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There are so many facets to the Coconut Lagoon experience. The heritage of the old fuedal villages of Malabar. The vast frolic of the Vembanad lake. The shimmering waters of the canals that criss-cross the property. Together, they become an experment in ecological living that remains startlingly different.
Water and history are the defining elements at Coconut Lagoon.
Fittingly, Coconut Lagoon can be reached only over the water. The great Vembanad lake, an inland sea that stretches clear across central Kerala, forms a breeze-laden watery highway. Your coach transfer happens via a generously clunky wooden boat with a little inboard motor (so as not to disturb the fishes). And the lobby, when you arrive, turns out to be a reconstructed 19th century mansion with a stone jetty attached. Your boat putters sedately through a narrow canal, its banks covered with flowers. Tiled-roof bungalows peer through the foliage. And with a reviving coconut cocktail in one hand, you step off the boat and up to the reception desk, all ready to check in.
Fuedal Kerala was a jigsaw of tiny states, principalities and landholdings, creating a unique culture, architecture and way of living.
It is this heritage that echoes in Coconut Lagoons dark timbers.
Until a few years ago, the old 'therawads' or family homes of the area were running to seed, the landed families scattered, the craftmen unable to make a living.
We wanted not only to perpetuate this slowly vanishing world, but to bring it alive for the contemporary traveller. Village craftspeople were invited to restore the work of their forefathers, to transport an ancient way of life to the shores of the Vembanad, and create an experience of ecological living that was shot through with the spirit of ancient Malabar.
We've tried our best to ensure that this spirit reflects in every structure. From the carved woods of the ceilings, to the brasswork on the doors, it's all faithful to a forgotten graciousness. Those with an eye for detail will find much to delight in. Sunlight filtering through the intricate fretwork of a roof shade. A gleaming of brass, a slash of cast iron, a preternaturally gleaming, polished wooden pillar.
One of the best ways to enjoy the lake is to take our sunset cruise, an hour-long idyll with flute accompaniment.
Those who like a bit of a walk can amble along to Philip Kutty's Farm, through lush paddy fields spotted with coconut groves. At the end of it all, you can get up close with organic farming, done the old-fashioned way.Or try a glass of refreshing palm toddy, a mildly alcoholic local tipple that should fortify you nicely for the walk back.
Water lovers might enjoy taking an oar- or punt-boat out on to the lake. Within minutes, you're in a watery universe, so quiet, you can hear your own blood pumping around your head.
The terminally sedate can borrow a rod and bait from the reception and spend their time just fishing in the canal, right outside their cottage. Or take up that time-honoured activity beloved of our guests: get a book from the bar library, then let it slip gently out of your hands as your hammock lulls you into dreamland.
Coconut Lagoon also plays host to some of the finest dancers, musicians and performers of traditional Keralan art forms (sorry, there's not a movie or a disco in sight, thank goodness). So you should try to catch an evening's show of Kathakali, Mohiniattam or Carnatic music.
You may find the rhythms unusual, the scales unfamiliar. But give it a few minutes, use your heart rather than your head, and you may be in for a near-spiritual experience.