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0 In Destinations/ Recommendations

Live On The Wild Side At This Luxury Eco-Friendly Camp

tortilis camp

As we arrived just in time to catch a glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunset; we were welcomed by our Scottish hosts – Graeme and his wife Candy at Tortilis Camp. In awe of the view, we left our bags behind and immediately settled in for a couple of sun-downers. Gradually through the course of the evening we were introduced to Chris, our personal butler who came bearing some wonderful news! “How about a hearty Italian 3-course meal with some vino?”, he asked. Now who on earth would think a camp tucked away from civilization would serve exemplary Italian food? But Tortilis Camp sure does know how to spoil it’s guests and create lasting first impressions.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Catching a glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro at sunset

 

LOCATION

Nestled in an acacia grove, Tortilis Camp is located on the south western edge of Amboseli National Park. It overlooks its own private conservancy – Kitirua Wildlife Conservancy (30,000 acres) and offers dramatic views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world, and the highest peak on the African continent.

There are primarily two ways to get here:

  • Amboseli Airstrip –
    There are daily scheduled flights departing from Nairobi Wilson Airport, Mombasa International Airport & Masai Mara. If you are in the mood for splurging you can even organize a private charter, followed by a 45 min drive to the camp.
  • By Road –
    Private transfer from Nairobi in a 4×4 will take you upto 4 hours. The roads are relatively good and offer some scenic views.
Amboseli National Park

Entrance to Amboseli National Park

 

ACCOMMODATION

The multiple award winning camp joined the prestigious Elewana Collection in 2015, thus offering grand, spacious and eco-friendly tents. Ranging from 16 en-suite tents to 1 Family tent and a Private House. Each of them boasts it’s own solar grid, walkie talkie (for emergencies) and solar torch lights. Built up on a wooden deck, the makuti-covered tent overhangs a veranda, from where views are astounding. The tent leads from a bedroom with an expansive king-size or generous twin beds through a dressing area into modern bathrooms. Therefore, providing you with a translucent union with nature and yet giving you all the amenities you require. Final touches like Cinnbar Green natural care products and your own safari flask etched with your name add to details.

Tip: The tents are quite spread across the property and not all of them offer a direct view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Hence, request for a tent that’s closer to the Dining area.

tortilis camp

Eco-friendly Makuti covered tents

 

tortilis camp

A veranda with astounding views

 

tortilis camp

Cozy king size bed

 

tortilis camp

Solar powered walkie talkies for emergencies

 

tortilis camp

Ensuite bathroom with his and hers sinks

 

DINING

The food is an integral part of Tortilis Camp’s charm. With an invitingly lush and healthy vegetable garden, the camp prides itself on serving up its fresh homegrown salads and vegetables with every meal. From top notch Italian food to local delights, the camp has it all covered. Trying specialities like Ugali with Chicken Stew and Sukuma Wiki (wild greens) was a memorable part of our Kenyan adventure! It’s essentially maize flour, cooked in boiling water and served with meat and gravy. As simple as it sounds, Maasais spend hours preparing this bowl of comfort food.

What also caught our attention were rotis (indian bread) on the menu. Probably the softest we’ve had; they were introduced by the Indian diaspora, which today proudly holds its place in the Eastern African cuisine. The day’s menu consists of breakfast and lunch buffets, and an a la carte or set menu dinner. Dishes such as lasagne, spaghetti bolognaise, fresh perch, seared beef fillet and chocolate roulade make a special appearance. All water, including that used for ice, is filtered.  Above all, the camp issues guests with a reusable metal water bottle, thus stopping almost 200,000 plastic water bottles from being sent to a landfill every year.

Furthermore, every evening before dinner they serve some delicious canapes at the bar and lounge, complimented with some aperitif. Will there be enough food on safari, first timers wonder? The problem is quite the opposite. There’s far too much fabulous food, and far too little exercise.

Tip: Tortilis Camp serves a daily table d’hôte menu that can be tailored for preferences and special diets such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. Do inform the camp in advance, so that the chefs can prepare for your arrival.

tortilis camp

Strawberry and cream pancakes

 

tortilis camp

Prashanth demolishing his Italian meal

 

tortilis camp

Ugali with Chicken Stew and Sukuma Wiki

 

FACILITIES

Despite being in the ‘middle of nowhere’ the camp offers quite a few facilities that will put some city hotels to shame. The gift shop offers a great and unique range of artifacts and souvenirs, handcrafted by some of the local Maasais. Besides the early morning and evening game drives, one can laze around the pool with a cocktail and enjoy the sounds of the wild. Alternatively, you can unwind with a massage treatment or indulge in an afternoon of birding. The bar and lounge area offer fantastic views of Mt. Kilimanjaro making it the perfect spot to read or to work on that post image processing routine. The camp is 100% solar powered, making it the first of it’s kind and very eco-friendly (power and hot water are both available 24 hours a day).

tortilis camp

Life’s better poolside

 

tortilis camp

We chill harder than we party

 

Ugali with Chicken Stew and Sukuma Wiki

Spotting giraffes in the wild

 

EXPERIENCES

Guided Walks

Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the ‘Big Five’ on their safari adventure. But Kenya is full of strange, unusual, and beautiful creatures outside that illustrious group. Take the time to leave the 4×4 behind and enjoy the small things – tracks, dung beetles, micro-ecosystems and most importantly, the Small Five! The guided walks organised by the camp in association with the local Maasai’s will leave you spellbound. The Maasai’s are happy to share their knowledge of the terrain, traditional uses of wild herbs and barks, and the Maasai way of life. We got lucky and spotted a Leopard Tortoise! Yup, you read that right.

Bush Breakfast

Straight after your early morning game drive you’ll be taken to a top secret scenic spot that’s completely equipped with all things breakfast. Coffee or tea is served just the way you like it. Think meat and eggs cooked straight off the grill, along with a selection of fruits, salads and cereals. It offers you the pleasure of having the first meal of your day, al fresco, in the middle of the plains, surrounded by wildlife.

Dinner Under The Stars

When you think of a luxury safari holiday, the term ‘under the stars’ may not be the first thing that springs to mind. However, what could be more luxurious than sitting under a glorious canopy of stars with a G&T in hand? Celebrating Prashanth’s 30th birthday in Kenya was not just a milestone, but a dream come true. With the entire sky deck reserved for us, the team at Tortilis Camp served some of their finest Maasai dishes and then serenaded us with some local tunes under the star spangled skies.

Note: The above mentioned experiences are not part of the all inclusive plan, and hence will be charged additionally.

tortilis camp

Guided walks with Maasais

 

tortilis camp

Relishing our al fresco bush breakfast

 

tortilis camp

Dining under the stars – cheers to the good life!

 

WHY WE LIKE IT

  • Incredible views of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Bush walks outside the park
  • Fresh food made with Italian flair & served with a view
  • Spacious tents
  • Friendliest staff and hosts
  • 100% solar powered, sustainable and eco-friendly

 

tortilis camp

Saying goodbye to our hosts Graeme, Candy and our butler – Chris

 

Doubles from USD 540 OR Rs. 36,450 per night including all meals and wi-fi.
Planning to stay at Tortilis Camp, Amboseli? Let us know – we could hook you onto some great deals!

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

 

5 In Recommendations

A Beginners Guide to Wildlife Photography

crested crane amboseli safari

If you are someone like me (Prashanth), your only priority with regards to photography is that you want to capture great memories while on holiday. I have never been much of a photography person, but my first safari experience about 7 years ago certainly brought out the ‘photographer’ in me. I suddenly felt the need to understand the basics of ‘wildlife photography’.

There is just something about being in nature and out in the wild that makes you want to pull out that camera and capture shots of everything the jungles have to offer. And now it was time to go from the dense jungles of India to the wide open planes of the African Savannahs.

For those of you who have ever attempted wildlife photography; even if it was with your phone, you would know that capturing wildlife is totally different from any other type of photography. Right before our trip to Kenya, I spent over a month researching camera equipment, watching tutorial videos and reading blogs on how to capture that perfect ‘out in the wild’ picture. After reading this post you will be able to go from knowing nothing about cameras to being able to capture amazing shots on your next wildlife vacation. Let’s get clicking!

 

Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor – What is ideal for Wildlife Photography?

Ideally try and get your hands on a Crop Sensor camera as these camera’s come with good sensors (sensors are vital for image quality) and provide you with that little bit of extra zoom when compared to a full frame camera. Of course a Full Frame camera can do no harm. These are ultimately the high end cameras that professional photographers use, but as a beginner you don’t need to be picky. A full frame camera will add great quality to low light photography but for wildlife photography a crop sensor camera certainly does the job. We used a Nikon D7500 for our Kenyan Safari and it certainly gave us those dream shots of scampering cheetahs, lions lazing around in the open and many more. I am probably going to be using this camera for most of my safaris from here on.

 

Lenses, Lenses, Lenses!

The next big question is what lens should you be carrying? If baggage is a constraint, you ideally want to be carrying just 1 lens for your safari. Also keeping in mind that you might need to be quick to capture that perfect shot, you don’t want to be searching for lenses at a crucial moment. My preference for lenses was a Nikon 70-300mm f4.5 – 5.6. Remember, zoom is vital for those perfect wildlife pictures, so the more you have the better. Since Kenya is mostly open grasslands 70-300mm was the ideal option as the animals do tend to be quite close to you as well. This focal length is however not great for birding.

Elephant

A 70-300mm is perfect to capture any of the many elephants grazing through the open grasslands

 

Bird

Not close enough! You definitely need more than 400mm if you want to capture those majestic birds!

 

If your safari is through dense forests and you are unsure of how close you might get to the animals, you might want to consider a Nikon 200-500mm f5.6. This lens will work great for birding as well as zoom pictures but you might be handicapped if you are trying to capture something reasonably close to you.

If you really want to go pro you can also consider a prime 300mm or 400mm lens. A prime lens is essentially one with a fixed focal length (zoom). A fixed focal length is obviously limiting but the advantage is that a 300mm prime lens will give you much better picture quality than a 70-300mm lens at maximum zoom.

Lion

Up close and personal! This lioness was lazing in the afternoon warmth right beside the driving path. A 200mm to 500mm lens would have been unsuitable to capture this shot.

 

The 3 basic technical’s of photography and their symbols

S – Shutter Speed – The duration for which the shutter remains open to allow light to enter. Using lower shutter speed during the day and a higher shutter speed for early morning and late evening drives would be ideal.

A – Aperture (also called the f stop) – The amount of area that will remain in focus. A smaller aperture number for portrait shots and a larger aperture number for landscape shots would be preferred.

ISO – In simple terms ISO determines the amount of brightness in your photo. The higher the ISO, the brighter your picture.

 

Which of the funky modes should you use?

You should definitely spend 3 to 5 days playing around with your camera before you go on your trip. Of all the options that these powerful cameras give you, selecting a mode is the first choice you need to make. If this is the first time you are using a DSLR then I would definitely recommend sticking to the Auto mode or any of the preset modes like portrait for close up shots of animals, landscape for pictures covering wide areas or sports/action for animals that are running.

Auto is certainly the simplest shooting mode, but I would highly recommend exploring the Aperture priority mode (marked as A on the dial) and then going totally Manual (marked as M on the dial). The automatic shooting mode gives decent pictures but certainly does not help you maximize the features your DSLR comes with. Shooting in Aperture priority or Manual will help you click far better pictures, particularly when you have challenges such as low light.

Thomson Gazelle

Two Thomson Gazelle’s testing their might! Shot this one on Auto. You can see that the Gazelle’s are slightly blur as they were moving. Using Manual or a Preset mode of ‘Action’ would have been ideal for this shot.

 

Should you shoot in RAW?

RAW is an image format that captures the maximum detail of a photograph and hence the file sizes are quite large in comparison to JPEG. I would recommend shooting in RAW only if you are going to be doing a lot of post image processing. If not, shooting in the highest JPEG quality available on your camera should be good enough. Remember that if you do shoot in RAW, converting them to JPEG is mandatory before you can start sharing them.

 

Going beyond Still frames

If a picture is worth a 1000 words then imagine how much a video is worth! Great pictures offer those #throwback moments but a video of Lions strolling towards their pride can give you goosebumps and help you relive an experience like nothing else. One thing we are glad we did is carry multiple cameras on our trip to Kenya. So, while I was capturing still shots, Andrea was capturing some breathtaking videos. You can however also use the same camera for both stills and videos. But be sure to pick your moments. If you are shooting videos using a zoom lens, remember that it is important for you to carry a tripod. A video being shot on full zoom will be too unstable for you to store in your ‘Great Vacations’ library!

 

Rental vs. Buying

Before you start going crazy about how much all this equipment is going to cost you, here is a tip! Unless you have a lot of money that you don’t know what to do with, consider renting a camera. There are plenty of companies that offer camera and lens rentals. This is a great option if you are looking at a wildlife vacation as a one time holiday and something you may not do for another 2 or 3 years. Also, remember that technology changes very fast. So, think twice before you go spend half your holiday budget on an amazing camera that you may use very infrequently.

There are plenty of camera rental options available across all the major Indian cities. For those of you in Bangalore, here are some options:

PS: I have used Tapprs a few times and have been very satisfied with their equipment quality and pricing.

Want more of a perspective on the kind of pictures a Nikon D7500 with a 70-300mm lens can give you? Check out our post – 39 Photos That Will Make You Want To Visit Kenya

If you have any further questions or would like more details, please let us know in the comments section below or drop us an email. Hearing from you guys makes us super happy! 🙂

0 In Recommendations

Why You Need To ‘Moonlight and Chill’ With Couple of Us

gallivanting goals experiences

Turns out, dates can get a lot more fun and adventurous than, say, dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower. And we mean a lot more fun! So if you’re looking to impress your better half with personalised experiences or get out and mingle with like minded couples over interesting encounters, look no further than your friendly ‘couples-only’ community – Couple of Us.

WHO ARE THEY?

Rhea and Sidd, a dynamic duo living in the cosmopolitan city of Bangalore, realized life after marriage didn’t seem so easy. Crazy work schedules coupled with everyday chores, came in the way of almost everything new and interesting they wanted to try. Their conversations with other couples made them realize that they were not the only ones missing out on all the fun. Hence, the desire to solve this very problem lead to the culmination of Couple of Us. A uniquely designed, ‘invite only’ platform for couples to re-discover themselves.

gallivanting goals experiences

Dynamic Duo – Rhea & Sidd

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Their calendar is buzzing with new and eclectic experiences every month. These curated experiences are exclusively designed keeping in mind the pulse of the tribe. The best part, they take the headache out of planning, so all you have to do is show up with your partner in crime. So go on and register here!

GLIMPSES OF OUR EXPERIENCE

After miserably failing to make it to most of their events (thanks to insane work schedules and travel plans) we kind of lost hope. But thanks to Rhea’s constant support and super woman planning skills we finally made it to the 3rd edition of The Supper of Secrets! We thanked our stars as it was the perfect night we could have asked for. Think chilling over bonfire tunes and flaming grills. Celebrating the winter chills with a cozy little camp pitched just for us. Sipping on plenty of mulled wine and chatting away with vibrant personalities. Making merry over songs and paper dancing games. It felt like 2009 all over again when Prashanth and I started dating. It didn’t just end there. We were seated atop an enchanting private rooftop – all lit up and delicately decorated. We ate our way through toasty, cheesy and spicy escapades curated by none other than Richa Gupta. A celebrated food blogger and the incredible talent behind MyFoodStory.

gallivanting goals experiences

Extravagant menu at the 3rd edition of Supper of Secrets

 WHY WE LOVED IT

  1. Alisha, Akshay and their dog Herbie opened their homes to host us. This made it an absolute heart warming and personalised experience.
  2. We got to interact with 6 unassuming, yet like minded couples, out of which one ended up being an old friend (Akash) and his wife. This came as a great surprise and an opportunity to re-connect.
  3. Masterchef Richa whipped up some yummy delights (which need a special mention) like, The Campfire platter (had the best Viennese and Goan Sausages in town) along with Grilled Cheese Troika. Hence, food was bang on point!
  4. Sipped on unlimited Spicy Merlot Mulled Wine courtesy Big Banyan Wines.
  5. Played good ol’ games like Tambola & Paper Dance. Yes, we like embracing the inner child within us!
  6. All this and more costed us Rs. 3,800 (per couple) which could easily put a 5-Star dining experience to shame.
gallivanting goals experiences

An enchanting rooftop – all lit up and delicately decorated

 

gallivanting goals experiences

Good ol’ tambola

 

gallivanting goals experiences

Yummylicious Campfire Platter

 

gallivanting goals experiences

Digging into some Chipotle Lamb Chilli

 

gallivanting goals experiences

Winter calls for some s’mores

WANNA JOIN THE FUN?

If celebrating Valentine’s day with chocolates and roses is too cliche or not your type. Head over to COU’s Facebook page and get invited to their All Aphrodisiac Secret Brunch. Limited seats left! Sorry Single folks.

gallivanting goals experiences

 

0 In Food/ Recommendations

Here’s How Jus’ Trufs Is Redefining Guilty Pleasures That Will Blow Your Mind

jus' trufs bangalore

Chocoholics often go to absurd lengths to get a drool-worthy piece of chocolate. In fact, I remember days where as a kid I would leave my brother as collateral at the nearby grocery store, while I ran home to get some money for the chocolates we wanted to eat. Of course, times have now changed and so has our taste. We’ve moved on from the conventional Cadbury and Nestle to craving for artisanal chocolates from Belgium or South America. But with Jus’ Trufs creating fine-quality chocolate in our own backyard, why wait for it’s counterparts to be delivered from a rich uncle abroad 😉

 

How & Where

With a humble beginning from Ms. Chenddyna Schae’s (Chocolatier & Co-founder) kitchen, Jus’ Trufs found success through it’s premium and signature bean to bar chocolates and truffles. Thus establishing it’s place in the hearts of umpteen chocolate lovers in Bangalore since 2001. Thereafter the brand significantly grew, forcing Ms. Chenddyna to move operations from her home to a three storey building in Jakkur, Bangalore. Today, the building is fully equipped and functional with an event space on the 3rd floor, chocolate factory on the 2nd floor and café on the 1st floor. Though Jakkur might sound far for some of you, it provides respite for people (like us) residing in North Bangalore.

It was a gloomy Sunday afternoon and we were welcomed into a breezy and radiant space. The cafe illuminates with warmth and wooden accents, enhanced with quirky nooks and corners. Stocked with pretty much their entire range of chocolates and desserts, the back counter embellished with their logo screamed out to me. However, my growling stomach reminded me to grab lunch first and then dive into dessert.

jus' trufs bangalore

Warm and spacious

 

jus' trufs bangalore

Chocolatier & Co-founder of Jus’ Trufs – Mrs. Chenddyna Schae’s

 

Breaking bread

Having said that, Ms. Chenddyna adhered to my dilemma and recommended we order dishes that can be relished with chocolate shots and dips. First came the dreamy – 72% Dark Artisanal Chocolate shot, followed by the rich and creamy – Classic Milk Chocolate shot. The perfect kick start to our course, they both were excellent in their own right. While the accustomed Indian palette leans towards the milk chocolate shot, I for one being a true chocolate lover preferred the dark chocolate shot.

jus' trufs bangalore

Here’s a shot of Happiness – 72% Dark Artisanal Chocolate Shot

 

Next up, we were served bite sized canapes of the Cool Chick Wich (Non-veg), Tatter Salad Wich (Veg) and Bombay Street Wich (Veg). A refreshing take on sandwiches, these canapes were an absolute delight. Light yet very appetizing, the Cool Chick Wich was made of shredded chicken mixed with their house special mayo. In addition the Bombay Street Wich was the perfect rendition to Mumbai’s favourite street fare. Layered with mint chutney, potato, tomato, cucumber, onion and lastly sprinkled with a Mumbai special masala, this Wich offered a taste of nostalgia.

jus' trufs bangalore

Which wich do you want?

These super cool wich’s are usually served with generous portions of crisps. We recommend trading the usual condiment of ketchup or mayo with an interesting dip. We called for their Spicy Jalapeno and White Chocolate Sauce! The heat of the jalapenos combined with sugary white chocolate created the perfect melange of sweet and spicy – simply genius.

 

Chow Down

Unlike other chocolate lounges in Bangalore, Jus’ Trufs prefers the ‘cafe’ tag serving home style comfort food. Hence, we decided to put that to the test by ordering mains specially curated by Ms. Chenddyna and Ms. Shabana. First up, we ordered two varieties of plated meals – Fish Grill with Pesto sauce and Cottage Cheese with Arrabbiata sauce. The Arrabbiata sauce was bang on point and went really well with the super soft cottage cheese. Basa fish (served with a creamy and flavourful pesto sauce) was grilled to perfection. What stood out the most was the generous coating of home made Gremolata crumbs on these dishes. A frequently used Italian condiment, Gremolata is made of fresh herbs, lemon zest and bread crumbs. Giving the dishes a different dimension and texture, the crunchy Gremolata surely added an edge. Both dishes served a good portion of mash and veggies on the side.

jus' trufs bangalore

Fresh and perfectly grilled basa fish

 

jus' trufs bangalore

Get your protein from cottage cheese

 

Next up we ordered a bunch of their pizzas and burgers. Starting with the Smoking Chick Wheel which was plain and out right YUM! Good old pizza base topped with marinara sauce was sprinkled with bell peppers, shredded chicken and oodles of mozzarella. Making it an absolute win-win.  While indulging in the pizza, two well made and non greasy burgers arrived at our table. We were quite content with the Beanie Burger, but the Smoked Chicken Burger scored the home run. Plump and juicy, the patty was smoked with spices and mixed peppers, giving it that extra kick. All this and more were served with glasses of their Chill Pills that were assembled like the tri colour of our national flag.

jus' trufs bangalore

How we cut carbs – smoking chick wheel

 

jus' trufs bangalore

If you’re into fitness, this healthy bean burger is for you!

 

jus' trufs bangalore

Love at first bite – smoked chicken burger

Sweet tooth fix

Consequently we noticed a drink that claimed “It will change your life” written in bold on the table menu card. Now that is something we had to try! Primarily made of two ingredients – artisanal dark chocolate and Belgian fudge cake, the Chilled Chocolate Fudge Milkshake tasted absolutely divine. Unlike freakshakes (that only look appealing), do not underestimate the simplicity of this milkshakes presentation. It surely does live up to it’s life changing claim.

Finally coming to Jus’ Trufs USP – C H O C O L A T E S!
Before we dove right in, Ms. Chenddyna recommended we give their specialities like Hot Dandeli Chick Curry and Jus’ Trufs Basked Cheesecake a try. But with all that chocolate calling out to me, we promised to come back for seconds. So I finally dragged myself to the chocolate counter to start the task of hand picking chocolates to take home. Belgian Chocolate truffles infused with local flavours like cinnamon, chillielaichi, chai masala, sea salt and coconut got me instantly hooked. So hooked that I gobbled it down in seconds forgetting to take pictures. Oops, Sorry guys! Mind blowing combinations one would have never thought of.

jus' trufs bangalore

The ‘sweetmeats’ counter

 

jus' trufs bangalore

eenie meenie miney mo, pick a dozen and take them home – chocolate truffles

 

jus' trufs bangalore

Jus’ Trufs signature bean to bar chocolate collection

Make Chocolate, Not War

When your host decides to take things to the next level in chocolate factory, you know you’re in for a ride. So up we went to the 3rd floor like kids, animated and excited to begin with Jus’ Trufs Chocolate Tour. This is Bangalore’s first and unique interactive chocolate tour, where one can learn the secrets of chocolate making from Chef Chenddyna herself. We not only learnt about the history and evolution of chocolate but also acquired the skills and techniques of tempering chocolate. Moreover, the activity of involving us participants to get our hands dirty and make our own truffles was super fun and relaxing. One gets to end the tour by tasting a wide variety of chocolate creations – how perfect is that!

Warning: The visual below might give you major FOMO 😀

The Chocolate tour operates on specified Saturday afternoons or by special requests. For bookings please contact events@justrufs.com

Tips:

  • Since it’s a cafe the service is slow and relaxed which is ideal for a weekend brunch.
  • Try to combine your dining experience with a Chocolate tour for a rich and enhancing encounter.
  • Hand pick some of their signature and exotic Belgian chocolate truffles to take home for your loved ones.

Where:

9, Jakkur Road, Jakkur,
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560064

For Reservations call 0091 9886166468 OR 0091 9844016984

Damage:

Rs. 1,000 for 2 people (approx.) excluding VAT & service charge

Rating:

Ambiance: 3.5/5
Taste: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Value for money: 4.5/5

 

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. 

 

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.

lux* south ari atoll maldives

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. 

4 In Food/ Recommendations

The Best of Molecular Gastronomy at J.Hind – Grand by GRT Hotel, Chennai

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Honestly, we were taken by surprise on entering the beautiful facade of J.Hind, located at the Grand by GRT Hotel, Chennai. The city is so popular for it’s South Indian food, we certainly didn’t expect to experience molecular gastronomy at it’s best.

J. Hind (an abbreviation for Jugalbandi Hindustani which means Indian fusion) offers a progressive approach to dining; fusing modern culinary techniques with traditional Indian cuisine, resulting in a truly unique experience for its diners. Knowing this there was no way we could deny the kind invite to review this fabulous restaurant. J.Hind opened it’s doors soon after the Chennai floods in 2016 and has been around for 1.5 years. So if you live in Chennai, Love your food and have never been here, shame on you!

Ambiance & Decor

Before we devoured into the food, Mr. Vikram Cotah – COO of GRT Hotels & Resorts, shared some interesting insights about the restaurant. J.Hind is a boon born out of the Chennai floods. The rampage caused by 24 feet of water that covered almost the lower half of the hotel, led Mr. Cotah and his team to redo the entire place in just 90 days!

This drove them to partner with renowned designer Krsna Mehta of India Circus to create stunning interiors and decor. Most of the pop up art motifs you see have been custom created and designed for J.Hind giving the space a quirky yet antiquity charm. We love the detailing and inspiration behind each piece of installation. Be it the chandeliers inspired by traditional bali’s (indian tribal earrings) or the exquisite restored stone pillars and arches transported from havelis in Jaipur. Every element is just top notch.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Quirky and antique decor elements

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Chandelier inspired by Indian tribal earrings

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Private dining area

Degustation Menu

We were impressed with J.Hind’s innovative menu, which offers an eclectic 9 course meal. Diners get to savour everything from the Chettinadu Noodle Wrap Prawn to the Basil and Rose Ice cream, where the chef makes your dish right in front of you. Interactive from start to finish, there wasn’t a single dull moment at this fine dining hotspot. Therefore, allow us to take you on a culinary tour of some of our favourite dishes.

Amuse Bouche

Our dinner began with Coffee Mishti Doi shots served with Avocado and Chilly Dragon fruit. Mishti Doi is a fermented yoghurt based bengali sweet, but at J.Hind it was served as an Amuse Bouche with a hint of coffee that was simply delicious. And if that seemed fun and unusual, this was further paired with avocado and dragon fruit that was instantly turned into jelly (spherification). On gobbling up these spheres, the explosion in our mouths created the perfect symphony of all things sweet and spicy.

Next on our table was Karivembu Annasi. Because plain old pineapple just ain’t good enough, the chefs here served a jar full of this garden fresh fruit in chunks with a twist of curry leaf dressing and pomegranate drizzle.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Coffee Mishti Doi shots with Avocado and chilly Dragon fruit spheres

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Karivembu Annasi

 

The Stock Pot

What came next was too good to be true. A pot of Tomato Prawn Shorba that was generously served with hummus and khakhra on the side. While serving the soup from a tea pot, a cute little tea bag containing dehydrated spices was placed in our bowl to give you the impression of drinking tea. Loved the clear consistency of the soup and the flavours it brought out through the foaming technique.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Tomato Prawn Shorba

 

Chat On Chat

Another creatively inspired appetizer was the Indian Focaccia Chat. Watching this dish being prepared in front of us was truly entertaining. So the Indian equivalent of the Italian Focaccia is the Dokhla, a popular Gujrati snack that’s made with rice and chickpeas. While our server was constructing the chat using sweet tamarind chutney, mint chutney, spices, sev and papdi, the chef placed the chunks of dokhla in nitrogen oxide freezing it at a temperature of -190 degree celsius. After this process, the dhokla which is now completely solid, is shattered into pieces on the plate. The dhokla then gets re-hydrated and the entire dish is garnished with fresh pomegranate, coriander and a blend of spices which is added based on your spice preference. The taste by the end of it was delicious, and left us wanting more.

Taste Starters

After all that street drama, next up we were served with ‘Dravidian Delights’ like Pazha Dosa Pops (mini dosa bites with banana and nuts) and Gun Powder Arancini Rice Balls (Indian style arancini). But the dishes that took our heart were the Marina Beach Nethili Fry & the Chettinadu Noodle Wrap Prawn. Seems like presentation is key at J.Hind, so why serve crispy fried locally caught anchovies marinated with dravidian spices plain, when you can serve it on a boat. But nothing beats the flavour of Chettinadu prawns wrapped in crunchy noodles. We could munch on these all day long; with a glass of our favourite white wine Sangria of course!

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Pazha Dosa Pops

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Gun Powder Arancini Rice Balls

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Marina Beach Nethili Fry

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Chettinadu Noodle Wrap Prawn

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

White Wine Sangria

 

All Fired Up

Savouring some of the best seafood and tandoori dishes such as Achari Pomfret, Wasabi Chicken Tikka and Seekh Kabas at J.Hind was an absolute delight. As they say the show must go on, our servers continued to surprise us by cooking these dishes live on our table using the blowtorch technique. Furthermore allowing the spices to blend in well with the meat, making it soft and succulent.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Achari Pomfret, Wasabi Chicken Tikka and Seekh Kabas and more…

 

Cleansing

Before the mains were brought to out to the table, we were presented with a Pineapple Rasam Sorbet in the form of a chuski that served as a great palate cleanser.

The Real Deal

We wondered if we have the space to try the main course after the amazing spectacles we experienced and the exquisite food we just ate. Well gluttony might be a sin, but not at J.Hind. Main course began with the Great Southern Indian Railway Co. Chicken Curry. A traditional railway recipe of the British Raj, plated in banana leaves containing lump rice, served with chicken curry cooked in wholesome spices. Most of all, being served on a mini train did add some charm and character to this dish.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

The Great Southern Indian Railway Co. Chicken Curry

 

Another interesting dish was the Paneer Roulade with Chilman curry. Probably the softest paneer dish we’ve had till date, the roulade added a crisp yet soft texture to the dish and the curry mostly made out of beetroot was flamed giving it a caramelized flavour. Yet another vegetarian delight was the Curried Mac & Cheese Bake. Spiced up macaroni, loaded with cheddar cheese will definitely give the original dish a run for their money.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Paneer Roulade with Chilman curry

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Curried Mac & Cheese Bake

Finally, our last two dishes as part of main course were Lamb Shank Nihari served with Tandoori Potato Mash and Gilli Murg Biryani. The presentation of the lamb was average, however it was big on taste and flavour. The Gilli Murg Biryani tasted like Butter Chicken biryani, soaked in rich gravy, making it highly addictive. If you love your butter chicken like we do, you are bound to fall in love with this dish.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Lamb Shank Nihari

 

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Gilli Murg Biryani

Breaking Bread

On breaking bread with baby Missi Rotis and M4, one can go high on the taste of magic mushrooms, blended with fresh peas in a creamy malai based gravy. The presentation was gorgeous (wish we had taken a better picture) and the play on the rotis was super cute.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Missi Rotis with M4 – Magic Mushroom Malai Mutter

 

Guilty Pleasures

For dessert we started off with Tender Coconut pudding served with edible orchids. Although we were stuffed after a heavy meal, this dessert played light on the tummy. Ultimately we called it a night with the amazing and refreshing Basil and Rose Ice cream. The best part about this dish was that the ice cream was made from scratch at our table. After whipping cream in nitrogen oxide, the chef took fresh basil leaves and rose petals, froze them in nitrogen oxide as well, and then crushed them into bits, adding it to the ice cream. Voila! We felt like we were back in Italy gorging on freshly made gelato that fused rose petals and pesto in one serving. Absolutely genius and addictively delicious.

J.Hind Grand by GRT Hotel

Tender Coconut pudding

 

Tips:

  • The perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, hence reserve a table in advance.
  • We recommend you try the degustation menu versus the al a carte menu. This menu keeps changing once a month and it will help you sample the best that J.Hind has to offer.
  • If you like your food with drinks, then ask your server for their list of alcohol and wine pairings. They will recommend drinks that go well with the dishes you have ordered.

Where:

Grand by GRT Hotels,
120, Sir Thyagaraya Road, T. Nagar,
Chennai

For Reservations call 044 33011421

Damage:

Rs. 2,500 for 2 people (approx.) excluding VAT & service charge

Rating:

Ambiance: 4/5
Taste: 4.5/5
Service: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5

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.

 

0 In Destinations/ Recommendations

An Unforgettable Glamping Experience at The Little Bison, Kabini

the little bison

Around this time last year, Prashanth and I were newly wed. We were weighing out options in terms of our ideal Honeymoon destinations and determining what kind of experiences we would really enjoy. After much thought, fights and debates (like most couples) we decided to travel on our Honeymoon in September.

However, September seemed so far far way! And that’s when Prashanth said “Hey! Let’s go some place nearby where we could just drive down, getaway, relax and experience the luxury of doing nothing!” That got my attention and I instantly knew the perfect destination – Kabini!

the little bison

Kabini Backwaters

The Destination

Situated at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, on the shores of the Kabini River in Karnataka (West of Mysore), Kabini is the protected land of the wild and home to the largest concentration of Asiatic Wildlife.

The Drive

Just 250 kms away from Bangalore, you can reach this magical destination in under 5 hours. The Bangalore-Mysore highway is great, offering a good number of roadside dhabbas, restaurants and  pit stops. The only hiccup was the last 1 km leading up to the property. That was a bit precarious and tricky. Smaller cars like might face a challenge.

Tip: Drive via Mysore road with the help of Google Maps. Also take our word and stop over for lunch at Poojari’s Fish Land for some authentic Mangalorean-Coastal Cuisine. 

 

the little bison

The Little Bison Luxury Tent

The Luxury Camp

The Little Bison is a standalone, eco-friendly property with only TWO appointed luxury tents, that run solely on solar power. On arrival, we were graciously welcomed by our personal valets – Babloo, Chickoo & Viraj, who served us refreshing coconut water and provided us cold face towels which was perfect for a hot day. While entering the property we were given a tour of our tent that looked exactly like the luxury canvas tents in Africa.  It had a breathtaking indoor foyer equipped with telescopes and an outdoor porch, where we could enjoy the fabulous views. The bedroom was spacious and grand; offering a king sized four-poster bed, a writing table, comfortable seating and en-suite bathroom. Being Wi-Fi free was a blessing in disguise which helped us be one with nature.

the little bison - Kabini

Fabulous views from our tent

 

The highlight of our tent was the open air deck in our back yard that came equipped with an outdoor bed, fireplace and a bathtub. Definitely the most memorable lounging and stargazing experience we’ve had; the glamping way.

the little bison

Personal bonfire, outdoor bed and bath tub!

 

the little bison

Lounge & dinning tent

 

The Food

‘Ghar ka khana’ best describes the food served at The Little Bison. Simple, delicious and fresh. We were told by our valets that most of the ingredients used in preparing the food were organically grown and sourced from farmers in the surrounding villages. Since the property strictly runs on solar power, there is no fridge! Hence, the Chefs carefully prepare food that’s enough to feed all the guests and staff. If there are any left overs they donate it to the tribal communities living nearby. A great food movement that echoes sustainability.

Simple, delicious and fresh Indian food

 

the little bison

Food served by our personal valets in our tent

 

We were also introduced to a concept called ‘themed bush dining’ in the evening. We sat around a bonfire, sipped our favourite wine and listened to the locals sing their favourite songs. All this under the starry Kabini sky, on the banks of the backwaters. We were further dazzled when we were told to take up our torches and look behind. What do we see? Spotted deers right behind us drinking water from the banks of the river! Can it get any more magical than this?

the little bison

Bush dinner under the Kabini sky!

 

The Experiences & The People

Going for game drives here is a must. Nothing matches a rendezvous with the big cats or a herd of Elephants. Our Host & Naturalist, Shaaz Jung, also known as ‘The Leopard Man of India’ accompanied us on some of our game drives. His cat tracking skills, breathtaking photography and write ups on Leopards and other wildlife, has won him awards and many accolades. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spot any tigers or leopards. However, we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We were lucky to witness herds of Elephants gliding through the forest and baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk.

the little bison

My game drive look

 

the little bison

Elephants gliding through the forest

 

the little bison - Kabini

Baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk

 

On the second day of our stay, I decided to sit back and do nothing. All I wanted to do was stare into the distant forest and backwaters while Prashanth headed for his game drive. Vinstant Kian (Former Resident Manager) came up to me and decided to keep me entertained. Walking through the backwaters, teaching me so many things about mother nature, the jungle, the big cats and the tribal communities that co-exists in this man-animal conflict area, was so enriching.

the little bison

Enjoying the simple things in life

 

These guys take ‘exclusivity’ and ‘personalisation’ to a new level. We were taken to a breathtaking spot on the banks of the river, and Vinstant surprised us with a Private Sundowner. If that wasn’t enough, on returning to our room, we were further pampered with a relaxing bubble bath under the stars! What better way to end the night 🙂

Kabini River - the little bison

All smiles for the Sundowner!

 

the little bison

Happiness is a long hot bubble bath

 

Just as we had the fortune of staying here and signing off next to Mr. Rahul Dravid’s notes in The Little Bison Diary (Yes! He stayed at the same tent exactly a week before us), we wish to share this fortune with our readers too. In order to make this happen, we have partnered with The Little Bison to help our readers avail special discounts and freebies on their stay.

the little bison

The Little Bison Diary

So what are you waiting for? Send us your enquiries to gallivantinggoals@gmail.com