Resort Review: Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate, Coorg in India
Deep inside lush green coffee plantations in Southern India, Kishore and Smita Iyengar luxuriate in the tranquil environs of the global award winning five star Evolve Back Luxury Resort in Coorg.
MISTY CLIMES AND PRIVILEGED TIMES
High up in the lush, viridian Nilgiris in south India is an enchanting hideaway. Through thick forests and profuse coffee and spice plantations as your SUV negotiates country terrain, you arrive at Sidapur up in the higher reaches. Coorg or (Kodagu in local lingo) is Karnataka’s own ‘Little Scotland’.
This exclusive hideaway originally named ‘Kodaimalenadu’ (forest on a steep hill) packs in just the right dose of rustic, unhurried country charm and pristine natural beauty. Canopied by thick evergreen cover of coffee and spice plantations on a 300 acre working estate is the award-winning Evolve Back Chikkana Halli Estate Luxury Resort -Coorg, crowned with the ‘Asia’s Responsible Tourism Award’ and ‘Asia’s leading Themed Resort’.
Established by the illustrious Ramapuram family as their 300-acre plantations-based eco-friendly haven, this world class salubrious getaway resort encapsulates the local hill tribe ethos in its unique elaborately designed luxuriously appointed theme cottages, water bodies and landscaped gardens. Our experiences were capped with surprises round every green bend.
Fringed by the tranquil Kaveri river and virgin forests, the Evolve Back Luxury Resort Coorg is a getaway into nature at her untouched best. Practicing responsible, eco-sensitive tourism, this premium resort is graced with environment-friendly architecture of natural light-washed traditional luxury Kodava home style cottages, villas and garden paths, hundreds of years old trees, plants, water bodies and a habitat of a thrilling, diverse bird population.
EXOTIC, EXCLUSIVE, EXCEPTIONAL
At Coorg, guests checking into the several plush villa accommodation styles are offered right from a traditional Kodava ceremonious musical welcome to health-boosting welcome drinks, artistically designed hill country cottages to enjoy and discover in the heart of tranquil and serene settings . Once they settle, they can look forward to delicious regional Kodava cuisine that’s unique to this region on the gastronomic platter and activities that rejuvenate with local verve.
Affable and gracious General Manager Ms Kanthi Aneesh welcomed us with true Kodava hospitality and presented their plush, premium Lilly Pool Villa, elaborating on the design, décor and comfort USPs.
But the resort goes beyond the clichés and typical trappings of a vacation hideaway one encounters in most destinations. Care and respect for the ecology and environment is pronounced in every nook and corner of their resort. Stately trees and plantation heritage are carefully nourished, nurtured and documented for demographic attention and posterity, flora and fauna form an integral element in the resort’s collaborative credo.
For the round-the-year nature-loving Indian and international visitors with repeat footfalls, both resorts offer truly unforgettable experiences that revolve around the environment. Ours was equally evocative and educative. Each cottage accommodation in Coorg is built in the traditional Kodava style with season-and-weather sensitive features.
INDIGENOUS ENVIRO-DESIGN AND IMPECCABLE DÉCOR
The luxury resort has several styles of villa accommodation, each urging unhurried indulgence to the hilt. Heritage Pool Villas, Lily Pool Villas, Lily Pool Cottages and Lily Pool Bungalows constitute the upper crust lifestyle haven.
The glorious Heritage Pool Villas are a repository of Kodava style cultural lifestyle, grace and endearing charm. Our spacious Kodava Style Heritage Private Pool Villa had charming bamboo screen ceilings, mahogany Burma teak columns, terracotta floors, sparkling hand-plastered white walls, period furniture and eco-friendly artworks.
The design and décor amplify the craftsmanship, regional architectural aesthetics and layout with a bracing internal courtyard, pleasing pool side and sit outs that still your mind.
The verdantly landscaped Lily Pool Villas reflect class and distinction with infinity pools with visiting birds overlooking paddy acres, a hay crowned luscious gazebo for romantic couples and spaciously contemporary living, dining and bedroom spaces that adulate with choicest hand woven Indian textiles and linen.
With sprawling turfed gardens, stately tree canopies, and Anthurium Garden, a quaint Coffee Museum, acres of lush aromatic spice and coffee plantations and green hectares redolent with fragrant blooms gracing griddle paths and walkways, the entire resort is a delightfully welcoming haven of calm and peace.
CUISINE LANDMARKS PAR EXCELLENCE
At the cheerful Granary, their all-day dining pad, global cuisine jostled with pride with delicious south and North Indian fare on the al la carte and buffet spreads.
Guests can look forward to delicious spreads of various cuisines helmed by experienced Executive Chef Navin and Executive Sous Chef Chandi, on the gastronomic platter.
We picked up the finest of piping hot fare from the chefing dishes –adding up the sojourn with a well chilled floral and lightly citrusy Chateau de Fontenille Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon from France, the wines glorious nectarine aromas and lingering palate a delight to savor.
That early evening we strolled into the cozy all wood-graced Planter’s Bar which regales with a distinctive planter’s ambiance and easy going interiors. The bartender brought us a fine Framingham Pinot Noir from Marlborough –New Zealand to begin with, the spicy and clove notes going onto well balanced acidity and lilting coffee after taste.
As we got into easy conversation with others in the bar, a smart Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite red blend from France was presented, the dry and remarkably musk and heather notes working up a superb leather and blackcurrant palate.
At the evocative traditional Indian gourmet destination Plantain Leaf…it was an unforgettable, four states South Indian Thali (large platter of balanced specialties) which offered us wonders like podimaas(spiced dry potatoes), Vendekkai (spiced okra), Kootu(snake gourd curry), Appams(fermented rice pancakes), Avial(spicy Kerala vegetables in coconut gravy), Paayasam (semolina dessert) and more.
The wine that made merry was a splendid Nederburg Winemasters’ Reserve Pinotage –South Africa with outstanding vanillin and wood aromas, balanced tannins and superb cigar box flavors.
International fine wining and dining at Peppercorn offered us grilled Continental and Indian cuisine off the skewers with accompanying goblets of two premium labels here – A marvelous Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec from Argentina that offered peppery and tobacco flavors and Zonin Ventiterre Merlot from Italy that was suave and silky on the palate, the well rounded wine doing well with oaky and burnt wood aromas.
‘By The Lake’ the outcrop deck romantic wining and dining landmark overlooking the resort’s own mirrored lake set the mood for us with candlelight glows. Grilled spicy Paneer and corn fritters walked in as our Barton & Guestier Cabernet Sauvignon from France made magic with leather and deep cedar wood notes. The extended dinner in chilled climes was crowned with a Frontera Merlot from Chile which complemented our Pesto Ravioli and cheese sauce and chicken in tomato gravy.
By the poolside, ‘Moonlight for Two’ is another exciting romantic dinner that makes your stay memorable at this five star haven with a customized menu paired with fine wines –A classy, rustic Zonin Nero D’Avola from Sicily, Italy adds verve with its distinctive burnt hay and cigar box notes, a lingering coffee and chocolate palate that stands out.
But one of our most unforgettable experiences was the ‘Kodava Twilight’, a distinguished Kodava (local specialties) dinner for us was colored with traditional Kodava fare of yummy Bamballoos Sukka (dry bamboo shoots), spicy green Pandhi Curry(Pork) to Kozhi Barthad(aromatic chicken). All accompanied with Nool Puttu (soft string rice noodles), Akki Roti (rice pancakes) and Kadamputtu (coarse rice balls with cardamom powder). Our accompanying wine was a super Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir from Germany, adding excitement with berry, ripe fruit and dusky flavors.
The highlight of our romantic celebration here was at The Machan, the elevated Treetop dining venue for couples amidst a lovely shady canopy and lake views, country lanterns illuminating our beaming countenances. Piping hot grills and barbecue delights from the elevated chef’s open air kitchen lit up our whispers with a well chosen– Two Oceans Shiraz from South Africa. The fine red wine paired smoothly with prune, cinnamon, roasted coffee and berry flavors. In the distance, a male elephant’s trumpet resonated in the silent night. The jungle was awake.
ANCIENT HOLISTIC HEALING
Vaidyasala –The Ayurveda Village in the resort offers excellent traditional Kerala Ayurvedic therapies that have proven effective and enormously beneficial. The Shirodhara treatment is absolutely rejuvenating with customized oils.
UP CLOSE WITH NATURE
At the Evolve Back Luxury Resort Coorg our early morning bird watching with experienced naturalists took us leisurely along the plantation acres, learning about the ecosystem, bird pedigrees, coffee and spice growth and cultivation.
Guided and free wheeling eco-walks also offered insights into the involvement of the resort in their environmentally productive practices like water conservation, waste management, vermi-composting, plant regeneration and energy conservation . Coracle rides on the Kaveri, a visit to an elephant camp and interacting with Kodava tribals in their homes (including a hearty, spicy lunch!) brought us close to the local flavors.
A mellow evening amidst the melody of birds on the overhangs, down plantation paths to a mirrored lake brought us to witness a fine mauve sunset. That evening we took in the irresistible flavors of well ground pure plantation coffee at their stilted colonial-styled, quaint Reading Lounge on stilts, overlooking lush green, misty paddy fields.
A group of the traditional Kodava tribe had come up to the resort to offer us an unforgettable evening of their warrior dance forms. Around a crackling log fire, we drank in the song-and-prance of deep blue jackets, smart brocaded headgear and weapons juxtaposed with merry rhythms.
The next morning as a cool early morning mist welcomed us, our bird watching walk brought us up close to our winged friends on wuthering heights , a kaleidoscope of color and heart-stirring, original bird song scores!
As we strolled around the resort, we came across local tribal folk tending plants and nurseries, coffee plantations, at restaurants, resort maintenance efforts and aiding in restoration efforts. One such cheery Kodava tribal in Coorg also invited us to visit her home in Madikeri (capital town of Coorg) where for on-coming festival sweets were being whipped up by her mother and grandmother!
INDIAN ETHOS, GLOBAL RECOGNITION
This typically India-centric getaway with global appeal has been consistently awarded nationally and globally since 2009 till date. It has been rated ‘25 World’s Best Ecolodges’ by National Geographic Traveler and winner of the World Legacy Awards Winner 2015.
The resort has won the prestigious ‘Earth Changers’ Award at the World Legacy Awards (WLA) by National Geographic in Berlin, Germany on 5th March, 2015.
The ‘Earth Changers’ Award “recognizes cutting edge global leadership in environmentally friendly business practices and green technology, from renewable energy and water conservation to zero-waste systems and carbon-emission reduction”. Feathers in the cap for Responsible and Sustainable Tourism.
Address: Karadigodu Post, Siddapura, Kodagu, Karnataka 571253, India
Phone: +91 80 4618 4444