Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sleeping Below Water

The Aquatic Resort is Kerala's first and only underwater floating resort

Photo of S.K. Hari Arumugam, Managing Director of the Tirupur-based Poppys Group. Photo by Albin Mathew 

By Shevlin Sebastian

Linda B, 66, an American artist, has a confession to make. “Whenever I come to India, I cannot sleep properly,” she says. “Somehow, the beds have always been so uncomfortable.”

But, recently, she had spent time in Kerala's one and only underwater 'Aquatic Resort', and had the most peaceful night ever. “I went into a deep sleep,” she says. “The bed was so good. The ambience was peaceful and quiet.”

Linda was accompanied by her son-in-law Jose Joseph, who is a singer, wife Sarah and their four children – two boys and two girls – ranging in age from 8 to 16. “My kids had a great time, going fishing, swimming and cycling,” says Joseph. “And we had plenty of tasty seafood.”

The Aquatic is located in the backwater lagoon of Kumblanghi, a mere 7 kms from Kochi. “There are 10 cottages spread over 30 acres,” says S.K. Hari Arumugam, Managing Director of the Tirupur-based Poppys Group, which runs the resort.

Each cottage has a thatched roof and bamboo railings on the balcony. Inside, on three levels, there is a sitting room, with sofas, and a wall-mounted TV, a balcony and a bedroom, with an attached bathroom, all in an area of 700 sq. ft. But, amazingly, the bedroom is 4 feet below sea level. To reach it, you have to go down several steps. And when you look through the window, you can see the water's surface. “Because of safety regulations, we have not been able to install wall-length windows, as yet,” says Arumugam.

Nevertheless, the guests are happy. “The rooms are amazing,” says the Bangalore-based Dominique Francon. “Every one of them faces the sunset! And there are such beautiful sunsets!”

Each cottage is placed on a square ferro-cement block, with air pockets, which allows it to float on the water. “The cottages go up and down depending on the high and low tide, but, because of the cement base, you will not know it,” says Resort Director Tommy Joseph. “They can also be towed away to different locations. We also have a swimming pool which can also be moved about.”

Not surprisingly, most of the customers are from USA, Australia, South Africa, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. “We also get many Arabs who come to enjoy the rainy season,” says Arumugam. “For them, the rain is a joyous experience.”

The peak season is from October to March. Most people stay anywhere between one and four days. The tariff ranges from Rs 9,000 to Rs 15,000.

At the resort, guests are encouraged to go fishing. “Most of them catch a lot of fish,” says Rajesh Ravi Nair, resort manager. “And we make dishes like prawn masala and fried pearlspot fish for them.”

Other activities include a one-hour boat ride to see nearby villages. You can explore the countryside on cycles or scooters. “We also take guests to the Chellanam Harbour [10 kms away], where they can go on a boat to see dolphins swimming about,” says Nair. Other places to see include Fort Kochi [of Kochi Biennale fame] and Mattancherry.

The resort also has a one-day package, usually for locals. “If you come in the morning, you can do boating, and swimming, and we provide breakfast, lunch [an exclusive seafood menu], evening tea, and snacks at Rs 2500 per person,” says Nair.

And in order not to harm the environment, the resort has set up a sewage treatment plant. “Nothing is spoiled,” says Arumugam. “The recycled water is used to water the flowers and the lawns.”

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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