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Monday, Jun 29, 2009

Metro Plus Chennai

Rainforest revels
Cascades of white water, lush forest and a spiffy resort make for an ideal idyll. Also, Ash was here!

Waterworld Athirapally Falls

Okay. Bollywood preceded me to the Rainforest Resort at Athirapally. And by Bollywood, I mean none other than Mr and Mrs Abhishek Bachchan, when they were shooting in these parts for Mani Ratnam’s “Raavan”. The resort’s in-ho use guide, the loquacious Baiju, gave me a blow-by-blow description of how he had cooked kappa (tapioca) in a bamboo stem for the beauteous Aishwarya Rai.

If location is crucial, then the boutique Rainforest Resort, perched on the very edge of the Sholayur Range, gets a headstart advantage.

Overlooking the falls
The seven-acre property has just nine rooms. The interiors are a symphony in black palm and teak and the USP is that all the rooms overlook the Athirappally Falls, which come crashing down some 80 feet.

There is a tree house coming up for the next season; it promises a bird’s-eye view of the falls, forest, and palm and cashew groves. Also on the anvil are an eco shop and a spa.

Food is served in the Foliage restaurant, looking out at the Falls. There’s a treasure tucked away in the kitchens, going by the name of Baiju (not the guide).

Chef Baiju wields a mean skillet, and offers an array of dishes — old favourites such as appam and stew, puttu and kadala, curry, duck, rabbit, squid, fish curry, chicken fry and some great payasams. Also on offer are dals, rotis and paneer dishes for those not too willing to try local fare.

I went for a swim in the infinity pool, over which hang the leafy branches of mango and jackfruit trees; it was a short-lived swim because I soon locked eyes with a burly simian.

I hastily withdrew to the comforts of the tiled hot tub in my Zen bathroom, all grey granite and well-aged wood, with picture window views of ripening jackfruit.

The resort lays on some interesting activities for those who would do more than lie back in air-conditioned splendour and stare endlessly at the falls.

Baiju — the guide — takes us for a walkabout to the falls and back through the forest. He is a skilled angler, leads bird watching expeditions, and also accompanies visitors to the base of the Malayatoor hill and gently urges them up the 1,259 feet to the ancient shrine where St Thomas the Apostle is supposed to have prayed, many moons ago.

Baiju comes into his own, though, when he takes guests into the 58-km forest on an evening safari. Even as he keeps up a flow of talk, he suddenly shines a powerful searchlight on bison, huge wild boar, loris, sambar, mouse deer, some gorgeous Malabar squirrels, a cat or two if you are lucky, and on our particular safari, on one muddy tusker who did not wish to encounter us at all.

Back at the Rainforest Resort, we watch the sun dropping over the undulating crests with all the drama inherent in hillside sunsets.

The Rainforest Resort is about 82 km from Kochi and 30 km from Chalakudy. The resort arranges for cab services at an extra cost. For details, log on to


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