I was more than ready for a holiday; but I didn’t exactly have a definite place in mind. I had been hearing a lot about Responsible Tourism and Eco holidays lately and was definitely intrigued. So after a bit of web searching and asking around, I found something that fit the bill to a tee – the BASIS resort, and boy was it all that I had asked for.
The chain of resorts is part of the BASIS program; BASIS is an acronym for Bio Agriculture & Social Improvement Schemes. I had read up their website, and was fascinated by the amazing things being done there. Sustainability, hobby agriculture, waste water management, tailoring and art schools for local women and children; I wanted to be a part of it, if only for a short while.
And to be honest, I wanted to check out for myself if the “real Indian experience” slogan on the website was really true. What with all the gimmicks of mass tourism, this might have been just another tailor made Indian experience. With the intent to find out, and of course hoping to enjoy myself, I booked my stay in the resort as part of a group tour, packed my bags and got going.
Air Asia should give me frequent flier miles really! But yes they do offer the cheapest flights in India. So I took a flight from Bangalore to Kochi and a short flight later, there I was in God’s Own Country. The resort director, Theresa had told me that they would arrange a pick up if I would like. You could opt for that or ask them to book a bike for you, which we did – a 500 cc Royal Enfield Classic! It was a pleasant 2 hour journey, and I couldn’t get enough of the lush greenery and the well maintained roads.
Home Base – Sreekandamangalam
BASIS is a group of three resorts, one in Sreekandamangalam, the second in Kumily, and the beach resort in Thaikkal. First stop was Sreekandamangalam, and it was much better than I had imagined it to be. I was greeted by the hostess Leelamony, and instantly became part of her family.
Every nook and cranny of the resort was a lesson in sustainability; the aesthetically designed and naturally ventilated rooms that were a cool haven from the hot weather outside, the waste water treatment, the homegrown veggies in every meal, the genuine non commercialized efforts to help improve the local society, down to the bottled plants that were a lesson in upcycling. I am going to be writing a LOT more about those things you can be sure.
The ayurveda massages were absolutely unique. The massage studio was a well ventilated room right next to a stream. It was raining outside when I had my first session; listening to the pitter patter of rain on the terracotta roof, caressed by the cool breeze redolent with exotic flowers, and under the expert ministrations of Mallika, the masseuse – blissful would be an understatement!
I was a bit surprised that there was no intercom, but the hospitality was so impeccable that I never felt the lack of it.
The “BASIS Mountain” resort in Kumily was another treat. As promised in the itinerary, we were driven there quite comfortably, through winding roads and breathtaking scenery. There was where I met the host Matthew Moozhiyil. Such a larger than life personality I have never seen! He just envelops you in his energy; every time you speak with him, you are left zinging with the vibrancy and dynamism of someone completely dedicated to living life to the full. Giving back to nature what rightfully belongs to her is his role and mission in life and BASIS is his stage. You will be hearing much more about him too.
If Sreekandamangalam was a lesson in preservation of Nature, Kumily is a celebration of her triumphal progress. The beautiful landscaping, the wide open architectural design, the creative use of Nature’s best resources, the ayurveda nursery, and the constant development, all come together to create the pulse of the resort. You cannot help but be drawn into its energy.
The beach resort, oh the beach resort! Nature unleashed in all her glory; unbroken stretches of golden sand with no food stalls to mar her beauty, no steamer boats to break the rise and fall of her waves, no other sounds to disrupt her symphony, and no room for worries that can disrupt her harmony. I cannot begin to describe the absolute tranquility that is in offer at this place. Untouched by mass tourism, this beach resort is the real deal.
The Indian experience
I was intent on writing about how today’s tourism paints a very tailor made picture of what India really is; The stereotypical India is a view of the slums, or a bunch of exotic snake charmers and gypsies doling out folk songs, so I was prepared for the drama. No such thing here, fortunately. What guests saw was the real India, the India of progress, the India that proudly showed off the unparalleled beauty of its unique flora and fauna. Guests aren’t shown poor helpless country folk who beg for alms; what they see are the timid but strong men and women of the country who are working hard towards bettering their situation and who are proud of their achievements.
Preserving the true essence of what is in man and nature, while giving both the freedom to grow and evolve is what BASIS stands for; and being part of it, even for a while was a privilege! I really enjoyed my stay and would highly recommend it.