Kerala accommodation, India

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Responsible tourism: Kerala accommodation, India

The Midlands of Kerala are the place where spices, food and fruits were naturally grown in homestead forest gardens that were eventually lost to rubber plantations. Spices were moved up to the hills where the forests were cut and plantations were established, thereby damaging the ecosystems in a significant way (monoculture plantations e.g. tea, coffee, pepper and rubber).

Here we are making an effort to bring back the glory of the Midlands by establishing a homestead forest garden (bio organic farming) and growing spices in their natural habitat. This is quite different and environmentally more aware than growing spices and crops in the cleared forest ranges in the mountains or the dense mangrove forests in the backwaters as a monoculture.

We are also trying to conserve the bio diversity of the region by raising lots of medicinal herbs in the garden itself, a self financed economically viable conservation initiative by the family in the region. We also use solar power for water heating, bio gas for cooking, low energy bulbs in the rooms and outside, minimal use of concrete, hedges for fencing instead of walls and grow bamboo for use on the farm.

As part of the conservation activity, we also preserve the recipes of the region and use them on a day-to-day basis which helps sustain the diverse food traditions of the region. The cost of your stay is plowed back into the farmstay, and all the products and services are locally sourced thereby benefitting the local community. We offer something different for travellers seeking authentic experiences.

Reviews of Kerala accommodation, India

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 14 Apr 2007 by

My daughter and I have had a wonderful holiday at this accommodation. Nothing was too much trouble for Jacob Mathew, his mother and his son who showed great patience with my 10 year old.

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


One of my most memorable experiences was our frequent walks to the local river where we swam and talked with local people, many washing themselves and their clothes in the idyllic setting of the river. We also saw women carrying water in huge urns on their heads from the well several times a day. My daughter’s favourite memories are of scrubbing the elephants in the river and also riding an elephant bareback.

The food is beyond compare and Mrs. Jacob kindly showed me how to make several favourite recipes and sent me home with organic pepper, turmeric and coconut oil from their farm. I could go on longer...

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Tips include take insect repellent but don't bother with expensive anti-malarial medication as this is not a malarial area. The bungalows are protected so mosquito nets not necessary.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Our holiday provided employment for local people and this accommodation benefits the environment as it maintains traditional diversity using organic permaculture in contrast with rubber plantations which draw nutrient from the soil and establish a monoculture in which other species cannot flourish. We had a very interesting and informative tour of the farm with Jacob's knowledgeable son.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Overall we would both rate the holiday as brilliant. Thank you for putting us in touch with Jacob. We hope to return.

Reviewed on 22 Oct 2006 by

Sightseeing, Kerala farmstay

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Enjoying cooking lessons with a bat flying over head. Scrubbing baby elephants clean with a coconut shell. Eating the most amazing food in a cosy family atmosphere.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared to stay longer than you expected. We had booked 3 days which very easily turned to 6 - it's the perfect place to explore the true Kerela.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Jacob really knows his local area and was able to take us to see things you would miss out on if you went with a guide book. We went to local co-operatives to see natural organic dying and recycled handmade paper making. This was set up to help young people with disabilities, so I know the money I spent on Christmas presents was going to be spent wisely and had a minimal effect on the environment. All the food is grown locally and most of the food and spices are grown organically on the farm.

4. Any other comments?


I seriously think the 6 days I spent at Kerala farmstay are the best 6 days holiday I could hope for. Jacob and his family treat you so well, they really look after you. I will definitely be back for my intermediate course one day, in the meantime I just keep opening my spice jar, that Jacob gave us as an end of course present, and sniffing in the aromas to keep the memories alive. Thank you for a fantastic time.

Catherine adds

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Scrubbing an elephant, Kerala farmstayThe amazing hospitality, enthusiasm & passion Jacob, Mrs Matthews & the rest of the team put into our holiday & the cookery course - we not only learnt about all the spices used but saw them growing on the farm, tried our hand at cooking around 20 dishes in 3 days and got to enjoy the fruits of our labour each evening! The farmstay was a beautiful, relaxing environment where you could take a break for a few days, eat fantastic food, enjoy fabulous conversation and learn more about Kerala away from the tourist route. It also served as a great base to explore other parts of Kerala and we managed to visit Munnar, the backwaters, have a brilliant Ayervedic massage, bathe elephants and visit many of the local businesses whilst staying there too.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Expect to add an extra couple of days to your stay once you get there! From what I could gather, most people end up staying longer than planned once they get there as it's such a magical place that's hard to leave (we booked 3 nights & ended up staying 6!!!)

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


In an area where the natural habitat is being lost to rubber plantations, Jacob is re-planting organic spices, food & fruits that were once part of the original landscape. Jacob is also currently looking at setting up a co-operative with local farmers to further encourage this. In each cottage, the sheets and towels are locally-sourced - we visited the handloom company that produce the beautiful hand-woven bedding. We also visited a local lorry-painting company, silk-dying & paper-making companies set up for children of tea plantation workers with special needs, local shops and markets and ensured that the drivers we used were local people who shared our custom when we needed to travel around!

Reviewed on 06 Dec 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The most memorable part of my holiday would have to be spending the morning in the river with 6 beautiful elephants - just washing them and watching them - it was amazing. The massage at the local hospital was also memorable but for slightly different reasons!! Great massage but a little shocking compared to western styles.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared to chill out as there is not a huge amount to do locally - take lots of books to read!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I hope it benefited the locals as I used rickshaws and local cabs and bought things locally rather than going into Cochin. Jacob, who runs the place also cares hugely about these things so it was quite important to both of us.

4. Any other comments?


Overall it was an amazing holiday and my first trip to India. I would return but think I would find it hard to better the food and hospitality of this holiday.

Read the operator's response here:

The massage at the local ayurvedic hospital is totally different from the western style of massage. Here the massage is for women carried out by two women in synchronised movements. For men it is carried out by two men. Like the western system, they do not cover the body and open or roll down the towel in massaged areas. Here you will be practically naked, although of course they give you a loin cloth. A lot of oil is used and it is an oil bath. It is done on the principle that the massage oil takes away the toxins in the body. The massage is offered as a part of the programme and it is done after consultation with the ayurvedic doctor at the ayurvedic centre. This massage is done at the Dhanwanthari Ayurvedic Hospital in Thodupuzha. This guest had an extra massage at her own request at the Ayurvedic Centre on top of the two offered in the package.

Reviewed on 30 Oct 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Just being in a forest/garden setting with all the plants growing and hearing the animals. Also seeing elephants on one of the day trips. And being away from the tourist trail until we chose to dip in.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Trust Jacob (the owner) and ask for his advice – he knows the area and what to avoid, best places to go etc. Ask him/share your ideas with him. He will advise what is practical and will make bookings etc.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, Jacob was very keen that benefits are passed to others. He also makes a point of patronising local small cooperatives and businesses.

Reviewed on 30 Dec 2005 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


A trip, organised by our host, to the elephant training centre where we saw working elephants taking their morning bath, and even got help out with the scrubbing.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't expect to lose weight - the food is too good and too plentiful!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes; the farm is organic and subsidised by the holiday part of the business; our host arranged many trips and visits to local businesses and concerns.

4. Any other comments?


Our stay at this accommodation was fantastic. The cottages are delightful, the home cooking the best of anything we ate during our stay in Kerala, and the hospitality warm and familial. The spice farm was fascinating and the tours arranged into the surrounding area were really good too. I'd heartily recommend this small-scale, family-run, comfortable place to anyone travelling though Kerala for a couple of nights rest and relaxation, or as a base to explore from. Our 10-month old baby was welcome and well accommodated. A wonderful, homely, relaxed and friendly place.

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