As I stepped into my tent at the Bohemyan Blue Stay in Alibaug, my nostrils filled with a soothing yet robust scent. The charming campsite had won my heart the moment I’d set eyes on it and the olfactory satisfaction further sealed the deal. I made a mental note to ask the owner Albert Bangafoe about the fragrance later. The interior of the tent was a profusion of prints, an ode to Albert’s wife Sunanda Gupta’s love for textiles. A distressed-wood headboard, a teal cabinet and other small pieces of furniture handpicked by Sunanda, filled the room.
A designer, Sunanda’s strong sense of style is visible in little details around the campsite. But it is the gardens beside the tents that are her pride and joy. On a walk around the property she explained how all the water from the bathrooms flows into the garden. Specific plants have been planted to ensure that the groundwater is recycled. The couple put in months of effort to convert the acre of barren land on which the property stands into a thriving patch of green.
If the tent and its smell had me hooked, it was a lily pond in the centre of our garden that had my daughter transfixed. She spent most of her time throwing pebbles into the pond. I worried that the pond would be more pebble and less water by the time we left. During our overnight stay, my husband and daughter did not venture outside the campsite choosing instead to play a game of badminton, lounge on the hammocks strung between trees, and swim.
My favourite site at the property was the al fresco dining-cum-lounging area, which had a collection of eclectic benches and tables. Bunches of magenta bougainvillea in glass bottles, a stash of books and board games, and soft instrumental music coax you to linger longer here. Mealtimes at Bohemyan were leisurely and relaxed. While there’s a small on-site kitchen, the main meals are cooked at Sunanda and Albert’s home, a short walk from the campsite. A fabulous cook, Sunanda, along with her team of local women, whips up both Indian and international fare.
When it was time to leave I did ask Albert about the fragrance and his eyes lit up knowing his experiment had worked. A trained aroma therapist, he lets guests choose the fragrance they would like lingering in their tents to add a special touch to their stay. He took a guess with us and hit the right note, as the calming cedar oil had cast its spell perfectly.
Accommodation Bohemyan Blue Stay has 10 rustic luxury tents with a little veranda in the front. The tents by the kitchen have verandas facing the garden at the edge of the property (bohemyanbluestay.com; 077982 66600/077982 66622; doubles from Rs5,300 including breakfast).
Getting There Bohemyan Blue Stay is in Zirad, Alibaug. Alibaug is 98 km/3 hr south of Mumbai by road via the Mumbai-Goa NH-66. A quicker option is taking a ferry from Gateway of India to Mandwa jetty. Ferry operators run shuttle buses to Alibaug town (ferries operate daily except between Jun-Sep; approx 45 min; from Rs125 one-way, including shuttle-bus fare).
Chaitali Patel is the former Associate Editor, Special Projects at National Geographic Traveller India. She's partial to nature, history and the arts. She believes that every trip is as much a journey within as it is one outside.