ll Sarve Bhavatu Sukhina
Sarve Santu Niraamaya
Sarve Bhadrani Pashyantu
Ma Kaschit Dukhabhagbhaved ll
means …. let all be happy, let all be healthy, let all be safe, let the sorrow not come in the life…
Thats a good summary of what the Niraamaya Resort at Kovalam promises and delivers. Great things don’t need marketing – Niraamaya conceptualised and designed by a German doctor has been around for 20+ years mainly catering to European clientele. Recently (6 years back) it was acquired by Jupiter Investments (Rajeev Chandrasekaran) – and it was purely by chance that I came to know of it while at Shreyas glancing at the exclusive list of Relais & Chateau properties in india. The minutes I saw their website I knew I had to visit this place. Its old construction but constant renovation makes it look new.
A Relais & Châteaux property (and there are a handful of them in India) Niraamaya Surya Samudra is a enchanting property on a cliff side with a spectacular view of the Arabian sea. What makes it unique are its two pristine beach fronts that are secluded and as good as private. its serene, calm and has great energy balance.
The property boasts of 33 rooms & villas spread over ~ 12 acres of lush greenery. 13 Rock garden rooms (Set amidst greenery – no Sea View, but you can hear the rumbling sea) and 20 sea facing Villas in varying shapes and sizes (Heritage Classic, Banyan Tree Bungalow, Heritage Premium , Octagonal Presidential Suite) with rates varying from Rs 12,500 – Rs 30,000 / night. Rooms are perfect for 2 adults and a child and the rates are inclusive of Breakfast , Wi Fi, airport pick up & drop. (Rates are dynamic and tend to get higher in peak season). Well landscaped gardens, nice manicured coblestone walkways, rustic statues and figurines, hammocks swaying in the breeze, coconut tree – it feels heavenly and you can see the eye for detail in every small thing
Picture taken at 6 AM – at sunrise
You can start your day with Yoga , feeling the breeze and hearing the thundering waves – its a wonderful experience. Niraamaya is not a Yoga retreat like Ananda / Shreyas – they do have 30 min group classes in the evening at 5.30 PM , but most sessions are 1 : 1 paid basis appointments.
The Spa infrastructure is outstanding and was recently rated the best in the country. They offer a wide variety of treatments – a 90 min session with well trained therapists and a wow ambience can cost you ~ Rs 5000. I liked the total package – the massage was good but not the best I have had.
The property has a main restaurant, a speciality restaurant and a small bar – all overlook the sea. the quality of food is diverse – Indian, Continental, Kerala specialities. (We are Veg – but I am told that Sea Food is their speciality) The staff are wonderful, the food quality is excellent, service is fast and the rates are reasonable (Family of 4 veg dinner ~ Rs 2500) – the highlight is the level of customisation that they are always ready to do. The people who run the restaurant come with great pedigree – the manager comes with experience in Oberoi & ITC while the Chef has international experience from Miami and has recently authored a culinary book. (The Restaurant is open air, no AC and I wonder how they will accommodate people if they are sold out, also they need to combine their multiple menu’s into one booklet – too many sheets of paper to shuffle)
Some of the rare herbs for cooking come from the Organic garden – its small but does have a nice collection of Organic plants. walking in its midst you can breathe health and vitality – and I always took the extra 100 m to walk past the Organic garden to reach my room.
Every evening there is a wonderful cultural program at the restaurant from 730 – 830 PM. we were entrained to some wonderful Kuchipudi, Veena, Flute and Kathakali performance during our stay.
A small but efficient Gym, a lovely pool (quiet deep, as it is made from a scooped out rock) and a small conference room that can cater to 20 people are the other amenities in the resort. Rooms are large and come with a TV/ Cable Connection. Wi Fi is free across the property but is patchy , so is the phone signal – which is good. They have room service from 7 AM. (Only challenge with the room we were in – The cane Sofa is not comfortable and the Mattress / Bed is not Ortho – so a bit challenging for a restful sleep)
With all this in the resort you would not want to step out – but if you do you have a few options
The famous Padmanabha Swami temple dedicated to lord Vishnu is 30 min away – they have strict dress codes , its supposedly the richest temple in the world now, don’t expect much on Spirituality, but yes a strong dose of Traditional Beliefs – the temple is well laid out and is not as crowded as Guruvayur or Tirupathi.
There are a few other temples worth visiting including one dedicated to Parashurama (Mythology says that Kerala was created from Parashurama’s axe) and a temple of a 100 Ganeshas that is run by the Indian Army. Poovar is close by – 20 min drive and thats where you can take a boat ride in the backwaters. On your boat ride you can spot a fruit that looks exactly like a Mango – its called Mangova, a highly poisonous fruit – one fruit can spell the death knell for a 100 people.
Close to Poovar is a Elephant Riding / bathing spot. Kovalam is also a stones throw away – but with the beach at the resort you don’t want to visit a public beach. I am told that a few nurseries / Orchid gardens are also close by. (Mon is a holiday in Kerala – so please plan your holiday accordingly)
Trivandrum is a small well maintained green city, the airport is efficient and the streets and roads are in great shape. Not much to see in the city barring a visit to the small museum and the zoo if one is inclined.
Kanyakumari is only 80 km away – it is a one track road and took us nearly 2 hrs (we started at 7 AM). You can cover by 4 PM the famous Suchindram temple, Vivekananda Rock and the Kanyakumari temple and the Travancore Kings palace and be back in Trivandrum by 430 PM.
The Suchindram temple is unique in the whole of India in that it is dedicated to three different deities represented by one image in the sanctum and is called Sthanumalayan (Sthanu-Shiva; Maal-Vishnu and Ayan-Brahma) kovil. The temple is rich in sculpture and architecture and a visitor to this temple is amply rewarded with the sight of such exquisite art of hundreds of years old. Fortunately the temples were not crowded and we got excellent darshan in a few minutes.
Vivekananda Rock – the spot where Swami Vivekananda meditated in what he called ” the last bit of Indian rock” for 3 days – the monument is well maintained and its a short 10 min boat ride. Regular tickets are Rs 34 but VIP tickets at Rs 169 gets you fast access to the boat ride.
The Padmanabha Palace of the Travancore Maharaja is in TN but maintained by the Kerala Government. Its one of the largest wooden palaces in the world and is well maintained. Palace + antique museum budget for 45 min.
Given that Trivandrum is just a 1 hr flight from Bangalore – would strongly recommend this trip. Indigo has a 9 AM flight that gets you into the resort by 11 AM. The departure timing are also convenient as the Indigo flight leaves Trivandrum for Bangalore at 4.55 PM. A 3 day trip is good – but we stayed for 4 days in October – the rains are almost over – so the landscape is lush green. It is very humid and the temp is 30+ , needless to say the best time to visit is Nov / Dec / Jan.
Website : http://www.niraamaya.in – they have another property in Thekkady that is supposedly equally interesting with only 6 exclusive Villas – I am adding that to my list.
Some more Views of the Property – all photos shot on my iPhone 6