AS I sip a cold drink, admiring the beauty of the forest and the aquamarine pool, I hear a noise you wouldn’t associate with a ­luxury holiday resort – the bleating of a kid goat.

But the Xandari Pearl in the south Indian state of Kerala is like no normal extravagant beach hotel.

The houseboats at the Xandari Pearl resort are eco-friendly and also a great way to sight-see in style
 The houseboats used to be rice transporters but have been converted for luxury travel
The houseboats used to be rice transporters but have been converted for luxury travel

As well as 27 suites with dreamy beds, outdoor tropical bathrooms and plunge pools, the complex has its own working farm.

Nestled among the white villas are signs that the team at Xandari are trying out something a little special.

Here and there about the resort, natural vegetation is interrupted by organised plantations with all sorts of vegetables and flowers.

And these are not just for show.

 The area around the resort is known as the 'Venice of the East'
The area around the resort is known as the ‘Venice of the East’
 The beautiful surroundings of this resort are typical of the Kerala region
The beautiful surroundings of this resort are typical of the Kerala region
 Luxurious pools adorn this extravagant yet eco-friendly resort

DEEPSHIKHA JAIN

Luxurious pools adorn this extravagant yet eco-friendly resort

The crops grown on this little patch of heaven are gathered, cooked and served fresh to guests at the resort.

Already, a third of the food for guests is cultivated on site, and the percentage is growing fast.

Sanjay, a proud member of the team, said: “We are ­trying our best to have everything we need right here, all from the land around us.

“It’s not possible at the moment for us to have everything.

Lettuce won’t grow here, for example.

“But we have land up in the hills where it will grow, so soon that will be ours too and not brought in.”

That explains the bleating — a group of week-old goat kids, bred in the grounds.

Milk from the goats, and two cows, is expertly crafted into the silky paneer cheese served at dinner.

 Most of the food at the resort is grown on the resorts working farm

DEEPSHIKHA JAIN

Most of the food at the resort is grown on the resorts working farm
 There are even goats on the grounds so you may hear the odd bleat as relax by the pool
There are even goats on the grounds so you may hear the odd bleat as relax by the pool

It would be easy to sneer at the low eco-footprint ethos of Xandari, but it works, as the luxury is not lost by ­having goats roaming free near the bar, pool and spa.

The villas themselves offer idyllic private luxury.

The resort’s top-of-the-range Blue Pearl rooms come with a private plunge pool, which is modestly described as such, given it stretches the length of the sizeable garden.

There’s also a private terrace with relaxing hammock.

 The hotel has luxurious beds as you would expect from this extravagant resort

DEEPSHIKHA JAIN

The hotel has luxurious beds as you would expect from this extravagant resort
 The design of the resort is in keeping with the surroundings of the local area
The design of the resort is in keeping with the surroundings of the local area

Should you fancy heading out of your room, you are just moments from Marari beach, overlooking the ­Arabian Sea.

Kerala is known for its 400 miles of white-sand coastline, fringed by palm trees.

But what’s also a draw are the miles of inland canals, or backwaters, that promise adventure.

The area around Xandari and its canals was left ­relatively unscathed by the floods that hit the country earlier this year.

 There are plunge pools on site for the quick cool-off if you're feeling the heat
There are plunge pools on site for the quick cool-off if you’re feeling the heat

The resorts are running completely as normal and are hugely keen to show off the beautiful countryside to guests.

And with Xandari, an excursion along the miles of canals doesn’t mean you have to curb the element of ­luxury.

With the hotel’s fleet of ten houseboats, visitors can explore waterways surrounding the district of Alleppey, which was dubbed the “Venice of the East” by British Viceroy to India Lord Curzon in the early 1900s.

On board, each air-conditioned cabin has its own en-suite facilities as well as a crew to meet your needs, cooking up local delicacies on board.

Each trip also includes a canoe ride down the backwaters, giving you a chance to explore the real Kerala.

But without a doubt the main attraction on the boats, which are former rice transporters called kettuvallams, are the awesome views of sunsets that shimmer across the rippling waters.

These being Xandari boats, they are, of course, now all eco-friendly.

 The surroundings are gorgeous and the resort is in harmony with them
The surroundings are gorgeous and the resort is in harmony with them

Waste is returned to the Xandari docks, where it is filtered and treated.

The team at Xandari are keen to make sure their work and the tourism has as little impact on the local environment as possible.

That ethos is also followed at the Xandari Harbour resort in nearby Fort Kochi, the region’s historic city.

Built on the banks of the working port, it offers ­spectacular views across the fishermen’s boats and merchant ships.

It combines an old spice warehouse, which has been converted into the gourmet 51 restaurant, serving up Keralan classics with a modern twist, and a new block of luxury hotel rooms.

The chic rooms are trendy and cool, providing a tranquil respite from the hustle and bustle of the city’s streets outside.

But they also provide a glimpse into the charmingly chaotic local life . . . Chinese fishing nets tower over the banks of the ­harbour, the tuktuk auto-rickshaws whirr past, and locals play cricket on dusty squares between the city’s old colonial buildings.





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