According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
And that is exactly what Arun does at his 4 room homestay at kotagiri. A dream that he started dreaming when he was 10yrs old and made it a reality soon after. Arun did his BTech in horticulture and then went on to do his postgrad in eco-tourism in Scotland.
‘Prakritilaya Nature Homes’ is an Eco/spiritual nature home, nested amidst the verdant tea gardens of kotagiri in the blue mountains of Nilgiris. Growing their owing own food, separate wastes, conserving water and nature. It is not about tourism always during off season Arun is planning to teach the school kids around Kotagiri about conservation of the environment, waste management, and recycling — which he thinks is the most effective way to protect our future generations.
Our experience of the staycation at Prakritilaya was nothing less than divine, a perfect getaway in these disturbed times. When we first met Arun at Coimbatore and heard in brief about the place, we already had decided we will never miss an opportunity to visit him and his dream project. My personal favourite at the Nilgiris mountain is kotagiri for one major reason less tourist traffic. The place is serene and offers more peace and tranquility. We were definitely not looking at partying since that is something we can always do in a city. We were looking at finding inner peace and rediscover ourselves and that’s exactly what we did at Prakritilaya.
We reached by lunch time and Arun had already taken our lunch order. Point to note nothing is pre cooked everything is prepared fresh, so we placed our lunch order at 11am and we had fresh hot food ready at our arrival. Few of the herbs are grown in their own garden and other vegetables and fruits are sourced from local farmers, till such time that their vegetable garden is ready for harvesting. Hot Tomato soup was a perfect start to our lunch since the weather was cold, the crispy Gobi chilli complemented the soup. The main course was farm fresh vegetable fried rice, herbed noodles and vegetable manchurian gravy. I fell in love with the herbed noodles that was loaded with locally sourced herbs.
After lunch we strolled around the beautiful property and spotted a bison too. As the mist started settling in we decided to sip the hot aromatic tea from Arun’s uncles estate, these are premium tea leaves that are used only for export, we were previledged to have tasted it. The beetroot and mint paniyaram ( rice dumplings) was nothing that I have ever tasted, it was full of beet and mint flavour. The spring roll had south indian spiced filling.
The night view of Prakritilaya is something one must not miss specially the sounds of insects are music to ears. Nights can be very cold and warm clothes are a must.
In the morning we woke up to total mist and light drizzle. It was a site to cherish. Our breakfast was yummy homemade jam by Arun’s mom ( you might find it on the shelf soon, do grab it when you visit) the poori, dosa and vegetable idlies were pipping hot. Special mention to the orange juice that was made using fresh orange from their own garden.
I was super excited about the lunch because I was curious to taste the mock chettinad fish curry and I must say it did not disappoint me. The fish was made of ground bean and the gravy was spot on. The paneer butter masala and jeera rice definitely kept my teenager happy.
Points to note- first don’t miss this place for anything! This homestay has only 4rooms so book in advance, they go full most of the time. The concept of Prakritilaya is spiritual and eco-tourism they live up to it, let’s respect it and hence no booze and no nonveg food ( believe me being there you will not miss it). The bath rooms have hand-made soaps. Tea infusors are used instead of tea bags, did you know tea bags are lined with thin sheets of plastic? Please note only vodaphone, jio and bsnl network is available there, but the place has excellent wifi and the easiest way to reach Arun is whatsapp, email or Instagram. A very good place for remote working so don’t wait for the weekend to head there, weekdays are good to head there. Definitely a stress buster that can calm your mind body and soul. The road to kotagiri is much more easy unlike the Ooty roads. The rules are a little relaxed and you just need to register your entry and it will be approved, epass as such is not required. Prakritilaya organises a day tour to visit the tribal people of Nilgiris the toda’s. You are allowed to see their place of worship learn cooking and craft work from them and also dine with them ( this is an experience we missed, but definitely doing it the next time) Arun also is a certified trekker and arranges for a trek if you would be interested.
Arun is a young and dynamic environment conservationist, his parents being his biggest inspiration for his success and also his brother Gokhul Ram who has a big part to play in helping him set up this Prakritilaya. To know more about Arun check his Instagram handle: arun_respects_nature, where he give various tips about zero waste journey, Minimalist lifestyle, and Recycling. One step closer to protect our mother earth. To find Prakritilaya on instagram check this handle https://instagram.com/prakritilayanaturehomes?igshid=qaej1epst50h You can find them on Google https://g.page/prakritilaya-nature-homes?share