Words: SHRADDHA UCHIL
Photographs: VINOBHA NATHAN
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Mangalore, Mumbai, Goa
GREAT FOR An activity-filled romantic getaway
Rule number one: When in Kerala, befriend the backwaters. The best way to do this is to give the clichéd houseboats a miss and go tandem-kayaking in the palm-fringed backwaters of the Kappil River, which meanders through the little-known town of Bekal. The waters will befriend you right back, letting you glide smoothly over them, the silence only interrupted by the sound of your splashing paddles.
Later, when the stars take over the velvety night sky, get prepped to meet the backwaters yet again. This time around, you’re not in control. You take your place on the waiting bamboo raft, and the boatman pushes it away from the riverbank and into the waters, which reflect the light from a silvery moon. Clink your glasses of bubbly and settle in for a romantic ride – the perfect end to the day.
Bekal is a secret Kerala has managed to keep very well, and you’ve set up base at Vivanta by Taj – Bekal, an even better-kept secret. So, what are you doing having romantic adventures at a swanky resort? Plenty, it seems, because the sprawling property offers a host of activities, which you can experience with your partner. The resort itself is set amid a canopy of abundant greenery, the architecture of its luxurious rooms and villas inspired by kettuvallams (houseboats). Balinese influences and flourishes of the ancient chitra pothi art (Odishi palm-leaf paintings) peek through, adding artsy elements to the lush courtyards spanning the 26-acre space.
Dive headfirst into your exploration by going on a 4km hike at sunrise along Kappil Beach, which touches one side of the property. The easy walk takes you past hillocks and colourful fishing boats heaped with the day’s catch, including crabs, mackerels and sardines.
But fish is not all there is to see in this tiny slice of coastal heaven – birds are found aplenty, too. Go birding and you’ll come away having seen the most delightful little creatures, including sunbirds, magpies, and the more majestic purple heron and white-bellied sea eagle. The next morning, pedal to Bekal Fort. The route will take you through villages, fields and along the backwaters, the views making the cycling seem almost effortless. The fort itself is a beauty. Built in the 17th century to serve as a giant observatory, it offers sweeping views of the surrounds.
If you’re wondering why you’re not pausing to bask in the luxury the resort offers, don’t worry – there’s enough time to do that, too. Frolic in the private plunge pool within your villa, or head to Jiva Grande Spa. The spa is almost an island of its own, and getting to it involves crossing a bridge. Once you’re here, opt for the signature Alepa treatment, an intimate, albeit slightly messy (read: muddy) experience.
Whether you’re seeking adventure or a quiet romantic escape, or a healthy mix of both, you’ll be a happy camper at this resort. By the time your trip comes to a close, you will have taken in the best of this serene, untouched part of Kerala – the Arabian Sea, the backwaters, the cuisine and the hospitality. Bekal, after all, is a secret waiting to be divulged.