The travel industry is sometimes criticised by green activists for being wasteful. And at times, they’re right; the industry can put quite a bit of strain on the environment if you think about it: burning all that fuel to get around, oversized pools, manicured lawns, and 24x7 air conditioning. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. You can choose to take a vacation in a way that will soothe your eco-conscious conscience, too. Hotels and consumers are both getting smarter and becoming more aware of the concept of ecotourism. And they’ve also come to realise that you don’t need to give up on certain comforts just because you’re agreeing to go eco-friendly.
If you’re reading this and find yourself nodding along but think India is far behind in environmental friendliness and probably doesn’t have any eco-friendly resorts, think again. We have curated an exhaustive list of some of the most beautiful resorts in India and divided them zone-wise (Those who missed the first in the series, which chronicled all the loveliest eco resorts in South India, click here.) This time round, we bring to you, some of the best eco resorts in West and Central India:
I. Bhakti Kutir
Because Goa isn’t always about the parties
Where: Palolem, Goa
Best time to visit: Between November and March, when the weather is dry and cool and the sea is calm and clear.
We all know that North Goa is where you want to be if you are looking to party, but, if you are looking for some peace and quiet, South Goa is where you should go to. Bhakti Kutir is cradled between the coconut grooves of Palolem and Patnem. The property belongs to a couple, Panta and Ute Ferrao, who escaped corporate life in 1993 to build their eco-dream.
The resort has 22 back-to-nature cabanas, each distinct from the other. They have been built using local materials such as coconut wood, rice straw and bamboo. Over the years, the Ferraos have planted local plants, which have flourished, making the entire property beautifully lush.
The resort has adopted various measures to reduce power consumption as well, including the use of low-level lighting and using the heat generated by the fridges to dry foodstuff and linen. The toilets are all linked to a compost system and the resort’s wastewater is reused in the surrounding gardens, while fallen leaves cover paths to reduce water run-off.
Without a doubt, the most secretive, secluded getaway on the list
Where: North Goa
Best time to visit: Any time between November and March is a good time to pack your bags and head to Goa.
Located on a secluded strip of land that is accessible via a wooden footbridge, Elsewhere will definitely provide the isolation all city dwellers crave from time to time. This boutique property takes seclusion very seriously—it keeps its location a secret and only reveals it to you once you’ve confirmed your booking.
On this 500-yard stretch, with the Arabian Sea on one side and Otter Creek on the other three, you’ll find four traditional houses that are over a hundred years old but are equipped with modern conveniences. There are also creek-facing tents made of swathes of silk and draped canvas if you’d prefer to sleep outdoors. The four beach houses and three tents have been built using reclaimed material.
Elsewhere recycles and conserves its water and other resources, and employs locals to generate employment, which in turn benefits the local community.
III. Khaama Kethna Ecological Village
You may never want to leave South Goa’s only organic farm
Where: Agonda, Goa
Best time to visit: This is the third time we’re saying it, but the best time for Goa is between November and March when the town is still buzzing and the weather is good.
Situated in a jungle between Palolem and Uganda in South Goa, the Khaama Kethna Ecological Village is an eco-resort. Established in 2005 by a German couple on the only organic farm in South Goa, the aim behind this resort was to create a self-sufficient place that offers an alternative way of living: Khaama Kethna’s farm yields fresh fruit, cashews and herbs and all structures are made of bamboo, clay, stones and leaves.
For sleeping options, choose between bamboo huts and tree houses, depending on where you’d like to lay your head. Khaama Kethna also offers yoga, meditation and other forms of therapies, so take advantage of it.
IV. Khem Villas
Where spotting jungle cats from your room isn’t uncommon
Where: Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Best time to visit: Ranthambore National Park is only open to visitors from the 1st October to 30th June. Keep in mind that it’s easier to spot animals in the hotter, drier months as they flock to water bodies to drink. So, we suggest forgoing the comfort of winter and booking during the hotter months to make the most of your stay at Khem Villas.
Khem Villas is a family-owned boutique property on the fringes of the Ranthambore National Park. As a result, spotting jackals, jungle cats, hyenas, desert fox, and crocodiles near the camp is common.
At Khem Villas, you have three different choices for accommodation: cottages, tents and rooms, all of which are surrounded by lush gardens. The resort harnesses solar energy and has battery banks that store power—helping keep generator use to a minimum. The resort’s vegetables come from its gardens and it harvests rainwater for all water-related necessities. It has even managed to raise the area’s water table by nearly 25 feet.
While here, you can go on a customised safari, acquaint yourself with local arts and crafts, or enjoy a picnic lunch by the River Chambal.
V. Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort
Back to the basics
Where: Hodka, Bhuj, Gujarat
Best time to visit: The resort is only open from 1st October to 31st March.
The Shaam-e-Sarhad (Sunset at the Border) Resort was created as part of a Government of India and United Nations Development Program initiative to support rural tourism and create employment opportunities for locals in Hodka. Built by the local community, the resort consists of three bhungas and six tents, all with attached private bathrooms. The walls have been exquisitely decorated with mirror work, textiles and a range of local crafts. The resort itself is landscaped with local plant species, and most daily perishables are sourced from the village. During your stay, you will be able to immerse yourself in the culture of the Rabari, Meghwal and Maldhari communities.
If you feel like taking an excursion, make a trip to Chari Dhand for bird watching. Camel safaris and embroidery workshops can be enjoyed too. Don’t forget to visit the Nirona and the Than monasteries while you are there. After all, how often does one come across a Buddhist monastery in Gujarat?
VI. Wildernest Nature Resort
A side of Goa you’ve never seen before
Where: Chorla, Goa
Best time to visit: It is really your call, since the weather is almost always pleasant. Just don’t visit during the monsoon if you plan to hike.
Nestled in the Swapnagandha valley on the Goa-Karnataka border, amidst a thick expanse of forest tracts 2,625 ft. above sea level is the Wildernest Nature Resort. This resort has been built so that it overlooks the Vazra Falls and gives you a panoramic view of Goa. Set on over 450 acres of forested land, Wildernest is one of the most serene and beautiful nature resorts in India.
Each one of their 16 eco-cottages have been built in a rustic style and furnished with a bed, wardrobe and a private bathroom and veranda where you can enjoy the view of the surrounding forests. There is also a meditation centre where you can relax—the Ayurshala at the resort has been set up as part of their efforts to bring back the tradition of medicinal plants that is the very basis of Ayurveda.
Apart from bonfires, bird watching and nature walks, you can also go trekking. With over 140 species of birds such as the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and the Sunbird, Wildernest is a birdwatcher’s paradise.
VII. Kipling Camp
Where you can swim with an elephant
Where: Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Best time to visit: Kanha National Park is open to visitors between 15 October and 30 June. If you’re visiting for the birds, winter is best, as it’s migration season. If you’re visiting for the animals, follow the rule of thumb for wildlife parks and visit Kanha during the hotter months to increase your chances of successfully spotting a tiger.
Kipling Camp was established in 1982 at the edge of the park by conservationists, Anne and Bob Wright. The area where the cottages stand used to be bare farmland, which they converted into forest. Langurs and chital make regular appearances, and Tara, the camp’s resident elephant loves swimming in the river. You can join her, if you like.
Kipling Camp has 15 two-to-four-room cottages, each with its own veranda with a view of the surrounding forest. The property even has a water body that has been enlarged over the years and now acts as a catchment area for rainwater—remaining full even during severe drought. While you are here, make sure you go on at least one safari. If you are lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a mottled wood owl, flying squirrel, and of course, a tiger
VIII. Sarai at Toria
Sleep in a modern-day mud house
Where: Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Best time to visit: The Sarai shuts for the hottest part of the year—April to early autumn—and reopens in October two weeks before the Panna National Park.
The Sarai at Toria is a luxurious and eco-friendly lodge situated on the banks of river Ken just outside the Panna National Park and tiger reserve. This eco-lodge was set up by husband-wife duo Dr. Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen, who are wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists.
Accommodation is made up of eight independent cottages, each with attached bathrooms, verandas and private courtyards. They are constructed entirely out of mud and have thatched roofs, which help keep the room cool and removes the need for air conditioners. Chundawat and Van Gruisen’s main aim is to run an environmentally and socially responsible lodge that provides both comfort and indulgence. Keeping this in mind, they have equipped the house with solar panels that helps reduce the electricity consumption.
Spend time at any one of the numerous alfresco areas, soak up some of nature’s wonders within the grounds, or wander around the surrounding areas.
IX. Shergarh Tented Camp
Simplicity at its best
Where: Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Best time to visit: The camp is only open between August and May.
Run by a Parsi-British couple, Shergarh Tented Camp is set in the middle of a lush forest that is part of the Kanha National Park and is barely three kilometres away from the Mukki gate of Kanha National Park.
They work towards the conservation of wildlife and resources, reducing waste while contributing to society – all of which are demonstrated in their daily activities. From ensuring that the guests enjoy a typical village life to providing them with home-cooked organic meals, they strive to minimise the impact our lives have on the environment.
Shergarh has six units of luxury tents, each with a large front porch and attached bathroom. Every tent is placed under a roof made out of local, handmade baked mud tiles that help keep it cool during the summer and warm in winter. The camp also has a private water reserve flowing through it. Kanha is also great for bird watching and if you keep your eyes open, you may spot some of the local kingfishers, cormorants, and egrets.
X. Singinawa Jungle Lodge
Where: Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
Best Time To Visit: Between October to June, when Kanha National Park is open
Singinawa is a stylish, eco-friendly luxury jungle lodge located near Kanha’s Mukki gate. Spread over 55 acres of land, this resort has 12 cottages made out of stone and slate. Each of the houses has a large bedroom, private veranda, attached bath, fireplace, AC and refrigerator.
Until a few years ago, this property was nothing more than an overgrazed plot infested with weeds and garbage. But with a little help from the latest agricultural techniques, a large part of the land is in the process of regeneration and the area is slowly returning to its former glory.
Each of the 12 cottages offers its guests a stunning view of the forest. All buildings have double walls with a three-inch gap that ensures thermal and sound insulation and also helps reduce the cost of heating and cooling. A large part of the lodge’s energy needs are met through solar power, while most of the water requirement is met by rainwater harvesting.
While here, go on safari or visit nearby villages for a dose of local culture. Or, if you prefer, lounge by the swimming pool, at the spa, or even in the library.
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