Niraamaya Retreats’ latest property, Samroha, at Athirappilly in Kerala, takes forward the group’s philosophy of focussing on wellness and tranquillity in stunning natural settings.
Once you’ve downed the refreshing welcome drink, devoured the welcome desserts and completed your check-in formalities for Niraamaya Retreats Samroha, Athirappilly, the staff will lead you to the outdoor area past the dining room — for your first view of the Athirappilly Falls, from the best viewing spot in the entire property. The Niagara of South India, as it’s appropriately nicknamed, descends from a height of 80 feet on the Chalakudy River and is the largest waterfall in Kerala. The waterfall has made guest appearances in several movies, including Baahubali. The view is stunning and you may have a hard time tearing yourself away from it, but you should, because your lovely room is waiting.
A variety of accommodation is available at Samroha, right from Superior Rooms (river view) and Deluxe (waterfall view) to Cottages, Premium Waterfront Villas with Private Pool, a Presidential Suite and a Presidential Villa with Private Pool. All in contemporary, understated architecture that melds gently into the surroundings.
I was booked into one of the Premium Waterfront Villas, done up in a soothing colour scheme featuring cream, grey and hints of blue. There was a shower, open to the sky. After I had devoured all the welcome snacks — at Niraamaya they are quite generous in these matters — I worked off the calories with a few laps around my private pool. From the pool there was an uninterrupted view of the Chalakudy River flowing languidly downstream of the waterfall, and of the imposing forest on the other bank of the river forming a formidable wall of green. And to think this magical place in the lap of nature is a mere 1.5hr drive from the airport.
The Waterfront Villa is a self-contained experience in itself but, of course, Niraamaya had planned a few things for me. One of them was a nature walk to the Athirappilly Falls, led by a local guide. If the waterfall looked stunning from the property, I was quite unprepared for just how spectacular it was up close. The bonus was the walk on which we encountered a variety of birds and interesting plants. Guests at Niraamaya Samroha can also go cycling and fishing — ah, the simple pleasures of life. Weather permitting, a number of al fresco dining options are also available, including by the river.
Two of the highlights at Samroha, as with any Niraamaya property, are the spa and the food. I went to the spa twice — once, when my therapist, Amritanand, administered a potli massage that sucked all my fatigue away and, second, for a rice flour scrub that had me all burnished and glowing.
As for the food, Chef Sibu John, who has previously worked in the Gulf, comes armed with experience in a variety of international cuisines, without ever having forgotten his culinary roots. He put on an impressive show, laying out multi-course meals starting with amuse-bouches and ending with a plethora of desserts, until I groaned in protest and demanded a single-course dinner of appam and stew. It was, of course, sublime, and I had it by candlelight next to the pool.
But when it came time to sample Kerala food at its most traditional, Chef Sibu’s skill truly came to the fore. For the sadya, the Keralan vegetarian feast, they made me don the traditional mundu and I happily obliged. (I must confess I had help; also, the garment has the unique advantage of expanding as you gorge, so it works very well with the sadya.) The sadya was simply outstanding, each morsel on the banana leaf cooked with great skill and delicious tasting. To finish, there was the traditional dal payasam but also one with tender coconut which I had not had before. Thank god, I had my private villa to recuperate in from the food coma that ensued.
Himadri Bhatt, the resort manager, runs a smooth operation. She told me that, in line with Niraamaya’s philosophy, the staff is friendly and natural in their bearing. The service is, therefore, warm rather than stiff.
This is Niraamaya’s fourth property in Kerala. Along with the properties in Kovalam (the flagship Surya Samudra), Kumarakom and Thekkady, you have the makings of a complete Kerala circuit. Given the current Covid situation, a lot of the clientele is local, many guests driving in from Kochi itself for a relaxing weekend, but once tourism opens up in earnest, Niraamaya Retreats Samroha, Athirappilly is bound to have a very wide appeal. The wi-fi is great too, making it ideal for a workation.
Kannamkuzhi, Vettilappara Post, Athirappilly, Chalakudy, Thrissur, Kerala 680721; +91-80-45104510 (Central Reservations), +91-484-2882888 (Retreat), email@example.com