O’land Plantations opens its doors for environment-conscious travellers
O’land Plantations, a unique boutique stay in The Nilgiris, opens its doors for environment-conscious travellers who want to do their bit for conservation
There was a time when ‘going green’ while travelling meant spending a few days in the midst of a jungle swatting mosquitoes all day and sleeping on uncomfortable makeshift beds. Not anymore. Taking a leaf out of foreign countries that are slowly but surely joining the ‘sustainable living’ bandwagon, some hotels in India are also taking sustainability seriously, without compromising on luxury. If you are an adventurous yet environment conscious traveller, look no further, O’land Plantations in Coonoor may just be the place for you.
Set inside a 120-acre tea estate with a charming little stream that evolves into a waterfall, the exclusive boutique stay aims at providing the utmost luxury one can get in the hills, with a green twist. The hotel was designed by a group of architects from Bengaluru targeting eco practices, which help preserve the environment while also allowing the guests to indulge in a guilt-free lavish holiday. “Our design is absolutely unique as it weighs heavily on sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and environmental quality,” says Khader Moideen Umer, who manages the property. Even though the estate sprawls over a 100 odd acres, the property has a limited number of units that are open for guests while the rest of the estate has been turned into a sanctuary for birds and animals.
Old meets new
O’land Plantations has three exclusive cottages named the Estate House, Pepper House and Hornbill House. The rooms are rustic and chic —a mix of colonial and contemporary styles in a cosy setting that feels like a home away from home. What’s more—when you stay at the Estate House, you are stepping into a part of history as the house was formerly a century-old chapel. It has now been restored with minimal changes to celebrate the original brick and woodwork whilst also incorporating modern luxury which makes it a perfect example of old meets new. “Most of the material like bricks, granite stones and wooden flooring have been re-used in the construction of the house which have two guest rooms along with a kitchen, dining space and manager’s residence,” says Khader.
Of the other two new cottages, Pepper House has three guest rooms and Hornbill House has two guest rooms and both are built entirely using hand pressed and sun-baked earthen bricks. The bricks are not burnt in kilns like in conventional construction practice as it would emit carbon-dioxide which can take a toll on the air quality. The plastering on the walls are made of mud and most of the materials and labour is locally sourced to suit the topography of the hills. “The entire construction is done with a conscious effort to minimise carbon footprint with maximum usage of natural resources and eco-friendly construction materials,” adds the manager.
Apart from the design, even the operations of the guest house are aimed at sustainability with low consumption lighting, biomass boilers for heating water and solar energy for power backups. To reduce plastic usage, the staffs provide UV-filtered drinking water in glass bottles and recommend guests to use liquid soaps in dispensers instead of using sachets. Guests are also advised to keep housekeeping service requests like fresh towels and linens every day to the minimum to conserve energy and minimise waste generation.
The plantation has an IMO (Institute of Marketecology) certification for organic farming and grows majorly tea and a bit of coffee, pepper and other spices. There is no chemical usage for cultivation and each meal at the guest house is freshly cooked with spices grown at O’land.
Keeping in mind that importing food from far away can translate to more carbon emissions, the plantation also supports local businesses and sources vegetables from the farmers nearby. The cuisine is mostly a choice of local flavours, while continental and north Indian choices are also provided based on guest preferences.
The plantation attracts lot of wildlife with more than 250 endemic birds, including the great Indian Hornbill and herds of bison, langur, Malabar squirrels and sloth bears. The property has designated pathways through which guests can take leisurely walks during the day and enjoy a slice of the wildlife. If you are the laid back kind, then the delightful little waterfall near the cottages, may just be your spot for a picnic.
Rs 5,000 onwards.