I am always on the lookout for unique nature resorts – Ever since I first saw the Ad of Tamara Coorg in a Jet Airways In flight magazine a year back I have been wanting to visit – which I finally did last weekend.
I always pronounced TAMARA the american way – the way it was spelt – only while booking did I realise that its pronounced as if it were a Tamil or Malayalam word (Tamara in the S Indian languages means Lotus) – and Tamara is indeed a beautiful nature resort blooming in the southern part of Coorg.
The resort is about 275 Km from Bangalore – takes you 6 1/2 hrs on a normal day. Bangalore – Mysore road is busy and you will at best manage 45 Km/hr – average speed – getting out of Bangalore and navigating past the towns of Kengeri, Bidadi, Chennapatna, Maddur, Mandya and Srirangapatna – does take its toll – this road desperately needs an upgrade to a Tolled National Highway – its a shame that 135 Km from Bangalore to Mysore takes almost 3 1/2 hrs. After Srirangapatna you take the bypass from Ranganthittu (12 Km of patchy Road) – and then you zip along the Mysore Mangalore highway all the way past Hunsur. Take the fork towards Virajpet (You avoid Kushalnagar and Medikeri). The Roads are in excellent condition all the way to the resort. And you pass through some forests – if lucky you may spot some elephants. We left Bangalore on a Fri at 11 AM and reached the Resort comfortably at 5.30 PM – with a short 30 min lunch break. After 14 years we were on a trip without kids – I was driving on a long trip after many years – and it was a pleasant difference to be in a car on a long trip with no kids. There are signs all along the route from Hunsur so locating the resort is not a problem – no last mile problems.
The property is amazing – its almost a structural design masterpiece. The resort is on a hill – landscape design is by an Indonesian and its built on the concept of balance between man, nature & God. The architect is from Kerala and between the two they have indeed created a magnificent and unique luxury resort. The total property is 178 Acres – Resort 9 Acres, 10 Acres of Cardamom plantations, 125 acres of Coffee Plantations and the rest are thick forests. You can smell the rich bio diversity – and at night the crickets and cicadas create a ruckus while early morning the birds and the woodpeckers awaken you with their chirping and tweets.
The 52 Cottages are built on the style of Alpine Chalets – and they come in 3 forms – Luxurious , Suites and Superior Luxury (2 Bedroom units with a Jacuzzi) . Each one is unique with 100% privacy, lots of light and lovely views. The Cottages are built all along the hill – you drive 4 Km uphill from the main road to the reception and then the battery operated cars take you to your rooms that start at 1132 metres. We stayed at a suite that had 1 bedroom, 1 dining / hall and a large open patio – all of this mounted on stilts on the hill. Very aesthetically done. The interiors were plush and luxurious. 2 LCD TV’s, Hot water, Excellent Beds / Sofas – nothing to complain about. (If I force myself to be critical – I would have liked a seating with a backrest in the patio where I could comfortably sit crosslegged for my early morning meditation and maybe a little lesser furniture in the front room and a yoga mat in the room)
The distance from the first room to the last would be about 2 Km – so pick a room thats centrally located and not very far from the Central complex that houses the restaurant & bar. This is a beautiful complex – with one large Restaurant – The Falls that actually overlooks a waterfall which is full of gushing water during the rains. The well stocked bar – Deck and a large spacious Conference Room – Windows – (My first thought was that working in Apple I may struggle to justify a conference for my team here if the conference room is called Windows) – the interiors are solid and classy.
Food is served in the FALLS – the only restaurant – a large one which has a dance floor made of glass. Variety of food is good but the taste is just about OK – Not WOW. The Sambar lacked salt and tanginess, the Chutney lacked spice , the Rassogolla tasted canned and old, and the Medu Wada tasted like it has been refried 3 times. From Indian – Continental – Chinese – Local Kodava Cusiine it was all there – but the food was a 3 /4 star hotel standard – not 5 star. Eye for detail was missing – the table did not have sugar sachets, you had to remind people to fill your glass with water , tea and coffees was self service – Nett nett food and service lacked the quality and class one would expect in a luxury resort.
That was a general feeling I had on service – good soft spoken people – but they lack the pro-activeness and engagement that I have seen in Ananda Spa, Orange County, Windflower Mashobra or most of the Oberoi properties. When you are walking the battery car passes by but almost always they never stop to ask you for a lift. The person staffing the reception at 7 AM looks haggard and sleepy – small things but these are the small things that transforms you from good to great. Maybe the place needs a GM from the Oberois who can inculcate the right culture & training. (Having stayed in almost all the global hotel chains extensively The Oberoi to me is still the gold standard on service)
Moving onto activities – we enjoyed 3 activities at the Resort – a Yoga session, a long Plantation walk around the property and a lovely early morning 3 hr trek.
The Yoga session was good – but not great. The session was to start at 7 AM – we were told to report at 6.45AM which we did punctually – but the instructor came at 7.10AM and by the time we walked to the Yoga Platform and started it was 7.20AM. Punctuality is in my blood and I get bugged if my morning Yoga session is delayed. The Teacher was a very good practitioner – a young student doing his Phd in Yoga but not trained to be a teacher. He spoke so much during the session that I felt like telling him quieten down please. The Yoga Platform is in a great location – beneath a Rudraksha tree with a small stream gurgling along. Its hard concrete – open. I would have liked this to be beautiful designed pagoda with wooden / granite floor ( again I go back to the Yoga Hall at the Ananda Spa that was beautiful) that could fit well with the overall architecture of the resort. A small point – the Yoga mats were 4 mm thick – on hard concrete that makes it uncomfortable – would have been good to have 8 mm mats. (I used two mats one on top of the other)
The plantation trek was nice – the guide was very knowledgeable and told us all the facts about the Resort, history of Coffee, Spices etc… showed us some nice picnic spots, explained the Rudraksh trees and helped us identify numerous flora and fauna (including a unique All Spice plant) we had heard about but not seen.
We ended the walk at the Verandah – a centre which houses a store, the evening snack place and some books for reading. It also has the demo centre for making coffee. You actually get to select coffee beans, roast it and grind it before making your own cup of fresh Coorg Coffee – a lovely educational experience that we enjoyed.
The next day morning we headed for a trek at 6.30 AM – a 14 km long trek to a small hill called Ballayatre. Took us about 3 hrs – a lovely trek – medium grade. Fortunately it was not raining – but the previous days rains had made the terrain slippery. Climbing, slipping, forests, leeches, flies – stories of snake bites, pug marks – all of that made the trek indeed very interesting and the view from the top was the reward. Our guide Lokesh an ex serviceman was absolutely superb.
We were back from the trek by 9.30 AM – had a relaxed breakfast and were ready to check out at 10.30 AM. Our first holiday after 14 years with no kids – day 1 was good and relaxed but by day 2 we started missing the kids. We left Tamara at 11 AM and were back in Bangalore at 5.30 PM.
- Rates at the resort are all inclusive – no extra charges for breakfast / lunch / dinner / treks / Free Wi Fi (they better be when you are charged almost $ 400 / night)
- The swimming pool and Gym is under construction – should be opening soon
- The Spa looked OK – we did not try it out.
- A Badminton and Tennis Court – looked like the Yoga Platform – solid cement – not fitting in with the ambience of the resort.
- We did not see any foreigners – mainly young couples probably on a honeymoon. (Rich young couples – I could never have imagined spending this money when I was 30)
- The Resort opened in 2012 – so its spanking new – excellent condition
- All the water used in the resort comes from natural springs – I was told that during the rains the place is full of streams and falls – that will be beautiful indeed.
- They get power from the State electricity board but the power goes frequently and it switches to generator supply
- Talacauvery is just 30 Km away – we stayed indoors – we have been to Coorg many times and avoided the Abbey Falls, Raja Garden, Tibetan Monastery …… regular touristy get aways.
- The Bittangla Golf course is not far away
- Kids below 12 not allowed – thats good , at times it nice to be in a place where you don’t have naughty toddlers screaming and messing up the place spoiling the harmony and tranquility.
- Oct to May are the best times to Travel, June – Sep heavy rains
In Summary – lovely property – good break – but expensive – the advantage is being close to Bangalore there are no flight charges. I have been to many amazing properties – I felt that The Tamara was missing something – let me call it a personality, soul, spirit – thats something the people who run it need to think about. The staff are good but many are not passionate – they are just going about their jobs (Like the folks at Infosys / Wipro) – which reminds me that this property is owned and developed by Shibulal and his daughter – and its great that they have invested their hard earned money in creating a memorable getaway for people like us so thank you for a nice relaxed break.