We were welcomed by the most beautiful whistles within the Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri resort in Coorg, which we realise belongs to a bird that even whistles back! We visit this eco-friendly luxury getaway near Bangalore, set in a verdant mountainous region, with all rooms enjoying green vistas
We wake up to the cheerful chirping of birds, heralding a beautiful sunrise over the green-capped hills – the sounds and the breathtaking views of dense green forests, stretching far below us, greet us through the large picture windows. We, literally, feel on top of the world!
As my eyes widen with pleasure at the visual treat, the aroma of fresh coffee, served at my bedside, tantalise my nostrils and slowly the realisation dawns on me that this is indeed apt reward for having endured last night’s arduous journey – a bumpy five-hour drive to Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri in Coorg from Bangalore, which is the nearest big airport to which you can fly direct from Dubai. What a relief it had been to be greeted on arrival at the lobby itself with a welcome cup of Bella Kaapi – the fragrant local coffee brew.
Coorg or Kodagu, famous for its fine coffee as well as spices, lies in Southern India’s densely forested mountainous region, which explains the difficult drive we had over the winding hill-roads. We are now in the midst of a living and breathing rainforest with our location offering expansive views of the landscape.
The district’s capital, Madikeri, has always been a popular summer getaway and, with the Vivanta by Taj opening here, it has become a new luxury option for discerning travellers.
The Taj property sprawls over 180 acres, perched 4,000 feet above sea level, taking full advantage of the breathtaking views offered by its location. The Reception area has a balcony without a roof or walls, allowing an almost 180 degree view of the stunning forest-covered valley below.
The architecture is as close to authentic Kodagu traditions as modernity allows, with Coorg-style structures, sloping roofs, carved wooden pillars and even the customary open-to-sky entrances – ‘mundu mane,’ the structural veil of kinle work, once surreptitiously used by prospective brides to check out eligible bachelors.
In some places you will even come across living spaces with fully-grown trees, retained intact, growing through the roof – a perfect example of how the eco-friendly design ensures luxury can co-exist with nature! And, at night, you are likely to see thousands of fireflies, scintillating outside the windows like brilliant stars, creating a surreal feeling.
There is no opulent five-star ostentation on show. Instead, the décor is deliberately kept understated throughout the hotel, with dark wood tones contrasted with light earthy hues, creating a soothing and relaxing colour scheme of muted colours and mud paints. Displaced soil and re-cycled wood, tiles and natural river-stones contribute to seamless and undisturbed natural settings, with no rock displaced and no hill levelled, but, instead, the complex was built and evolved over the natural lay-of-the-land as it had existed. The focus is always on the surroundings – the feel and colours of nature around the complex – with plenty of natural light thrown into the bargain.
Our suite is a Premium Indulgence Room that spreads out over 1400sq.ft. of lavishly furnished space, with a fireplace, day-bed seating and fully loaded with all contemporary fittings – international direct dialling, mini-bar, tea/coffee maker, satellite television and an intelligent home panel system. Picturesque Coorgi oil paintings adorn the walls. A stylish stone-clad bathroom beckons with its bathtub and invigorating rain shower. But it is the separate sitting area with panoramic views through the wide three-sided bay window that really captivates me. In fact, the vista and the flooding daylight make the room look even much larger.
The resort offers other accommodation – 63 units in all – ranging from Spacious Superior Charm Rooms and large Deluxe Delight Rooms to high-ceilinged, three-room Luxury Bliss Villas, each with a private balcony and a Plunge Pool with retractable roof; and even a massive 9,000sq.ft. Presidential Suite that has a separate dining room and living areas. All of them provide exhilarating views through full-height picture windows and all have quaint fireplaces.
We are told that when it gets cold during the monsoons and in winter the fireplace can be lit – that sounds romantic with visions of warming ourselves in front of a cosy fireplace after coming in from a chilly hike.
In fact, while we have been looking around, the weather has already changed – the cheerful sunrise has yielded to darkening clouds that threaten heavy rains, ruling out the outdoors, at least for some time, and so our attention turns to what can be done within the hotel.
There is a choice of in-house restaurants. For the health-conscious, Dew, the wellness restaurant, located in the lobby just above the Spa, offers an excellent, though limited, organic fare, with local produce used as much as possible. Nellaki, the Coorgi restaurant serves authentic traditional cuisine, including Kodagu-style chicken biriyani. Other options include Fern Tree, the evergreen multi-cuisine all-day diner, the Poolside Grill or the relaxing lounge at the Hive Bar.
If it weren’t for the rains there are plenty of things to do – a walk to the adjacent strawberry farm or through the organic herbal gardens; cycling or trekking through the woods; bird watching; slush sports; or even zip-lining and high rope courses. Indoors, there is a Pottery Course on offer but we let that pass. Even during the worst of rains, movement within the complex is facilitated, using the covered golf-carts that freely shuttle around.
We head for the Jiva Grande Spa that offers a host of rejuvenation options, including Ayurvedic treatments: a climate-controlled indoor swimming pool and another one out in the open woods, the Buddha Garden and natural springs. The 30,000sq.ft. spa sports eight private treatment rooms with their own steam and showers facilities, a relaxation deck, a wellness café and the signature Coorg experience – the wood-fired Gudda bath in an outdoor pavilion. Their detox tea proves delicious and their jasmine-infused oil is certainly very relaxing.
The resort’s website says, “Feel the Vivanta by Taj vibe as you find little surprises delighting you all the way during your stay. Lose yourself in paradise found.” That sums it up very neatly – we have to force ourselves to come away from that luxurious, yet natural, haven of green, vowing to be back for a longer stay.