Gushing cascades, lush wilderness, relaxing therapies, soulful food, and a host of calming experiences revitalise the body and soul at Athirappilly in Kerala. By Satarupa Paul
Nature is the best healer. I was reminded of this old adage as I sat on a rock reading a book in the twilight glow, my bare feet in the cool, clear water of a burbling stream. In the distance, the Athirappilly Waterfall plunged into the Chalakudy River and filled the air with a meditative hum. Behind me, the lights of Samroha Resort came on one by one, while on the opposite bank, forested hills pulled on a blanket of darkness. As the orange-gold sky morphed into an inky blue and stars began to spangle it, I took in a lungful of the crisp air, smiled to myself, and headed back inside, feeling a nourishing sense of contentment and wellbeing.
It had been a year since the world as we knew it was turned upside down by the pandemic. Many of us who were lucky enough to escape the devastating first wave physically unscathed, had yet to deal with the mental and emotional ramifications of the lockdowns and social isolation. My mental well-being was at an all-time low, and its effect on my physical health was starting to show. So, when a short window of travel opportunity presented itself in March 2021, I packed my bags and flew across the country to the destination that had given me a new lease of life time and again—Kerala. This time, though, I gave the beaches and backwaters a miss, and instead took an hour-long drive from Cochin International Airport, through soothing swathes of forests and plantations, to the secluded haven of Athirappilly.
Movie buffs know the region’s famous falls as the gorgeous backdrop to hit songs from Raavan, Baahubali, Dil Se, and more. Until now, my acquaintance with Athirappilly had been limited to the big screen too. Having arrived in the dry months of early spring, I didn’t expect much. Yet there I was, gaping wide-eyed at the majestic waterfall cascading nonchalantly from a great height and seemingly disappearing amid a thicket of trees. That was how Samroha Resort welcomed me on my arrival—with a quick temperature check at the gate, a refreshing drink, a rapid check-in, and my first view of the legendary waterfall in the distance.
My motive for the trip was onefold—to recover from the aftermath of the lockdown by immersing myself in nature and wellness. Perched on a cliff and surrounded by lush hills and forests, with magnificent views of the Athirappilly Waterfall and a host of immersive experiences on offer, Samroha seemed tailor-made for my needs. On the first day, I spent an eternity soaking in the views from the glass-fronted in-house dining, while feasting on a delectable spread of local delicacies. A much-needed siesta followed in my beautifully-appointed waterfall-view room—a sleep so peaceful that it seemed to make up for the circadian-rhythm disruption of the past few months. In the evening, a leisurely stroll around the property took me down to the river’s edge, where the gurgling stream rendered a sweet symphony.
Back at the resort, a personalised wellness regime awaited me. The in-house spa is created in harmony with nature and delivers therapies rooted in traditional Ayurveda. A one-on-one consultation with the resident physician revealed my problem areas, and I was recommended the Rasayana programme, great for enhancing immunity, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Ideally administered over five days, it includes daily 90-minute Ayurveda therapies by a trained therapist, daily yoga for 60 minutes, internal herbal medicines for the duration of the treatment, and a diet prescribed by the doctor in consultation with the chef.
The deeply restorative massage therapies, delivered with deft hands and a choice of organic natural oils,
were exactly what my weary body needed. The yoga sessions helped my body and mind find balance and strength. As for the food, an exception was made for me—I had complete freedom to nourish my soul with whatever I chose. Chef Abhilash and his team were happy to indulge me with the choicest dishes from a selection of local and global cuisines. The food at Samroha is always made fresh from locally sourced produce, and with as much care afforded to nutrition as to taste.
Besides the property’s wellness offerings, slowing down and immersing oneself in the myriad experiences that nature and local culture have to offer here is therapeutic. Over the next two days, that is exactly what I set out to do. Part of the Western Ghats, the Athirappilly-Vazhachal area of Kerala is made up of forests, hills, waterfalls, and rivers. Its unique riparian ecosystem is home to a vast range of wildlife, including elephants, leopards, gaur, sambar, lion-tailed macaques, four species of hornbills among a number of birds, and 85 species of freshwater fish. Civilisation is sparse and scattered—either as small settlements deep in the hilly forests that are home to indigenous tribes, or in the form of tiny villages around the plantations in the lower reaches.
One morning, I woke up before the crack of dawn and set off on a guided plantation walk with the resident nature expert, Nidheesh. For an hour, we hiked up a hilly trail winding through rows of palm oil trees. The cool morning breeze drifting up from the waterfalls and river awakened my senses, and as the sun peeked over the horizon of undulating hills, bathing the misty landscape of plantations and forests in a soft glow, I felt deeply energised and blessed. Another such hike took me to the Thumboormuzhy Dam on the Chalakudy River, offering insights into the workings of a traditional dam, Instagram photo-ops at a suspension bridge, and a stroll in a beautiful butterfly garden.
Of course, a rendezvous with the famous waterfall was on the cards too. The Athirappilly Falls is formed by the Chalakudy River falling from a height of 25 metres in three separate plumes, before merging and flowing onwards. A paved path through thick bamboo clusters took me to the top of the falls, where a panorama of the entire river valley was on offer. Another steep, narrow path brought me up close to its sheer volume at the bottom. Seeing the waterfall from a distance was one thing, but experiencing it from close quarters was simply exhilarating.
There are two other waterfalls in the area, easily accessible by short drives through stunning forests. Of these, the Vazhachal Falls effortlessly flowing down a gentle slope is a beauty to behold. Normally, jungle safaris and visits to a tribal village for a taste of country life are arranged by the resort. However, the pandemic had restricted both these activities during my visit. This didn’t deter the good folks at Samroha from coming up with an alternative. So, I spent my last night at the property learning the traditional techniques of tribal cooking from Chef Abhilash and Nidheesh, as they went about stuffing bamboo hollows with marinated chicken, fish, and tapioca, and steaming them over a crackling fire. Later, as we sat down to devour our feast, under an open sky bejewelled by a million stars, with candlelight flickering in the soft breeze and the soothing medley of the waterfall and river in the air, my body felt nourished, my heart was full of gratitude, and my soul was whole again.
GETTING THERE & AROUND
Cochin International Airport is served by flights from all major cities in India. Taxis are easily available for the hour-long drive to Athirappilly. At the destination, tuk-tuks are available to cover short distances. Cabs can be arranged by the resort on request. Walking is the best way to explore nearby attractions.
Samroha Resort offers a selection of rooms, suites, cottages, and villas, with either river or waterfall views. Some of the villas come with private pools, while the Presidential Suite is equipped with a heated jacuzzi as well as a private spa room. The resort was recently rebranded as Niraamaya Retreats Samroha, Athirappilly. Rooms start from INR 7,400 per night (plus taxes); spa menu starts from INR 4,200 for a 60-minute massage; niraamaya.com