Experience the life of a soldier at this new destination in Maharashtra

Holidaying at a military-themed resort may sound like a punishing experience... but this destination took us by surprise
Nestled in the lap of the Sahyadri range, next to the pristine Shirota Lake in Lonavala, Data is country’s first military-themed resort.
Nestled in the lap of the Sahyadri range, next to the pristine Shirota Lake in Lonavala, Data is country’s first military-themed resort.

DATA, the new resort in Maharashtra gives travellers an opportunity to spend 48-hours living the life of a soldier. If you are looking at an adventurous and active holiday, then here's what you can expect...

Don’t we get an adrenaline rush when asked to try something new? But when we were invited by Della Adventure Training Academy (D.A.T.A.) we weren't really sure if we were ready for a challenging experience akin to military training.  However,  a 24-hour adventurous holiday lured us and we hopped onto their military vehicle while mentally prepping ourselves for a tough day ahead! 

The journey

Nestled in the lap of the Sahyadri range, next to the pristine Shirota Lake in Lonavala, DATA is the country’s first military-themed resort. But, the training starts way before one makes it to the resort. Since it is in the middle of the jungle, we were asked to park our vehicles at Della Resorts and board military trucks and jeeps for the journey forward. Although the distance is barely 12 km from the maiden property, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the assembly point, and to describe the ride as bumpy would be an understatement - there were quite a few patches with no concrete roads, and with rains making a mess of whatever was left on the road, we were happy being on board their vehicles. The last leg of the journey involves a short hike but the route crossing the lake is so serene that it makes up for the discomfort. 

The stay and training

Upon reaching the resort, everybody was assembled in the meeting/training room and was given a short introductory video followed by an enthusiastic conversation by Colonel Milind Patwardhan. A veteran with 26 years of experience, he informed that it was the 26/11 Mumbai Attacks that made hotelier Jimmy Mistry want to have a place where he can offer survival techniques, and thus DATA was built, alongside introducing everyone to the various training courses that they offer. His session instantly lifted our spirits and made us sign for two activities - hell night that very day and an obstacle course in the morning before our checkout - before heading to the store to get our uniform, which is mandatory to wear for activities.


<em>Inside Salaam Maneckshaw</em>
Inside Salaam Maneckshaw

We headed to their 80-seater restaurant, Salaam Maneckshaw, for a late afternoon luncheon. A tribute to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, the all-day diner displays images of various army regiments. The camouflage sofas and chairs added another dimension to the military vibe of the restaurant. When it comes to food, it offers multi-cuisine options. We settled for Chinese and didn’t regret our choice at all. Post-lunch, we retired to our room for much-needed rest before the tough night ahead.

The trek called ‘hell night’ began around seven in the evening but since we were in the jungle, it looked like midnight. Spread across 120 minutes, it covered basic survival skills one would need if they get stuck in a jungle at night, and included everything from basics like how one should keep tapping their walking stick to let the insects know that we are around or how to identify between poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes. Just as we were done with this lesson, a real-life snake was taken out of a black bag to make us guess if it was poisonous or not (it wasn’t) and we were asked to touch its skin to get more comfortable with it. Unlike popular notion its skin wasn’t slippery, the texture was slightly rough. Moving on, we learned how to behave if we encounter an animal, how to navigate using stars and moon for direction, filtering water to make it potable, lighting fire using flint, finding and cooking food, and lifting/carrying your co-travellers if needed. The activities were suitable for all age groups, we had an eight-year-old in the group, and it also acted as a good family bonding exercise as some of them are centred around trust. 

Post our return, we indulged in a scrumptious meal paired along with wine in their alfresco dining space. After a sound sleep, we were back for the flag hoisting in the morning followed by the obstacle course which had 22 exercises, testing strength, balance and focus. They included everything from climbing a wall to walking on a slanted roof using a rope and crawling under barbed wire using just hands, similar to the montage one sees in every war film in Bollywood. The experience was a litmus test to our strength and although we wanted to give up a few times, Squadron Commander Ramakant Chaudhari made sure that we overcame each and every obstacle. By the end of it, we had mud on our faces, hands and uniform and a newly found confidence. We headed directly to our room to freshen up before having a wholesome South Indian fare for breakfast as we bid farewell to Data.  

A luxurious abode

Just as much as it is about adventure, it is about comfort and luxury. Although the resort has been designed keeping in mind the military aesthetics, the 27 rooms, each spread across 500 sq feet, features two plush double beds, a very spacious bathroom with a relaxing Jacuzzi as well a steam and shower area, offering a very relaxing vibe. There is also a porch in the front where we called for tea in the evening, after a good power nap. There is also a spa facility available on the premises. 

Price:  Rs 17,000 per night

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