It was a pleasant drive on National Highway 209 from Coimbatore airport to the resort, zipping past the towering Western Ghats and emerald fields of paddy and coconut plantations. Entering the lush premises of the Great Mount Resort Coconut Lagoon (GMRCL), I was enveloped by a pervasive silence broken only by the chirping of birds. I felt a surge of energy and peace as my eyes feasted on the expansive garden with its verdant lawn and carefully nurtured indigenous and exotic plants.
Located 11 km from Pollachi town, Great Mount Resort is a boutique retreat dotted with aesthetically designed cottages on more than seven acres of whispering palms. We were welcomed with tender coconut juice. I could not take my eyes off the enormous pitcher, chandelier, vases and other artifacts in the reception area. Sprinkled across the coconut grove are 32 cottages offering varying grades of luxury, two restaurants, an amphitheatre, recreational facilities, an infinity swimming pool and a wellness centre. Stone steps lead to each cottage, standing on landscaped mounds.
All the rooms are uncluttered and minimalist with imported teak furniture and enormous paintings gracing the textured walls. French windows and small outdoor patios overlook the garden and an artificial pond with a fountain that exudes a charm of its own. Guests can sit by the balcony and watch the tall fountain spouting water, the sight of which has a natural therapeutic effect. I could not but notice the carved garden furniture.
Juxtaposing modern amenities with maximum proximity to nature, the resort offers a perfect ambience for rejuvenation and relaxation and a setting to reflect, unwind, think, meditate, and recharge your batteries. For those who want to take a stroll around the resort, a cemented pathway meanders through the lush landscape, providing an ideal opportunity to reconnect with nature.
Not many tourists are aware that Pollachi, a back-to-nature destination in the foothills of the Annamalai range, is the all-time favourite haunt of visiting film crews. Scores of veteran directors, mainly South Indian, have captured the magic of the pastoral lifestyle and verdant surroundings of this hamlet. Nature enthusiasts and tourists also come here to savour a slice of rural Tamil Nadu.
On our second day, we set out to explore the green countryside – starting with the Annamalai range, comprising Top Slip in Tamil Nadu and the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala. Like all wildlife sanctuaries, chances of sighting are highest early morning and late evening. The sanctuary boasts of the Kannimara, the world’s tallest and oldest teak tree, and the first scientifically managed teak plantation besides a variety of flora and fauna, hilly ranges for trekking, and extensive lakes for boating. The bumpy van ride in the forest is forgotten once you sight spotted deer, peacocks, wild boar, and a myriad of avian residents.
Those who are spiritually inclined can stop over at the Temple of Consciousness, also known as the Aliyar Ashram. Before the ascent to Valparai, a lesser known hill station in Tamil Nadu, we stopped at Monkey Falls – a popular picnic spot among tourists. The ride along the scenic road, winding along the backwaters of the Aliyar mini-hydel project, was memorable. So were the series of hairpin bends along the meandering road to Valparai and the rolling vistas of manicured tea bushes.
Ayurveda: Vaidya Sutras (a unit of the reputed Vaidyaratnam Group), the resort’s Ayurvedic Wellness Centre, offers relaxing massages as well as cures.Tanjore and Mysore paintings, uruli, and lamps greet you at the reception and the aroma of medicinal oils wafts through the air while soothing Carnatic instrumental music plays in the background. After a day of hectic sightseeing, a relaxing massage drained away the stress and lulled me to sleep.
Green initiatives: Since Great Mountain Resort is a wellness retreat smoking and alcohol is not permitted. “Keeping environmental aspects in mind, our thrust is on low-energy and low-impact development. We have retained trees to the maximum and used eco-friendly materials. The Reception Centre and Ayurveda Centre are covered with palm leaves to reduce heat radiation whereas the cottages have thatched roofs (covered with vizhal or hay with medicinal properties) which are not only aesthetically appealing but also reduce energy use with natural insulation,” explains T. Sethupathi, Managing Director of the resort.
The entire stretch of the compound wall is bordered with bamboo, which emits oxygen, so that guests strolling in the garden can inhale clean air. The use of natural resources is also discernible in the lighting fixtures, made of coconut bark. Locally-sourced low-energy materials used in constructing the building and its surroundings, water conservation and rainwater harvesting strategies all guarantee an all-round ecological focus. “Eco Pad, a biological cleaning material, is used in the sewage treatment plant to minimise waste and the recycled water is used for irrigation. This is a first in the country. Nothing goes waste in the resort. Food and other biodegradable waste are converted into organic manure for use in the resort’s garden and coconut fields by using effective micro-organisms,” explains Sethupathi.
Besides their base in the agriculture sector and forays into hospitality, the founders of Great Mountain Resort are also known for their philanthropic contributions to education. They founded the Saraswathi Thyagaraja College. It has educated thousands of economically backward students in Pollachi and its neighbouring areas.
Getting there: The nearest airport and railhead are at Coimbatore (60 km away). It is well-connected by bus services.
Address: Great Mount Resort, Coco Lagoon, Meenkarai Road, Pollachi –642 103