Get Beachy at Eco Retreat Konark

Tasteful tents, water sports and live acts on Odisha’s Ramchandi beach go well with what friendly bartenders concoct at the breezy on-site bar.

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The cosy presidential suite at Eco Retreat Konark. Photo courtesy: E-Factor

Teasers fuel intrigue; spoilers are total killjoys. Unfortunately, minutes before I’m airborne for Bhubaneswar, the drone footage of Eco Retreat Konark I’ve just finished watching on my cellphone is hands down the latter. There’s little left to imagine. From up top, a row of white tents had stood out on Konark’s Ramchandi beach, tips sticking skyward like swirls of whipped cream; modak-like. It’s flanked by kale-green forestland and the blue waters of River Kushabhadra, fated to soon melt into the mighty Bay of Bengal. The speed at which my research has catapulted into an accidental PhD leaves me miffed… and when I exit the airport, a giant billboard advertising the campsite only adds ghee to fire. Perks of being an Odisha Tourism initiative, I think, absentmindedly humming “Why this kolaveri di” as my MPV revs on.

En route, amused by the eternal contentiousness between Bengalis and Odiyas over rasgulla’s birthplace, I try the dessert at a local mithai shop, unsure if I prefer what I’ve eaten in Kolkata only because I’m put off by the baraat of flies doing bhangra on my plate. After a brief run on the Konark-Puri Marine Drive road lush with casuarina plantations, my car is ushered in through a stilted gatepost, and I’ve to squint against the afternoon sun to read Eco Retreat Konark branded in big blocks of red and blue. Since the temporary structure rests on a kilometre of a public beach, security is tight, kept in place by men in black muttering meaningfully into their walkie-talkies. For a moment I feel I’m headed in for an Arijit Singh concert. 

Out in the open, by the beach, the buggy trundles down a strip of carpeted sand and when I see distant pops of rainbow-coloured chutes make a splash in the sky, I salute the sheer courage of tourists parasailing in this maddening heat. And here I’m, weighing the severity of judgment my putting on a second pair of wayfarers will invite.

 

Get Beachy At Eco Retreat Konark

The moody dusk-hour seaside vibe. Photo courtesy: E-Factor

 

When I unzip my tent and enter, it looks its name—Royal. Fabrication is all fuchsia and yellow Odisha ikat, and the herringbone carpet makes me wonder if the species swims in these temperate waters. It’s an eco-friendly retreat so the glass bottles and wicker bins fit right in. No towel art; no fruit platters; no flower power. Accenting the coffee table is a decanter showing off sand and seashells the size of Tinker Bell. Living room, bedroom… there’s even a walk-in closet of sorts. When I’m told the 1,200 square feet at my disposal includes a second powder room to entertain guests, I zone out, teleporting friends off a WhatsApp group, ironically called Weekender, to my beachy weekend pad. I postpone a closer scan of the interiors to rush to the restaurant to meet my other companions. To the crunch of cucumber and carrots I relish my seaside view, looking out glass panels fringed by shocking pink bougainvillea and palms whose lilting rustle can wheedle any sleep-deprived traveller into a blissful siesta.

Instead, an improvisation on the itinerary results in us huddling into a van for a quick trip to the neighbouring UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Sun Temple. Since this is my second time at the 13th-century Kalingan masterpiece, my guide’s quirky analogies interest me more than the monument. “In those days… no TV, no phone, no magazines. Temple art taught people things, ways of life,” he says, in chaste Hindi, pointing to an inscription of what looks like a group of giggling women in heels “like ladies’ fashion.” 

By the time we’re back, it’s darker and (thankfully) cooler. The property has shed its a.m. layer, stepping stylishly into p.m. mode.

Sleeves rolled up, ponytail and specs secured, Chef Kshitij fires a grill bang on the beach beside the bar that’s now teeming with couples, families and senior citizens. Using tongs and spatulas with panache, he’s dishing out shrimps, meats and potatoes, desi-style, down to sliced onions and lime wedges. I only have a taste for I’ve spent my appetite on Maggi, chatting with its maker, an Uncle Scrooge-like endearingly grumpy Odiya man running Cha Bar, a shack-like snack stall next to the bar. 

Up on the stage, jugglers play with fire and costumed artistes enthrall with traditional dances but it’s the evening’s fine Mallakhamb act that wins me over, performed by gymnasts who seem to have waltzed in here straight after a leg day at the gym.

Next morning, I first rage down the beach in a mean ATV and then ditch water sports to complete a long-pending title on my Kindle in the shade of a machan. On my way down I bump into Samit Garg whose company has built the site ground up; is required to raze it down to sand mid-March; and rebuild again in December for the next edition. 

It’s like running a hotel minus the sturdy cushioning of brick and mortar. “The sand, for instance, moves here at times, and in the testing stage one tent sank by good eight inches,” says Garg, smiling, of iterations his team had to work on—and perfect—to give us the finer versions we’ve checked into… of rugs sourced in Jaipur, of fabrics tied and died in Panipat.

It’s clear there were teething troubles but I’m all grins when I check out the next morning, having pocketed a seashell and an enviable dose of Vitamin D.

 

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Essentials

What are Eco Retreats?

Odisha Tourism board has identified a few locations, each leveraging a different USP, to run temporary campsites through the months of December to March. Barely two kilometres from the Sun Temple, Eco Retreat Konark is one such. Other sites include Daringbadi, a hill station; and Bhitarkanika, close to Bhitarkanika National Park. 

 

Deluxe cottages at Eco Retreat Konark start at Rs8,000 (plus GST); Premium Swiss Cottages start at Rs9,500 (plus GST); Royal Luxury Swiss Cottage start at Rs14,000 (plus GST); and Presidential Suites start at Rs28,000 (plus GST). Packages include all meals, one water sport, high-tea, a cultural show and a visit to the Sun Temple. (konark.ecoretreats.life/) 

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T

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  • Humaira Ansari is a certified nihari-lover who travels with an open mind and lots of earbuds. She invests a lot of time and Wi-Fi in planning her itineraries. She loves neighbourhood walks, meals at a local’s home, and discovering a city's nightlife. She is former Senior Associate Editor at National Geographic Traveller India.

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