Spice Village in Thekkady, Kerala, lies on the fringe of Periyar National Park. I’ve stayed here four times now and each time I do, my attachment grows stronger.
The CGH Earth Experience company owns and operates this resort. CGH stands for clean, green and healthy. They walk the talk and living these values has earned the company strong retention of their talented bank of human potential. The CGH team, in turn, seem to be the walking embodiment of the company’s ethos.
Though they meet thousands of travellers each year, I am always shocked upon my return that the people of CGH remember me. In fact, they not only remember me, they celebrate my return with joy like I’m a long lost family member. They say, “welcome back home again,” and usually make a cake for me and my guests. It’s like the resort is my home away from home in India and they are my long lost family. And what a home it is.
Behind the scenes
Perched on the edge of the Periyar National Park, everything about the resort is a reflection of this special ecology and the CGH company’s desire to preserve it. With a reverse osmosis water filtration system they’ve gotten rid of 45,000 plastic water bottles and 75 per cent of their electricity comes from solar panels on the property. There’s a vermicompost system that diverts about 400 kilos of food waste while providing organic nutrients for the vegetable and herb gardens.
When you pull into the tree-shaded drive, a low cream coloured clay bungalow serves as the welcome centre. Here you’ll be seated on a comfy cushion and greeted with a cool cloth and a welcome beverage. It’s a chance to erase your travels from your body and mind and slip into tranquility as you sip.
An escort host will guide you through the extensive grounds to your room. All of the rooms here are located in cream coloured clay walled huts with steep thatched roofs. The roofs are thatched in the traditional way by the local Mannan tribespeople and the walk through the rows of cabins is like touring an arboretum. The cabins are well-spaced and the flora and fauna between them are labelled so that you can get to know the indigenous species of Kerala.
On the walk to your cabin, you’ll pass a large pool with lounge chairs. There’s a billiards hall and bar that looks like a place Ernest Hemmingway or Humphrey Bogart would’ve liked to hang out. A terrace near it, is home to the famed 50 Mile Diet Restaurant and across the way on the other side of the pool is the large Main Dining Hall.
Once you’ve settled in, there’s a lot to do. Each evening there are Keralan classical dancers and live music in the performing arts area. There’s also a nightly cooking lesson in the cookery classroom on a veranda near the main dining hall. The resort generously shares the recipes demonstrated by email for those interested. And, of course, you get a piping hot bowl of what chef is creating. With the spices coming from the forests surrounding the resort, the taste is incomparable.
Each morning, you can gather at the yoga shala at the back of the property for an hour long class meant for all levels. Or, you can start and/or spend your day at the ayurvedic spa tucked in a quiet corner behind the main buildings. For more robust exercise there’s a large basketball court area.
For nature lovers, there’s a naturalist on duty to act as an interpreter and to set up activities for exploring the vast jungle surrounding the resort. You’ll find that naturalist in the Tiger Club and like most of the team he’s a local that was given the chance to advance here.
My favourite spot on the property is the huge organic garden. To find it, you walk to the top of the hill at the back of the property and slip through a small gateway. There’s a small group of gardeners working a patch of earth that’s several acres in size. The produce depends on the season but when I was last there, beans were climbing trellises, melons were heavy with ripeness and the squash patch was a riot of blossoms.
Executive Chef Jerry Matthew loves to visit the garden often. He comes to see what he and the culinary team can offer on their daily menus in the main dining hall and at the 50 Mile Diet Restaurant where everything served must truly come from within that radius.
With a tasteful shopping boutique also located on the property, one could quite happily not venture much further than the grounds of Spice Village. However, there are a lot of things to do in the area and you will definitely be close to all the action here.
Each time you do arrive back from your adventures, you will be welcomed to your home away from home with the utmost of sincerity. I can picture the faces of the team so clearly and I know if I have the good fortune to return, they will remember me. It feels like we are family. There’s not many places you can say that about. But that is what true hospitality is all about.
We’d like to thank the KTM Society and Travel XS for sponsoring our travel throughout South India and CGH Spice Village for their gracious hospitality during our Faces, Places and Plates stay in Kochi in 2016.
All words and photos are our own and were not shared with the sponsors before publication.
2 comments on “Spice Village – Thekkady”
I’m not that much of an internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road.
Namaskaram and thank you! That is very kind of you and we’ll keep posting! With gratitude, Karen and Pauli-Ann