Spiralling up the hills, I craned my neck each time the car slowed down at the 14 hairpin bends, to glance at the cloud-speckled peaks in the distance. I wondered if there would be an equally beautiful view at the destination where I was headed to – The Tamara Kodai.
My first glimpse of newest luxury resort in Kodaikanal was of its imposing stone walls. The reception I received from the staff was one of the warmest, as I was taken in by their kindness and endeavour to put me at ease. The feeling was also imparted by the lobby, which is done up in an immensely cosy ambiance. Plush tan chesterfield sofas surround a fireplace on either side of the entrance. Grey stone walls with muted warm yellow lighting bring alive the colonial aura that the place is historically steeped in.
The absorbing history
The Tamara Kodai is a luxury heritage resort, the only one of its kind in Kodaikanal. It is the second property from Tamara Leisure Experiences Pvt Ltd. after The Tamara Coorg, which has been in operation since six years.
Built in the 1840s, the resort was originally the residence of a British judge called Mr Baynes, who sold it to a priest called Father Louis Cyr in 1860. In 1861, the cleric converted it into a retreat for the priests from St Joseph’s College in Nagapattinam. It was renamed La Providence.
The resort has preserved the old structure, where the remains of the arches of doors and windows are still seen. The pillars, windows, grilles, frames, have all been retained from the era, with slight touches given by the resort.
Exploring the haven
My room – one of the 44 luxury suites – was a sheer pleasure. It comes with 24 hour Wi-Fi connectivity, a 49” LED television, a mini-bar, and an in-room heater. Wooden floors and a host of rich, wooden furniture instantly warmed me to the charming atmosphere. The exquisite writing desk and chair caught my fancy and I lost my heart to it immediately. The colonial style furniture in the resort is made from plantation Teak imported from Indonesia. The resort also has eight Superior Luxury Suites and a Neelakurinji Suite. The suites offer spectacular views of the mist-laden hills from their balconies.
The resort lays emphasis on sustainability. The wooden floor panelling outside the suites is made of reclaimed wood from old sleeper coaches of Indian railways. The bathrooms are provided with reusable toiletry bottles of shampoo and body wash; while the cisterns use only 6 litres or less per flush. The campus harbours a rainwater harvesting facility of 36 lakh litres capacity. There are three greenhouses as well.
Facilities at The Tamara Kodai include two conference halls, named after the first two tribes who settled in Kodaikanal. The 1,700 sq. ft. Puliyan Hall can accommodate 200 people and can be used for weddings and business needs. The 365 sq. ft. Paliyan Hall is ideal for board meetings, team briefings, etc.
The resort provides two dining areas. Bistro 1845 is a French style à la carte bistro and bar. La Providence is the all-day dining restaurant, serving buffet and à la carte menu. It also has an outdoor deck. The area above the restaurant used to be a chapel, which has now been converted into a library cum-recreational space. It has a collection of classic Indian and Western literature, board games like chess and caroms, and a crèche for children.
The resort also boasts of the only swimming pool in Kodaikanal, and it is temperature controlled. The Levinge Lounge near the pool will be used for Yoga and they plan to introduce astronomical instruments where guests can indulge in stargazing, as it is the highest point in the area.
Out and about
The first day at The Tamara Kodai began with a trek to the Rainbow Forest. Led by Syed Mehaboob Aalam Kusugal, Manager Unique Guest Experience, the 2.5km long trail was replete with the bounty of the Western Ghats. The trek led to the breathtaking Rhino Nose Viewpoint from where the village of Vellagavi can be seen far away. The short trek turned out to be an educational walk as Syed regaled the trekkers with nuggets of Kodaikanal’s history and about the flora and fauna found in this part of the Western Ghats. Next was the trip to Berijam Lake. The 20-odd kilometre ride took us along the Madigatta Shola Forest and a few viewpoints.
Back at the resort for lunch, we were gratified by the sumptuous fare belted out from Executive Chef Dibya Ranjan Samal’s kitchen. A most delectable spread, it consisted of not just heavenly Indian cuisine but also encompassed exotic international tastes. The delightful dining experience continued at dinner.
Next morning began with a cycling expedition to Poombarai village. The picturesque ride was followed by a visit to Manavannoor, another stunning hamlet overrun by verdant meadows and lush rolling hills. The place also houses a sheep and rabbit farm.
We returned to the resort for some rest and relaxation, which was augmented by a reinvigorating session at The Elevation Spa. The spa area, which was the erstwhile resting quarters of the priests, has been converted into five fully equipped massage rooms including a couple’s room and a room for manicure and pedicure. Indulging in a 60 minute Deep Tissue therapy by my therapist Lucy was the ultimate way to wind up my immensely joyous stay at The Tamara Kodai.
The establishment is aware of its responsibilities towards the local community. “The first church was built in 1854 and its cemetery is in a bad shape. We have petitioned the Church of South India to allow us to restore the graves,” said Syed. The Tamara Kodai also promotes local artisans by displaying their products in their shop called ‘The Verandah’ inside the resort.
The first premier hotel in Kodaikanal, The Tamara Kodai has so much to offer. It not only caters to both international as well as local tourists, but is also experiencing heavy footfall from eager visitors from within Kodaikanal, who have awaited the coming up of this luxury experience. With the resort looking forward to the liquor license and live music, the place promises to become the reigning queen of ‘The Princess of Hill stations’.
How to reach
Address: #22, La Providence, St. Mary’s Road, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu – 624101
By air: Madurai (136km)
By train: Kodai Road (100km)
By road: Easily accessible from all major cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Coinbatore, Kochi