It is only after our car pulls up on the rain-drenched driveway that I wake up from the slumber of a 5.5 hour-long drive. The sound of the forest—crickets to be precise—comes alive as dusk begins to slowly set in.
At The Ibnii resort and spa in the Madikeri district of Coorg (Kodagu), Karnataka, the mountain air is nippy. The onset of monsoon means everything is pervaded by the scent of petrichor. It is only while sipping some warm chukka kaapi, resort-grown coffee flavoured with honey and spice, that I realise my phone hasn’t picked up a signal ever since I arrived.
Just then, Babita, the front-office manager, asks me to hand over a plastic water bottle I’d been drinking from. “No plastic on our grounds, please,” she says, smiling, as she hands me the key to my cottage.
While every city races to become the world’s best concrete jungle, the trend of green lodging and eco-friendly accommodations is fast catching on in the realm of tourism. Serious travellers are embracing and encouraging sustainability wherever they go. The Ibnii prides itself on being India’s first eco-luxe resort to receive the Indian Green Building Council’s (IGBC) platinum certification, and it’s evident that it works hard to be worthy of this prestigious title.
Over dinner, I meet Sherry Sebastian, director of the property, who explains what it’s like to envision and bring to life a “green” project like Ibnii. “I strongly believe in karma and the universe,” she says. “We take so much from nature so we must return the favour. Only then does life come a full circle.”
The server brings us a fresh round of kebabs, at the resort’s Masi-kande restaurant as Sherry elaborates on how she quit the automobile industry to help her father, Captain Sebastian, set up the mammoth property. “He bought this property in 2004 from a Kodava”—a Coorgi man—“but he had no plans of turning it into a resort until 2009,” says Sherry. “The dense population of trees was like a dream. There are almost 400 trees spread across the 120 acres, and we’ve not cut a single one. We simply trim a twig, if at all necessary, in case a branch is blocking a cottage view,” she adds. Her father named the resort after the village, Ibnii, which means dew in Kannada.
Sherry talks as if preserving nature and being environment-friendly is the default way of life. She spends a lot of time learning about sustainability, and this research is evident.
Every morning, the staff assembles in the courtyard to take an eco-pledge to go plastic-free in every way possible. To begin with, The Ibnii is a car-free zone—the staff moves around the property in electric Revas or buggies (guests too can request these, but exploring the property on foot is highly encouraged). The resort also has its own natural spring, created from harvested rainwater. Nearly five million litres of water are harvested every year at their facility. In the kitchen, only steel crates are used to cut down on plastic on-site and most of the produce is sourced from the chemical-free garden.
There are some creative ideas to fully ban plastic. For example, there’s a plan to replace the plastic toothbrushes available in rooms with neem twigs with organic bristles. Already, the resort’s in-house tailoring unit makes the bed and bath linen from recycled fabric, and also designs bags from cement sacks and bubble wrap.
I ask Sherry about a dead tree, shape-less and twisted, almost supernatural, which I encountered during a stroll earlier in the day.
“Oh, they’re left uncut,” she explains. “They decay naturally, just like they do in a forest.”
The frogs’ soft croaks keep me company as I walk back to my cottage in the silence of the night. The forest is pitch dark and impenetrable, and the only thing visible in the thick of the woods is the beautiful glow of fireflies. It is a city-dweller’s dream, this night. No mobile network. No artificial light. Just some living things going on with life.
The article has been updated as of August 2020.
The Ibnii resort and spa, Coorg is about a 5.5-hour drive from Bengaluru airport and a 2.5-hour drive from Mangalore airport. There are 22 private pool villas, 10 wooden cottages, private residences, and a premium suite in the resort. The property currently operates at 40 per cent occupancy and is sanitised 24 hours prior to guest check-ins. Pool villas cost Rs15,000 (plus taxes) and wooden cottages cost Rs9,000 (plus taxes). For more information, visit www.ibnii.com.
Arunima Mazumdar is a publicity professional by day, writer by night and a traveler at heart. When not working, she can be found reading, dreaming about writing her breakthrough bestselling book or on her way to the next big adventure.