
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