Imagine the perfect vacation, with sun, sea, sand, seafood, and the intimacy of home. Now open your eyes to the Eco Retreat at Konark, Odisha
Stunning vistas of the clearest blue waters. A spread of indulgent local and continental cuisines. Warm hospitality and strict security. A glamping experience that leaves you feeling like royalty.
In Odisha? Thanks in large part to the Eco Retreat at Konark, the state’s on its way to unlocking major tourism potential.
A serene drive to the pristine Ramchandi Beach leads you to the gates of the Eco Retreat, plush with nearly 60 tents for a luxurious glamping experience. An initiative by the Department of Tourism, Govt. of Odisha, in association for the first time with E-factor Experiences Ltd, this is the perfect escapade from the daily humdrum.
Operational for 90 days, the Eco Retreat is scheduled from December 15, 2021 until March 15, 2022. Konark is one of seven such locations, and the glamping experience offers visitors the opportunity to soak in a plethora of entertainment options, heritage site visits, good food and better views.
You can choose from up to four different types of tents, namely the Deluxe, Premium, Royal, and Presidential. All tents are fully equipped with stellar basics to ensure a stay as comfortable as it gets. The price structure is created to include 3 meals and refreshments for 2 people, 1 water sport activity, partaking in the evening cultural entertainment, as well as a guided tour to the Sun temple.
The entire property is divided into sections marked with neat signs, majorly the public section with the water sports, and the area for residents. There’s also a main reception area, a dining hall, as well as a conference room in addition to some shacks serving drinks and snacks. As you walk through the place and take it all in, the lack of doors might flag safety concerns. However, the huge walls for privacy of residents, 40 security guards stationed intermittently, and 14 lifeguards quell those quickly.
On arrival, what immediately catches your attention is the unfailing sincere hospitality. That is, once you manage to tear your eyes away from the gorgeous views. I was stationed in one of the Royal tents, which has everything one could expect from a fairly large 1BHK urban apartment. It also has the postcard views right outside, or did I mention those already?
There’s enough to ogle at between the two bathrooms, large hall with a dining table and all hotel amenities, large bedroom, and walk-in closet. But there’s more in the details. The colours and patterns of the tent reflect traditional Odiya culture, and make for very pretty selfie backdrops too. The entire experience is geared towards a weekend getaway, designed to optimise your time and memories.
A brief rest and decadent lunch later, I learn about the journey of the retreat to this almost utopian point. The first Eco Retreat at Konark to be led by E-factor Experiences Ltd, was no mean feat to pull off. Especially if it involves semi-permanent construction to erect 58 tents of different sizes featuring different amenities, and ensure a quality of stay normally associated with metropolitan cities on the beaches of Odisha.
According to founder Samit Garg, the first 15 days were the most challenging. From absconding local support staff to cyclone warnings causing them to uproot and rebuild the place before launch, there was no dearth of challenges at one point. However, through perseverance and a wealth of knowledge from previous high-profile outings, they managed to pull off a stellar launch, even sustaining through the Omicron wave.
The guidelines involved in building the retreat will give you better insight into the attention to finer details. To recreate greenery not organic to the land, 4 trolleys worth of plants were brought in. You can also play a fun spotting game of anywhere between seven to nine people watering plants all day. On the sustainable front, the demands were simple. No single-use plastic, no permanent construction, and the promise to return the place as found.
However, these aren’t the things running on your mind while tucking into the expansive inviting buffet. The culinary team of about six chefs at Eco Retreat is led by Chef Kshitij. His knowledge of flavours and techniques spans Oriya, Indian, Asian, and other cuisines, all of which his plates deliver. It doesn’t hurt that his sunny personality livens the diners too, rendering the meals a wholesome feel. If you’re lucky (or there on a Saturday night!), you’ll catch him grilling by the beach. And trust me when I say, you’ve not done seafood right till you’ve done seafood in Odisha.
The Eco Retreat at Konark takes their cultural events seriously too! From traditional dance forms to riveting acts of Mallakhamb, fire-dances, and even a Valentine’s special playback singer, evenings here are the balm to an achy heart. You can opt to enjoy it in cushy beanbags facing the stage, or from the heightened machans/decks scattered across the beach.
Entertainment aside, the Eco Retreat also offers residents a guided trip to the Konark Sun Temple. A leisurely drive along the Puri-Konark Marine drive leads the way to exploring the majesty of the heritage monument Konark Temple. The guide himself is an enthusiastic person to say the least, and bursting with plenty of interesting stories. With large parts up for restoration, it’s a testament to the glory of the place that still continues to attract people in droves.
All of the lounging, dining, and adventure aside, it’s the water sports at the Eco Retreat that emerged as the highlight of my stay. From jet skiing, parasailing with rather raucous dips, speedboats to rides on ATVs, there’s enough juice to keep the adrenaline pumping. There’s just something about the serenity of resplendent waters against the hues of green and brown. Something that could potentially go on to become the anchor of your entire glamping experience here. 11/10 would recommend.
There’s a Chai bar for people who like their cuppas and views. There’s shaded low and high decks all across the property for large groups of people to party or play together. The rooms are state-of-the-art, and the people, delightful. All on this idyllic beach in Odisha, every year for 90 days at the Eco Retreat, Konark.
“Why is the government doing all of this? It’s so that people can come and experience what the state has to offer, and see firsthand the potential of the state. They want to invite consumers and investors to see the place, and get an idea,” says Samit.
With all weekends until the end booked for now, you might’ve missed your chance at this time’s Eco Retreat. With some more value additions from E-factor and feedback centric tweaks, you won’t want to miss the next.