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Staying At The Charming Hemingways Nairobi

Hemingways Nairobi

Arriving in a new country can be quite overwhelming, especially when you’ve heard mixed reviews about Kenyan hospitality all your life. But staying at the stylish and glamorous Hemingways Nairobi can change that forever! Welcome to our first Kenyan watering place, a ‘home away from home’ that prides in being one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Exceptional colonial-style facade surrounded by beautiful landscape

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Cozy safari-chic vibes

LOCATION

Set between Nairobi National Park and the foot of the Ngong Hills, Hemingways Nairobi is an exclusive boutique hotel far from the bustle of central Nairobi. Located in the peaceful and upscale suburbs of Karen, this plantation-style property is just 40 minutes away from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.


ROOMS

This all suite property houses 45 rooms strung out over several individual colonial-style buildings. On arrival, our personal butler Maxwell, checked us into the Grogan Suite. As the name suggests each room is addressed after a famous persona connected to Africa in some way. A British explorer, politician and entrepreneur – Ewart Grogan was head-over-heels in love with Gertrude Watt; but needed the approval of her beloved, skeptical and aristocratic stepfather. To prove his worth, Grogan set out on an epic quest to become the first person to walk the length of Africa. Black and white frames over the study table in the suite portray this very story. It’s like a piece history, etched into the walls of the room. Opulent features such as the four poster bed with Egyptian cotton sheets work quite the charm. Natural light floods each room through large windows that frame garden views.

Loungers and wicker chairs furnish the private balcony, making it the perfect spot to retire for the day. The spacious, high-ceiling rooms are elegantly furnished in contemporary-chic décor, echoing the classic look of East Africa’s 1920s safari era. Vaulted timber ceilings and touches of gleaming brass add to the luxurious design while natural, earthy tones create sophisticated glamour. There is a mini-bar, a walk-in closet, and a television set that secretly seems to appear from a treasure trunk. Gleaming en suite bathroom adorned with hand-cut marble; complete with beautiful oval bathtub make for sensual sanctuary for the body and mind.

Tip: The stairs and the walking distance from the reception to the rooms can be quite taxing for older guests. While making your reservation, request for a room closer to the main building. Families with kids and lots of luggage – no need to fret. Their golf-cart service will come to the rescue.

 

Hemingways Nairobi

When in doubt, chill out

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Why limit happy to an hour when you have a minibar!

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Soak your troubles away

 

Hemingways Nairobi

All I want is a room with a view

DINING

The Dining Room serves delectable cuisine from the hotel’s Michelin-starred chef, Barry Tonks. Barry’s culinary creations have placed Hemingways on Africa’s gourmet food map. Expect contemporary European-styled dishes with a modern flair that suits every palate. Be it breakfast, lunch or dinner the service is on point.

The décor is Hollywood-meets-Africa, with iconic movie posters and quotes lining the walls. Known for the best steaks in Kenya and equally incredible eggs Benedict, the elegant Brasserie promises a sublime eating experience. Feast on fresh seafood flown in daily from the Indian Ocean’s early morning catches and be sure to try the chef’s signature “Moto Moto” – Marinated Swahili Prawns.

Tip: With not too many options to eat around Karen, the Brasserie gets fully occupied, especially during weekends. We recommend you reserve a table as soon as you check in.

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Thought provoking quotes that fill that walls of the restaurant

 

Hemingways Nairobi

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Perfect breakfast = eggs benny

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Chef’s signature dish – Moto Moto

FACILITIES

With communal relaxation areas including a brasserie, an open wine cellar, a plush bar and a swimming pool with sundeck; Hemingways Nairobi is known for spoiling you rotten. The much-admired personal butler service sets this hotel apart from other luxury establishments – what greater indulgence can be offered than a personal assistant to take care of anything from your morning wake up call to packing your bags and arranging a private dining experience in your suite?

Indulge your senses with exotic treatments at the Spa where therapists and professional stylists soothe away any long haul stress before you explore the sights and sounds of Kenya. As if that wasn’t enough one can sit back and relax on the bar terrace and take in the views of the Ngong Hills while savoring that Single Malt and a cigar.

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Butler Maxwell tempting Prashanth with the Chef’s special menu

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Sophisticated Bar

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Chesterfield leather sofas on fine Italian marble = interior goals

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Life’s better by the poolside

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Moroccan themed spa treatment rooms

 

Hemingways Nairobi

Open terrace bar to enjoy a sundowner

EXPERIENCES

The utterly unique Nairobi National Park – offering authentic big game viewing with a city skyline – lies just a few minutes away, while the Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre and Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage are also nearby.

Afternoon tea is taken very seriously at Hemingways Nairobi. Out comes the cake stand at 3 o’clock, burgeoning with handcrafted miniature cakes, gateaux opera, fruit delice, mini-éclairs and fruit tartlets. Lavish your freshly baked scones, warm from the oven, with clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd. There is an exotic selection of teas and infusions to compliment your tasty treats; and why not add some fizz to your afternoon tea with a glass of sparkling Prosecco.

Tip: All the above experiences come at an additional cost. We recommend that you chart out your favorites for the day, so your butler can have it all organised accordingly.

 

giraffe centre nairobi

Making new friends at the Giraffe Centre

 

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Ideal for a pre or post safari stopover after or before a long-haul flight
  • Close to Nairobi’s top attractions such as the Giraffe Centre and the Elephant Orphanage
  • Stunning views of Ngong Hills
  • Luxurious spa and wellness centre that offers both French and custom designed treatments crafted from locally sourced ingredients
  • Michelin-star cuisine served in a Hollywood-themed restaurant
  • Personalized butler service and large suites with plenty of features

 

Hemingways Nairobi

That ‘Garden of Eden’ kinda feeling

 

Planning to stay at the Hemingways Nairobi? Let us know – we could hook you onto some great deals!

Disclaimer: We were guests of the Hemingways Nairobi. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

0 In Destinations

39 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Kenya

Lion Maasai Mara Safari

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to” – Rich Mullins.

It was this very quote and Prashanth’s passion for wildlife photography that inspired us to visit Kenya. I don’t think we’ve ever experienced such a successful wildlife safari. Spotting the Big 5 was a huge cross off our bucket list. Not to forget, witnessing all the different animals in their various habitats, kept us on edge of our seats. By the end of January 2018, we returned home with a repository full of captures that took us months of shortlisting and editing. So here it is – discover the wild surprises of Kenya, one image at a time with our giant photo story.

 

Majestic Elephants

You might already be overwhelmed with their enormous presence. But the extent of their size and intelligence may surprise you. African elephants are the only largest living land animanls with trunks. On average they are over 10 feet tall and can weigh upto 18,000 pounds. To sustain their enormous size they consume close to 50 gallons of water and 220 pounds of food a day.  Throughout their lives migrating from place to place, they remember the location of water sources along their migration routes. African elephants aren’t endangered like their Asian cousins. But did you know that elephants can’t jump? Or that baby elephants lose their first set of teeth and tusks, just like humans?

Elephants amboseli safari kenya

Elephants eating their way through the open grasslands in Amboseli.

 

elephants amboseli safari kenya

It’s time to go home! Moving back to base at sunset, closer to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

 

elephant maasai mara safari kenya

A baby elephant abandoned by it’s mother, looking for food.

 

elephants maasai mara safari kenya

They use their trunks to fight and also show affection. What do you think is the case here?

 

Shaggy Waterbucks

These sub-Saharan gregarious antelopes are grazers that are highly dependent on water. They cannot tolerate dehydration; hence they inhabit grasslands or scrub areas that are close to rivers or other sources of water. The rump has a characteristic white ring, while their large rounded ears are a prominent feature.  The male waterbuck has a unique ability to secrete an oily liquid that makes its coat waterproof while it enters a waterbody. It also puts off predators with its noxious odour, while making itself attractive to the female of the species. Now that’s a perfume a man should invest in!

waterbuck amboseli safari kenya

What you looking at, mate?

 

waterbuck lake nakuru safari kenya

Well rounded ears = great listeners

 

Conspicuous Grey Crowned Cranes

The Endangered Grey Crowned Crane is a monogamous species that mates for life.  These pedantically walking birds put up quite a show, making them a photographer’s delight. Did you know –  that these cranes are the the national bird of Uganda and over the past four decades, it’s population has plummeted by 80%! So now is your best chance to see them in the wild.

grey crowned crane amboseli safari kenya

That’s one cool looking mohawk!

 

grey crowned crane amboseli safari kenya

Nobody likes a show off; but with the grey crowned crane it’s different.

 

Cunning Hyenas

Hyenas are crafty killers, especially when they are hungry. They have a reputation as scavengers; but as we know it they can hunt and bring down prey far bigger than themselves, by using the strategy of the pack. And when they’re not hunting they indulge in another favourite past time – taking a dust bath.

hyena amboseli safari kenya

Never trust that smug face!

 

Mighty Rhinoceroses

There are five different species of rhinoceros, of which two are distinctly seen in Kenya. We were lucky to spot the black and white rhinos. Both are actually gray, so they are different not in color but in lip shape. Black rhinoceroses have a sort of attack-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude. When a rhino catches the scent of a human or anything else unfamiliar, it is likely to charge. White rhinoceroses graze on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground.

black rhino safari lake nakuru kenya

A female black rhino looking after her young one. Despite their fierce reputation they make attentive mothers.

 

white rhinoceros safari lake nakuru kenya

Do not disturb!

 

Tempestuous Cape Buffaloes

Like a tank it’s heavy and massive, measuring 7 feet from nose to tail. As herbivores, they can usually be found grazing in the open grasslands of the African savannas. A Cape buffalo is a deadly opponent – one sweep from it’s defense mechanism (black horns mounted squarely at the top of it’s head) could kill a lion. Like the elephant, the cape buffalo isn’t a predator. But when raged it becomes a terrifying force.

cape buffalo maasai mara safari kenya

Buffalo Soldiers

 

Towering Giraffes

No other creature on the planet is quite like the giraffe. Their high and long necks, powerful hearts and staccato sleeping style easily make them unique. A reticulated giraffe and a Rothschild’s giraffe are the two giraffe sub species widely seen in Kenya. Noted as the tallest land animals in the world, they can grow upto 18 feet tall. This exceptional height allows giraffes to eat leaves and buds from trees tops, unreachable by other animals. This also helps them to look out for predators and other oncoming dangers. Their strong muscular heart allows the body to defy gravity by pushing blood up it’s long neck and into it’s brain. Did you know that giraffes have the same number of neck bones as humans? And that number is only 7?

giraffe amboseli safari kenya

Aim high and get spotted.

 

giraffe lake nakuru safari kenya

Why fit in when you are born to stand out?

 

Striking Zebras

Zebras are born to run. It is a necessary ability for survival of the fittest. A healthy adult zebra can gallop at 40 miles per hour; just fast enough to out pace a lion or a leopard. For better protection they’ll often congregate in large herds, sometimes mixing with other grazing animals like wildebeest and other antelopes. Predators can get easily get confused by their sheer numbers running in tandem. It’s suggested that their stripes camouflage them to distract predators and also provide a way to identify individual herd members. No two sets of stripes are alike.

zebra amboseli safari kenya

Striking a pose!

 

zebra lake nakuru safari kenya

Celebrate those beautiful stripes as they’re uniquely you.

 

Deadly Lions

Lions are some of the most formidable creatures on the planet. Their impressive size and appetite, strong social cohesion and regal appearance make it clear, why they are considered king of the jungle. They have significant roars and can be heard upto 5 miles away. This allows them to claim their territories by communicating their presence to potential intruders. Known as they only cats that lives in prides; family units that can go upto 40 lions with usually one dominant male and sometimes 1-2 leading males. The rest of the pride’s adult members are females and are often related to each other. They give birth around the same time, which allows their cubs to nurse from multiple females. This may come to you as a surprise but lions are not the most successful hunters, but they do consume a lot of meat. Lionesses who are the primary hunters of a pride, only succeed in making a kill less than 30% of the time.

lioness lake nakuru safari kenya

If looks could kill!

 

lioness lake nakuru safari kneya

The lioness is not submissive. She merely lets you be king for as long as it pleases her.

 

lioness maasai mara safari kenya

What doesn’t kill me… better run!

 

lioness maasai mara safari kenya

Do not announce your every move.

 

lion hunt safari maasai mara kenya

Lions don’t dream of hunting. They just hunt.

 

Racy Cheetahs

You may already know that cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal. They can go from 0 – 60 mph in 3 secs. But did you know their tails play a crucial role in hunting? The tail acts like a rudder, allowing cheetahs to quickly change direction while running. It provides counter balance as they zig zag across grasslands during a chase. Relying on their exceptionally keen eyesight they primarily hunt by day. But they are also one of the few big cats that can’t roar. Instead they purr and chirp much like a house cat.

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Basking in the sun before they set out on their next chase.

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Take 5

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

Target established…

 

cheetahs maasai mara kenya safari

And missed! So close yet so far.

Stealthy Leopards

They’re fierce, fast and fur-ocious. Leopards are very solitary and spend most of their time alone. They each have their own territory, and leave scratches on trees, urine scent marks and poop to warn other leopards to stay away. These big cats have a varied diet and enjoy different kinds of grub. They eat bugs, fish, antelope, monkeys, rodents, deer…in fact, pretty much any prey that is available. These nocturnal beasts are skilled climbers too.

leopard maasai mara safari kenya

Even a leopard needs a break.

 

leopard maasai mara safari kenya

Camouflage at it’s best!

 

Graceful Gazelles

Gazelles are nimble and beautiful animals, with a variety of stripes and markings that accentuate their tan buff coats and white rumps. They also boast a impressive, ringed horns. These attributes make many gazelles attractive as game animals. Open plains make them visible to predators like cheetahs or wild dogs, but gazelles are fleet of foot.

gazelle amboseli kenya safari

Thomson’s Gazelles – do you sense something in the bushes?

 

gazelle amboseli kenya safari

What has four legs and flies? Answer – Grant’s Gazelle

 

gazelle maasai mara kenya safari

Too afraid to face the humans.

Slow & Steady Leopard Tortoise

Our maiden journey to Kenya allowed us discover and learn about the ‘the small five’. The Leopard Tortoise is certainly a fashionable creature that’s part of this group. They are named for their unique gold-and-black markings, which roughly resemble the rosette spots of a leopard. Often found grazing in solitary, they are exceptionally resilient, with incredibly hard shells and can climb, swim, and live as long as 100 years. 

leopard tortoise amboseli kenya safari

We’ve never seen a leopard print we did’nt like.

Wading Herons

Herons are large, striking birds often spotted standing motionless at the water’s edge. Having found a suitable location, herons stand and wait patiently for the right moment to stab passing prey with their dagger-like beaks. They also wade through shallow water searching for small fish and amphibians.

heron amboseli kenya safari

Trying to fish, but no luck.

Radiant Lilac Breasted Rollers

One of the most gorgeous birds also makes Kenya’s national bird. These non-migratory birds are found widely in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Arabian Peninsula. It perches visibly at the top of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can easily catch sight of insects, lizards, rodents, scorpions etc. It is said that even their nests are as colourful and vibrant as them.

lilac breasted roller kenya safari

People will stare. Make it worth their while!

Loony Warthogs

With two tusks and large shovel-shaped heads, warthogs look fierce, but they often avoid fighting predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, or hyenas by running away or dodging into a burrow. Upon asking our guide and naturalist (Mr. Jackson) why Warthogs are called Pumba, his outright answer was pumba in Swahili means ‘stupid’ and they have been named that because of their silly, careless and foolish nature. Not sure if they are proud of it though. What do you think?

warthog amboseli safari kenya

Keep calm and hakuna matata!

 

Animated Baboons

There are five different species of baboons. All of them live in Africa or Asia. Like other old world monkeys, baboons do not have gripping tails. They spend much of their time on the ground, but they can climb trees to sleep, eat, or look out for trouble. Baboons are opportunistic eaters, fond of crops, and become destructive pests to many African farmers. They eat fruits, grasses, seeds, bark, and roots, but also have a taste for meat.

baboon lake nakuru kenya safari

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.

Sneaky Jackal

The black-backed jackal, a mammal about the size of a fox, eats a variety of prey including meerkats. It can cover tens of miles a day and has a sense of smell that’s 10,000 times more powerful than a human’s. Often known as ‘meal stealers’ jackals are sometimes far more cunning that hyenas.

jackal masai mara safari kenya

When the hyena kills, the jackal profits.

 

Lustrous Topis

The topi is a medium-sized antelope with a striking reddish-brown to purplish-red coat that is glossy, even iridescent in bright sunlight. To complete its singular appearance, the topi’s yellowish-tan legs look like they are encased in stockings. Their favorite habitat are flood plains, but they are sometimes found in dry areas of open savanna and park woodland, taking to the shade during the heat of the day. Topis are exceptionally gregarious and live in herds of 15 to 20. What’s unique about them is that both male and female topis like to rub their heads on the ground (to spread scent from facial glands), roll in earth and stir up mud with their horns. They smear mud on their bodies with their hooves. These herbivorous beings spend much of their life with other antelopes such as wildebeest, and with zebra and ostrich.

topi maasai mara safari kenya

Blue jeans and brown coat – now isn’t that a cool ensemble?

Migratory Wildebeests

The ungainly Gnu earned the Afrikaans name wildebeest for the menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard, and sharp, curved horns. The migration of wildebeests across the plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara is one of the oldest and last great land migrations on the planet. It is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth, involving up to 1.5 million wildebeests as well as hundreds of thousands of other animals, including zebra and gazelle.

wildebeest maasai mara kenya safari

I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and wasn’t happy – Ernest Hemingway

 

So what about you? Has any country ever captured your imagination as much as Kenya ours? Drop us a comment and let us know if you’re planning to go – we can surely help.

11 In Destinations/ Recommendations

How To Experience Kodaikanal Like An Insider

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Home is where one feels a sense of belonging, and the staff at Great Trails Kodaikanal by GRT Hotels offered us just that. Their warmth and hospitality didn’t terminate at the boundaries of the beautiful resort. Enabling us with a guide and a comfortable ride, they gave us a pore over of some of the most amazing sights and experiences known to locals alone. And for us travelling like a local is the real deal; because, that it the only way to take trips that matter and experience what any place has to truly offer! So, do yourself a favour and see Kodaikanal through the path less travelled. Skip Kodaikanal Lake, Bryant Park and the usual and choose from a variety of experiences curated by Great Trails Kodaikanal.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Aerial view of Great Trails Kodaikanal

The Great Trails Trek

I’m no early morning birdie, especially when someone suggests going on a trek. So I’m writing this segment purely from the eyes of Prashanth. The guided trek begins at 6 am from the resort and on your way up the hill you notice potato farms, lush green fields and local people heading to work. As you go along, the climb gets slightly steeper, offering you aerial views of the resort and private bungalows around. On reaching the view point (where the trek ends) you will be smitten with breathtaking views of Elephant valley. It’s a time-lapse galore for any photography enthusiast.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Potato farms along the way

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Morning birdies who made it for the trek along with our guide Mr. Bala

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Perks of the trek – stellar view!

 

Strawberry Farm Experience

And you thought Strawberries were only grown in Mahabaleshwar? Nah! High altitudes and cool climatic conditions in the hills of Kodai, actually offer the perfect environment to grow these luscious red berries. Hence, the GRT Group created their own strawberry farm located 30 mins away from the resort. They seized the opportunity of being the only ones to do it in this region and they didn’t just stop at that. The farm today also cultivates organic vegetables like broccoli, capsicum etc. When we visited the farm (end of July) there were a handful of strawberries to pick and the workers had just planted a fresh batch. So we got lucky to see the first step of cultivation, along with tasting the end product of this process.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

I would like to pick you!

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Going on a sweet adventure – that’s what newly planted strawberry plants look like

 

A treat for the eyes and tastebuds at Poombarai Village

A cluster of tiny houses married with lustrous green paddy fields, enveloped in clouds. This is one hell of a view you will get to witness on your ride from central Kodai to Mannavanur Eco Tourism site (with a slight detour of course). Poombarai village, located in the heart of Palani Hills is mainly famous for two things – Poondu (garlic) and Poombarai Kuzhanthai Velappar Temple, which is over 3000 years old. The people of this village are extremely friendly and the kids exude with innocence. The stash of garlic being sold on the roadside called out the curious foodaholics in us. They were unlike anything we’d seen. So robust and flavourful, we decided to buy a whole kilo and take it back home. We did put it to the test and Prashanth said “it was a catalyst in creating a smashing spaghetti aglio e olio.” Thumbs up for that!

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Now that’s one hell of a view – Poombarai village

 

poombarai village

Keep smiling kids. Happiness looks gorgeous on you’ll 🙂

 

Discover the unknown at Mannavanur Eco Tourism Site

What do you do when you are headed to a place you’ve never heard of, especially when it’s a government lead initiative? You mostly disregard it or hold very low expectations. But to our surprise the Mannavanur Eco Tourism site turned out to be a stunning hamlet comprising of five ecosystems. Unadulterated views of meadows and rolling hills instantly transported us back to hills of Scotland. The beauty of this place is so mesmerizing that you could sit here all day long not wanting to go back. The best part – hardly any tourists and you get to interact with horses, sheep and rabbits. The centers established here promote agro-tourism and offer you a chance to peek into their development programs.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

No, it’s not a movie set; It’s a picture perfect postcard from Mannavanur Eco site

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

This sheep decided to show off it’s individuality

 

Picnic on the banks of Lake Mannavanur

We’ve travelled long and far discovering so many lakes, but setting up a picnic spot in these serene locations never occurred to us. So when the folks at Great Trails Kodaikanal turned a picturesque location into a makeshift lunch spot, we couldn’t have asked for more. Imagine gorging on Biryani while you enjoy the vistas of Lake Mannavanur – just perfect! And once you’re done satisfying your appetite, you could give riding on a coracle a try too.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Happiness is sitting under a tree and looking at the sky through the leaves

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Staff of Great Trails Kodaikanal setting up our lunch spot

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Food tastes better by the lake

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Everyday is a picnic when you’re with friends

 

Explore Berijam Lake and it’s ecosystem

Berijam Lake is a scenic freshwater reservoir that is hidden amidst dense forests near the beautiful hill station of Kodaikanal. The area surrounding the Lake is rich in natural beauty and makes for a perfect photography haunt. Visitors can also take pictures of animals and birds, which are seen in the catchment area of this lake or the trail that leads to it. We spotted plenty of monkeys, bison and wild boars. The absence of sound and stunning landscape will surely have you coming back again. Located closer to Mannavanur Eco Tourism site, visitors are allowed through the forest to visit the Lake from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm on all days. Entry is free, but ensure you’ve applied for permission through the forest department. But if you are visiting under the booking with Great Trails Kodaikanal you have nothing to worry about. They will take care of it all.

Berijam Lake

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hands of man – Berijam Lake

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

The whole objective of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.

 

Planning a trip to Kodaikanal? Let us know if this helped. Also feel free to leave us a comment with your questions or doubts and we will do our best to make it as smooth for you as it was for us 🙂

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

 

2 In Destinations

All You Need To Know About The Great Trails Kodaikanal

Timber Chalet Great Trails Kodaikanal

You know it’s a window of happiness when it opens up to majestic mountain views and an emerald green landscape. Luckily we’ve found this heavenly abode at the gorgeous Great Trails Kodaikanal by GRT Hotels. Located in Kodaikanal, hailed as the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’, where hotels come a dime a dozen; Great Trails is a breath of fresh air!

Getting there

If you are looking to escape the hubbub of the city, then escaping to the hills is certainly a great idea! Thankfully, hilly retreats like Kodaikanal are just a short drive away and if you drop by the Great Trails, you can make a memorable trip out of it. After a three-hour drive from Madurai, via one of the country’s most scenic routes made special by impromptu animal visits and misty mountain views, we arrived at Great Trails Kodaikanal by GRT Hotels.

A verdant retreat

Spread over a 7 acre estate, the Great Trails is a rejuvenating haven set amidst the cloud capped hills of Kodaikanal. As we made our way to the resort, we noticed potato farms spread as far as the eye can see. A welcome adorned with warm smiles and a knockout welcome drink got us all animated. You’ll be greeted by cobbled pathways, that are lined with British style cottages. At regular intervals, you’ll also chance upon patches of colourful blooms, spots of greenery, and outdoor spaces where you can lounge or play.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Aerial view of Great Trails Kodaikanal

 

welcome drink Great Trails Kodaikanal

Passion punch on arrival

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Spots of blooms

Pop of wood

Futhermore, the rooms at Great Trails enhance your stay by offering majestic views of the towering mountains. Luxurious yet cozy, the Rock Cabins & Timber Chalets offer two unique lodging styles. We made the Timber Chalet our home for the weekend. Built from sustainable Indonesian wood, the room comes with floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing you to wake up to the beauty of nature. But even in the midst of this rustic landscape, the rooms have the luxuries of wifi and space heaters.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Timber Chalet interiors

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Floor-to-ceiling windows perfect to soak in unadulterated views

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Rock Cabin interiors

The art of entertaining

The rest of the property too has plenty to hold your interest. So if you thought you’d come and live a monk’s life here in Kodai, wait till you read this! In addition to a good deal of adventure sports and outdoor activities, Great Trails Kodaikanal also houses the longest Zipline in South India. Thrill seekers, it’s time to take a plunge into serenity.

From obstacle course challenges to endurance testing treks, they have it all. But if you are in no mood for heart racing games, opt for recreational activities like Table Tennis, Chess, Carrom etc. All in all, leave the planning to Activity Co-ordinator Mr. Bala and he will ensure that people of all ages are engaged, whether it’s walking on ropes or swinging rods in foosball. The best part, it doesn’t just end there. As the night gets younger, they create an atmosphere of merry making with a bonfire, barbecue and karaoke. Friday night done right, eh! 😉

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Outdoor games and activities

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Nights around the Bonfire are the best

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Chef Isrifil killing it with the barbecue

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Friendship is found in people who are just as funny as you

Comfort food at it’s best

Whistler’s Cafe, the resort’s main restaurant opens out to a large garden overlooking farmland and mountains, promising a meal with a view. The buffet at the restaurant is quite lavish for Kodai standards. Their scrumptious and extensive menu included South Indian and Italian favourites; from an authentic Podi Dosa to a fanciful Pasta Arrabiata. The Chefs at Whistler’s Cafe do nothing short of creating a hearty stock of goodness that lead me to my bed where I settled into a long snooze.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Eat well for breakfast and shine all day!

 

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Friends that eat together stay together

 

One crisp morning, with Prashanth still asleep, I stood on the veranda with only the mountains and the soft, distant chirping of birds for company. Warm and content, I felt enveloped in the immutable peace of Kodaikanal.

Great Trails Kodaikanal

Beautiful sights don’t ask for attention – View from our veranda

 

Planning a trip to Kodai? Click here to learn more about their latest offers. You could get upto 50% off on your stay! So what are you waiting for… Book now!

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

0 In Destinations

Why Valparai will be your most loved hill station in South India

Let me begin this post with a confession. Prashanth and I have always called ourselves offbeat travellers, as we more often than not travel and stay at some really unique places. However, when it came to planning that perfect hill station getaway we’d always settle for Ooty, Coonoor, Kodaikanal, Munnar etc. We must admit that we too had fallen prey for ‘highly marketed’ destinations, which today are being over consumed by the masses of India. Not that they are any less beautiful than how they are being projected. It’s just that they have become way too overcrowded for our liking. We would rather go some place where all we hear are the sounds of nature; far away from the noise of man. Hence, we decided to take a dear friend- Aditi’s recommendation and head to Valparai – the hidden gem of Tamil Nadu!

Overview

Valparai is set amidst the Anamalai mountain range. At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level it is home to some of India’s indigenous flora and fauna. Covered with tea plantations, dense forests, wild waterfalls and whispering streams; co-existing with barely any human settlement is what makes Valparai a charming hill station.

Always take the scenic route!

How to get there

The closet airport is Coimbatore airport that lies 120 kilometers away from Valparai. Thereafter, take a bus or drive to Valparai. This is a convenient and time saving option for those traveling from North India. If you are traveling from Cochin we recommend taking the Athirapally – Valparai route. You will pass through the gorgeous Athirapally waterfalls and reserve forests of Sholayar. And if you are traveling from Bangalore & Chennai then you must take the Pollachi – Valparai route. We’ve traveled to so many hill stations in South India, but amongst all the routes we’ve taken, this has by far been the most exhilarating and picturesque one! With 40 hairpin bends and hectares of plantation one can truly enjoy nature’s beauty and probably even sight a Nilgiri Tahr, like we did!

Nilgiri Tahr

Spotted these gorgeous Nilgiri Tahrs on our drive.

 

Valparai

Pitstops that call for hot lemon tea.

 

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Love road trips that lead to trying humble street side snacks such as this – sliced pineapple with chili, salt and lime (just for Rs. 10!)

Where to rest your head

From heritage bungalows to private estate houses, one can be spoilt for choice when considering a place to spend the night. We opted for the Wooden Chalets at Stanmore Bungalow, which is owned and managed by Briar Tea Bungalows. Today, going offline is the new luxury, and the art of doing nothing is exactly what we exercised at Stanmore Bungalow. We picked this place purely for the uninterrupted 360 degree views of the tea estates it offers from the porch of it’s wooden chalets. Whereas, the food and upkeep of the room was just above average.

Who wants to give up on society and live in a cabin? We sure do!

 

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Stanmore Bungalow

 

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Dinner room at Stanmore Bungalow.

Experiences

The range of nature and wildlife oriented activities they have on board is another reason to stay at Stanmore Bungalow. From trekking to tea tasting and from picnic luncheons to riverside walks, they have it all. Moreover, the resort Manager – Mr. Amar helped us in selecting an activity that suited our preference. He recommended the Injipara river and estate hike. Hiking through the tea estate and walking down the riverside sounded like the perfect thing to do on a gloomy afternoon. We will let our pictures do the talking 🙂

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Hiking up the tea estate.

 

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Beautiful landscaped vistas on our way to the Injipara river.

 

Why we like it

3 words – untouched, unexplored and pristine. Valparai offers one the opportunity to get lost in your surroundings, making it the perfect well-earned break. Exploring the hills, stumbling upon waterfalls, tea plantations and toytown villages merely compliments the grandeur of Valparai.

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You’re my perfect cup of tea! Grateful for mornings like these.

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Scenic panoramas straight out of our cabin porch

 

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Soaking it all in with a smile.

 Disclaimer: A wonderful collaboration with the good folks at Pollachi Papyrus and Woodbriar Group is what made this possible. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 
Note: Room rates for the wooden chalets at Stanmore Bungalow starts at Rs. 10,000 per night during peak season which is also inclusive of all meals. For Bookings please contact Mr. Pravin Shanmughanandam – +91 8344330416
0 In Destinations/ Recommendations

The Secret to Planning the Perfect Trip to Maldives

LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

From time to time we all need a little TLC. And if you are dreaming of Maldives for that perfect pick-me-up beach escape, then look no further! Our insider tips will not only enlighten you but will make that dream getaway possible.

 

Best Time to Visit Maldives

Located in the Indian ocean, the temperatures in Maldives consistently remain between 29 – 31 degree Celsius all year round. Hence, any month is a good time to visit Maldives! However, the prices of the resorts fluctuate with the seasons. The dry season (from November to April) is more expensive than the wet season (from May to October) with December to March being the most expensive and best time to visit Maldives. However, don’t get put off by traveling in the wet season, as resort tariffs drop by almost 30-40% during these months. The least you will experience are short showers that last for 1-2 hours or at most a sunny day followed by a night storm, which is pretty cool to watch.

LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron – magical sunsets like these only in Maldives!

 

Flights

There are frequent direct flights to Male International Airport from most destinations like India,  Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in South-East Asia. Air India, Spicejet and Sri Lankan Airlines offer fantastic frequency of flights from India to Male. It’s better to book your tickets at least 2 – 3 months in advance to secure a good price on your flights. If planned in advance you could pay as low as INR 16,000/USD 250 approx (Bengaluru to Male) for a return ticket!  Check Skyscanner for the best deals available when you want to fly.

Flight time from major destinations in India:

  1. Delhi to Male – 5 to 7 hours with 1 stop over
  2. Mumbai to Male – 4 to 6 hours with 1 stop over
  3. Kolkata to Male – 6 to 8 hours with 1 stop over
  4. Bengaluru to Male – 2 hours, non stop
  5. Chennai to Male – 2 hours, non stop

Flight time from major destinations outside India:

  1. New York – 18 to 23 hours with 1 or 2 stops
  2. London – 12 to 13 hours with 1 stop
  3. Tokyo – 12 to 15 hours with 1 stop
  4. Paris – 13 to 14 hours with 1 stop
  5. Singapore – 4 to 5 hours, non stop

 

Visa

To enter Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required. A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival for all Nationalities, provided, one possesses a valid passport with Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) – (standard ICAO Annex 9, chapter 3.10.1) and is valid for 6 months from the Date of Arrival. It is however recommended that you carry proof of your resort reservation and return flight details when passing through immigration. For more information click here.

 

Choosing the right Resort (for every kind of budget)

With over a 100+ luxury resorts, all situated on idyllic private islands, one of the most difficult things about visiting the Maldives is choosing one of the many resorts to stay at. Most of these resorts occupy its own island, where you’ll experience seclusion and intimacy.

Our recommendation is to first establish your budget. This will help you filter out amongst the many resorts. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, ask yourself if you would like to stay at a Beach Villa or an Overwater Villa. Our personal recommendation is to stay in an Overwater Villa for that ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, as it’s restricted to only 10-15 destinations around the world! Also nothing like having the luxury of stepping down from your villa right into the reef for a swim.

Your budget will also help you choose your meal plan. There’s Bed & Breakfast, Half Board, Full Board & All Inclusive. We recommend booking an All Inclusive package so that it covers all your meals, daily bottled water and unlimited alcohol. If you don’t fancy alcohol too much, opt for the Full Board/Half Board package and pay for drinks along the way. Be aware there’s no popping-to-a-local-restaurant for dinner; you’ll be dining in the resort so you might as well prepay for your meals. You should also consider choosing a resort based on the activities you are interested in; visiting local islands, diving, spa treatments or snorkeling to mention a few.

Maldives has always been associated with the rich and discerning travelers. So if you are a budget traveler, fret not! Check out this highly useful article by Conde Nast Traveller India that has listed some really nice Hotels and B&Bs in Maldives. It might not offer the luxuries of a Resort but experiencing the sea, sand and sun at such affordable prices is a luxury in itself.

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We could get used to living here – Romantic Pool Water Villa at LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

How to get to your Resort from Male

Now, this is where most people go wrong, especially the ones who try to book their stay online. Whether you are booking online or through a travel agent make sure your package includes transfers from Male to your Resort. Most often, all luxury Resorts offer speed boat or sea plane transfers depending on how far the island is from Male. Sea plane transfers are more expensive, however we chose to go with it as the thrill is just incomparable. If your hotel or resort does not provide transfers and you need to book it yourself – check out Trans Maldivian Airways for inter-island sea plane transfers. Sea plane transfers cost anywhere between USD 250 – 500 per person. Whereas, speed boat transfers from Male to most resorts cost anywhere between USD 30 – 100 per person.

LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

Seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airlines

 

Best Time to Visit Maldives to Spot Marine Life

Whale Sharks are year round residents to the Maldives… Yay! However that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a sighting. The Maldives, and in particular the South Ari Atoll, are a spot where male whale sharks spend a few of their formative years before moving on. Manta Rays are also year round residents of the Maldives, however they migrate around the area in line with the two seasons: December to April, they can be found on the Eastern side of the archipelago. May to November they are more likely to be found on the Western side. And even if you don’t spot them, there is an abundance of sea-life on display in the Maldives including turtles, dolphins, reef sharks and beautiful coral.

 

WIFI on the Island

Most resorts offer free WiFi in public areas, but not all offer blanket coverage of the island or in the hotel rooms/villas.  If you need guaranteed access to the web, we recommend purchasing a sim card form Dhiraagu or Ooredoo that offer coverage on the islands. As you get out of Male airport and turn to your right, you will notice the stores of these mobile network operators. We personally didn’t find the need to by a sim card just for WIFI. However on enquiry we got to know that Dhiraagu offers sim cards valid for upto 7 days that cost USD 25, giving you 15 GB data.

 

Travel Essentials

  1. If you do not have an International credit card carry a lot of USD
  2. Sunscreen
  3. Umbrella – weather gets unpredictable that could sometime lead to rain
  4. Beach slippers
  5. Snorkeling gear – most resorts provide it on a complimentary basis. But if not, they charge a rental fee of min. USD 20.

Insider tips*

1. If you fancy staying in Overwater Villas then check out this website called Overwater Bungalows. This website will help you navigate and filter out Resorts in Maldives based on your budget and room requirements. We were very particular on staying in an Overwater Villa with a private pool. Hence, this website came to the rescue as it listed out all Resorts that had them.

2. If time is a constraint and all this information seems too overwhelming then consider consulting with an expert. Mr. Pranjal Sarmah is a Maldives Holiday Consultant based in India. He owns and manages Maldives by 360 Degree World. Besides exciting rates and deals he offers amazing insights on traveling to Maldives, especially for first timers. Expect no questions or doubts to go unanswered; this guy knows it all and has scouted almost every island in Maldives looking for the best Resorts and experiences.

3. Your ideal length of stay should be 3 – 7 nights. Therefore, we recommend you stay on one island and discover other islands via day trips through speed boats or traditional Maldivian boats called dhoni. Staying in 2 or more islands will lead to taking more transfers, which is expensive in Maldives.  Day trips cost upwards of USD 150 per person and can be organised by the Resort.

LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

The best gift we can give each other is a lifetime of adventures

 

We hope this detailed guide helps you plan that perfect idyllic retreat to Maldives 🙂
Don’t forget to check out related posts like our experience staying at LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives and 13 reasons to go LUX* in Maldives.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to write to us in the comments section below. We will be more than happy to help!

0 In Destinations/ Recommendations

13 Reasons to go LUX* in Maldives

Lately, we have been raving about LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives. Why, you ask? It’s because you rarely stumble upon Resorts that go beyond the norm, perfecting the art of bespoke hospitality. Today, most of us go on a holiday to escape the routine. Hence, why stay at conventional hotels and resorts that work based on the ‘one size fits all‘ policy? Take it from us and book your next getaway at LUX* Resorts. You’ll see the difference 🙂

We’ve already told you about our experience at LUX* Maldives, but prepare to be surprised with 13 Reasons that differentiates it from other resorts that we’ve stayed at so far:

Cinema Paradiso

Beanbags? Check. Fresh popcorn? Naturally. An alfresco cinema experience? You bet! Enjoy watching cult classics, family favourites and blockbusters, in the great outdoors, under the stars!

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Open Air Cinema (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Phone Home

These vintage red British telephone boxes, aren’t just for show, you know. Step inside and call family and friends for free, wherever they are, whenever you fancy. No roaming charges; no nasty phone-bill surprises.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Vintage Phone Booths (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

ICI

A holiday without ice cream is like an infiniti pool without water. So LUX* has created their very own ice cream brand, ICI. These are retro-style mobile parlours serving fat free ice creams, which you can relish without any guilt. An array of tailor-made flavour combinations such as Sicilian pistachio variegato, bubblegum, crema with crunchy hazelnut, and mind- blowing Madagascan, are perennial favourites with guests of all ages. Fresh waffle cones are made in- house and baked right in front of your eyes. ICI has truly reinvented the holiday ice cream.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Sicilian Pistachio Variegato anyone? (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Tread Lightly

Memorable holidays shouldn’t cost the earth. Which is why LUX* does their best to ‘Tread Lightly’ by offsetting 100% of the carbon emitted during your stay. It is one of the measures devised by their dedicated Green Committee to leave a lighter footprint on the world around us. To learn more about the LUX* Tread Lightly project, click here.

LUX* Me

This is an integrated philosophy at LUX* offering a step-by-step path to a healthier way of life. In addition to hosting outdoor classes where their world class trainers specialise in pilates, yoga, meditation, and nutrition, they also offer tailored programs to suit your specific goals. Their Stephen Price Wellness Concierge service can help you create a vitality-boosting regime to ensure you leave LUX* feeling fitter than when you arrived.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Soul-uplifting Mist & Facial Oil (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Message in a Bottle

Every day at LUX* is a treasure hunt. Spot a bottle buried in the sand or hidden in the gardens, and get an unexpected treat. It might be a candle-lit dinner for two by the water’s edge, a spa treatment, or a scuba diving lesson – there’s only one way to find out; pop that cork and unroll the scroll.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Genie in a bottle (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Cafe LUX*

For some folks, great coffee isn’t just a luxury; it’s an essential. That’s why you will notice Cafe LUX* at the heart of the resort. Barista-prepared organic brews, freshly roasted and blended on site. Cappuccino? Affagato? They’ve got it all! Their bean loving team are dab hands with the latest trends and techniques – including Cold Press, Pour Overs and Nitro coffee.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Barista showing off his latte art skills (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Mamma Aroma

For as long as any of us can remember, hospitality amenities have been a staple in hotel and resort bathrooms. But they’ve never been quite like LUX*’s Mamma Aroma essentials. From a splash of tropical oil in your tub to that exfoliating sea-salt scrub, LUX* puts a little extra pampering into every bathroom. Their eco-friendly amenities are blended from natural ingredients and island essences that soothe the mind, and uplift your soul. The best part – they’re available for you to take home, so you can close your eyes and pretend you’re still on holiday.

Master Chef

At LUX* guests are spoilt for choice with restaurant options, but there’s something satisfying about savouring food you’ve cooked yourself. Now you can follow the aromas to their outdoor kitchen and get your gourmet on. All you need to do is pick their highest-quality ingredients and rustle up some fresh fish dishes, chargrilled meats or pizzas and cook it to perfection in their wood-fired oven; all under supervision of their Executive Chef.

Scrucap

Who doesn’t love a good Burgundy or vintage Bordeaux? But since the Indian Ocean’s a long way from the vineyards of France, LUX* has tapped into South Africa, carefully selecting 17 special made wines, bottled to taste their best – chardonnay, chenin blanc, pinot noir, sauvignon, shiraz and more. Their experienced sommeliers also have other labels to tempt you, but we don’t know of any other house wines with such fantastic following.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

South African bottled wines (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Junk Art Studio & Gallery

At LUX*, rubbish artworks are highly appreciated. That’s why guests are invited to their shipping-container studio to try something new and up-cycle the old. Under the guidance of visiting artists, one can let their imagination run wild with salvaged materials, or turn driftwood or drinks cartons into sculptural souvenirs or quirky home furnishings.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Up-cycled home decor (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Tree of Wishes

Wishes makes the world go round and at LUX* you’ll find a specially commissioned Tree of Wishes sculpture. Upon check-in you’ll be presented with a unique ribbon or tag featuring your initials and the date of your visit. Tie the ribbon around one of the enchanting branches and make a wish.  While there is no guarantee your wish will come true, LUX* can only promise that once a year one tag will be selected and the lucky person who placed it there will win a free stay. Now let’s hope we get lucky 🙂

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Make a wish (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

Aperitivo

Aperitifs are often the most delicious and exciting part of a dinner party. Based on this, LUX* Maldives has introduced their new wandering Aperitivo Bar. An ideal socialising spot, packed full with tasty tapas-style snacks, designed to tantalize those taste buds just before dinner. Think daily-changing, signature cocktails, designed by LUX*’s expert mixologists – of course this is no ordinary Aperitivo Bar. The typical LUXtwist is that guests won’t find this bar in the same place twice.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Salute! (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)

 

If you’d like to read more about our stay at LUX* South Ari Atoll – Maldives, please click here.

Disclaimer: We had an amazing collaboration with LUX* South Ari Atoll and the people working there. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

2 In Destinations

Reliving our Honeymoon at LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

From marrying my long time love and best friend to going on journeys which we ticked right off our bucket-list; 2016 was an unforgettable year! While we’ve known each other for 8 years now, friends who know us, know how much this guy has changed me. Only for the better 🙂

So to refrain from being indebted for the amount of love I have received, I decided to do the unusual this year. And because my not-so-ordinary man deserves something extraordinary; I surprised him with an extravagant getaway to the romantic island of Maldives to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. What a great way to recreate that honeymoon feeling, right?

 

Welcome Aboard

Our journey to LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives began with a 2 hour flight from Bangalore to Male via Air India. Honestly, we aren’t big fans of Air India, but to our surprise the flight was breezy and comfortable. LUX* Resorts all over the world have an inimitable stamp when it comes to service and facilities, which you feel right as you touch down Male Airport. The resort’s dedicated airport butlers escort you to their lounge that is nothing short of a gourmet cafe. After relaxing with some coffee and macaroons they whisk you away into a seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airways, which in 25 mins takes you to your heavenly abode.

The journey from Male airport to the resort is so exhilarating, especially when you watch the seaplane land on water. You realise how beautiful our planet is from above, that every passing island makes you wish you were there. As the seaplane make it’s way to the jetty of the resort, you are welcomed with bright smiling faces, waving with vigour. Furthermore, you are hydrated with homemade infused teas, bursting with colours and flavours that’s oh so refreshing.

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LUX* South Ari Atoll VIP lounge at Male International Airport

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Treats at the VIP Airport Lounge

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Stunning views from above

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airlines

 

Resort & Rooms

The picture-perfect island of Dhidhoofinolhu is home to LUX* South Ari Atoll. A villa-only luxury resort where your fantasy of a laid-back, tropical island paradise is bound to come true. The first thing you notice as you check into the resort is the beautiful melange of interiors and it’s surroundings. As we made our way to our private villa, we couldn’t help but gaze at the sight of the extensive lagoon with an array of multi-coloured fish.

Dotted at the water’s edge and perched on stilts above a crystal lagoon, we opted for the Romantic Pool Water Villa. This luxurious villa comes with a private plunge pool offering gorgeous views of the sunrise. Wait, that’s not all. It truly had the works of a private hideaway. From furnished terrace, direct lagoon access, generous wardrobes, king sized beds, coffee machines, free minibar, 48-inch curved television to a dreamily suspended gazebo, this uber cool, Maldivian chic villa provided the perfect space for a couple’s getaway that would force one to never venture out. But take it from us, nothing competes with watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S reruns on a 110 projector screen embedded in your room! #thegoodlife

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Our gorgeous Romantic Pool Water Villa

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Interiors of our luxury abode

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

In room decor on the day of our anniversary – thoughtful gestures surely go a long way!

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Waking up to sunrises like these

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Soaking in the views

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll

The cutest pineapple and pizza floats at Lagoon Bar

 

Disco Toilet + Photo booth = RAGE!

Spa & Well-being

On taking up the All-Inclusive package we were offered a complimentary couple’s spa massage. Now, the LUX* Spa is the perfect sanctuary for your health and well-being. They offer a personalised approach, whether it be a spa, fitness, yoga, meditation, nutrition or a unique combination tailored specially to your needs. Only the best of skin and body care products are used to create a rejuvenating experience. As for the body massage, it was one of the most relaxing we’ve ever experienced. The masseuses hands worked such magic, that I actually fell asleep at the end of the 30 minutes.

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Over-water spa treatment rooms

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Exclusive range of LUX* Me products at the spa

Sports & Leisure

Chasing whale sharks has been on my bucket list for sometime. While I make a good swimmer and Prashanth can’t swim to save his life, we still decided to embark on a whale shark snorkeling trip. They say love can conquer all – I guess that’s what made my man take the plunge. Thanks to the training and support from the diving team (and of course a life jacket) he was ready to swim in a jiffy. He ticked off overcoming his biggest fear i.e. swimming in the deep sea alongside a tortoise and many colourful reef fish. Whereas for me, chasing whale sharks still remains on my bucket list.

For the love of speed, Prashanth ventured into jet-sking. Slicing his way through the surf, while I sat behind with my eyes closed hoping I don’t fall off and drown. If soft adventure is your style, then try out stand up paddle boarding. Just paddle your way through the calm turquoise waters and experience the thriving nature of the lagoon at its best, while benefiting from a total body workout at the same time.

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Prashanth preparing for his training

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Going on adventures with him be like…

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

It’s time to slice through the surf

Restaurants & Bars

If you love your food, then this is the place to be in Maldives. With an extensive choice of 8 restaurants and 5 bars, one can enjoy the very best dishes, flavours and textures that the island’s many cultures and influences have to offer. We opted for an All-Inclusive package that allowed us to wine and dine at any of the restaurants. For our daily breakfast we alternated between MIXE & East Market. At MIXE, tables are set out on the beach under thatched roofs, where guests can sink their feet into the warm sand below while tucking into mouth-watering fresh buffets. Follow the scent of baking to croissants, baguettes, pastries and seeded loaves, fresh from that glass-fronted oven.

While at East Market, one can savour authentic tastes from Thailand, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Think noodle dishes and stir-fries whipped up in woks with unadulterated views of the Indian Ocean. Dim sums for breakfast? Why not!

For lunch we would stop over at the casual and fun Lagoon Bar for some burgers and fries; or at the upscale Senses Restaurant for some Middle Eastern and Indian-fusion delights.

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Colourful and healthy breakfast options at MIXE

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Senses Bar & Restaurant

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Maldivian tiffin lunch at Senses Restaurant

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

East Market

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll

Lagoon Bar

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll

Not just your average burger!

The Ultimate Dining Experience

And finally for dinner we hopped between East Market (Asian), Beach Rouge (Mediterrenean) and Allegria (Italian). We chose to dine at Allegria on the night of our wedding anniversary and it was the best decision ever! Mr. Vijay Rao, Mr. Umashankar Bathina & Chef Nicholas Coelho wowed us not just with the food but with the beautiful beachfront candle light set up right under the stars. The salmon carpaccio, beef pasta and meat filled artichokes were the biggest highlights of our 5 course meal. A true Italian feast that instantly took us back to our roman sojourn. Furthermore, imagine sommeliers treating you to some of the best South African wines the region has produced. We happily ordered 3 of a kind and raised a toast to more love and abundance 🙂

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Beach Rouge

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

East Bar

 

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Our intimate beachfront candle light dinner at Allegria

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Salmon Carpaccio

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Meat filled artichokes

 

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Beef pasta

Luxury of Doing Nothing

According to us, the biggest luxury in life is the ability to do nothing, and the slow island life at Maldives provides the perfect atmosphere to do so. As you walk back to your room every night, the white sand cool beneath your feet, a blanket of stars above, the breeze messing up your hair, you realise the satisfied fullness you feel isn’t because of the exquisite meal you just devoured in, but because of a deep sense of gratitude that you’re here. That for just a few days, this paradise is yours!

LUX* South Ari Atoll Maldives

Gazing at the stars

Quick Notes & Tips

  1. There are frequent direct flights to Male from most international destinations including India,  Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in  South-East Asia. Air India, Spicejet and Sri Lankan Airlines offers fantastic frequency of flights from India to Male.
  2. Couples should vie for the Romantic Pool Water Villa or Temptation Pool Water Villa. Room rates start at $2000 per night during high season.
  3. We recommend booking the All Inclusive package so that it covers all your meals and unlimited alcohol. If you don’t fancy alcohol too much, opt for the half board package and pay for drinks along the way.
  4. While booking your package, make sure to add in your sea plane transfers. The hotel staff will take care of your luggage, check ins, on boarding and logistics from Male airport to the island. This will also give you special access to their lounge at Male Airport.
  5. The currency of Maldives is the Maldivian Ruffiyaa (MVR). USD and international credit cards widely accepted at the resort. However, there are no ATMs on the island.
  6. The tropical climate is influenced by monsoons, although bright sunny weather with a light sea breeze can be expected most days. So don’t forget to carry your sunbathing essentials. Temperature: 30°C all year round & Sea temperature: 22°C to 28°C
  7. Water is chargeable at the island and it doesn’t come cheap. Hence, if you bump up your booking to an All Inclusive package, you need not worry.
  8. For special rates and bookings you can write to us at gallivantinggoals@gmail.com and we will be more than happy to help!

Disclaimer: We had an amazing collaboration with LUX* South Ari Atoll and the people working there. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

0 In Destinations/ Travel with GG

Kanchipuram – The Timeless Town of Tamil Nadu

kanchi kamakshi temple

A journey into a 10,000 year old civilization can be nothing short of fascinating. You can only go so far before stumbling upon amazing architecture and ancient temples! What better way to satisfy your thirst for history than by visiting some of Tamil Nadu’s historic towns?

A Passage back to the 6th Century (maybe earlier)

Tamil Nadu as a state can be quite fascinating as you start understanding its history. Known as the Land of Temples, Tamil Nadu is home to nearly 33,000 ancient temples ranging from 800 to 3500 years of age. Our exploration of the Land of Temples takes us to Kanchipuram (also known as Kanchi). Prior to the British rule in India, Kanchi was abode to the rulers of the Chola Dynasty, The Pallava Dynasty, The Pandya Dynasty, the Vijaynagar Empire and the Carnatic Kingdom. The earliest references of Kanchi date back to as far as the 3rd and 2nd Century BC. Its amazing history and architectural wonders make Kanchipuram a historians dream and must visit for every self-proclaimed Indian Traveler!

Getting There

Kanchipuram is 72km from Chennai and the drive takes about 90 minutes.

Where to Stay

Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram is the perfect place to stay. Located in the heart of Kanchipuram, the must see spots as well as the shopping hub are easily accessible from the hotel. It offers about 35 guest rooms as well as an in-house multi cuisine restaurant where guests can dine. We arrived at the hotel by 10am and had an ideal breakfast spread waiting for us. The buffet breakfast offers both South Indian and North Indian options as well as the straight forward cereal and bread options for their international guests. As a business and tourist hub, I would recommend making your bookings for Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram well in advance!

Prices start at INR 3000 per night. For more information visit their Website or follow them on Facebook.

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Regency by GRT Hotels, Kanchipuram

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Reception

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

In-house multi cuisine restaurant

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Poori bhaji game on point!

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

South Indian curries

 

Regency by GRT Hotels Kanchipuram

Life is short, eat dessert first

Sights to Explore

Depending on your interests and how much time you have, Kanchipuram can go from being as simple as a day long trip to a 3 to 4 day immersement in Indian History and Culture. Since we had planned a day trip to Kanchipuram on our way from Mahabalipuram to Chennai, we spent our time visiting and understanding the history of Kanchipuram’s two most popular temples; The Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and the Ekaambareshwara Temple built in the 6th and 9th century respectively.

The Kamakshi Temple is dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi (Parvati) and was built by the Pallava Kings.

Significantly, this is the only Parvati temple in the city of Kanchipuram and is also one of the divine Shakti Peetha temples. The temple also has a marital significance and is considered an auspicious visit for those who are seeking marriage. Walking through the temple, you can’t help but notice its intricate sculptures. We spent a good amount of time just gazing at each of them, wondering about the stories they were trying to tell. The temple also houses a gallery which presents the life of Adisankaracharya.

kanchi kamakshi temple

Walking towards Kanchi Kamakshi Temple

 

kanchi kamakshi temple

Kalyani or Temple Bath inside the Temple

 

kanchi kamakshi temple

Sculptors at work

 

The Ekambareshwarar temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

An amazing fact I heard is that there are 108 Shiva Temples in Tamil Nadu; (Read about the significance of the number 108). The primary significance of this temple is that it is one of the temples associated with the Five Elements or the Pancha Bhutas (Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Space); specifically the Earth Element. Furthermore, this amazing temple complex covers 25 acres and is among the largest in India.

Almost every temple in India has an amazing story around why it was built and its role in human well being. On our visit to The Ekambareshwarar temple we were told that this was the location where Parvati worshiped Shiva in the form of a Prithvi Lingam (lingam made of mud). The Prithivi Lingam is one of its kind. Made of mud, it is probably the reason this temple is dedicated to the earth element of nature.

Ekambareshwarar temple

Painting at the temple depicting Parvati’s devotion towards Lord Shiva

 

Ekambareshwarar temple

Offerings

 

Other Temples in Kanchi:

  1. Kailasanathar Temple
  2. Devarajaswami Temple
  3. Chitragupta Temple
  4. Ulahalanda Perumal Temple

The Magnificent Talent of Kanchipuram

Apart from the temples in Kanchi, a journey into the ‘weaver’s village’ can leave you awestruck. A must visit on every travelers list! The weavers here have mastered the art of hand weaving the famous Kanchipuram Silk Sarees. Hugely time consuming, it takes a weaver about 25 days of 12 working hours each to complete one saree. Even today, the sarees are made largely by hand and a trip to the weaver’s village provide travelers with an insight into the art of weaving. Watching them in action, you can only assume the effort involved in learning this skill! Incidentally, the skills of these weavers have been recognized by both The Central and State Governments. The weavers are provided with financial aid that helps nurture their talent and keep the hand weaving industry alive.

weavers factory

Weaver at work

 

weavers factory

Working on a split tone silk saree

 

weavers factory

Stunning intricate work and craftmanship

 

weavers factory

Millions of threads used in this process

Best Time to Visit

Hate the heat as much as I do? Not surprisingly, the winter months between November and February would be the ideal time to visit Kanchipuram. Temperatures in this time range between 19°C and 29°C. The months of June to September can be considered, but the monsoons could play spoilsport to any outdoor excursions you have planned. Furthermore,  Summer temperatures can go as high as 40°C.

 

 Planning the Trip

For anyone visiting Chennai, a trip to Kanchipuram and the Heritage town of Mahabalipuram can easily be forged into your schedule. A road trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, Kanchi and back to Chennai forms a perfect triangle with a total driving distance of about 200kms. And finally, do yourself a favour. The Next time you are in Chennai take about 3 days to give yourself the Kanchi and Mahabalipuram experience!

Road map

The ideal road map

 

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

 

4 In Destinations/ Recommendations

Our Ritzy Getaway at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay by GRT Hotels, Mahabalipuram

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The last couple of months have been insane for us in terms of travel. From personal to professional commitments, which lead us from Dubai to Maldives, Kerala to Goa. And then from Mumbai to Lucknow and Dudhwa (not forgetting the part where we crossed the border into Nepal for 2 hours to try some authentic Nepalese food). We’ve been smitten by the travel bug so bad that we realized we needed another vacation to cool off and JUST DO NOTHING!

They say ‘ask and you shall receive’ and to our surprise we did. We were offered a 2 Nights staycation at the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort, Mahabalipuram, courtesy of the good folks at GRT Hotels & Resorts. An offer so hard to resist that we decided to go despite knowing that the weather might not be on our side. But hey! To our luck we were welcomed with balmy palm trees and a cool sea breeze that we didn’t miss Bangalore much.

Traditional welcome with a modern touch

Nothing quenches thirst like some fresh coconut water on a hot summer day. When you are welcomed with cheerful faces, shell garlands and coconuts served in traditional copper vessels, you know your hosts have got it all right. We loved their modern take to this traditional welcome.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Coco Welcome

Inviting Rooms

Rooms so warm and elegant, furnished with a resident’s bar and a private patio that overlooks the stunning Bay of Bengal.  Above all it had an immense bathtub that came with their signature DIY bubble bath hamper. Yeayiee! The sea view chalet room is the perfect space to stretch those limbs and wake up to the sounds of the sea. Without a doubt, ideal for couples and families who love their privacy.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Sea View Chalet Room

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Gorgeous views from our room

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

DIY signature bubble bath hamper

 

A space that surpasses your expectations

All luxury hotels seem to be a cookie cutter version of themselves. But the space and offerings at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay took it a notch higher. Imagine an oasis that’s spread across 44 acres. Guests can laze in the world’s longest meandering pool, go stargazing at night or even play a game of golf or two at their nine-hole mini-golf course. That’s not all; adventurous souls can venture on an exclusive catamaran cruise or bike their way through the resort’s private ATV track. Sounds like the good life, eh!

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Home is where the anchor drops

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Beautiful little corners – Heritage Hall

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Let’s just hang here for a bit longer

 

The five rathas are named as ‘Dharmaraja Ratha’, ‘Bhima Ratha’, ‘Arjuna Ratha’, ‘Nakula Sahadeva Ratha’, and ‘Draupadi Ratha’ after the five Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’.

One of the many pools at the Resort

Exploring Mahabalipuram

Located conveniently on the pristine Coromandel Coast at Mahabalipuram, the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay is just 3-5 kms away from all the prime attractions (now a part of Unesco World Heritage Sites).

Places you CANNOT MISS when in Mahabalipuram:

  1. Shore Temple – Built in the 7th century, the Shore Temple is one of the architectural achievements of the Pallava dynasty. Commonly known as the ‘Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram’, only one – the Shore Temple, remains visible today. The other six temples are said to have been submerged under the sea.
  2. Pancha Rathas – Five structures chiselled in the shape of rathas or chariots out of large block of stone or monolith of granite typifies monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture. The five rathas were built in honour of the Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’.
  3. Varaha Cave Temple – The significane of the Varaha Cave story, lies in the panels inside, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi & Goddess Durga.
  4. Krishna’s Butterball – A boulder that defies gravity.
radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The Shore temple

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Pancha Rathas

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Varaha Cave Temple

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Krishna’s Butterball

Personalized Wellness Experience

Why have one when you can afford two Spas under one roof. Ayush (Ayuvedic Therapy Center) & Bodhi Spa (Beauty & Wellness Center) are both serene sanctuaries offering some of the world’s best therapeutic treatments. Above all, the staff help you select your treatment based on 3 priorities that fulfill the purpose of de-stressing, beauty and general well being. Prashanth opted for Marma Abhyangam; a full body massage that focuses on releasing blocked energy. I opted for Marine Osmosis, an Oliegodermie body care therapy using marine sea salt for a scrub, followed by a body balm massage and an algae body wrap for a glowing and radiant skin. One of our most relaxing spa experiences. My masseuse in particular did a wonderful job of putting me to sleep with the magic of her hands.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Staff at the Spa attentding to our needs

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Getting my zen mode on!

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Time spent getting a massage is never wasted – My spa room

The Foodie Affair

Food is not just an expression but a grand affair at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay. On our first day we were treated to a lavish gala dinner that offered over 50 South Indian dishes. Added to that was a super cool Arrack shop that catered to all our beverage needs. The varieties of starters, dosas, pickles, chutneys, curries and desserts were so mind-boggling, we realized we should have worn our fat pants to dinner. Which is exactly what we did the next day when we dined at Waters Edge Cafe for breakfast and lunch. A spread so diverse and global, it makes you feel like the world is on your plate.

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Arrack Shop

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Traditional Folk Dance

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Water’s Edge Cafe

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

You can never go wrong with a cheesy masala omelette

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Freshly baked goodness

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

You know the dosa is great when he makes this face!

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Gourmet salad spread at Lunch

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

The best things in life are sweet

 

If that wasn’t enough, the chefs at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay had something more up their sleeves. Imagine a posh looking beach shack serving up some fresh seafood and amazing grills just off the bay. Our dining experience at The Wharf reeked of exclusivity and all things that make for a perfect romantic meal. If you are a food lover like us you must try their Jumbo Prawn Skewers with Yakitori dressing, Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta, Mushroom & Smoked Mozarella Empanadas, Catch of the day (Red Snapper with Cape spices) and lastly the Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream. Their Bellini Twist (a white wine based cocktail) makes the meal all the more interesting. One of the best cocktails I have ever had. Tempted already, aren’t you 🙂

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Catch of the day – Red Snapper with Cape spices

 

radisson blu resort temple bay mahabalipuram

Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream

Service

The team at GRT Hotels & Resorts are known for their hospitality and graciousness. Making our stay at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay delightful and memorable. From the moment we checked in, the resort’s staff were utterly attentive to our every need. The Chefs, Resort Manager and Entertainment Manager were most impressive. They went the extra mile to keep us surprised and fulfilled.

Disclaimer: We were guests of the GRT Hotels & Resorts and Firebrand Labs. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own. 

Prices start at INR 15000 per night. For more information visit their Website or follow them on Facebook.