A Down to Earth Experience

Spend a weekend at the Red Earth Kabini; cool-off under the stars in the open air Jacuzzi or go for the early morning safari and get close to nature. This resort makes for a sweet escape from the hullabaloo of city life, writes Shruti Menon

Getting There
It’s a four to five-hour drive from the city; we leave at 7 am from Koramangala via NICE road and reach by noon on a Saturday morning, stopping for a quick breakfast on the way. The drive is a smooth one, and traffic-free most of the way. The last 5 km can be a little bumpy as the resort is tucked away towards the interiors and the road is not fully paved. If you turn on the GPS you should have no problem in reaching.

 

First Impression

Very rustic (with modern comforts).Very natural. The name ‘Red Earth’ comes from the colour of the soil in this area. The resort is constructed based on a technique called ‘rammed earth construction’ where the soil is quite literally rammed, compressed and baked in the sun and used to build the cottages. Spread across 10 acres, there are 20 cottages in total, 10 each surrounding a waterbody. Every pathway is surrounded by a wide variety of close-growing fruit trees and flowering plants (nearly 350 species we’re told!) and one can spot butterflies whizzing around in their quest for nectar.The Kabini backwaters surround the property on three sides; the resort offers speed and motor boat rides.

In and Around

The rooms are charming and equipped with an AC, TV and a mini fridge, but we advise you to spend your time outdoors: take an evening stroll to the cycling tracks near the lake, go for a swim in the resort’s inviting swimming pool or get on a boat cruise. From bird-watching to elephant camp visits and cooking classes – there’s a lot to do on this property so don’t miss out! Experience village life, join a session of yoga and meditation,
visit the Buddhist monastery and the only tantric university in India (or so it is said) in Gurupura and even an ancient 1,600-year-old Shiva temple!

When it comes to food, the restaurant offers wholesome, organic food. Fish is caught fresh from the Kabini river and the milk comes from the nearby village. The resort does not have have industrial freezers and fridges so no recycled food. Artificial flavours are
avoided, along with tinned food. Vegetables and fruits are grown in the garden. Talk about farm-to-plate service! The local fish curries and beef fry are excellent and
it’s best to end the meal with some delicious payasam. At night, you could drop into Wetlands, the island bar and spend time drinking and playing at the snooker table.

The spa, Zvaasthi, which means ‘to breathe’, has highly trained therapists and uses organic products that are grown on the property. We tried the Abhyanga – a full body and head massage using Ayurvedic oils followed by a steam bath (this one’s great for stress relief and improving sleep) and also the Red Earth Luxury Signature Massage
that lasts for 90 minutes and includes a facial along with head and body massage (try this if you’re in the mood for some luxurious pampering!).

For the environment’s sake

Sustainable tourism is the key foundation that Red Earth was built on, with nearly 98% of the staff coming from the local community. The roofs of the cottages are made of bamboo mats produced by tribals of Wayanad; and elephant grass made by craftsmen from Tamil Nadu.The water used on the property goes to an STP plant, where it gets treated and comes back to the gardens through drip irrigation. There’s an apiary on site and you can buy delicious homemade honey from the gift shop, Mukti, which also houses products made by the village and tribal women. Says owner Rachel Ravi, “I would say we are near fully organic.  It is impossible in countries as big as ours to be fully organic. We use pesticides such as neem and nitrogen fixing plants that are actually weeds, to weed out other weeds. We grow lemongrass and other such plants all round our waterbodies. The oil extract is used in cleaning our premises instead of toxic chemicals. “Our pool uses French technology which helps us minimise chemicals. We have introduced specific marine life in the two in-house lakes, and they in turn control the insect population. The entire process has created rich bio-diversity within the property, such that it more or less takes care of itself!”

Must-do

Safaris – Red Earth offers three different safari experiences

Domankatte gate – land safari – 7 km from the resort (Manned by the Forest Department)

Nagarhole main gate – land safari – 55 km from the resort (Manned by the Forest Department)

JLR – land & boat safari – 22 km from the resort

(Manned by the Tourism Department)

We start our early morning safari at the Domankatte gate that leads to the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. The drive is over an hour long and the guide-conducted safari costs `1000 (approx) for each person. We see spectacular sights of the dancing peacock, woodpeckers, the Malabar giant squirrel, wild boars, spotted deer, barking deer and even elephants (we got to see an adorable calf real close!). What animals one gets to spot is entirely based on luck. We were told that earlier that week a tigress was spotted with her cubs – what a sight that would have been!

The Story

The property was started some time ago by Rachel and Ravi. Ravi is a specialist in gourmet coffee and Rachel is a documentary film-maker. The couple lived in Papua New Guinea before settling in Kabini. Rachel tells me how guests react to their experience at Red Earth. “We have had instances when kids have clung onto us, crying and not wanting to leave Red Earth.  I’d say there’s been no other accolade we could ask for! Generally people have been surprised to see an oasis of fruiting trees and flowers, filled with birds and butterflies. It’s a resort with a human touch and none of the clinical feel of a regular hospitality unit. Our people are all from the village and tribal community around us. The hospitality here is straight from the heart!”

What’s Up Loves: The private Jacuzzi that is attached to every cottage is a great place to unwind. Also the sky, clear and brimming with stars; and the quietude.

Open Air Jacuzzi

Address: Kabini, Badane Kuppe (Near Hosamalla), Kabini. Cost: `9,000 plus tax (for room only) per night & `12,000 plus tax (all-meal plan) per night Call: 8884733500, 7022264116

 

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