A quaint glamping site along the pristine waters of Ramchandi Beach, Eco Retreat Konark lets you slow down, savour sunsets, spot dolphins, catch fireflies, and more. Text and photographs by Srushti Kulkarni
It was nothing short of surreal rolling my trolley bag across the airport for an out-of-state trip after months of being held up at home. I slipped out of Bangalore at sunrise and flew due east. I was bound for a glamping site by the Bay of Bengal.
After landing in Bhubaneshwar, I hopped into a cab that drove me to Konark, where Odisha Tourism had organised a glamping event called Eco Retreat. Months of insatiable wanderlust had me savouring every moment of my journey, be it spotting the 11th century Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar on the way or making a quick pitstop for rasgullas at Nimapada. Soon, we left the highway behind and drove on a road with zero traffic, the sea on one side and coastal forests on the other.
Eco Retreat Konark
I arrived at the makeshift glamping site, featuring a reception hall, dining area, a stage with vibrant décor, and a cute beach bar. With a refreshing welcome drink in hand, I caught a breath and looked out to the beautiful Ramchandi Beach—a litter-free private beach with unfettered access to the sea—before being escorted to my tent in a buggy.
An off-white royal tent with a private patio was my home for the weekend. Unassuming on the outside, the en suite accommodation unzipped to a fully furnished space with mesmerising interiors adorned by aesthetic Odia prints and modern amenities. I was instantly reminded of the royal khemas in the movie Jodha Akbar. After well inspecting my bivouac and reserving special admiration for the sprawling sauna, it was time to eat a big, fat lunch and chart out my activities for the next two days at Eco Retreat.
Eco Retreat offered a jam-packed itinerary. My post-lunch period was reserved to explore the renowned 13th-century Konark Sun temple, built in Kalinga architecture. In the face of various environmental challenges, the temples deteriorating sculptures still looked divine in the last rays of the sun. A traditional street market sits at the entrance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a paradise for those on the hunt for souvenirs. Pro-tip: the shutters of the market go down with the sun.
Back at the glamping site, arrack cocktails were waiting to be served. The beach was abuzz with folks enjoying a plateful from a live sea-food counter by the bar and unique cultural performances. Dinner was an exuberant buffet of options from Odia, Indian, and Continental cuisines. I discovered a love for dahi baingan, a brinjal curry with curd prepared in Odia style.
To add more charm to the evening came the fireflies, making us all look up in awe. Clear and sultry in the day, the atmosphere around Eco Retreat Konark, with nightfall, got frigid. Piece of advice: don’t forget to pack enough woollens and do not step off your patio barefoot at daybreak. I learnt this the hard way.
Next morning at the Eco Retreat, I opened my eyes to a clear coast dotted with volleyball nets, snack shacks, machans and lounges for those who wish to soak the sun and the sea in tranquillity. I was no longer groggy and tired. Ramchandi is perhaps one of the few beaches where you can experience both an enchanting dawn and dusk. Other perks of staying on a private beach include sparse crowd and virgin waters. A dip in the pristine waters of Ramchandi is the ultimate therapy for whatever your heart is in need of—fun, relaxation, or reflection. Every time the waves swallowed me, I emerged unscathed, laughing with unbridled joy.
From archery to ATV bikes and banana boats to parasailing, Eco Retreat offers a variety of water sports too. The organising team drove us into the middle of the ocean, to let us experience the sea to its fullest. If luck favours, you could even spot dolphins and turtles—the destination’s coastline is connected to a marine sanctuary.
Come March 15, 2022, and the tents pitched on the mouth of the Kusabhadra River would leave no remanent behind, but only to be back again in December. You can expect a few yachts, deck houses, and more in the next edition of Eco Retreat Konark. The quaint glamping site does not need me to wax eloquent and speaks for its own myriad wonders. In its true essence, I can vouch that it is one of the best-kept secrets of Odisha.