While Thekkady gained prominence for the Periyar Tiger Reserve, a steady stream of connoisseurs for superb hospitality and a relaxed and experiential holiday began to flow into the Aanavilasam, literally “The Abode of The Elephants”, and the artistic expression of the farmer, photographer and publisher, Salim Pushpanath.
Aanavilasam is a personalised country retreat spread across a 7 acres cardamom and pepper plantation. Built with mindfulness to ecological stewardship and towards the comfort and fulfilment of her guests, natural materials are used wherever possible, rainwater is harvested, organic compost is created from waste vegetable matter, biogas is produced at the cow byre, and the trees and foliage on the estate are carefully nurtured to provide a safe natural haven for birds and other fauna. That 30 species of bird have been spotted within the plantation itself, is testimony that they must be doing something right. Furthermore, if you come by car, meals and lodging are provided to your driver.
There are 6 rooms, in 4 configurations all featuring king-size beds, premium toiletries are provided together with bathrobes, slippers, garden showers, enclosed showers, and a hairdryer, coffee and tea making facilities, an in-house safe and a refrigerator with complimentary beverages. Romantic touches such as bath oils and candles are provided in all rooms. Natural fabrics like Indian linen, cotton, silks and wools blend effortlessly with international styling and décor to create a pleasant and alluring familiarity. The staff amenably conform to the wishes of their guests. There is free Wi-Fi in the foyer and dining area. Nothing is pre-cooked, and all ingredients are fresh-of-the day, reflecting the seasonal harvest.
The town of Kumily, gateway to the tiger reserve offers gourmet dining, for example, the Dosa de Thekkady with its menu of 100 types of dosas. There are excellent demonstrations of Kalaripayattu and Kathakali at the Kadathanadan Kalari & Navarasa Kathakali Centre. Choose from excursions aplenty into the splendid countryside with its forest, brooks, waterfalls, villages, temples and plantations. Partake in trekking, bamboo rafting, and boating, and night patrolling in the tiger reserve and of course the holistic Ayurveda treatment, best undertaken during the rains when pores of the skin are soft and receptive. Aanavilasam offers an array of therapies, each for a different treatment, which will be decided after the consultation with the physician as per prior appointment.
Visit a typical Kerala village and home, walking distance from the plantation. Take a guided tour around the plantation and learn the of all the process spices go through before they reach your dining table. Learn to prepare an authentic Keralam meal from the Chef. You can eat what you prepare. Bird watching on the property. Visit the cow byre, clean and bright, from where milk and biogas are supplied to the kitchen. Visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve and take a boat ride on the lake. Herds of elephant, gaur, sambar and wild boar wander down to the lakeside and can be observed from the motor launches. Take an elephant ride through countryside plantations. Visit the farmlands of a village hidden in the valley behind the mountains of Periyar Tiger Reserve in a bullock cart. The village is rich in bird diversity. Try the limits of your senses-sight, hearing and smell and take in the totally different world of nocturnal jungle life. This is a dawn to dusk range hiking and rafting programme through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve.
October through March is peak tourist season. April and May are warm. June to September is the rainy season and can be windy. Use leech-proof socks if you decide to go off-road.
The nearest airport is at Kochi, for both national and international flights. Kottayam is the nearest railway station. Both Madurai and Thiruvananthapuram have airports and railheads. Busses to Kumily are available from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.