Paradisa Plantation Retreat – Tiger country!

Paradisa found

The Paradisa Plantation Retreat is an exceptional boutique hotel set in the Sahyadri mountains of the Idukki region of Kerala. The hotel was the brain child of Indian entrepreneur Simon Paulose. Rescuing and restoring old Keralan houses with their ornate wooden ceiling tiles and timber work, Simon moved them up into this remote location amid his organic coffee and spice plantation, furnished them with beautiful antiques and opened the hotel to the discerning visitor, in 2000. Each cottage overlooks a stunning mountainous landscape which at one time would have been full of India’s exotic wild animals.

 

A room with a view

Tiger paw prints were last seen here at a watering hole about eight years ago, but the country’s national animal is elusive now and few in number, so you are unlikely to encounter one during your visit. Our cottage with its own balcony, was called Tiger Springs in recognition of this special sighting.

Chill out chairs

 

Tigers might be rare now, but there are many beautiful birds in the surrounding jungle and we saw a huge Brahminy kite wheeling across the valley. Each morning you wake to a chorus of bird song and the outline of the mountains and the Acacia trees etched across the sky as its colour changes from pale yellow gradually to clear cobalt blue. There is a footprint shaped pool which is a fabulous spot to chill or do yoga and Ayurvedic treatments are available nearby.

 

 

Simon and his team

The food here is really quite something. Simon’s team of talented chefs (Saju, Subin, Suneesh and Jomon – in that order) take local ingredients and fresh spices and serve up meals worthy of any Michelin star restaurant. A breakfast would typically be a huge fresh fruit platter, coffee from the plantation and a freshly made appam or delicate white pancake made with rice flour with a touch of yeast, served with honey and coconut milk.

 

Fruit first thing

Meals are served in the open restaurant overlooking this stunning landscape of the Western Gods.

Mountain dining
Our dinner provided an explosion of fantastic flavours. Kingfish and tomato curry, creamy eggplant curry, snake gourd (a kind of squash) long beans and coconut rice. Dessert was sweet vermicelli with cashew, raisins, coconut milk and nutmeg, which made a kind of delicious noodle version of our old British favourite, rice pudding.
Anyone for a Tyford’s?

 

Only the freshest will do!
Joji took us on a visit to the nearby family private tea plantation at the Tyford Estate. We saw the tiers of tea bushes and the tea pickers and had a comprehensive tour of the factory where workers still use exactly the same methods employed for generations. The leaves are dried and rolled and sifted. 
Nothing is wasted. The finest tea uses the silver tips and even the left over tea dust is used as fertiliser and the roots from the old tea bushes are used in the furnace to power the drying machines. BOP tea (Broken Orange Pekoe) is the main tea type but there are lots of different grades along the process. Workers carry huge 30kg bags of leaves on their heads around the building – Joji said it was something you learned to do when you were young and that he himself could carry up to 50kg on his head.
Tea transport

Another fascinating feature is that, on the Tyford tea plantation, there is the second oldest golf course in India. The Peermade club is an exclusive course created in the 1920’s, but a visit may still be made by special arrangement. Alex who has travelled from Austria to volunteer at the hotel for three years running, showed us around the coffee and spice plantation and as a yoga aficionado loves the tranquility of Paradisa too.

Coffee to go

Paradisa also benefits the local population, sharing water, bringing electricity, a telephone exchange and creating jobs – Simon is a passionate supporter of sustainable community tourism. The Paradisa Plantation Retreat is truly a special hideaway – don’t expect it to be easy to find, but it is a very easy place to be. With a stunning location and exceptional hospitality this really is a unique way to experience India.

 

This way to…